The Siskiyou Crest is a scenic ridge system on the Oregon and California border that contains ancient forests, high elevation meadows, spectacular peaks, and outstanding botanical and butterfly diversity. It provides drinking water for many downstream communities, including the city of Ashland. It includes portions of the Rogue River-Siskiyou, and Klamath National Forests and Medford District BLM lands. While the area hosts several roadless lands, botanically rich meadows and unique recreation areas (including the Pacific Crest Trail), very little of the area has been protected outside of the relatively small Red Buttes Wilderness Area.
A Land Bridge
This wildland complex can be referred to as the "Siskiyou Land Bridge" because of its important connectivity functions. It is not only a biological crossroads through space and time, but is a literal crossroads for wide ranging species. It provides the only high quality habitat connections between the Marble Mountains to the south, the Kalmiopsis Wilderness to the north and west, and the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument to the east. With its unique east to west orientation it connects the more coastal Siskiyous with the inland Cascades.
The 100,000-acre Kangaroo Roadless Area is named after Kangaroo Mountain, (note, there are no Kangaroos on the Siskiyou Crest, but many other wildlife species!) pictured here near the Red Buttes. A primary goal for the Siskiyou Crest Campaign is preservation of its wilderness qualities. Unprotected wilderness surround the 20,230-acre Red Buttes Wilderness Area and span east toward the Cascade Mountain Range. This critical core habitat is the heart of the Siskiyou Crest, while adjacent roadless corridors are integral to the many species utilizing the area.
Five sizeable Inventoried Roadless Areas are located in the Siskiyou Land Bridge: the 100,000 acre Kangaroo, the 20,000 acre Condrey Mountain, the 12,000 acre McDonald Peak, the 10,000 acre Kinney, and the 8,000 acre Little Grayback. Broadly defined, these road free lands combine to form a 1-million acre web of high quality habitat in this critical wildlife area.
Forests and Flora
The diverse forests of the Siskiyou Crest include ancient groves of mixed conifer that contrast with rugged pine forests typical of the unique geology of the Siskiyou Mountains. Diverse true fir forests are home to many endemic and relict trees. Over 20 conifer species are found on the mountainous slopes of the Siskiyou Crest. There are occurrences of common species unusual for the Siskiyous, such as Engelmann spruce, Pacific silver fir, Alaska yellow cedar, and quaking aspen. Klamath-Siskiyou endemic, Weeping or Brewer's spruce, reaches its eastern range limit in the Condrey Mountain Roadless Area. The largest grove in Oregon of Baker cypress, a fire dependent species, is found in the Kangaroo Roadless Area.
In addition to the exceptional tree diversity, numerous rare and unique plant species are associated with the Siskiyou Crest. Applegate gooseberry, a narrow endemic that grows only on the slopes of the Applegate Valley, is one example. Forests to meadows to rocky outcrops in over a dozen recognized special botanical areas provide varied habitats for rare and endemic plant species.
The Siskiyou Crest is a travel conduit for wide-ranging mammals. Wolverine, marten, lynx, fisher, mountain lion, bear, and elk currently inhabit or have been recently sighted in the area. The area also provides home range and connectivity habitat for the gray wolf, grizzly bear and pronghorn sheep, mammals that are currently extirpated from the Klamath-Siskiyous. The Siskiyou Mountain Salamander lives only on the slopes of these mountains. The cool, clear waters flowing from the crest into the Rogue, Klamath, Applegate, and Illinois basins are a refuge for endangered wild salmon.
Road building to access timber is a past and continuing threat. Interstate 5 is a known barrier to wildlife migration between the Cascades and the Coastal Mountains.
Private land logging activities, predominately clear-cutting, on in-holdings owned by industrial timber companies is common within and adjacent to the Siskiyou Crest.
Cattle grazing occurs in virtually the entire area and many meadows are severely overgrazed. At the current level, grazing will continue to degrade fish habitat, compact soils, alter plant communities, push rare plants to the brink of extinction, despoil clean water and degrade recreational experiences. Cattle trespass is a chronic problem in several areas.
Off Road Vehicle (ORV) use is heavy and destructive in some areas, particularly high meadow habitats. Many rare and sensitive plant and wildlife species are affected, and ORV enthusiasts are now pressuring the Forest Service to open more trails to motorized use. One of these, the Boundary Trail, is on the Siskiyou Crest on the Illinois Applegate divide.
KS Wild's Strategies
KS Wild monitors all public lands management in the area, and pushes for low-impact forest management that reduces fuels and protects large trees. We work toward reducing the treat of over-grazing, ORV abuse and other threats while expanding low-impact recreation in the area.
Low impact fire hazard reduction and fire reintroduction are some of the restoration activities that need to take place. The Forest Service and BLM should actively decommission many non-essential roads within the Siskiyou Crest. These activities would put many local people to work in the woods.