Ancient, extreme and legendary and only partially protected
The Kalmiopsis is a stark ancient land of deep canyons, endless ridges and hauntingly beautiful rivers. It lies a little inland from Southwest Oregon’s Wild Rivers Coast in the Siskiyou Mountains of the Klamath-Siskiyou Eco-region, but it’s a land apart from all surrounding it.
Unlike the Grand Canyon, Yosemite or Crater Lake there’s no one iconic view that’s representative of the Kalmiopsis—so varied and unique is the landscape.
The rivers of the Kalmiopsis are refuge for wild salmon, steelhead and cutthroat trout. Each is a reflection of the diverse, highly dissected, geologically complex watersheds they flow through.
The botanical richness of the Kalmiopsis is legendary. It’s host to one of the highest concentration of rare endemic plants in North America.
It’s a land of contrast and extreme. While frequently desert-like in appearance—because of the unique character of its serpentine terrain—there are places in the Kalmiopsis that receive 160 or more inches of precipitation annually. Elevations range from 135 to 5,098 feet.
Click here for the USDA Forest Service discussion of the Klamath-Siskiyou Mountains: A Center of Diversity, Endemism, and Rarity.
Kalmiopsis Country – a job half done
At the heart of the Kalmiopsis is the 179,000 acre Congressionally designated Kalmiopsis Wilderness. Surrounding it are two large Inventoried Roadless Areas, the North and South Kalmiopsis and smaller Roadless Areas—Packsaddle, Briggs, Squaw Mountain, Shasta Costa, Windy Valley and North Fork Smith.
The South and North Kalmiopsis Roadless Areas are managed under the the Roadless Area Conservation Rule but the regulation does not protect roadless areas from mining and off-highway vehicle use. These are the principle threats to the integrity of the South Kalmiopsis Roadless Area especially. Nor did the rule prevent the Bush Administration from the travesty of post-fire logging in parts of both the North and South Kalmiopsis in 2005.
As a kind of reparation for what it was about to do, the U. S. Department of Agriculture recommended that Congress add approximately 64,000 acres to the Kalmiopsis Wilderness in 2004. Governor Kulongoski, Representative Peter DeFazio and Senator Ron Wyden all said they supported additions to the Kalmiopsis Wilderness but 64,000 acres wasn’t enough. Today the South Kalmiopsis is gravely threatened by proposals for two nickel laterite mines in the watersheds of Rough and Ready Creek and the North Fork Smith River/Baldface Creek.
Kalmiopsis Rivers – a job unfinished
Three National Wild and Scenic Rivers—the Illinois, Chetco and North Fork Smith—flow through it. Each have nationally outstanding wild fisheries, water quality, recreation and scenery. The USDA Forest Service has found five tributaries of these rivers—Rough and Ready, Baldface, Canyon/Josephine, Silver and Indigo Creeks— nationally outstanding in their own right. They await congressional action to add them to the National Wild and Scenic River System. Additional rivers such as the South Fork Chetco and West Fork Illinois, deserve further consideration.
A West Coast Conservation Priority
Maps from the Pew Environment Group of public lands at risk show why the Kalmiopsis Wildlands is a West Coast conservation priority. It’s the last great opportunity—from the Olympics to Baja—to protect and preserve large roadless area and wilderness watersheds with rivers that are free flowing rivers from their headwaters to the Pacific. That these are rivers with some of the strongest native, naturally reproducing (wild) salmon, steelhead and cutthroat populations in Oregon and California adds imperative to the need to conserve the Kalmiopsis Wildlands.
Soundscapes of the Kalmiopsis Wildlands and Illinois Valley
A soundscape is a collection of sounds that emanates from a landscape. Soundscape ecology is a relatively new scientific discipline of studying soundscapes and how they change overtime. The soundscape of a natural area can tell us a great deal about over all ecosystem health. Sounds also have a big effect on a visitors experience of a natural area.
Leaders in this new field of soundscape ecology are the National Park Service’s Natural Sounds Program, Bernie Krause, an audio engineer and Bryan Pijanowski, Associate Professor of Forestry and Natural Resources at Purdue University.
We’re also learning that natural sounds such as flowing water, bird song and the wind the trees is beneficial to human health and noise detrimental The natural sounds and quiet of the Kalmiopsis Wildlands and surrounding valley areas are increasingly at risk from large scale mining operations, off road vehicle use on trails and old mining tracks and the use of helicopters for test drilling operations.