Protecting the beautiful rivers, wild lands and legendary botanical diversity of Oregon's Kalmiopsis Country

About Friends of the Kalmiopsis

Update | January 1, 2023

We are in the process of updating our Kalmiopsis Rivers and Rough and Ready Creek websites to a mobile friendly and more flexible theme but the work of conserving the rivers of the Kalmiopsis and Wild Rivers Coast and their pure waters, wild salmon, and rugged watersheds keeps getting in the way of a new look. Please bear with us.

Our goal

Our goal is to permanently protect the Kalmiopsis wild lands and rivers through a grassroots movement of friends and partner organizations. We seek to keep the stories of the dedicated people and this most precious climate refuge and conservation priority alive.

June Robinson speaking against the destruction of Rough and Ready Creek by the proposed Nicore Nickel Mine in 1997.
June Robinson speaking against the destruction of Rough and Ready Creek by the proposed Nicore Nickel Mine in 1997.

A passion for place

The friends of the Kalmiopsis have a passion for this wildest of wild places and are committed to its protection. Friends contribute in numerous ways; writing letters, tabling, going to meetings, holding meetings, hiking the wild country, photographing, caring, speaking in defense of the Kalmiopsis and bringing stories about why it should be preserved to the people.

Tim Palmer talking about protecting the Wild and Scenic Chetco River at Northwest Rafting Company's Wild Rivers Night.
Tim Palmer talking about protecting the Wild and Scenic Chetco River from mining at Northwest Rafting Company’s Annual Wild Rivers Night.

The successes of the 1990s

Lou Gold
Survivors of the Silver Fire—Lou Gold and Grandmother/Grandfather Tree

In the 1990s, a lose-knit effective group of local activists—centered around the charismatic Lou Gold—came together in defense of the North and South Kalmiopsis Roadless Areas. As the decade advanced the local tribe evolved into a structured, effective organization, known as Siskiyou Project.

Seventeen of eighteen proposed roadless area timber sales came to naught. A proposed wilderness gold mine died with the purchase of a patented mining claim. The proposed Nicore Nickel Mine was put on hold while lawsuits tortuously wind their way through the federal courts. It was a decade of great challenge and success.

Even before that

Botanists-Jennifer Marsden & Mary Paetzel
Botanists-Jennifer Marsden & Mary Paetzel at Rough and Ready Creek.

But even before that there were friends of this botanically rich wildlands working to protect it. The Illinois Valley Garden Club of the 1930s was a friend before pioneering botanist Lila Leach discovered the tiny ancient shrub, for which the Kalmiopsis Wild Area was eventually named.

Effie Smith and the local Garden Club worked to preserve the unique landscape and plant communities at Rough and Ready Creek before there was an environmental movement. Their efforts lead to the establishment of the Rough and Ready Creek State Botanical Wayside in 1938.

Local naturalist Mary Paetzel’s years of rare plant surveys helped establish the Forest Service’s Rough and Ready Creek Botanical Area. In 1998, the designation of the BLM Rough and Ready Creek Area of Critical Environmental Concern was another citizen’s effort to protect the unique natural values of this much loved otherworldly part of the Kalmiopsis Wildlands.

Congressman Jim Jontz in civil disobedience at the Sugarloaf timber sale protest.
Congressman Jim Jontz in civil disobedience at the 1995 Sugarloaf timber sale protest.

Change and the growing threats

In 2002, the Biscuit Fire burned across extensive areas of the Kalmiopsis Wildlands. The natural fire and the blackening unburned areas for fire suppression by the Forest Service altered the landscape.  The post-fire logging took its toll on the land too and the activism. Both are in recovery.

Jack Walter and the Biscuit Gang.
Jack Walter and the Biscuit Gang protesting the Fiddler Late-Successional Timber Sale in 2004.

While the logging of beloved places like Fiddler Mountain and the Babyfoot Lake Botanical Area was heart breaking, as with Sugarloaf, it was not without opposition.

A decade later, new threats loom and old ones have resurfaced. There’s new nickel mine and smelter proposed at Rough and Ready Creek. A foreign owned mining company wants to mine Baldface Creek and the North Fork Smith watersheds nickel. Nickel strip mining would turn these pristine Kalmiopsis wild places into industrial wastelands. Yesterday’s proponent’s of logging have growing stronger.

Explorers of wild creeks and rivers

An intrepid group of explorers—this time of the wild creeks and rivers of the Greater Kalmiopsis—have joined those long passionate about protecting this unique wild land. They’ve provided us with never before seen aspects of remote, pristine creeks and river. They include the  Kalmiopsis Guides Association and Zach Collier”s Northwest Rafting Company.

Zach Collier on the North Fork of Rough and Ready Creek, a proposed addition to the Wild and Scenic River System.

The challenge

Almost four decades ago, John Hart, in Hiking the Bigfoot Country, issued this challenge and prediction:

Steve Marsden, one of the first friends of the Kalmiopsis sits inside the fire scar of a live ancient Port Orford cedar, which along a more than a hundred others cedar—some 300-400 years old—we tried unsuccessfully to save.

“There is just enough timber in the north, just enough mineral potential in the south, to guarantee that the Kalmiopsis wildlands will be roaded and logged and mined right down to its small protected core—unless enough people speak out and ask that it be left along … [T]his is a land of most uncommon worth and charm. It if goes—if we permit its exploitation for the little dose of commodities it could yield—there will never be anything like it, for us, again.”

It’s time to press forward with the Forest Service’s two decade old recommendations for five new Wild and Scenic Rivers in the Kalmiopsis Wildlands. It time  to reexamine the agency’s recommended additions to the Kalmiopsis Wilderness. Add to them if possible, but whole heartedly advocate for the rivers and places they encompass and organically grow their permanent protection into reality—because these most uncommon and charming wild lands and rivers are worthy of the effort and the national recognition. They’re truly one-of-a-kind.