At 1,760 acres, Waldo-Takilma is the largest of four existing and potential Areas of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC) in the Illinois River Valley. It was nominated in 2001 by local citizens in a model process, which included scientific documentation, local meetings and polling. The Medford District BLM accepted the nomination. In it’s 2008 Land and Resource Management Plan, the Medford District BLM designated Waldo-Takilma as an official ACEC.
A lawsuit over the BLM’s Western Oregon Plan Revisions resulted in the Record of Decision for the LRMP being canceled. This has put the Waldo-Takilma in limbo. It’s current status is as a “potential” ACEC. With future uncertain, Waldo-Takilma—despite its strong local and scientific support—is now threatened by pressure to increase logging on BLM Lands in Western Oregon. Waldo-Takilma is classed as BLM Public Domain lands.
These are some of the special ecological values which caused the Bureau of Land Management to designate Waldo-Takilma as an ACEC in 2008.
Intact low-elevation, conifer-hardwood forests in close proximity to an interior valley floor
The area encompasses excellent examples of low-elevation conifer-hardwood forest adjacent to the valley floor. Forests in the proposed ACEC are of variable age and species composition with ages ranging from small pole to old-growth. Stands vary in composition from predominately Douglas-fir overstory to fir-pine associations and hardwood associations. The conifer-hardwood stands range from xeric (often with strong components of black oak and ponderosa pine) to mesic (with strong tanoak components). Several stands have very large conifers and one area has an exceptionally old and large-sized stand of tanoak.
Ultramafic influenced rare plant habitat
Waldo-Taklim includes ultramafic influenced lands with a variety of rare and sensitive plants and with diverse peridotite/ serpentine influenced plant communities including chaparral, Jeffery Pine savanna and open-canopied mixed-conifer forest. Several of the peridotite/ serpentine plant associations may be previously undescribed (USDI 2000). This area is a historic collecting place for some of the region’s earliest botanical explorers and may be the type locale of Fritillaria glauca (USDA Forest Service 1989).
Late-Seral wildlife habitat at low-elevation and near the valley floor
This area is contiguous on several borders with valley floor lands largely in private ownership. On other borders, it is contiguous with public lands that, due to the wildfire of 1987, are at a young seral stage. Because of this situation, the more densely forested parts of the Waldo-Takilma area serve as critical habitat for late-successional dependent species and as thermal and hiding cover for other species less closely associated with late-successional forest.
The area provides habitat for “source” populations that can bolster and recolonize “sink” areas on the valley floor. Also, it can serve as a similar “source” to repopulate the Longwood Fire Area (a part of the East Illinois Valley LSR and in the Siskiyou National Forest) as fire area forests age and can again provide habitat for late-successional dependent wildlife (Jules and Ritts 2000).
During the 2001 BLM field season, a pair of northern spotted owls were located in the eastern part of the nominated area (Hope Mountain) and a single owl has been seen or heard on numerous occasions in the Scotch Gulch portion of the nominated area (USDI BLM 1999 and 2000). The presence of red tree voles in the nominated area has been confirmed by BLM sponsored surveys (USDI BLM 1999 and 2000).
Connective habitat joining upland public forests with the valley floor
A Waldo-Takilma ACEC will facilitate the flow of animals and plants between upland habitats and communities and those on the Illinois Valley Floor.
Besides being a “source” area, the nominated area can serve as connecting habitat between the upland forests (most of which are in the East IV LSR and under Siskiyou National Forest ownership) and the Valley Floor (Jules and Ritts 2000). This connectivity works in two directions as species that are more prevalent in the valleys (gray squirrel, gray fox, acorn woodpecker) can migrate upslope and up-valley. Movement of black bear and blacktail deer will also be facilitated. This connectivity will benefit species of all community types: conifer-hardwood, pine-oak woodlands and ultramafic based.
The historical values of this area intersect with and compliment the botanical values, as this was a major collecting area for early botanists. “The old mining settlement of Waldo — was an important center of interest for early-day botanists. Waldo is listed as the type locality for a number of rare plants endemic to southwestern Oregon and northwestern California. Until recent years, labels on herbarium specimen-sheets rarely contained site-specific data. Although labels on older herbarium specimen-sheets may indicate that a plant was picked at a specific site, such as Waldo, collecting may actually have taken place anywhere within a few miles.” (USDA Forest Service 1989)
The same areas are often popular on a local level for hiking and horseback riding. The natural landscapes, interesting historical features and convenience to communities and residences in a general area that is predominately privately owned combine to make much of the Waldo-Takilma area moderately and frequently used for recreation.
Fuels treatments may be important in order to maintain and restore natural functioning of the Waldo-Takilma plant communities. Such treatments can include prescribed fire and mechanical thinning. The designation of this area as an ACEC may facilitate the public education that will be necessary to gain community support for fuels management treatments.
Adjacent National Forest Lands
Forest Service ownership contiguous and to the south of the southwestern portion of the nominated area is also rich in botanical and ecological values. In the Siskiyou National Forest Land and Resource Management Plan (page F-129), the Forest Service indicated that the Forest Service area proposed as the “Waldo Ridge Botanical Area” could be designated as such in a further revision of the Plan and form a “joint botanical area” with the BLM lands (USDA Forest Service 1989). Adjacent Forest Service lands in a botanical designation would enhance all of the primary values associated with the Waldo-Takilma ACEC nomination.