Kalmiopsis country – What’s at stake?
It’s the West Coast’s largest unprotected wild area and highest concentration of National Wild and Scenic Rivers and Forest Service “Eligible” Wild and Scenic Rivers in the nation.
At risk is some of the most valuable salmon and steelhead habitat in the National Forest System and a legendary refuge for rare and endemic plants. There is literally no place like in it, but the wild, botanically rich Kalmiopsis country is increasingly under threat.
Nickel laterite strip mining
Three proposals have been submitted to the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest to develop nickel strip mines. Two are in the Inventoried South Kalmiopsis Roadless Area at Rough and Ready Creek and the North Fork Smith River and its tributary Baldface Creek. The third is along Oregon’s Wild Rivers Coast in the headwaters of Hunter Creek, southeast of Gold Beach, Oregon.
Roads and off highway vehicle abuse
The Rogue River Siskiyou National Forest has become the playground for outlaw off road vehicle user. Botanical Areas and rare plant are permanently damaged or destroyed through mudding parties and user created routes. Gates are vandalized. Tank traps and other vehicle barriers are breached. Signs are destroyed.
Logging and old mining roads dump tons of sediment into rivers and streams in the headwaters of the Illinois River and its tributaries. The roads and OHV use spreads non-native pathogens like Port Orford cedar root disease and invasive plants such as two introduced alyssum species, knapweed and others.
Most of Kalmiopsis County is off limits to commercial logging because it’s serpentine terrain (unsuitable soils) or in Inventoried Roadless Areas, Late-Successional (old-growth) Forest Reserves, Botanical and Research Natural Areas, Areas of Critical Environmental Concern or Wilderness and Wild and Scenic River corridors.
However, this fact did not stop the Bush Administration Forest Service from logging parts of the North and South Kalmiopsis Roadless Areas, the Babyfoot Lake Botanical Area and hundreds of acres of Late-Successional Reserves between 2004 and 2006 in the wake of the 2002 Biscuit Fire.
Invasive pathogens and non-native species
Port Orford cedar root disease (Phytophthora lateralis) is a non-native pathogen fatal to Port Orford cedar, an endemic water-loving, ecologically important conifer often found along streams and wetlands in the Klamath-Siskiyou Mountain Province. The pathogen can also kill Pacific yew.
Sudden Oak Death (SOD) has spread to southwest Oregon coast forests, including those where Oregon’s redwoods are found. SOD posses another serious threat Kalmiopsis Country forests.