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No New Pavement on Mt. Ashland: Stop the Mt. Ashland Road Paving Project!

Taken from McDonald Peak on the divide between the Little Applegate River and Ashland Creek, this photo demonstrates that although outside the Applegate River Watershed, Mt. Ashland is part of the larger bioregion, due to its proximity to the Applegate River watershed and its importance as the highest peak in the Siskiyou Mountains.

Although just outside the Applegate River watershed, at 7,532′ Mt. Ashland is the highest peak on the Siskiyou Crest, a botanical paradise, and one of the most beautiful and accessible landscapes in the region. Important as the gateway to the Siskiyou Crest, and located at its intersection with the Cascade Mountains in the nearby Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, the area is also very important for its habitat connectivity and contains extremely high biological, botanical and scenic values. It is also a very popular recreation area, offering world-class hiking on the Pacific Crest Trail, mountain biking and hiking in the adjacent Ashland Creek Watershed, hiking in the McDonald Peak Roadless Area, incredible botanizing, pollinator viewing, and camping at the two primitive campgrounds, including the Mt. Ashland Campground and Grouse Gap Shelter, a CCC-era snow shelter built in the Grouse Creek Basin.

The area is wild and spectacularly beautiful despite being easily accessible from the town of Ashland, Oregon. It is only a short distance from Interstate 5 on the Mt. Ashland Ski Road to the Mt. Ashland Ski Area. However, the mountain’s southern face remains accessible only by gravel roads that extend from the pavement’s end at the Mt. Ashland Ski Area. This gravel road access helps to retain the area’s incredible backcountry charm and reduce the impact of overuse on both the ecology of the mountain and the recreational experience it provides.

Unfortunately, the Klamath National Forest has proposed paving Forest Service Road 20 from the Mt Ashland Ski Area overflow parking lot, around the southern face of Mt. Ashland to the Grouse Gap Shelter, and up to the very summit of Mt. Ashland. This project, although completely unnecessary, comes at a high price to the region’s incredible botanical diversity, biological values, habitat connectivity, and recreational experience.

Currently Road 20 is particularly popular for dog walking, jogging, mountain biking and hiking directly on the gravel road surface, past the Mt. Ashland Ski Area overflowing parking lot. If paved, traffic and driving speeds would dramatically increase on Road 20, leading to a total loss of this currently popular recreational resource. Paving these roads will negatively impact Mt. Ashland’s two backcountry campgrounds. The traffic, increased driving speeds, noise, increased use and the loss of solitude in the area will also impact recreation on the Pacific Crest Trail and on adjacent trails in the Ashland Creek watershed, degrading one of southwestern Oregon’s most important recreational resources.

A view of Mt. Ashland’s southern face from near McDonald Peak. If implemented, the Forest Service Road 20 Project would pave currently graveled Forest Service Roads wrapping around the face of the mountain and into the beautiful Grouse Creek Basin.

In addition, access to the area on the existing high standard gravel roads is already completely adequate. In fact, if anything the area is already perhaps too accessible and suffers from impacts associated with overuse. Rare native plants are routinely walked on, driven over and crushed along the road systems on Mt. Ashland. Paving will only increase this impact.

As described above, paving these roads will impact the currently very popular forms of recreation found in the area today; however, the impacts will also be quite severe to the region’s important biological values.

As the axis of connectivity between the Siskiyou Crest and the Cascade Mountains, the old-growth forests, subalpine parklands, wet meadows, rock gardens and aspen glades in the area are highly important as both wildlife habitat and for their intact and exceptionally diverse botanical values.

The project would have direct, indirect and cumulative, long-term impacts on the world’s only population of Mt. Ashland lupine (Lupinus aridus ssp. ashlandensis).

Designated as the Mt. Ashland-Siskiyou Peak Botanical Area, the region contains the world’s entire population of the Mt. Ashland lupine (Lupinus aridis ssp. ashlandensis), along with numerous other rare wildflowers and two rare conifer populations. These populations could easily be impacted directly by the proposed road paving project and will certainly sustain impacts associated with overuse in the future if the road is paved. These impacts have already begun to mount in the area, forcing Forest Service action by closing down unauthorized parking areas and user-created trails to reduce impacts on rare plant species.

Ecological impacts will multiply exponentially with the increased use facilitated by the proposed Forest Service Road 20 Paving Project. The additional traffic and recreational use will increase the destruction of vegetation associated with user-created trails and excessive trampling. Very little parking exists along this narrow road system, and parking on roadsides and unauthorized parking areas will undoubtedly increase with the proposed road paving, leading to further vegetation damage, soil compaction, accelerated surface erosion, and gully creation on fragile decomposed granite soils. These impacts are inconsistent with the mandates in the Fish & Wildlife Service’s Conservation Agreement for the Mt. Ashland lupine and other rare plant species found on the mountain and should not be authorized.

This includes impacts to numerous rare plant species that grow directly adjacent to the roadway. Species impacted could include the only population of Mt. Ashland lupine in the world, one of only 8 populations of the endemic Henderson’s horkelia (Horkelia hendersonii) which is found only on the Siskiyou Crest, and one of only 8 populations of Jayne’s Canyon buckwheat (Eriogonum diclinum) which is endemic to the Klamath-Siskiyou Mountains. Impacts to these species will be particularly severe along the Mt. Ashland Summit Road and on the summit itself, where many rare species grow, including these unique wildflowers, along with the only population of whitebark pine (Pinus albicaulis) in the Siskiyou Mountains — the population consists of only a few vulnerable trees — and one of only two populations of subalpine fir (Abies lasiocarpa) on the Siskiyou Crest.

The Pacific Crest Trail winds through the Grouse Creek Basin and around Mt. Ashland’s southern face parallel to Forest Service Road 20. The increased traffic, driving speeds, noise, use and biological impacts associated with paving road 20 will have significant impacts on the current recreational uses in the area, such as hiking along the Pacific Crest Trail.

In recent years, increased use has compounded the impact of recreation on Mt. Ashland, including impacts to the important plant species mentioned above. Likewise, just this past summer, staff on the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest removed graffiti from large granite boulders near the summit of Mt. Ashland. Unsightly impacts such as graffiti will increase if the roads are paved and Mt. Ashland is made even more accessible.

To date, the Klamath National Forest has provided no real justification for the so-called Forest Service Road 20 Project and the agency has also worked to ensure the public has no voice in this process. The agency approved the project with no public notification (besides one, single facebook post), no environmental or scientific analysis, no public comment period, no disclosure of direct, indirect or cumulative impacts, and with no attempt at public transparency.

The authorization for this large road paving project on Mt. Ashland was authorized through a paltry, one-page Categorical Exclusion (CE). Read the Road 20 Road Paving Project CE here.

ANN opposes the Forest Service Road 20 Project and we invite you to join us in making our voice heard. Please help us stop the Forest Service Road 20 Project that proposes to pave roads on Mt. Ashland by both signing our petition and sending the District Ranger for the Happy Camp/Oak Knoll Ranger District, and the Forest Supervisor for the Klamath National Forest an email expressing your concerns.

Since the agency did not ask for our input, we must take the initiative ourselves and advocate for Mt. Ashland, the Siskiyou Crest and the area’s many important biological values. We have one very simple message: No new pavement on Mt. Ashland!

Sign and share our petition at this link: https://ann.secure.force.com/petition?pid=Mt%20A

Send emails to the following Klamath National Forest officials:

Klamath National Forest Supervisor Rachel Smith: rachel.c.smith@usda.gov

Happy Camp/Oak Knoll District Ranger Roberto Beltran: roberto.beltran@usda.gov

This Klamath National Forest map shows the roads proposed for paving in red. This includes Road 20, 20A leading to the summit, and 40S30 leading to Grouse Gap Shelter.

Additional Comments Needed for the Anderson Butte Safety Project

A view from Anderson Butte across the Siskiyou Mountains and the Applegate River watershed.

In January 2019, the BLM proposed the Anderson Butte Safety Project to address serious public safety concerns with inappropriate, irresponsible, and unsafe target shooting near Anderson Butte in the Little Applegate River Watershed.

For many years, the BLM has allowed unmanaged and irresponsible target shooting to expand across the face of Anderson Butte and throughout Medford District BLM lands. This activity has threatened lives, contaminated forest soils with lead bullets, encouraged illegal dumping on unauthorized shooting sites, and pushed other public land users off the landscape, literally out of fear for their own lives.

Also for many years, local community members and public land visitors have complained to the Medford District BLM about the obvious safety risks posed by people shooting down public roads, across public hiking trails and off big open spaces elevated directly above rural communities. In January 2016, a neighbor on Griffin Lane had a bullet fired from BLM land above her home and lodge into her front door. Other neighbors have also been threatened by stray bullets shot from BLM land towards their private residential properties. Likewise, many hikers, equestrians and mountain bikers utilizing the Sterling Mine Ditch Trail (an Oregon State Scenic Trail), the Jack-Ash Trail, and the Wolf Gap Trail have also been threatened by stray bullets while enjoying their public lands.

Beautiful open groves of western juniper near the Jack-Ash Trail.

Public land managers across the country have begun limiting target shooting to safe and ecologically appropriate sites that do not threaten the safety of other public land users, yet our local BLM has allowed public safety concerns to escalate, and recreational shooting now overwhelms and displaces other users in the Anderson Butte area and throughout other portions of the Medford District. We do not believe going for a hike on public lands should be a life threatening experience, nor do we believe that nearby landowners should have to be regularly threatened by stray bullets on their own land.

Currently, the Medford District BLM’s so-called multiple use policy has been replaced and subverted, in many locations, by a “dominant use” policy, where the most intrusive, intimidating, damaging and dominant forms of recreational use are the most prominent, but not the most popular uses of public land.

At times, to truly provide for multiple uses and to accommodate a wide variety of public land users, the BLM must curtail incompatible uses to maintain both public safety and ensure enjoyable, high quality recreational opportunities are available to all public land users. Currently, the Anderson Butte area is suffering from agency neglect, indifference and bias that creates a de facto “dominant use” policy.

A typical target shooting site on BLM lands near Anderson Butte.

Although numerous trailheads in the region were “closed to target shooting” in the BLM’s 2016 Resource Management Plan, these closures have gone completely unenforced, and the problem only intensified following the development of the Jack-Ash Trail in 2017.

The Jack-Ash Trail was heavily supported by the surrounding communities and required significant collaborative efforts between the Siskiyou Upland Trails Association, the public and the BLM. The project was approved by the BLM and funded through private donations, grants, extensive volunteer efforts and agency support. Yet, rather than provide a safe recreational experience for the public, the BLM has allowed the situation to become extremely dangerous.

Unfortunately, many hikers, equestrians and mountain bikers have experienced the trauma of approaching a trailhead with excessive automatic gunfire occurring. They have felt unsafe and vulnerable to bullets raining down on designated recreational trails. The impact to trail users has created a situation where people decide to either risk their lives enjoying the Jack-Ash Trail, or avoid the area altogether. After the considerable collaborative and volunteer efforts to build this beautiful non-motorized trail, public members are frustrated and upset that basic public safety has not been maintained by our local land managers.

The situation is particularly problematic not only because of the level of recreational use and the number of residential properties surrounding the area, but also because of the open nature of the environment on Anderson Butte. Much of the area supports south- and west-facing slopes with broad sloping grasslands and large stands of chaparral. These areas do not provide an adequate backstop and bullets can fly unobstructed across long distances towards homes, communities and public recreational trails. The situation is extremely dangerous, and at some point someone could be killed or injured by stray bullets. We ask the BLM to act before that happens and close the area to recreational shooting.

Multiple fires have also been started in the Anderson Butte area since 2002 from irresponsible target shooting, further threatening the communities below. These human caused ignitions are preventable and can be reduced by prohibiting target shooting in the Anderson Butte area.

An abandoned car riddled with bullet holes on Anderson Butte Road.

Finally, after decades of pressure by residents and other recreational users, the BLM proposed the Anderson Butte Safety Project. This project proposes the closure of 11 specific sites to recreational target shooting, totaling 50 acres on BLM lands near Anderson Butte. The closures are currently proposed for only two years and, unfortunately, the BLM is addressing this long-term public safety problem, with a temporary, short-term “solution.”

Way back in January of 2019, the BLM accepted public comments on the Anderson Butte Safety Project and the associated Environmental Assessment (EA). ANN and many others submitted substantive comments on the project and had hoped to see the closures move forward, but the project has been stymied since that time and no progress has been made. Now two years later, after as many years as the closure is proposed to last, the BLM has initiated an additional 60-day comment period before releasing a final decision and working to maintain public safety in this beautiful area.

The beautiful Dakubetede Roadless Area on the southern face of Anderson Butte is a popular area for non-motorized trails such as the Jack-Ash and Sterling mine Ditch Trails. Shooting on the open slopes above the trail and at trailheads poses a significant risk to public land users hiking, biking or riding horses on the trails below.

Unfortunately, the 2019 John Dingle Jr. Conservation and Recreation Act, which contained many good provisions and new wilderness areas, also requires an additional 60-day comment period before the BLM can release a final decision and close small portions of the area to target shooting. That comment period extends to January 3, 2022. We hope you will again speak up for the safety of residents, trail users and other public land users on Anderson Butte.

Join us by commenting on this project and asking the BLM to:

  1. Institute a permanent recreational shooting closure to restore public safety throughout BLM lands near Anderson Butte, including the area between Talent and Phoenix, Oregon, the Little Applegate River, Wagner Creek Road and Sterling Creek Road. The proposed two year closure on 11 specific sites is not adequate to protect and maintain the safety of other public land users and nearby private property owners.
  2. Implement and fund aggressive monitoring, signage and enforcement of this closure to ensure compliance and maintain public safety.
  3. Conduct a separate, comprehensive, district-wide NEPA project analyzing recreational shooting on Medford District BLM lands. This process should close most BLM land to target shooting, while designating a limited number of safe public shooting sites on BLM lands. These sites should be specifically chosen because they do not threaten nearby homeowners, do not conflict with other recreational uses such as hiking and driving on backcountry roads, do not create excessive environmental impacts, and will not contaminate soils in riparian areas with lead shot.

To be very clear, ANN does not oppose the Second Amendment and we understand the right of individuals to bear arms. We take no position on public land hunting and acknowledge ethical, backcountry hunting as a valid public land use. Yet, we do take a position on irresponsible, dispersed public land shooting. We are extremely concerned by the impacts associated with irresponsible shooting on our communities, to public safety and to our environment.

Click here for more information on the Anderson Butte Safety Project

Submit comments to: Tye Morgan, Ashland Planning and Environmental Specialist, by mailing the BLM,

Attn: Tye Morgan, 3040 Biddle Road, Medford, Oregon 97504; or through email at: BLM_OR_AFO_anderson_butte_sp@blm.gov (Subject: Anderson Butte Safety Project).

You may also submit comments via BLM’s ePlanning register on the project’s website by selecting the “Participate Now” tab, or in the Documents section of the webpage. The comment period ends on January 3, 2022.

Revisiting the Miller Complex Fire Four Years Later

Slide the photo at the arrows for comparison of active fire during the Abney Fire near Joe Bar at the confluence of Elliott Creek and Joe Creek in the Upper Applegate in 2017, and current conditions in the same location this summer in 2021.

Four years later, Applegate Neighborhood Network is taking a look back at the Miller Complex Fire through our photo monitoring project. Many of the photos in this post allow one to compare the fire effects utilizing photos taken during fire activity, or soon after the fire had burned, with contemporary photos taken this summer in the same or approximate locations. These photos offer insights into how the fire has regenerated over time and demonstrate how fire activity translates to fire severity.

Four years ago today, lightning crashed and thunder echoed down the canyons of the Applegate River sparking twenty-seven small fires across the entire Applegate River watershed. After a few days, only five smoldering fires remained burning in remote reaches of the watershed. These included the Abney and Cook Fire above Cook and Green Creek and the Seattle Fire above the Middle Fork Applegate River. These fires later merged becoming the roughly 30,000-acre Abney Fire, the largest fire in the 2017 Miller Complex.

That same evening lightning sparked the Creedence Fire near Grayback Mountain at the headwaters of Carberry Creek, and the Burnt Peak Fire on the forested ridgeline dividing Palmer and Kinney Creek above the Upper Applegate Valley. Together these two fires burned over 6,000 additional acres, bringing the total acres burned in the Miller Complex to 36,400.

The Creedence Fire and the headwaters of O’Brien Creek still smoldering in the fall of 2017.

In the summer of 2017, residents of the Applegate endured dense smoke and active fire until rain and snow fell in mid-October, dousing the stubborn, unending backcountry fire. As fire activity increases across the West there are debates about the most appropriate strategies to adapt and evolve with a changing climate and with changing fire behavior. We are bombarded with fire information from across the West. The big destructive fires that burn communities are heavily covered in the media, but hundreds of other fires are burning throughout the West with far less media interest. Smaller fires in remote locations with beneficial fire effects rarely make the news, and the Miller Complex is a prime example of that. Only four years later the Miller Complex Fire is largely forgotten by the public, but remains a prominent footprint in our local landscape.

By taking a look back at the Applegate’s most recent major wildfire, there are lessons to be learned by our community and about the ecosystems that surround us. Residents on Palmer Creek Road and at Joe Bar had active fire on or near their properties and homes in the summer of 2017, but no homes or structures were lost. We should try to learn from the experience of these communities. These comparative photos provide a window into the world these communities lived with as they watched the fires burn, and have subsequently watched the areas regenerate in the post-fire landscape.

Elliott Creek in the Upper Applegate during the Abney Fire in 2017 and four years later in 2021.

In all, the Miller Complex burned in a wide variety of plant communities and habitat types at 66% low, 27% moderate, and 7% low severity. The fire burned in remote locations inside our biggest, wildest wildland habitats in the Kangaroo and Condrey Mountain Inventoried Roadless Areas. In these areas it burned at mixed severity through subalpine forests and into deep mountains canyons filled with old-growth forest on the northern slope of the Siskiyou Crest.

The Burnt Peak Fire in the summer of 2017 with the Abney Fire still burning in the distance.

The Burnt Peak Fire also burned in largely inaccessible backcountry in the Collings-Kinney Inventoried Roadless Area, however, it burned through arid oak woodland, sunbaked chaparral, dry grasslands and low elevation forest, more indicative of our low elevation habitats. The Burnt Peak Fire backed down from the wildlands to the doorstep of the Upper Applegate Valley near Palmer Creek Road and was visible by many residents that live on or near Upper Applegate Road.

Check out the photo comparisons and keep the dialog going around how we can best live with wildfire in the Applegate while also protecting lives and property. Fire is an important part of our ecosystem and is an inevitable force of nature, but how we choose to live with and adapt to it now will shape our community for decades to come.

Comparison Photos During the Fire & After the Fire Four Years Later

Burnt Peak Fire

The Burnt Peak Fire from near the Mule Mountain Trailhead in 2017 and 2021.
The Burnt Peak Fire from Upper Applegate Road in 2017 and 2021.
The Burnt Peak Fire from Nick Wright Flat in 2017 and 2021.

Abney Fire

The Abney Fire from Seattle Bar in 2017 and 2021.
The eastern flank of Stricklin Butte in the Abney Fire area in 2017 and 2021.
The Abney Fire from the Applegate Reservoir in 2017 and 2021.
The Abney Fire on Elliott Creek in 2017 and 2021.
Copper Butte and the Joe Creek canyon during the Abney Fire in 2017 and after in 2021.
The northeast slope of Lick Mountain above Joe Creek during the Abney Fire in 2017 and after in 2021.
The Abney Fire from Joe Bar in 2017 and 2021.
The Abney Fire along Elliott Creek in 2017 and 2021.
The Abney Fire from Joe Bar in 2017 and 2021.
The Abney Fire burning on Stricklin Butte, seen from Cook and Green Pass Road in 2017 and and after in 2021.
The Elliott Creek canyon burning during the Abney Fire in 2017 and after in 2021.
Lower Joe Creek and the Abney Fire in 2017 and 2021.
A snag and forest along Elliott Creek in 2017 and 2021.
Elliott Creek and the Abney Fire in 2017 and 2021.
A view into Joe Bar and down lower Elliott Creek to Stricklin Butte and the Middle Fork Applegate River in 2017 during the Abney Fire and in 2021 four years later.

After Wildfires Come Wildflowers

After wildfires come wildflowers that are a boon for pollinators. The Miller Complex Fire area came to life with massive super blooms two and three years after the fires. These masses of flowers are stimulated to germinate due to the heat of the fire itself, as many species need heat to break down their seed coat and allow for seed germination. Other species germinate in response to chemical cues from smoke and ash that lets them know conditions are right to grow due to an increase in sunlight and abundant nutrients from ash that feed rapid plant growth. Four years on the super blooms have started to wane as shrubs have filled in burn areas in many locations. Many of the early seral shrubs that find their niche in burn areas, such as deer brush (Ceanothus integerrimus), are also beneficial for rejuvenation of the fire area because they can fix nitrogen from the air into the soil and help build soil in fire affected areas. The Siskiyou Mountains world-class botanical diversity is increased through wildfire, which many refer to as pyrodiversity.

Abney Fire Super Blooms

Woodland phlox and Plumas lupine blooming in the Abney Fire area.

This short video highlighted the wildflowers in the Abney Fire three years after the fire.

Burnt Peak Fire Super Blooms

Hounds tongue blooming in abundance in the Burnt Peak Fire area.

A Complex Mixed Severity Fire Mosaic

The Miller Complex Fire created various fire effects that overall could be classified as a mixed severity fire mosaic, with low, moderate and high severity fire effects present in different areas throughout the fire.

The Abney Fire mosaic from the summit of Cook and Green Butte, looking down Cook and Green Creek in the Kangaroo Inventoried Roadless Area in the fall of 2017.
The Abney Fire burned at largely low severity on Dutch Creek in the Condrey Mountain Inventoried Roadless Area. This photo was taken with the fire still smoldering in the fall of 2017.
Grayback Mountain and the Creedence fire mosaic in the summer of 2017
A Burnt Peak Fire underburn and understory growth in the spring of 2018.

Mysterious Baker Cypress: A Fire Dependent Endemic of Southwestern Oregon and Northern California

The Klamath-Siskiyou Mountains are renowned for their biodiversity. A whopping 35 species of conifer grow throughout the Klamath-Siskiyou Mountains, and 22 species of conifers can be found right here in the Applegate River watershed alone. Yet of all the conifer species in our region, Baker cypress (Hesperocyparis bakeri) is the most obscure, unknown, underappreciated and mysterious.

Worldwide, Baker cypress is found in only eleven widely dispersed and relatively small populations located in the northern Sierra Nevada Mountains, the southern Cascade Mountains and the Klamath-Siskiyou Mountains of southwestern Oregon and northwestern California. Of these populations, six grow on serpentine or granitic soils in the Klamath-Siskiyou Mountains and five grow on volcanic soils in the Sierra Nevada and southern Cascade Mountains. These populations range from an estimated 7,000 acres at Timbered Crater on the Lassen National Forest, to less than 3 acres on Flounce Rock above the Rogue River (Merriam.2010).

Baker cypress is a Pleistocene relic from a more moist climatic period when it was broadly distributed across a more contiguous range. Now restricted to highly infertile soils and particularly marginal sites, the species has evolved through speciation and long periods of time to fill a very narrow habitat niche. It is now the northernmost naturally occurring cypress tree in the world (Kaufmann. 2012). Overtime, its range has contracted, leaving only isolated populations scattered across the region in small pockets of habitat, with a very specific fire regime.

Across its limited range, Baker cypress seems to have three general habitat requirements, including poor, low nutrient soils, limited competition, and a history of periodic, high severity fire.

Baker cypress growing on a rocky bluff in the Oliver Matthews Research Natural Area and the Kangaroo Inventoried Roadless Area near Miller Lake in the Applegate watershed.

Baker cypress is a sun-loving tree that simply does not compete well with other, more vigorous conifer species. It appears that its adaptation to poor soils and high severity fire are related to its need for limited competition from other conifers or even hardwood trees.

The harsh growing conditions that Baker cypress exploits often include poor, shallow, low nutrient soils. These soil conditions allow Baker cypress to colonize isolated openings, rock outcrops and relatively open habitats nestled within the larger matrix of mixed conifer forest. In most locations Baker cypress favors open, rocky sites, where conifer competition is geologically limited.

It also occupies a distinctive niche on the landscape where poor growing conditions overlap with a history of periodic high severity fire effects. Baker cypress is not just fire adapted, but is entirely dependent on periodic high severity or stand replacing fire. Without fire, and in fact, without periodic, high severity fire, Baker cypress cannot reproduce or persist on the landscape.

Dense, fire generated stands of even-aged Baker cypress in the West Fork Seiad Creek canyon and the Seiad Baker Cypress Botanical Area.

Baker cypress often grows in even-aged stands, suggesting that previous stand replacing fires are responsible for maintaining the scattered populations of Baker cypress currently found in our region (Ne’eman etal. 1999.). The effects associated with high severity fire appear important for Baker cypress regeneration (Vogl etal. 1977), with more severe soil heating, crown scorch and char height encouraging higher seedling densities (Merriam. 2010). Furthermore, high severity fire can consume the dormant seed load of other conifer species during high severity fire events. Sterilization of the soil can limit the regeneration of competing conifer species in both the short and long term, allowing the establishment of persistent Baker cypress populations (Keeley and Zedler. 1988).

The young, grayish green trees in this photograph are Baker cypress regenerating after the 1987 Fort Complex Fire in the Seiad Creek Watershed. The photo shows 30 years of growth in 2017.

The presence of high severity fire is not enough to maintain or increase Baker cypress populations on the landscape or stand level. Instead, fires must also be relatively infrequent. In fact, repeat high frequency fire in Baker cypress habitat can lead to population declines and immaturity risk.

Baker cypress has serotinous, resin-sealed cones that require fire to open and disperse the mature seed. Until the heat from a hot fire opens those cones and disperses Baker cypress seed, the entire stand’s seed load is stored in the canopy of existing trees. (Merriam. 2010). Once dispersed en mass following a wildfire, the viability of Baker cypress seed is relatively short lived. This means that they must germinate vigorous populations in the freshly burned soils or risk significant population declines or localized extirpation (Vogl etal. 1977, Merriam. 2010).

Evidence also suggests that young Baker cypress trees require 16 years to produce their first crop of mature seed (Armstrong. 1966). Thus, if successive high severity fires burn more frequently than 16 years in an existing Baker cypress stand, seed production may not be sufficient to maintain population viability. Researchers estimate that a minimum fire return interval of 30-50 years is necessary to build the seed load, grow sufficient seed cones and support stand recruitment (Merriem. 2010).

Young Baker cypress seedlings germinating after the 2017 Abney Fire in the Seiad Creek drainage.

Baker cypress represents all that is still wild and unknown in the Siskiyou Mountains. It hides in isolated canyons and on specific mountaintops throughout the region, waiting for a high severity fire to rip through its habitat and trigger renewal. Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, Baker cypress is a symbol of strength, hope and resilience.

Like the mythical Bigfoot, many have heard of its existence, some have hunted it in its habitat, but few can claim to have had the pleasure of finding a grove of Baker cypress. Few have smelled the foliage of Baker cypress wafting through the breeze on a hot summer day, few have watched the first morning light illuminate its canopy, and few have swam in clear mountain streams surrounded by thickets of cypress trees. Here in the Siskiyou Mountains we can, and we encourage you to do so.

Oliver Matthews Research Natural Area

Old-growth Baker cypress in the Oliver Matthews Research Natural Area.

In the Applegate River watershed Baker cypress can be found in only one widely scattered population in upper Carberry Creek. Located in numerous small groves across Steve Peak Ridge, the population extends up the Sturgis Fork watershed from a saddle west of Iron Mountain to Steve Peak. Other populations can be found near Miller Lake and below Little Craggy Peak.

In total, it is estimated that the Sturgis Fork population covers less than 50 acres (Merriam. 2010) and is located entirely within the Kangaroo Inventoried Roadless Area. In some places, individual trees can be found growing in isolation and in other locations, small groves of Baker cypress can be found.

The largest grove is located east of Miller Lake in “Cypress Basin.” This stand is centered around a prominent rock outcrop at the headwaters of Miller Creek. Here, thickets of Baker cypress grow among patches of Brewer’s spruce, incense-cedar and true fir. Most of the Baker cypress grows from shallow soil in the little gullies that cut into this broad rocky outcrop.

The second largest Baker cypress in the world at “Cypress Basin” in the Oliver Matthews Research Natural Area near Miller Lake in the Applegate watershed.

Below the rock outcrop Baker cypress also grow among stands of relatively moist mixed conifer forest consisting of white fir, red fir and incense cedar. Large tree-form Baker cypress grow into impressive specimens in these stands, including the second largest Baker cypress in the world — a massive, open grown tree over 46″ in diameter.

The Cypress Basin stand was first “discovered” by the first Forest Service Ranger in the Applegate Watershed, Bill Fruit. Later, in the 1930s, Oliver Matthews, a self described “botanical tramp” and noted dendrologist began exploring the Miller Lake area and advocating for its protection. In particular, he was intrigued by the Baker cypress and the surrounding old-growth forests. This exceptional grove of Baker cypress is now protected in his honor, along with Miller Lake in the Oliver Matthews Research Natural Area.

Seiad Baker Cypress Botanical Area

West Fork Seiad Creek in the Seiad Baker Cypress Botanical Area and Kangaroo Inventoried Roadless Area.

Seiad Creek is a tributary of the Klamath River draining the rugged redrock canyons south of Red Butte and the Siskiyou Crest in the Kangaroo Inventoried Roadless Area. The area is just over the ridge from the Applegate watershed and can be accessed via Cook and Green Pass Road (Forest Service Road 1055) in the Upper Applegate. At 800 acres, the Seiad Baker Cypress Botanical Area contains the largest populations of Baker cypress in the Klamath-Siskiyou Mountains, and the third largest population in the world (Merriam. 2010).

The Seiad Creek population contains numerous even-aged stands regenerated from multiple regional wildfires, including the 1951 Devil Fire, 1987 Fort Complex Fire, 2013 Fort Goff Fire, and the 2017 Abney Fire. Each fire burned through portions of the population creating a mosaic of burned and unburned habitat. This mosaic of periodic high severity fire has established large, dense populations of Baker cypress and increased the abundance of Baker cypress on the landscape.

In fact, in the 1930s, when Oliver Matthews visited this stand he described a “few hundred” trees growing in the Seiad Creek canyon. Today, literally hundreds of thousands of trees can be found on the site and the population has dramatically expanded in response to the four major fires that have burned through this stand in recent years.

Dense, even-aged stands of Baker cypress dominate large portions of the West Fork Seiad Creek canyon.

After these historic burns and the subsequent regrowth, the Seiad Creek population is thriving like few others. Baker cypress thickets dominate large portions of the West Fork Seiad Creek canyon, and dense populations of skinny little cypress trees have colonized both the 1951 Devil Fire and 1987 Fort Complex fire areas. Thousands and thousands of little seedlings have also sprung up following the 2013 and 2017 fires, creating new stands of vigorous young trees.

In recent years the mixed severity fire regime on Seiad Creek has sustained the health and vigor of Baker cypress habitat in the area. It has regenerated numerous even-aged cohorts and maintained the pattern of burning necessary for the species to thrive. Fire has also renewed three nearby populations on the Klamath River in or adjacent to the Marble Mountains Wilderness Area, at Timbered Crater on the Lassen National Forest, and in the two populations located in the northern Sierra Nevada Mountains near Mud Lake and on Wheeler Peak.

The cumulative effect of these wildfires has been highly restorative for existing Baker cypress populations, regenerating new stands, and creating new habitats.

References:

Armstrong, W. P. (1966). Ecological and taxonomic relationships of Cupressus in southern California. Los Angeles, California, California State College: 129 p.

Kauffman, Michael E. “Conifer Country: A Natural History and hiking guide to 35 conifers of the Klamath Mountain Region” Backcountry Press. 2012.

Keeley, J. and P. H. Zedler (1988). Evolution of life histories in Pinus. Ecology and biogeography of Pinus. D. M. Richardson. Cambridge, UK, Cambridge University Press: 219-249.

Ne’eman, G., C. Fotheringham, et al. (1999). “Patch to landscape patterns in post fire recruitment of a serotinous conifer.” Plant Ecology 145: 235-242.

Merriam, Kyle. and Rentz, Erin. (2010)”Restoring fire to endemic cypress populations in northern California” Joint Fire Science Program project ID number: 06-2-1-17

Vogl, R., K. Armstrong, et al. (1977). The closed-cone pines and cypresses. Terrestrial vegetation of California. M. G. Barbour and J. Major. New York, New York, USA, Wiley- Interscience.

Coming Soon! The ANN Summer Fundraiser with the Holly Gleason Trio!

June 19, 5:00 PM at 3996 Little Applegate Road

Do you love the wildlands of the Applegate Watershed? Do you support ANN as we work to defend those wildlands?

One of the easiest ways to support ANN is to make a generous donation of $25 or more and attend our upcoming summer fundraiser in the beautiful Little Applegate Valley. This event will feature the music of the Holly Gleason Trio, food by Nomad Kitchen PNW, local mead from the Siskiyou Mead and Spirits, and locally brewed beer from Walkabout Brewery.

Donation are being accepted via our online donation page and will also be accepted at the door. We sincerely hope to see you there! Come out and enjoy an afternoon with neighbors, friends and ANN supporters. Donate to ANN, have a good time, and help keep the Applegate wild!

To attend either pay at the door or make a donation of $25 or more to ANN. If you donate online, please also leave us an email address so we can confirm your donation.

The Holly Gleason Trio will be providing music for our summer fundraiser. Come out and enjoy the afternoon with us!

Confronting the Climate and Extinction Crisis in the Applegate Watershed

(This article was originally printed in the Spring 2021 edition of the Applegater Community Newsmagazine)

Happy Earth Day!

Carbon rich old-growth Douglas fir forest on Dutch Creek in the unprotected Condrey Mountain Inventoried Roadless Area.

For those of us who care for our environment, love the land, and work for wildlife, water, or wildlands, the last four years have been dark and uncertain times. From the national monuments stripped of protection and regulations gutted for the benefit of industry, to the xenophobic, environmentally destructive border wall, widespread anti-science policy and climate denial, we have had little, to nothing to applaud about the Trump Administration and its frenzy of shortsighted, profit-driven resource extraction.

Now with a new administration calling the shots, and in a flurry of Executive Orders, the Biden Administration has begun dismantling the destructive legacy of Trump era anti-environment policies. These Executive Orders have set forth a new policy agenda focused on environmental justice, climate change, and land and water protection. They commit federal land managers and regulatory agencies to science-based management, climate smart policy, and the protection of 30% of the American oceans and land base by 2030.

The lofty goals and words of these executive orders sound hopeful, but will only become meaningful when they are fully enacted and backed up with permanent wildland protections, long needed endangered species protections, and transformative changes to our economy, our food production system, our transportation system and our way of life. These changes will require innovative thinking and consistent political pressure. No matter how lofty and progressive their words might be, our elected officials must be encouraged by citizens like you and me to turn those words into meaningful action.

A view from the Siskiyou Crest across the carbon rich forests on the Middle Fork Applegate River. The ancient forests in the foreground surrounding Phantom Meadows are protected in the Red Buttes Wilderness Area, while the ancient forests in the background on Arnold Mountain in the Kangaroo Inventoried Roadless Area and on Whisky Ridge in the Whisky Ridge Roadless Area remain unprotected.

All too often people view the climate and extinction crisis as something affecting far off lands, with solutions in the carbon rich forests of the Amazon in South America and the  Tongass National Forest in Alaska; however, both the impacts and the solutions can also be found right here in the Applegate watershed. We have seen the impact of highly variable and erratic weather patterns, warming temperatures, reduced snow loads, extended droughts, and low stream flows. What we don’t often appreciate is how the public lands of the Applegate watershed can also be part of the solution.

The Siskiyou Mountains are known for their world-class biodiversity, incredible habitat connectivity, towering ancient forests, and wild, clear-flowing streams. Protecting the Siskiyou Mountains is an important part of fighting climate change on the local level, but with global implications. The forests of the Siskiyou Mountains and in particular the ancient, fire-adapted, old-growth forests, sequester significant amounts of carbon. In fact, recent research shows that forests and other vegetation can absorb up to 40% of the emissions generated in the lower 48 states. Ironically, the timber industry is instead the largest single source of emissions in Oregon, but if managed properly for carbon sequestration and biodiversity, rather than industrial timber production, our forests could be a significant part of the climate solution.

Old-growth sugar pine in the Red Buttes Wilderness Area store large quantities of carbon and pull abundant CO2 from the atmosphere. The protection of more ancient forests like these represent a natural climate solution with significant additional social, ecological and scenic benefits.

Protecting the Siskiyou Crest and the surrounding wildlands in the Applegate watershed as part of Biden’s initiative to protect 30% of America’s ecosystem by 2030 would not just protect these carbon rich forests, it would also protect some of the most botanically diverse wildland habitats in the West. The Siskiyou Crest contains widely varying plant communities, endemic plant species found nowhere else in the world, and strongholds for endangered wildlife like the Northern spotted owl and Pacific fisher.

A broad, protected area straddling the Siskiyou Crest, expanding the Red Buttes Wilderness Area, designating new wilderness areas and encompassing the many wildlands of the Applegate would protect the region’s important biodiversity, maintain connectivity in a changing climate, facilitate species dispersal, promote carbon storage in old forest habitats, and protect important regional climate refugia.

Local Applegate residents are also strongly supportive of new Wild and Scenic River designation in our watershed. Recently Senators Wyden and Merkley introduced the River Democracy Act proposing 4,700 miles of new Wild and Scenic River in the state of Oregon and over 150 miles in the Applegate River watershed. This includes numerous important tributary streams to the Applegate River, vital cold water refugia, carbon rich forests, and significant wildland habitats. We hope to see this legislation passed and enacted into law, protecting the wild rivers and streams we depend on in a warming climate.

Oregon Senators Wyden and Merkley have recently introduced the River Democracy Act, which proposes to designate 4,700 miles of new Wild and Scenic River in the state of Oregon. Currently over 150 miles of the Applegate River watershed have been formally proposed for Wild and Scenic River designation in the River Democracy Act including the clear waters of Elliott Creek.

If we are to weather the coming storms, high dry winds, atmospheric rivers and the extended droughts of climate change, while maintaining the planet’s spectacular biodiversity and sustaining a livable future, we must alter many aspects of our daily lives and economy. We must also preserve what remains of our wild, old forests and woodlands, our rivers and high mountain peaks. Finally, we must build movements that ensure the lofty words of the Biden Administration translate into real action on climate change and biodiversity.

-Luke Ruediger, ANN Executive Director

SAVE PIPE FORK!

Lush and beautiful Pipe Fork.

Beginning at beautiful Larkspur Spring high in the spectacular Kangaroo Inventoried Roadless Area, and running through the Pipe Fork Research Natural Area (RNA), the Pipe Fork is one of the last truly wild streams in the Williams Creek Watershed. The Pipe Fork tumbles down the northeastern flank of Grayback Mountain through spectacularly lush old-growth forests supporting the easternmost stands of Port Orford-cedar in Oregon. The Pipe Fork flows cold and clear out of the wildlands and into the East Fork Williams Creek where it contributes important cold water refugia for threatened coho salmon.

The old-growth forests along the Pipe Fork contain spectacular groves of Port Orford-cedar, incense cedar, Douglas fir, sugar pine, live oak, madrone, chinquapin and tanoak. These forests also provide important connectivity habitat between the high country of the Siskiyou Crest near Grayback Mountain and the foothills of the Applegate Valley around Williams, Oregon.

ANN recently nominated the Pipe Fork for protection as a Wild and Scenic River, and just this month, Senators Wyden and Merkley introduced the River Democracy Act, which proposes Wild and Scenic River designation for streams across the state and across the Applegate River watershed, including the federally owned portions of Pipe Fork.

Old-growth forest in the Pipe Fork drainage.

Yet, while support for the permanent protection of the Pipe Fork has been growing, a 320 acre parcel of “timberland,” owned by Josephine County and directly adjacent to the roadless wildlands and the Pipe Fork RNA, has been proposed for clearcut logging. The Josephine County Forestry Department has proposed to clearcut 114 acres of mature conifer forest, and under the Oregon Forest Practices Act, would likely not only log off this important forested habitat, but would also likely “treat” stump sprouting hardwoods like madrone, live oak, tanoak and chinquapin with herbicides after the logging is completed.

Clearcut logging, road reconstruction, landing construction and yarding activities will increase surface erosion rates in the watershed’s highly erosive decomposed granite soils. This will increase sedimentation rates, fill in small pools, create turbidity, compromise coho salmon and steelhead spawning gravels with siltation, and increase stream temperatures in the East Fork Williams Creek’s most important cold water tributary. The removal of forest cover will also impact the area’s important habitat connectivity and reduce habitat for forest dwelling species like the Northern spotted owl and Pacific fisher.

Thankfully the Williams Community Forest Project (WCFP) has been working to acquire the 320 acre Josephine County parcel for conservation purposes. WCFP is attempting to attract conservation buyers that can acquire and hold the parcel until federal funding through the Land and Water Conservation Fund can be used to incorporate the property into federal ownership and add the acreage to the existing RNA. At first Josephine County appeared interested in selling the parcel rather than logging off its forests; however, recently the county commissioners proposed selling the property at public auction to the timber industry. Again folks at the WCFP sprang into action and have secured a temporary reprieve.

Pipe Fork tumbles down moss covered bedrock cascades.

Currently, WCFP is working to secure funding or backing from large land trusts to acquire the property, but they also need to convince Josephine County to act on behalf of its citizens, not the timber industry. Please support their efforts by signing their petition and sending comments to the Josephine County Commissioners. Also please watch the new film sponsored by WCFP, “Pristine Waters.” This seven minute film will give you a glimpse of Pipe Fork’s beauty and will explain why it must be protected. ANN strongly supports the work of WCFP and the protection of Pipe Fork.

Sign the Pipe Fork Petition

Send a comment to the Josephine County Commissioners at: BCC@josephinecounty.gov

WATCH PRISTINE WATERS

LET’S KEEP PIPE FORK WILD!

Old-growth Port Orford-cedar in the Pipe Fork Research Natural Area.

For a Wild & Scenic Applegate River: Support the River Democracy Act of 2020

The Middle Fork Applegate River and its tributary streams are among the most intact and impressive waterways in our region and have been proposed by ANN for Wild & Scenic River designation.

Today, Oregon Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) introduced the River Democracy Act of 2020 which will designated new Wild & Scenic River segments across the state of Oregon. The legislation is a direct result of a public nomination process initiated by Senators Wyden and Merkley to identify potential Wild & Scenic Rivers across the state. Oregon residents responded with enthusiasm, submitting over 15,000 nominations for thousands of miles of wild rivers and streams.

The Elliott Creek canyon and other spectacular Applegate River watersheds are proposed for Wild & Scenic River designation in the 2020 River Democracy Act.

Currently only 2% (2,137 miles) of the state’s 110,000 miles of streams benefit from Wild & Scenic River protections and not a single stream mile in the Applegate River watershed has received Wild & Scenic River status. Yet, during the public nomination process Applegate Neighborhood Network (ANN) and our partners at Klamath Forest Alliance (KFA) identified 200 miles of stream eligible for Wild & Scenic River protections in the Applegate River Watershed.

Our proposal includes 3 separate river segments spread throughout the Applegate River Watershed including the proposed Headwaters of the Applegate Wild & Scenic River, the Applegate Wild & Scenic River, and the Slate Creek Wild & Scenic River. Currently these spectacular streams are proposed for designation in the 2020 River Democracy Act.

The Headwaters of the Applegate Wild & Scenic River Proposal

The proposed Headwaters of the Applegate Wild and Scenic River includes the over 85 miles of the wildest streams in the Applegate River watershed including the Middle Fork Applegate River, Butte Fork Applegate River and Elliott Creek. These streams and their spectacular tributaries contain extremely rugged terrain, vast old-growth forests, high levels of biodiversity, undisturbed wildlife habitats, deep clear pools, rushing waterfalls and bedrock gorges.

Each stream drains the northern slope of the Siskiyou Crest and runs largely undisturbed through the vast wildlands and old-growth forests extending across the headwaters of the Applegate River in the Red Buttes Wilderness Area, as well as the unprotected Kangaroo and Condrey Mountain Inventoried Roadless Areas.

Middle Fork

Middle Fork Applegate River

The Middle Fork is the the largest tributary in the Applegate River. Known for its deep swimming holes, thundering waterfalls, beautiful bedrock gorges, spectacular dispersed camping, old-growth forests and numerous wilderness hiking trails, the watershed contains portions of the Red Buttes Wilderness Area, the Kangaroo Inventoried Roadless Area and smaller wildlands like the Whisky Peak and Stricklin Butte Roadless Areas. The proposal includes the Middle Fork and all its major tributary streams.

Butte Fork

The Butte Fork is the largest and wildest major tributary pouring into the Middle Fork. The stream originates at Azalea Lake in some of the most rugged and diverse high country in the Siskiyou Mountains. The majority of the watershed is protected in the Red Buttes Wilderness Area, but this proposal would include the lower reaches of the Butte Fork below the Wilderness boundary. Located within the Kangaroo Inventoried Roadless Area, this portion of the Butte Fork contains beautiful old-growth forests, crystal clear pools and numerous spectacular wilderness trails. The proposal would include lower Butte Fork and its tributary streams.

Elliott Creek

Little known and relatively obscure, Elliott Creek contains some of the steepest, loneliest canyons in the Applegate River watershed. The stream drains a broad swath of the Siskiyou Crest’s northern slope from Dutchman’s Peak to Copper Butte including the Condrey Mountain Inventoried Roadless Area, the adjacent Elliott Ridge Roadless Area and numerous Forest Service Botanical Areas. The area is also a stronghold for old-growth forest and large portions of the watershed are designated as a Late Successional Reserve. The stream provides important, largely undisturbed wildlife habitat for species like the Pacific fisher, Northern spotted owls, great gray owls, black bear, cougar and elk. The proposal would include Elliott Creek and many of its tributary streams.

Applegate Wild & Scenic River Proposal

The proposed Applegate Wild & Scenic River would include numerous tributary streams spread across the Applegate River watershed. The proposal includes over 105 miles of stream representing nearly all the major ecosystems found in the Applegate Watershed from the Siskiyou Crest to the Applegate Foothills. The proposal includes streams in Carberry Creek, the Upper Applegate River, Little Applegate River and Middle Applegate River Watersheds.

Forks of Carberry Creek

Draining both the spectacular high mountain meadows, rocky summits and old growth forests of the Kangaroo Inventoried Roadless Area and the low elevation forest and woodlands of the Collings-Kinney Inventoried Roadless Area, Carberry Creek contains a wide variety of intact forest habitats. It also contains numerous Forest Service Botanical Areas and the Oliver Matthews Research Natural Area designated to protect the rare Baker’s cypress. The proposed Forks of Carberry Creek Wild & Scenic River includes Steve’s Fork, Sturgis Fork, O’Brien Creek and Brush Creek.

Upper Applegate River

Looking down Star Gulch from the Burton-Ninemile LWC.

Our proposal includes 4 small tributaries of the Upper Applegate River including Kinney Creek, Palmer Creek, Mule Creek and Star Gulch. These streams contain unique low elevation habitats including dry conifer forests, mixed hardwood forests, oak woodlands, chaparral and sweeping grasslands. Portions of Kinney Creek and Palmer Creek drain the Collings-Kinney Inventoried Roadless Area, Mule Creek drains the Little Grayback Inventoried Roadless Area and is traversed by the popular Mule Creek Trail, while Star Gulch contains large portions of the BLM’s Burton-Ninemile Lands with Wilderness Charateristics (LWC).

Little Applegate River

Our proposal in the Little Applegate River watershed includes the beautiful Little Applegate River canyon and numerous tributary streams including Bear Gulch, Muddy Gulch, Birch Creek, Blacksmith Gulch, Owl Gulch, portions of Glade Creek, and Skunk Gulch. The area is arid and unique for western Oregon with a diverse mixture of grassland, chaparral, oak woodland, hardwood groves and dry mixed conifer forest. Wild, accessible and extremely popular for recreation, the Sterling Ditch Trail traverses the area and numerous trailheads provide river access.

Pipe Fork

The Pipe Fork is the last wild tributary of Williams Creek, an important cold water refugia and the only stream proposed for Wild & Scenic designation in the Middle Applegate River watershed. The stream also contains the Pipe Fork Research Natural Area which currently protects stands of Port Orford cedar, uninfected by the fatal Port Orford Cedar Root Rot (Phytopthera lateralis). Usually a coastal species, this disjunct population of Port Orford cedar is the eastern most population in Oregon.

The Pipe Fork flows through the northern Kangaroo Inventoried Roadless Area on both Forest Service and BLM lands. The area supports spectacular old growth cedar groves, along with sugar pine, ponderosa pine, white fir, and Douglas fir.

Slate Creek Proposal:

Slate Creek is the first major tributary to the Applegate River. Located near Wilderville and Wonder, Oregon the headwaters of Slate Creek flows through Forest Service land in a deep red rock canyon. The areas unusual serpentine soils create rather open, rocky forests of twisted chaparral and windswept Jeffrey pine savannah. Healthy stands of Port Orford cedar also line the stream. Portions of the area are protected in the Cedar Log Flat Research Natural Area which supports the only carnivorous cobra lily fens in the Applegate River watershed and numerous rare plant species.

Although relatively obscure and unknown, Slate Creek flows cold and clear through the beautiful Slate Creek Roadless Area. The proposal includes the upper portions of Slate Creek, Cedar Log Creek, and Buckeye Creek.

Support the 2020 River Democracy Act

old-growth sugar pine on the Butte Fork.

We strongly support the 2020 River Democracy Act and look forward to new Wild & Scenic River designations throughout Oregon and in the Applegate River Watershed. These new designations will support healthy rivers, streams and fisheries. They will also protect old-growth forests, roadless wildlands, rare plant species, intact wildlife habitats and unique pieces of Oregon’s natural heritage. Please take a moment to thank Senators Wyden and Merkley for their leadership and urge Congress to move this bill forward.

Take Action Now!

2020 ANN’s Year in Review

The Red Buttes Wilderness at the headwaters of the Applegate River.

2020 has been a difficult year for people across the world. Here in the US we have struggled through the pandemic, economic hardship, social isolation, mass misinformation campaigns, ongoing displays of systematic racism, social unrest and an all out assault on public institutions, including those who manage our public lands.

It has been a year of turmoil and anger, fear, anxiety, outrage, and also empowerment. Yet, despite the pandemic and all the uncertainty and instability it brings, millions of people across the country and across the world have raised their collective voice for equality and justice. So within the darkness of the pandemic there is hope for a better tomorrow.

ANN rally against the Bear Grub Timber Sale in Ruch, Oregon June 27, 2020.

Here at ANN we work hard to protect the landscape that surrounds us, support our community and help empower local, rural people to engage directly in the management, conservation and protection of public lands. Below are projects and issues we worked on in 2020 and that we will continue addressing in 2021.

Bear Grub Timber Sale

ANN timber sale monitors reviewing Bear Grub Timber Sale units along the East Applegate Ridge Trail.

We poured our hearts into stopping the Bear Grub Timber Sale in 2020. Located in the mountains between Talent in the Rogue Valley and Ruch in the Applegate Valley, the project proposes nearly 1,100 acres of commercial logging, including 293 acres in the Wellington Wildlands and additional acreage along the popular East Applegate Ridge Trail.

The timber sale calls for group selection logging, a form of staggered clearcut logging that will increase fire risks, degrade forest habitats, and impact the scenic and recreational values of the Applegate Valley, the beloved Wellington Wildlands and the East Applegate Ridge Trail.

We worked with neighbors throughout the region to fight this timber sale, which was, unfortunately, approved by the BLM and sold at timber auction in October. In 2021 ANN will continue working to STOP BEAR GRUB and SAVE WELLINGTON WILDLANDS.

For more information: Stop Bear Grub Website


Integrated Vegetation Management for Resilient Lands Project (IVM)

Forests near Williams, Oregon targeted for logging in the Late Mungers Timber Sale and under the proposed provisions of the IVM Project.

The IVM Project could perhaps be the single most damaging BLM proposal in southwest Oregon in many, many years. The project proposes 684,185 acres of proposed “treatment areas” spread out across nearly the entire Medford District BLM. Under the provisions proposed for the IVM Project up to 20,000 acres could be commercially logged, and up to 90 miles of new road built per decade without site specific environmental review or public comment. These “treatments” would include heavy industrial logging in Late Successional Reserves (LSR) set aside to protect the Northern spotted owl and its old forest habitat.

ANN is working with conservation allies across the region to oppose this damaging project that will increase commercial logging in sensitive landscapes, while gutting public accountability and reducing public input and oversight. ANN’s work on the IVM Project will continue and intensify in 2021.

For more information: IVM Blog Post


Late Mungers

A unit in the Late Mungers Timber Sale above Murphy, Oregon.

The Late Mungers Timber Sale is proposed in a large Late Successional Reserve on the ridges between the Williams Valley and Murphy in the Applegate Watershed, and Selma in the Illinois River watershed. The project has proposed logging in old forest habitats including small roadless areas near Mungers Butte. ANN is actively working with conservation partners in Williams, Murphy and Selma to oppose this sale and PROTECT MUNGER WILDLANDS!

For more information: Protect Munger Wildlands Website


Wild & Scenic Applegate River

The Wild & Scenic Little Applegate River is part of ANN’s Wild & Scenic Applegate River proposal.

In response to a public nomination process initiated by Senator Wyden (D-OR) and Senator Merkley (D-OR), ANN and our partners at Klamath Forest Alliance have proposed new Wild & Scenic River designations on tributary streams throughout the Applegate River Watershed. In total, we have documented, identified and promoted almost 200 miles of new Wild & Scenic River designations for the Applegate River Watershed that encompass some of the most intact wildlands in our area.

ANN will continue working towards the protection of these ecologically important rivers and streams in 2021. If secured, these would be the first permanent protections of federal lands in the Applegate River watershed in 33 years!


Applegate River Native Plant & Pollinator Restoration

ANN native plant and pollinator restoration planting day in November 2020.

For the past three years ANN has been working with the Siskiyou Mountains Ranger District to restore native plants and pollinator habitat along the Upper Applegate River. This past fall, with much-appreciated funding provided by the Ashland Food Co-op, we worked with Klamath-Siskiyou Native Seeds to grow out 14 native species of plants and provide a seed mix comprised of 16 different native species of wildflowers and grasses. In November, under COVID protocols, a small group of five community volunteers planted 250 plants and sowed the seed mix at the small site along the Upper Applegate River. We will continue working to restore native plants and pollinator habitat along the Upper Applegate River in 2021.

For more information: Native Pollinator Planting Along the Applegate River Blog Post


Upper Applegate Watershed Restoration Project (UAW)

UAW community field trip with the Forest Service in the Upper Applegate.

ANN has worked collaboratively with the Forest Service for many years on the UAW Project. We have attended an exhaustive amount of public meetings and field trips about the project, and have done extensive on-the-ground monitoring of the project proposals.

We have worked hard over the years of project planning to help focus the project on thinning in plantation stands and fire protection measures directly around homes and communities, including manual thinning and prescribed fire. We also worked to keep logging and manual thinning away from important wildlands and intact habitats scattered across the Upper Applegate Valley.

In the end, the Forest Service approved a project we can mostly support. The logging, manual thinning and prescribed fire proposals are located primarily in tree plantations or adjacent to rural communities at risk to wildfire impacts. Although we are following the project, the impacts of this portion of the project have been greatly minimized by ANN’s years of collaborative efforts.

Unfortunately, two new OHV trails we strongly opposed were approved in the Final Decision for the UAW Project; however, three additional OHV trails proposed by the Forest Service, including routes in the Boaz Mountain Roadless Area, were withdrawn due to pressure from ANN and long-time rural Applegate residents.

In 2021, we intend to monitor UAW project design and implementation. We have developed a UAW Community Implementation Review Team to continue ensuring the project meets the habitat restoration goals promoted by ANN and local community members during the long UAW collaborative process. Once projects are approved, we can’t just walk away and forget about it. ANN has a commitment to seeing collaborative projects through to the end, to ensure the ecological commitments made by the agencies are met.


OHV Closures

An illegal OHV route that ANN has targeted for closure on the Siskiyou Crest.

ANN has been working for many years to monitor OHV impacts and advocate for the closure of unauthorized OHV routes in the Applegate Watershed. Progress has been slow but steady as we document impacts and advocate for solutions. BLM in particular has been slow to act, but is directed to address the issue in 2021. We hope to hold their feet to the fire.

We are also working on illegal OHV route closures on the Siskiyou Crest and in designated Botanical Areas on Forest Service land. Recently some progress has been made and numerous routes have been either approved for closure, or initial steps have been made to physically close them to illegal OHV use. We hope to continue closing damaging OHV routes and documenting impacts across the Applegate Watershed in 2021.


Moving Forward in 2021

A pre-COVID ANN hike in 2019. We hope when the pandemic ends to lead public hikes once again.

Although 2020 was a long and difficult year on many levels. ANN has continued to build our grassroots movement advocating for the public lands of the Applegate Valley. We have made progress on many levels, but have also faced challenges and disappointments. With the closing of 2020 comes hope for 2021. Please help us defend the Applegate River watershed, advocate for responsible environmental policies, and build a grassroots movement to permanently protect the wildlands of the Applegate.

Your support in 2021 will help us achieve our goals and keep the Applegate, wild, spectacularly beautiful and uniquely diverse. In the Applegate Valley we have so much to appreciate and so much to defend. Join us in 2021 and make a generous tax deductible donation today!

Donate to ANN!

Experiencing fire ecology firsthand in the Devil Fire

The Devil Fire burning below Kangaroo Mountain in the Red Buttes Wilderness. Photo: USFS, Brett Brown

This summer while wind-driven wildfires raged throughout the region, tragically burning homes and communities, the Devil Fire quietly burned through the headwaters of the Applegate River watershed in the Red Buttes Wilderness Area. Threatening no homes or communities, the ironically named Devil Fire burned through intact conifer forests, chaparral, and mixed evergreen forests, restoring fire as a natural process and creating highly beneficial wildfire effects.

The Devil Fire began as a human ignition of unknown origin, high on the Siskiyou Crest near Upper Devil’s Peak on the Klamath River side of the ridge, at about the same time as the nearby Almeda and Slater Fires. Pushed by strong winds and hidden under a thick blanket of smoke from fires across the region, the Devil Fire was not even detected until September 9 when it had reached roughly 500 acres and was well established in the remote backcountry of the Kangaroo Inventoried Roadless Area.

This photograph depicts conditions around Upper Devils Peak (left) and upper Portuguese Creek before the Devil Fire began. The area is steep, inaccessible and dominated by montane chaparral that burned in the 2012 Fort Goff Complex.

Burning through montane chaparral on exposed south-facing slopes, the fire initially took hold during incredibly dry and exceptionally windy conditions. The extremely rocky terrain and light fuels regenerated after the 2012 Fort Goff Fire moderated fire behavior, however, the strong winds fueled fire growth to both the north and south. Once the wind died down, both fire intensity and spread significantly diminished and portions of the fire self-extinguished on the recently burned south-facing slopes above the Klamath River.

By September 11, the Devil Fire had burned north over the Siskiyou Crest near the rocky, rugged summit of Rattlesnake Mountain and into the Butte Fork of the Applegate River. The Butte Fork is the main drainage in the Red Buttes Wilderness Area and contains some of the most intact old-growth forest remaining in the Applegate River watershed. Although large portions of the Red Buttes Wilderness Area, the Kangaroo Inventoried Roadless Area and the Butte Fork drainage have burned in recent years, the Devil Fire backed downhill into areas with no recorded fire history.

Low severity, understory fire effects on the lower Butte Fork maintained a green canopy of old-growth trees, while much of the understory vegetation burned.

Finding sufficient fuels and dry early fall weather, the Devil Fire continued to burn in the Butte Fork watershed below the towering summits of Red Butte, Kangaroo Mountain, Desolation Peak and Rattlesnake Mountain until mid-October. The few fire personnel assigned to the fire essentially allowed the fire to burn down the rugged and inaccessible northern slopes of the Siskiyou Crest to the Butte Fork drainage, where for the most part the fire was extinguished both naturally and with a little help from fire crews. In only one location did the fire cross the lower Butte Fork drainage, burning both sides of the stream down to its confluence with the Middle Fork Applegate River.

Low severity fire along the Butte Fork Trail.

The mosaic created by the Devil Fire consists of largely low to moderate severity fire effects. In total, the Devil Fire burned at 71% low to very low severity, 11% moderate severity and 18% high severity. By and large, the low to moderate severity fire occurred in forested habitats, while the high severity fire burned in stands of montane chaparral.

Burning under moderated weather conditions and a heavy smoke inversion, the mosaic in the Butte Fork canyon and in the Red Buttes Wilderness Area includes 86% low severity, 6% moderate and 8% high severity fire effects. For about a month and half, the forests of the Butte Fork canyon burned as a vast, low intensity, understory fire, cleaning up fuels and burning back understory vegetation, while maintaining the old-growth forest canopy that dominates the watershed.

A Soil Burn Severity map produce by Forest Service Burned Area Emergency Response (BAER) teams for the Devil Fire shows a diverse mosaic of fire effects. The green is very low severity, the bluish-green is low severity, yellow is moderate severity and red represents high severity fire.
Fire intensity was moderated by heavy smoke inversions and favorable weather conditions, creating a vast understory fire in the Butte Fork canyon.

The heavy smoke inversion blanketing the region and covering the sun throughout southern Oregon and northern California trapped humidity, reduced ambient air temperatures and limited air movement across the Devil Fire area, essentially suffocating the fire as it slowly burned down the steep slopes of the Siskiyou Crest and into the dark forested canyon of the Butte Fork.

With the Devil Fire area now open to the public, you can hike the Shoofly and Butte Fork Trails through the fire area. The hike winds along the Butte Fork Applegate River among massive old trees blackened but not killed by the fire. As you walk through the charcoal and soot of the Devil Fire, enjoy the lush green canopy and the rushing stream.

Minimal torching and tree mortality characterize the fire effects in the lower Butte Fork canyon.

This coming spring and summer, the understory will sprout back in renewal, triggering fresh new woody growth for browsing deer and elk, abundant berry crops, and a profusion of wildflowers creating pollen and nectar for local bees, butterflies and other pollinating species. Cavities or hollows have been burned into both standing snags and live trees, creating nesting and denning habitat for Northern spotted owls, Pacific fisher, black bear, goshawks, woodpeckers, song birds and a multitude of wildlife species. New snags have been created, old snags have been deposited onto the forest floor and into the wild stream, creating habitat complexity.

Like all things in nature, the Devil Fire is part of the cycle of life, death and rejuvenation. These systems have adapted to wildfire as one of the many processes that shape vegetation and habitat conditions across the landscape. The Devil Fire burned its legacy into the forests of the Applegate and has the potential to leave an impression on all those who experience it firsthand. For many, the diversity of its mosaic, the beauty of its renewal, and the abundance fire creates is both surprising and inspirational.

Please go out and experience the Devil Fire and the Butte Fork canyon for yourself. The area can be explored along the Shoofly and Butte Fork Trails. Go check out your local fire adapted forests and experience their fiery renewal!

The beautiful Butte Fork Applegate River following the 2020 Devil Fire.

Butte Fork Trailhead Directions:

Horse Camp Trail Access: Follow Upper Applegate Road past the Applegate Dam and around Applegate Reservoir to the intersection of Carberry Creek Road and Elliott Creek Road. Turn left on Elliott Creek Road and continue driving past Seattle Bar to the California/Oregon border. Immediately after the pavement ends, at a wide intersection, turn sharply to the right on Middle Fork Road (FS Road 1040). Continue 3.7 miles up the Middle Fork Road and look for the Horse Camp Trailhead on the left. Park at the trailhead and hike the trail to the first trail junction, heading right on the Butte Fork Trail.

Shoofly Trail Access: Follow the directions above, but pass up the Horse Camp Trail and follow Middle Fork Road another 1.3 miles upstream, turning left on a large bridge and staying on road 1040. Continue uphill for roughly 2 miles to the Shoofly Trailhead on the left. The Shoofly Trail drops quickly to the Butte Fork Trail. Once on the Butte Fork Trail you can head downstream (left) into the fire area or upstream (right) along the Butte Fork Trail into the 2012 Hello Fire area with the Devil Fire just across the canyon.

Hiking the Butte Fork Trail.