Klamath-Siskiyou documentary airs tonight

ASHLAND — Makers of a documentary on the Klamath-Siskiyou bioregion hope it will move people to work toward protecting its ecological diversity.

Called "A Wild American Forest," the film will air at 7 tonight in the Meese Auditorium at Southern Oregon University, 1250 Siskiyou Blvd., Ashland.

The hourlong documentary, narrated by Susan Sarandon, began showing on PBS affiliates in December. It was made by Doug Prose and Diane LaMacchia, a husband-wife team from Oakland, Calif., who will be on hand tonight to answer questions. DVD versions of the film will be for sale, and desserts and coffee will be served. The film will show on Southern Oregon Public Television at 8 p.m. Feb. 6 and 8.

Prose and LaMacchia, who've made multiple documentaries on natural wonders and national monuments for PBS affiliates, said they were surprised to find none had been done on the "ancient sylvan paradise" that runs from the Umpqua to the Sacramento Valley and from the Interstate 5 freeway to the coast.

Prose discovered the Klamath-Siskiyou bioregion during his college days, "hiking the Trinity Alps Wilderness and learning what an incredible place it is — remote, rugged, with a biodiversity that just reaches out to you."

The couple single out dams and clear-cutting as excesses of the past two centuries, but LaMacchia notes things are changing in the Pacific Northwest. Dams are being taken out, and logging, once a driving economic force for the region, has been replaced by tourism and other industries.

"The film shows how the economy is so much more diverse now, with no one industry on which everything else rests," LaMacchia said.

The couple spent three years exploring the steep canyons of the Illinois, Smith, Rogue and Klamath rivers, and said they found the terrain so "dissected" and wrought with winding logging roads that it sometimes took many hours to get to one desired spot to shoot a few minutes of film.

Often, they would be guided by savvy local scientists, such as botanist Frank Callahan of Central Point, who took them to see the world's widest incense cedar in Red Buttes Wilderness.

"When we go (shooting film), we like to hang out with people. It's really fun," said Prose. "Frank would point out all the edible wild berries, the best ones we ever tasted."

The film presents shots of Ashland and Jacksonville to show how local economies thrive on wilderness beauty in the hope that viewers will "be more aware, want to protect it more and increase the amount of old growth that isn't now protected," LaMacchia said.

The film was funded by investment banker Mark and Christina Headley of Berkeley, Calif., who have a home in the Colestin Valley next to Charlie Selberg, Mark Headley's fencing master and a commentator in the movie.

"I've been here 27 years," Selberg says in the film, "and every day is different and stunningly beautiful. Anyone who lives in this forest will fall in love with it. Thousands of life forms can't exist without it, and I don't believe we can either."

Information on the film can be found at www.awildamericanforest.org.

John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. E-mail him at jdarling@jeffnet.org.

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