Proponents: It'll protect habitat and won't affect private landowners

Proponents of the Siskiyou Crest National Monument say it would protect crucial habitat while allowing the flexibility to continue recreational activities and forest thinning, said Stephanie Tidwell, executive director of the Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center in Ashland.

"Private land would not be impacted," Tidwell said. "There are no plans for any form of private land acquisition. The current designated road system would not be affected.

"It seems to me like knee-jerk opposition to something they don't really understand," she said of opponents.

Her environmental group launched a campaign last July to create a roughly 80-mile-long monument along the crest of the Siskiyou Mountains, citing the need to protect flora and fauna.

"Even though there is a contiguous land form, there is no comprehensive management plan," she said. "It's in Oregon and California in four different congressional districts and on both Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management land.

"The lack of coordinated management is fragmenting the habitat, and this land provides a habitat connectivity for the southern portion of the Pacific Northwest."

The group envisions a monument covering some 600,000 acres between the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument east of Ashland and the Siskiyou Wilderness Area just west of Happy Camp.

The group, which says historic hunting and fishing activities already allowed in the region would not be impacted, supports a national monument over a wilderness area because the former would allow for more flexible management, including thinning where forests have become overgrown, she said. A management plan would address those specific issues, she noted.

"This could include small-diameter logging, particularly in areas that have already been impacted by logging," she said, adding, "There is a lot of noncontroversial work in the woods that could be created by this that everybody would support."

The crest is a rare east-west "biological land bridge" connecting the Cascade and Sierra mountain ranges with the coast range, resulting in a region of unique biodiversity, the group said.

"One of the guiding motivations for KS Wild to see the crest protected is from looking at its history as a refugia during past climatic upheaval," she said. "Science has definitely shown because the Siskiyous were not widely glaciated, it served as a refuge for a rich variety of species." With scientific data indicating another global climate change, the crest can be expected to provide another refuge, she said.

A leaked U.S. Department of Interior draft document early this year listed the Siskiyou Crest National Monument proposal among a short list of sites that could be protected by national monument designation. Administration officials have said there are no plans to create any monuments any time soon.

Although it is more likely the monument could be created by a presidential proclamation through the Antiquities Act than through Congress, which is currently at loggerheads, Tidwell said, she doesn't expect any official action in the near future.

"In reality, it would be years down the road before it happened," she said. "We will continue educating people about the need to stop the ecological degradation in the region. This is a long-term campaign."

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