KS Wild’s PLAY Program: Public Lands And You!


By Allee Gustafson, Klamath-Siskiyou Wildands Center

What mountain range runs east to west in the Klamath Siskiyous, is an important wildlife connectivity coordinator, and is a botanically diverse hotspot? It’s the Siskiyou Mountains! Located along the border of Oregon and California, they connect with the Coastal, Klamath, and Cascade mountain ranges. The Siskiyou Mountains are a biodiverse hotspot where you’ll find ancient forests, fens, bogs, and meadows. The “Siskiyou Crest”—or “Crest” as it’s often referred to—is accessible by Forest Service roads and filled with beauty and endless views that are captivating for either an afternoon hike along the Pacific Crest Trail or a weekend getaway in the backcountry. This recreational wonderland and biodiverse hotspot is waiting for you!

Due to the Crest’s east-west orientation, it is a key habitat connection for flora and fauna that may experience alterations in their range due to climate change. In other words, we hope that by protecting and restoring the Siskiyou Crest we are providing an opportunity for wildlife and wildflowers to find their habitat niche as the climate changes, snowpack recedes, and temperatures rise. KS Wild’s Public Lands And You (PLAY) stewardship program is a new program we created to empower local volunteers to steward their public lands and encourage the Forest Service to focus on restoration and partnerships rather than timber sales and grazing.

Western Aster, occidentalis, found near Mt. Condrey on the Siskiyou Crest.  Photo by Allee Gustafson

KS Wild is a watchdog organization that works within the Rogue River–Siskiyou National Forest and the Klamath National Forest where the Siskiyou Crest is located. We keep an eye on timber sales, grazing allotments, mining proposals, and irresponsible off-road vehicle use—all of which present threats to the wildlands and special places on the Crest. Lately, we’ve been teaming up with stakeholders and volunteers to restore and protect special places that have been damaged on the Crest. We are busy working with our team to erect educational signs, build and repair fences, restore damaged areas, and monitor meadows and botanical points of interest.

The Siskiyou Crest is closed to all vehicles going off of the road. Photo by George Sexton

To prevent degradation of the biodiversity in the Siskiyou Mountains from the misuse of off-highway vehicles, the Forest Service is supposed to implement a Travel Management Plan (TMP) and Motor Vehicle Use Map for the forest. Unfortunately, these have proven somewhat ineffective in stopping off-road vehicle damage to high-elevation meadows.

The TMP is a set of guidelines and regulations that govern motorized travel in the forest. It was first developed in 2005 in response to concerns over the impact of off-road vehicles on meadows and riparian areas. The TMP utilizes Motor Vehicle Use Maps, which are detailed maps that designate specific routes and areas where motorized travel is allowed, as well as areas where it is prohibited in the forest. However, the maps have not stopped bad actors from trashing botanical hotspots with extreme off-road vehicle use.

This used to be a meadow along the Siskiyou Crest, unfortunately, it has turned into a playground for off-road vehicles. Wildflowers are seen in the background. Photo by George Sexton

What Does This all Mean? 

Currently, KS Wild is in the early stages of implementing a new conservation project that aims to address the issue of off-highway vehicles along the Siskiyou Crest. Poor signage, minimal enforcement, and a lack of fencing and gates should all be remedied. To achieve this, we are organizing agencies and stakeholders, including conservation partners, to urge the Forest Service to implement habitat restoration and protection. In addition, we are focused on building a strong community through volunteer restoration and monitoring projects, which will bring together people who are passionate about preserving the natural beauty and biodiversity of the area. Our ultimate goal is to create a sustainable and long-lasting team that monitors, restores, and protects the Siskiyou Crest.

For more information: www.kswild.org or call us at 541-488-5789 if you’d like to learn more about the Siskiyou Crest and get involved in the PLAY stewardship program!