The Klamath River corridor has an over-arching signature of remarkably diverse flora and fauna. This phenomenally diverse area biology is foundationally dependent on a supporting diversity in geology. The metaphor of the “Klamath knot” has been used to describe the bunching up and pushing together of several varied tectonic plates and larger geologic formations to create a tangled mass of rock and mineral types. It is this geologic diversity that underpins the Klamath biologic diversity.
This diversity is so remarkable, yet so often invisible to the un-trained eye that some environmental overseers have pushed to create a new national monument in hopes of preserving this ecosystem unique in species diversity. The “Siskiyou Crest National Monument” is a politically hot topic and generally pits local property owners and local resource managers against larger and often more distant, and ideological management forms. While residents fight for local management of the resources, the proponents of the new monument argue for more federal oversight and more restrictive policies.
“This wildland complex can be referred to as the “Siskiyou Land Bridge” because of its important connectivity functions. It is not only a biological crossroads through space and time, but is a literal crossroads for wide ranging species. It provides the only high quality habitat connections between the Marble Mountains to the south, the Kalmiopsis Wilderness to the north and west, and the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument to the east.”
As I read the dialogue between opposing positions in the arguments over creating another national monument, the point of diversity in local human cultures is largely unspoken by the monument proponents. What will be the impacts of another monument on the sustaining of a remarkably diverse set of peoples that claim this area as their home? Will a more restrictive management of these resources create a less diverse human ecology in the area?
In my resident community of Somes Bar, California, the population hovers around 100 residents. In this small mix of neighbors there are native peoples, gold miners, chocolatiers, teachers, loggers, fishing guides, organic farmers, home-craft artisans, carpenters, cannabis growers, Forest Service staff, highway crews, and nearly every political and religious segment you could imagine. The dominant theme to our community is pursuit of personal liberties and a fierce love of our home. The love of local community binds us tightly together in spite of our vastly different cultural choices and histories. Where else would you find a large-scale pot grower paying tithes to the local Christian church? The cultural diversity here is just as striking as is the variety of inanimate rock types that we walk over. All of us residing here have adapted to the middle Klamath ecosystem in remarkably different yet effective ways and we thrive in part because of personal liberties in accessing local resources.
The Klamath River Corridor’s diversity of flora, fauna, geology and also human diversity, has an interesting effect on human migration patterns through the area as well. We have a seasonal evolution of humanity that migrates through our community, as much as we have a corresponding seasonal migration of birds and fish. As an owner/operator of a dude ranch tourist destination, I depend on the surrounding ecosystem to entice in-bound traveling tourists to target this area. Magnificent mountain vistas, and lush riparian river corridors draw vacationers that find edification just through temporarily being in the Klamath living canvas. Visiting travelers can momentarily becoming players in an epic story that somehow seems larger and more relevant than passing through life entirely as an urban lock-up.
The Klamath National Forest and surrounding area is also a white water mecca. World-renowned white water rivers of this region attract rafting and kayaking enthusiasts and their passage through the area additionally adds to the community cash flow. These same rivers are also the target for a mass of new 49ers that relive the California gold rush on a small scale as they pursue an impassioned hobby seeking placer gold.
Rugged mountain ranges thrown upwards in the Klamath Knot provide the gradient to create a myriad of pristine rivers and streams. These Klamath area rivers and streams seasonally fill with steelhead and salmon returning to their natal spawning waters. Waterfowl and other migratory birds utilize the Klamath as a bridge during seasonal migrations. In concert with the stream-bound fish, the highway bound sport fishing masses also follow the piscatorial wave as if they were a natural part of this epic spawning ritual. Hunters as well as other sportsmen pass through Klamath communities and support fishing lodges, guides, gas stations, grocery stores, auto shops and nearly every business they pass by via trickle-down cash flow. Tortured rocks make rough mountains, which make high gradient rivers, which provide habitat to wildlife, and which in turn bring credit card carrying visitors. Simply put, lots of different rocks bring money from lots of different places! For better or worse, the Klamath geologic knot plays a role in supporting a variety of diverse commerce types as well.
Personally, I also depend on the historic and cultural experience of the old west Klamath in our offerings at Marble Mountain Ranch. Tourists visiting Marble Mountain Ranch hunger for a brief and transient immersion into a remarkably beautiful natural setting, and they hunger for a connect to culture and history that is vastly different from their personal experience. We do this partly by accessing the surrounding wilderness in a low-impact fashion by traveling through on horseback, raft, kayak, or river dory, and by taking home only memories and photographs.
As hosts to a portion of the area tourist population, we see visitors from nearly every global community. While our primary audience is sourced from the continental USA, we also have regular guests visiting from Europe, Asia, Australia and Canada. The Klamath geologic diversity, the resultant varied flora and fauna and the diversity of local culture is drawing inward an equally diverse traveling public. If diversity of rocks, plants, and animals are valuable, I propose that diversity in the human experience is equally important and worth preserving. The world I live in draws culturally diverse human interlopers, briefly bonding in an enormous outdoor stage filled with more variety in flora, fauna, rocks and yes…peoples than can be found in their home neighborhoods.
The preservation I hope to support will also secure diversity of human expression. Lets preserve the cowboy and the Indian, the pot grower and the church-goer, the civil servant and the private entrepreneur, the woodsy hippy and the traditionalist. Culturally diverse Klamath humans also thrive because we live on top of a geologic “knot”. Here is where large tectonic plates are pushed together in a single convoluted conglomerate that passes through the eternities as a larger phenomenon. And this is also where a remarkably diverse human community lives together and shares a small piece of tangled rock as they too pass through the eternities together.
See you on the trail, Doug