For the last three years, Klamath Forest Alliance (KFA) has been working with allies in the southwestern Oregon and adjacent parts of northwestern California to nominate streams for protection under Senator Wyden’s River Democracy Act. This legislation proposes to establish new Wild and Scenic River segments in worthy Oregon watersheds and would dramatically increase protections for rivers and streams throughout the state. Originally, the River Democracy Act proposed to designate approximately 4,700 miles of new Wild and Scenic Rivers, including many in the Siskiyou Mountains along the Oregon-California border.
Unfortunately, Senator Wyden recently released a new version of the River Democracy Act, which removed proposed protections for many deserving streams. In total, about 30% of the streams originally proposed for protection were removed from the revised legislation, and in the Applegate River watershed deserving streams in both Oregon, and at the river’s headwaters in Northern California, were removed. This created a 60% reduction in proposed Wild & Scenic stream miles in the Applegate River watershed, excluding some of the wildest, most scenic watersheds in the region.
The newly revised legislation arbitrarily removed all streams in the California portions of the Applegate River watershed from proposed protection, including the Middle Fork Applegate River, Butte Fork Applegate River, Cook and Green Creek, Whisky Creek and Elliott Creek. By far the most intact watersheds in the Applegate River drainage, with the most old-growth forest, the largest wildland habitats, beautiful bedrock gorges, emerald green pools, spectacular waterfalls, rare plant species, threatened wildlife, world-class biodiversity and regionally important habitat connectivity, they have none-the-less been excluded from the legislation. These streams are highly deserving of protection and create some of the most important habitats in the eastern Siskiyou Mountains.
Streams in Oregon such as upper Whisky Creek, the headwaters of Pipe Fork, and two major tributaries of Carberry Creek, including O’Brien Creek and Brush Creek, were also removed from the legislation.
Meanwhile, additional worthy streams were also removed in the Illinois River watershed, including rugged tributaries of the East Fork Illinois River, in the heavily forested Sucker Creek canyon, in the serpentine badlands west of O’Brien, Oregon on the West Fork Illinois River, and in the Kalmiopsis Wildlands where the river flows through one of the West’s most rugged and remote wilderness canyons.
Many who float the Illinois River or hike the spectacular Illinois River Trail don’t realize that many of the river’s most important tributary streams remain unprotected and outside both the designated Kalmiopsis Wilderness Area and the Wild and Scenic Illinois River corridor. Many of these streams flow through the vast North and South Kalmiopsis Inventoried Roadless Areas in some of the most remote, intact, and inaccessible watersheds on the West Coast. Streams like the North Fork Indigo Creek, West Fork Indigo Creek, South Fork Silver Creek, Horse Sign Creek, Days Gulch, and lower Deer Creek just outside the Illinois River Valley were removed from the newly revised legislation.
In the East Fork Illinois River watershed, below the Siskiyou Wilderness Area and above the community of Takilma, Oregon important tributaries such as Chicago Creek and Mud Lake Creek were excluded from the legislation, while in the Sucker Creek watershed, tributaries including Tanner Creek, East Tanner Creek, and the upper portions of Right Hand Fork Sucker Creek were removed from proposed protection.
Although Klamath Forest Alliance supports the River Democracy Act and appreciates the efforts of Senator Wyden to protect Oregon watersheds, we also have significant concerns about the recent legislative revisions and the removal of worthy streams in the Siskiyou Mountains of southwestern Oregon and northwestern California. We will keep advocating for the inclusion of these streams and their restoration in the River Democracy Act.
Being far from urban centers, in a remote and obscure portion of the state, the Siskiyou Mountains are often overlooked, but the importance of their protection cannot be overstated. Although not perfect in its protections or legislative language, the River Democracy Act has proposed significant new habitat protections and includes much that should be applauded. It could also be made significantly better by adequately protecting the rivers and streams of the Siskiyou Mountains and restoring proposed protections for wild streams in the Applegate and Illinois River watersheds.
Please contact Senator Wyden and let him know you support the River Democracy Act and the designation of new Wild and Scenic River segments throughout our region. We need your support to secure the protection of our region’s most spectacular waterways. Please include the following in your letter:
Please contact Senator Wyden and encourage him to adequately protect the Applegate and Illinois River watersheds in the River Democracy Act. You can email the Senator at the following link: