Stewardship is a nearly universal human trait. Humans, in general, seem to have a primal urge to care for our families, friends and our communities. As our worldview and sense of connection to the natural world grows, so does our responsibility to care for our precious planet Earth.
Environmental stewardship is a central feature of most of the world’s religions too. Christians, Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists alike express a sense of duty to care for the Earth. As one of the most famous agnostics and evolutionary biologists, Stephen Jay Gould, once said, “We have become … the stewards of life's continuity on earth. We did not ask for this role, but we cannot abjure it. We may not be suited to it, but here we are.”
In my work at KS Wild, I am lucky to be able to take part in environmental stewardship on a regular basis. Like many others, I find it highly satisfying to protect and restore a piece of land or waterway in need.
Recently, KS Wild was lucky enough to be a part of the stewardship project of a very special place: Wrangle Camp. Located along the Siskiyou Crest a few miles west of Mount Ashland, Wrangle has been enjoyed by people for nearly a century.
Wrangle Camp is outfitted with a campground, picnic tables and even a community kitchen. The Civilian Conservation Corps built a rustic cabin there and the Soil Conservation Service also built a warming cabin in the 1930s. Recreation, including hiking — the Pacific Crest Trail passes near the area — wildflower viewing and camping are popular in the area.
Unfortunately, off-road vehicle use has destroyed much of the wildflower and pollinator-rich meadows. ORVs and ATVs are fun, don’t get me wrong, but fragile ecosystems within our national forests are not a great place for them.
In recent years, the Forest Service and forest users have gained greater awareness of the damage being done to the meadow. To stop further damage of the Wrangle Camp meadows, KS Wild teamed up with the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest and the Northwest Youth Corps to implement a stewardship project in Wrangle Camp.
Through the partnership, a buck and pole fence project was designed to protect sensitive, high-elevation wet meadows and to encourage responsible use while enjoying this Siskiyou Mountains gem. The Carpenter Foundation, based in Medford, and National Forest Foundation helped with funding. The Northwest Youth Corps provided the labor and they did an amazing job.
The Wrangle Camp meadows are just one of many natural treasures in need of protection and restoration. There’s so much work to do in the woods. Fortunately, collaborative partnerships between agencies and non-governmental organizations are doing a lot of this work, and groups like Lomakatsi Restoration Project are restoring forests and watersheds damaged by a century of mismanagement. The importance of their efforts to bring good fire back to these forests can’t be understated.
Trail groups are also popping up in southern Oregon, such as the Siskiyou Mountain Club, Siskiyou Upland Trails Association and Applegate Trails Association, which maintain trails, keeping them open and accessible for all. Trash cleanups, infrastructure improvements, small dam removal, the list goes on. The need for stewardship is great, and will fall more and more on community groups in the future, if the trend of shrinking federal agency budgets continues. The good news: Stewardship is in your DNA.
Getting there: Get the map titled “Siskiyou Mountains Ranger District” from the Forest Service or Northwest Nature Shop. Forest Road 20 can be accessed from the back of Mount Ashland, Wagner Creek or the Applegate Valley. Find Forest Road 2030, and Wrangle is less than one mile from this intersection. The road is rough in spots, so take a rig with clearance if you plan to drive all the way to Wrangle — but please don’t drive in the meadow.
Joseph Vaile is executive director of the Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center (KS Wild, 541-488-5789, www.kswild.org). His Wild Side column appears every three weeks.