|PO Box 207|
1241 Illinois River Rd
Selma, OR 97538
Phone: (541) 597-8530
Fax: (541) 597-8533
Contact: Siskiyou Field Institute
Hours: 9:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m., Monday-Thursday (winter hours)
This pristine and puzzling landscape: A living laboratory of learning
The Klamath-Siskiyous are arguably one of the most beautiful places on the planet. The region's natural diversity has given rise to rare and endemic species as well as a unique mosaic of people with widely varying values. What are the opportunities these innate qualities hold for this region-- economically, culturally and ecologically?
I love a good drama and eye-catching splendor so I guess it‛s only natural that I make my home in the Klamath-Siskiyous. Home to the densest concentration of Wild and Scenic Rivers in the west, this area's blue-green sparkling waters are an important haven to declining salmon populations, as well as burgeoning numbers of whitewater enthusiasts, fisherman and those seeking cool relief from the hot summer sun. The dense and comforting cover provided by old-growth fir and pine forests exudes enchantment, whether in expectation of meeting elves sitting on glistening moss and dripping lichen in the winter or the soft light making its way through the forest canopy in the summer.
Scientists are attracted to the Klamath-Siskiyous because its diverse ecosystems are a complex scientific enigma. According to David Rains Wallace, author of the landmark book entitled The Klamath Knot, this region is a “window into time.” In a certain sense, time has stood still here as the environmental conditions are more like they were through the west millions of years ago, with more summer rain and warmer temperatures. This climate, very rugged terrain, and a complexly twisted and folded geology, has created a wide diversity of habitats: you can be hiking in lush, old-growth forest and find yourself in a much drier-looking habitat 100 yards away. Such extraordinary diversity has allowed ancient species to survive the geologic and climactic changes of the last few million years, providing refuge for older species which were more widespread before the last ice age, such as Brewers Spruce and Port Orford Cedar. This habitat diversity has also allowed more recent species to adapt to the region’s climate and geology.
Researchers are drawn here from around the world each year to study; the latest theories about biodiversity and how species evolve and adapt over time often originate, develop or mature here. When I talk to scientists to get a quick answer about the region, a frequent response is that this answer is complex and therefore not totally understood.
Its inhabitants mirror the landscape
Wallace notes that the terrain has shaped the people that live here as well: “The people that gravitate to the Klamath-Siskiyous are as unique and diverse as the plants that live there. Lots of small groups with varying values converge there to get away from it all.” Historically, the native cultures tended to have a lot of diversity, with lots of small groups that spoke different languages living in an area. It is also one of few places where native cultures were able to preserve some of their traditions and integrity.
The Klamath-Siskiyou region has been noted as a unique place unto itself ever since the first European settlers arrived. As the western states were given boundaries, the peoples of the Klamath-Siskiyou sought recognition for their own bioregion, fighting over the centuries to be recognized as the state of Shasta, Jackson, Klamath, and now, the state of Jefferson. It has some of the richest storehouses of natural resources in the western United States, whose peoples have widely varying beliefs about the opportunities these riches present. And, since the wish to be its own state has never been granted, the Klamath-Siskiyous now lie at the outskirts-- away from the power bases-- of two different states, vulnerable to the whims of state and national agendas without the political might to represent its own interests.
Research, education and recreation: Another economic resource
A huge economic asset in this region surrounds us every day. We don‘t have to create anything; the Klamath Siskiyous themselves are a bioregional strength. From the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument to the Oregon Caves National Monument, from the western Siskiyou fens and rivers to the Redwood Forests and dramatic coastline, we live amid stunning natural beauty and diversity. And as the supply of natural areas around the planet decreases, the region can only become more and more valuable.
The Illinois Valley, located southwest of Grants Pass on the way to the southern Oregon coast, is one of the region’s hotbeds of scientific study, particularly as it hosts the carnivorous cobra lily and many other rare plants uniquely adapted to its serpentine soils. With the steep Siskiyou mountains surrounding this pristine valley, its towns are small and isolated and were hit hard by the decline in extraction industries. Numerous recent economic studies completed for the area conclude that nature-based tourism may be its biggest untapped economic resource. Kevin Preister, a social anthropologist and author of one of these studies, states that â€śthe lack of coordination amongst economic development groups, and local businesses and organizations has hampered the ability to fully develop these opportunities.ť Out here, in the town of Selma, a small natural history education program offers visitors and residents alike the opportunity to experience and learn about the region´s natural wonders.
Siskiyou Field Institute: Celebrating this special place!
In 1997, the Siskiyou Regional Education Project (SREP), an Illinois Valley-based non-profit organization committed to preserving the Klamath-Siskiyou bioregion, sponsored its first regional scientific conference. Scientists from many different disciplines came together at this conference to create a panoramic picture about the Klamath-Siskiyous from the latest scientific information. The more than 300 attendees, inspired by the breadth of information presented, asked for annual field experiences with these experts. The Siskiyou Field Institute (SFI) was then born.
Originally serving interested naturalists and professionals in two weeks of annual field courses, SFI now serves the local community and its youth, as well as the visiting vacationer and recreationist, for three seasons a year. This has meant a proliferation of courses to whet the appetite of people with varying tastes and interests: hiking trips, rafting trips, birding bonanzas, weekend adventure trips, and technical courses. Youth programs, in partnership with youth organizations and schools, have the region’s next generation out exploring the surrounding ecosystems.
SFI offers programs that showcase varied ecosystems found in the bioregion’s diverse habitats. One of our foremost educational goals is to provide diverse programs that mirror our mosaic landscape.
SFI has been enormously successful in its evolution from two weeks of summer programs ito its current full season of adult education field courses as well as youth education programs.
Bringing people and place together
SFI continues to offer opportunities for visitors and residents alike. We invite you to join us in celebrating the region’s rich history, culture and ecology -- learning more about the Klamath-Siskiyous, the State of Jefferson, southern Oregon and northern California -- the place that we call home.
For more information about SFI Field Courses & Youth Education Programs, or to receive a catalog, contact us at 541.597.8530 or via e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sue Parrish is former Executive Director (2000-2006) of the Siskiyou Field Institute. Sue has a masters degree in Wilderness Psychology and is a long-time Klamath-Siskiyou backcountry guide, educator and enthusiast.