Southern Oregon’s Kalmiopsis Wilderness shelters unique plants and the headwaters of several wild and scenic rivers. In 2001, the Biscuit Fire burned a half-million acres, mostly within the wilderness. Afterward, visitation decreased as trails fell into disrepair, until a small band of conservationists began rebuilding them (“How to love a weird and perfect wilderness,” HCN, 11/28/16). In 2015, Oregon’s congressional representatives introduced bills to better protect adjacent roadless areas. Two proposed nickel mines could affect water quality in the North Fork of the Smith River, which flows out of the Kalmiopsis and harbors healthy wild steelhead and salmon populations.
On Jan. 12, the Obama administration blocked future mining exploration and development on more than 100,000 acres of Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest and Bureau of Land Management land around the Kalmiopsis. The moratorium will extend for 20 years and includes part of the North Fork of the Smith’s watershed, complicating the approval process for the proposed mines and giving Congress time to consider the legislation.