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Steward’s Fork

Steward’s Fork: A Sustainable Future for the Klamath Mountains

James K. Agee
Copyright Date: 2007
Edition: 1
Pages: 306
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    Steward’s Fork
    Book Description:

    A compelling story of place,Steward's Forkexplores northwest California's magnificent Klamath Mountains-a region that boasts a remarkable biodiversity, a terrain so rugged that significant landscape features are still being discovered there, and a wealth of natural resources that have been used, and more recently abused, by humans for millennia. James K. Agee, a forest ecologist with more than fifty years experience in the Klamaths, provides a multidimensional perspective on this region and asks: how can we most effectively steward this spectacular landscape toward a sustainable future? In an engaging narrative laced with personal anecdotes, he introduces the dynamics of the Klamath's ecosystems, including its geology and diverse flora and fauna, and then discusses its native cultures and more recent inhabitants, laying out the effects of industries such as logging, mining, water development, and fishing. Assuming that people will continue to have a close tie to the Klamaths, Agee introduces the principles of restoration ecology to offer a vision of how we can responsibly meet the needs of both people and natural organisms, including plants, fish, and wildlife. This debate over the future of the Klamath's rich landscape widens into a provocative meditation on nature, culture, and our relationship with the earth itself.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-93379-8
    Subjects: Environmental Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Figures and Tables
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. CHAPTER 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-8)

    My introduction to the Trinity Alps of California came in 1950 when I was five years old. My only memories of the entire year are from that first summer visit. My family stayed at a resort, rustic even then, appropriately named Trinity Alps Resort, on the Stuart Fork of the Trinity River within the rugged and beautiful Klamath mountain region of northwestern California. Some neighbors had visited the resort the previous year and invited our family to come along the following year. We drove from the San Francisco Bay Area up Highway 99, spent the night in Red Bluff, and...

  6. CHAPTER 2 The Physical World
    (pp. 9-18)

    The physical world of the Klamath Mountains is the template upon which its biological diversity has been built. The physiography of the Klamaths is very rugged but less uplifted than the Sierra Nevada. Whereas the peaks of the Sierra Nevada rise to over 14,000 feet, the highest peak in the Klamath Mountains, Mount Eddy, is a whopping 9,025 feet. Thompson Peak, at 9,002 feet, is a close second, but anyone who has climbed it (I’ve only come close, never having been much of a rock climber) knows that it is more challenging than many peaks thousands of feet higher. Thompson...

  7. CHAPTER 3 Forest Mélange
    (pp. 19-30)

    The forests of the Klamath Mountains are the most complex in western North America. Although a mélange is a mixture, medley, or a motley assortment of items, the seeming forest mélange of the Klamaths does have order, a sense of place. As a forest ecologist, I define place by its forest. If I were to be dropped off, blindfolded, in the Klamaths, I would know where I was just from the vegetation, much like basketball players know where they are on the court from a single glimpse of a sideline. Far from being a random combination of overstory and understory...

  8. CHAPTER 4 A Rose by Any Name
    (pp. 31-40)

    The Klamath Mountains owe the rich diversity of their plant life to the shifting of species across the landscape in response to environmental change. The great age of the Klamath terranes, and the existence of some nonglaciated land throughout that period, has allowed some species that were dominant in past eras to persist in small areas when climate changes favored new species. These “relict” species enrich the flora, and the Klamath Mountains contain the richest conifer diversity in the world, including several conifers found nowhere else in the world. The Klamaths contain the only populations of weeping spruce, known for...

  9. CHAPTER 5 My Botanical Contest with Miss Alice Eastwood
    (pp. 41-55)

    Alice Eastwood, a famous California botanist, conducted a botanical survey in 1900 of Canyon Creek, a tributary stream that joins the Trinity River at Junction City. She listed all the trees and shrubs she found along her journey, including those she spied on a 20-mile trek up Canyon Creek. I thought it would be fun to challenge her expertise with a survey of my own, but in many respects, the contest was unfair. Miss Eastwood died half a century ago, after being curator of the herbarium at the California Academy of Sciences for the previous half century. She, therefore, was...

  10. CHAPTER 6 Wild Creatures of the Klamaths
    (pp. 56-70)

    Most people are much more impressed by a creature than a plant, even though both are beautiful and both can be dangerous. Trees have been known to fall and land on people, and plants can be poisonous, either to the touch or upon eating. But the former is a rare occurrence, and poisonous plants such as poison oak can be avoided by the careful hiker. The sighting of wildlife or fish has an emotional power far beyond that of forest plant life, whether in a hunt for meat or for the thrill of seeing wildlife in its native habitat. Some...

  11. CHAPTER 7 Change Is the Only Constant
    (pp. 71-105)

    As I sit on a small bluff overlooking the Stuart Fork in late summer, I am impressed most by the serenity of the place. Perhaps I am just reacting to the contrast with the pace of the city, but the sounds of the forest are part of the place, not noise at all. Nuthatches occasionally let out their unmistakable “yank yank,” while western fence lizards and dark-eyed juncos rustle among the leaves of the canyon live oaks. The closest thing to noise is the scolding of a Steller’s jay and the squawk of a raven. Old Douglas-firs stand with ponderosa...

  12. CHAPTER 8 First Peoples of the Rivers
    (pp. 106-123)

    The Klamath Mountains have long supported a limited population of self-reliant individuals. Today, the region’s population concentrates right along the coast and along the Interstate 5 corridor. If one subtracts the population within several miles of those two linear features from the regional total, only about 62 ,000 people currently inhabit the Klamath Mountains. The population density is about 4 per square mile, with about a third of those people living in the five largest rural towns: this is not a heavily populated region.

    The pre-European Indian population has been estimated at less than this current number: some 25 ,000...

  13. CHAPTER 9 Gold Is Where You Find It
    (pp. 124-144)

    The modern history of the Klamaths is one largely of exploitation of natural resources: minerals, timber, and water. Katharine Hepburn, speaking to Humphrey Bogart inThe African Queen,summarized the attitudes of the times: “Nature, Mr. Alnutt, is what we were put on this earth to rise above.” In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, natural resources were prized for what they could produce: gold, lumber, irrigation, and power. The Klamaths are not unique; use and overuse were the models of the time. Much of value produced in the region went elsewhere, with little appreciation for the land left behind. Most...

  14. CHAPTER 10 Green Grass and Green Gold
    (pp. 145-163)

    The limited open country and widespread forests of the Klamaths supported the Native American communities of the region long before the days of the gold rush. Natives fished and hunted but, with the exception of growing tobacco, cultivated little land and kept little domesticated stock. Soon after the gold seekers arrived, supporting industry developed to feed both the miners and the structures they required for housing and mining activities. The isolation of the region, broken only with a few trails, demanded that crops, livestock, and timber be provided locally.

    Ranchers played a vital role in sustaining the gold-rush mining activities...

  15. CHAPTER 11 Dam the World
    (pp. 164-179)

    On the approach to Trinity Dam (see figure 29), I am awed by the sheer magnitude of this engineering marvel. The canyon is filled with tons of earth, forming a dam a half mile wide at its top and a half mile thick at its base. It can hold 2.76 million acre-feet of water (an acre-foot is a volume equivalent to one-foot deep over an area of one acre), a volume difficult to imagine. This amount is a bit less than a cubic mile of water but comprises one of the largest lakes in California. Now commonly known as Trinity...

  16. CHAPTER 12 Modern Myths and Monsters
    (pp. 180-197)

    When novelist James Hilton visited Weaverville, he remarked that the area was the living embodiment of the Shangri-La of his famous novelLost Horizon.First published in 1936, and the first-ever paperback in 1939, the book describes a remote, secluded paradise of great beauty and tranquility. The Klamath Mountains are remote, secluded, and beautiful, yet along with tranquil times have come turbulent ones. Native cultures have been disrupted, sensational killings have occurred, and mysterious beings have at times appeared. The modern (post–gold-rush) history of the Klamaths is more than one of gold, timber, and great dams. Though modern culture...

  17. CHAPTER 13 Principles of Future Sustainability
    (pp. 198-205)

    To ensure a sustainable future for the Klamath region, we need some broad, overarching principles to guide shorter-term, more site-specific actions. These principles are necessarily strategic, as opposed to the more tactical, “how to get there” actions. People who are concerned about the region tend to agree more on overarching principles than they do on the specifics of action. For example, everyone would, I think, agree that sustaining anadromous fish runs is important, yet the farmers, tribes, commercial fishermen, and others disagree about what actions are necessary to assure continuity in fish runs. The dialogue needs to begin with some...

  18. CHAPTER 14 Hard Times for Hardrock
    (pp. 206-214)

    Early miners simply helped themselves to the mineral riches in the rivers and gravels of the Klamath region. No federal or state laws regulated the removal process during or immediately after the gold rush, although the miners were removing minerals from the lands of native peoples, which were considered to be in the public domain. For twenty years, simple mining codes provided order in the goldfields. Miners had exclusive rights to claims they had discovered, including water rights. They had to stake their claims with notices and names and had to limit the number of claims they held. Early California...

  19. CHAPTER 15 Forests for the Future
    (pp. 215-232)

    The future forests of the Klamaths, both public and private, need to be managed much differently than in the past to deal effectively with issues of site and scale. Some of the needed change has already occurred: site issues governing timber harvest have been dealt with through three decades of forest-practices regulations, and the importance of natural disturbances is better recognized now. Questions of scale are receiving attention on both public and private land, with some success and some major challenges. Some 60 percent of the region’s forests are publicly owned, managed primarily by the Forest Service with a few...

  20. CHAPTER 16 Restoring the Rivers
    (pp. 233-245)

    Ecosystem restoration can take two paths: passive and active. Passive restoration stops the practices that are creating the need for restoration. Active restoration takes actions to restore either the structure or function of the ecosystem. For the rivers of the Klamath region, passive restoration is under way on much of the federal land managed under the Northwest Forest Plan, by slowing the scale and intensity of harvest activities. Active restoration is occurring both in the rivers and the uplands, driven more by endangered fish and tribal rights than by altruism. But it is nevertheless happening, ushering in a new era...

  21. CHAPTER 17 Steward’s Fork
    (pp. 246-254)

    Encouraging trends are emerging in the Klamath region. Sustainable resource practices and innovative approaches to preserving natural resources are not only being applied here but are being generated here. The Trinity River Restoration Project’s efforts to provide a sustainable future for the river and its fish, reclamation of mining sites, the success of the local resources advisory committee in its forest-restoration projects, and the rise of community organizations willing to cooperate in resource-management activities are all healthy signs that the region has not only come to the steward’s fork but is progressing along a sustainable path.

    California is a remarkable...

  22. APPENDIX: Biota Mentioned in the Text
    (pp. 255-260)
  23. References and Further Reading
    (pp. 261-276)
  24. Index
    (pp. 277-294)
  25. Back Matter
    (pp. 295-295)