Exceptional Connectivity

The Siskiyou Crest region is one of the most important connectivity corridors in western North America.

As the only transverse range in the Pacific Northwest connecting the north-to-south tending Cascade Mountains and Coast Ranges of Oregon and Northern California, the east-to-west tending Siskiyou Crest is one of the most important connectivity corridors in western North America, with local, regional, national and even global significance.[1] The Siskiyou Crest is defined by the Klamath River canyon to the south, which connects directly into the Great Basin and areas east of the Cascade Crest. Additionally, the Southern Cascade Mountains and Sierra Nevada Mountains converge in northeastern California and maintain relatively intact corridors of habitat leading into the Siskiyou Crest area.

Little Grayback Roadless Area
Little Grayback Roadless Area

Because of its unusual geography, the Siskiyou Crest is an important migration corridor for numerous species which move across the ridges and into the watersheds, including mammals, like black bear, cougar, elk, Pacific fisher, and the returning gray wolf; many bird species, including the northern spotted owl, bald eagle, white headed woodpecker, acorn woodpecker, northern goshawk, Townsend’s solitaire, and the recently reintroduced California condor. As climate change increases temperatures, these migration corridors allow animals and rare plants to take refuge from the heat of the lowlands by migrating north into high mountain habitats, or west by moving towards the Pacific Ocean.

Observation Peak
Observation Peak in the fall

Broadscale connectivity science has found the Klamath-Siskiyou Ecoregion and the Siskiyou Crest, more specifically, to be among the most important forested ecosystems in the West from the standpoint of connectivity. This is due to its relatively large patches of intact forest habitat and the connectivity that exists between them.[2] Connectivity analysis has also found the Siskiyou Crest to be an important linkage between large protected landscapes.[3] Additionally, a localized analysis and literature review pertaining to the Cascade-Siskiyou region that focused on connectivity values expanding outward from the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, ranked the Siskiyou Crest as one of the highest priorities for maintaining connectivity in the region.[4]

The California Essential Habitat Connectivity Project (CHEC) published by the California Department of Transportation and California Fish and Game also identified large portions of the Siskiyou Crest as a Natural Landscape Block, and a key habitat for the protection of intact nature and wildland character. The CHEC was developed with an interdisciplinary team of over 250 resource specialists from over 60 organizations and agencies across California. This work identifies anchor points on the landscape that support intact habitats, minimal fragmentation and wildland quality habitats.

Portions of the Siskiyou Crest region have been identified as Essential Habitat Connectivity, an area deemed essential for the movement of species between more intact habitats in the Red Buttes and Siskiyou Wilderness Areas.[5] The Western Governors Association also mapped connectivity across the West and identified Large Intact Habitat Blocks and Important Connectivity Zones throughout the Siskiyou Crest region.[6]

Research has also shown the Siskiyou Crest region to contain the least barriers to species movement and the greatest potential for connectivity between coastal areas and inland mountains in the Pacific Northwest.[7] As the axis for biodiversity on the West Coast, the connectivity value of the Siskiyou Crest is unparalleled in the American West, and should be matched with strong environmental protections focused on biodiversity, habitat connectivity, carbon storage, climate resilience, and Indigenous land management using Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK).

[1] DellaSala, DA, Reid, SB, Frest, TJ, Strittholt, JR, Olson, DM Natural Areas Journal [Nat. Areas J.]. Vol. 19, no. 4, pp. 300-319. Oct 1999. A Global Perspective on the Biodiversity of the Klamath-Siskiyou Ecoregion.

Belote, T.R., M.S. Dietz, C.N. Jenkins, P.S. McKinley, G.H. Irwin, T.J. Fullman, J.C. Leppi and
G.H. Aplet. 2017. Wild, Connected, and Diverse: Building a More Resilient System of Protected
Areas. Ecological Applications 27(4): 1050-1056

[2] Theobald, D. M., Crooks, K. R., & Norman, J. B., 2011. Assessing effects of land use on landscape connectivity: loss and fragmentation of western US forests. Ecological Applications, 21(7), 2445-2458.

[3] Belote, T.R., M.S. Dietz, C.N. Jenkins, P.S. McKinley, G.H. Irwin, T.J. Fullman, J.C. Leppi and
G.H. Aplet. 2017. Wild, Connected, and Diverse: Building a More Resilient System of Protected
Areas. Ecological Applications 27(4): 1050-1056

Dickson, B.G., C.M. Albano, B.H. McRae, J.J. Anderson, D.M. Theobald, L.J. Zachmann, T.D.
Sisk and M.P. Dombeck. 2017. Informing Strategic Efforts to Expand and Connect Protected
Areas Using a Model of Ecological Flow, with Application to the Western United States.
Conservation Letters 10(5): 564-571

[4]Frost. Evan. 2018. A Review and Synthesis of Ecological Connectivity Assessments Relevant to the Cascade-Siskiyou Landscape in Southwestern Oregon and Adjacent California. Selberg Institute. Ashland, Oregon. 2018

[5] Spencer, W.D., P. Beier, K. Penrod, K. Winters, C. Paulman, H. Rustigian-Romsos, J. Strittholt, M. Parisi, and A. Pettler. 2010. California Essential Habitat Connectivity Project: A Strategy for Conserving a Connected California. Prepared for California Department of Transportation, California Department of Fish and Game, and Federal Highways Administration.

[6] Western Governors’ Association (WGA). 2010. Western Regional Wildlife Decision Support System:Definitions and Guidance from State Systems. Western Governors’ Association, Denver, CO. [See also:Western Governors’ Wildlife Council (WGWC). 2013. Western Wildlife Crucial Habitat AssessmentTool (CHAT): Vision, Definitions and Guidance for State Systems and Regional Viewer. White Paper,v.3.

[7] McRae, B.H., K. Popper, A. Jones, M. Schindel, S. Buttrick, K. Hall, R.S. Unnasch and J. Platt.
2016. Conserving Nature’s Stage: Mapping Omnidirectional Connectivity for Resilient
Terrestrial Landscapes in the Pacific Northwest. The Nature Conservancy. Portland, OR.

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