Siskiyou Crest Forests: Biodiversity, Climate and Fire Refugia

The forests of the Siskiyou Crest contain pronounced climate and fire refugia where persistent and relatively productive, carbon rich forests have grown for thousands of years.

These mature and old-growth forests are extremely important as carbon reserves where live trees, standing snags, downed trees and forest soils have stored immense amounts of carbon for hundreds, if not thousands of years.[1] However, these important forests are also regularly threatened by federal timber sales on unprotected public land throughout the Siskiyou Crest region.

measuring the Studhorse Tree

These forests are critical for the carbon they store, but also for their important watershed values, as climate refugia, and as habitat for wildlife species requiring overstory canopy, cool, moist habitat conditions, thermal regulation and late successional forest habitats for nesting, roosting, denning and foraging.

Studies have also shown that protected mature and old forest habitats are far more efficient and effective at storing carbon than actively managed forests, or forests that have been commercially logged to supposedly reduce fire risks.[2] Yet the threat of logging remains very high for old and mature forests in the Siskiyou Crest region.


According to research from an Oregon State University scientist, the wood products industry is the single largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the state of Oregon, accounting for a whopping 39% of the state’s total emission load.[3]

Additional habitat protections for mature and old-growth forests under President Biden’s 30×30 Initiative and his Earth Day Executive Order must be immediately enacted to protect, preserve, restore, and maintain adequate carbon storage in the natural environment throughout the Siskiyou Crest region.

[1] DellaSala, Dominick A. Mackey, Brendan., Norman, Patrick., Campbell, Carly., Nomer, Patrick J. Kormos, Cyril F., Keith, Heather., Rogers, Brendan. 2022. Mature and old-growth forest contribute to large-scale conservation targets in the conterminous United States. Front. For. Glob. Change, 28 September 2022 Sec. Forest Management Volume 5 – 2022 | https://doi.org/10.3389/ffgc.2022.979528

[2] Law, B.E.; Moomaw, W.R.; Hudiburg, T.W.; Schlesinger, W.H.; Sterman, J.D.; Woodwell, G.M. Creating Strategic Reserves to Protect Forest Carbon and Reduce Biodiversity Losses in the United States. Land 2022, 11, 721. https://doi.org/10.3390/ land11050721

[3] Law, Beverly E., Hudiburg. Tara W. Berner. Logan T., Kent. Jeffrey J., Buotte, Polly C., and Harmon. Mark E. 2018. Land Use Strategies to mitigate climate change in carbon dense temperate forests. PNAS. www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.1720064115

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