Monument celebration gives fuel to the fire

Monument party gives fuel to the fire

On Saturday I had the privilege to be part of the 10-year birthday celebration of the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument.

In early June 2000, President Clinton, by the authority of the Antiquities Act, established 52,947 acres of biologically unique public land in southwest Oregon as this monument. Ten years later, the primary watchdog organization that protects, promotes and seeks to expand the wilderness future of this "monumental wild backcountry" is the Soda Mt. Wilderness Council.

We met at the beautiful Buckhorn Springs, with lively bluegrass music by the New Greensprings Mountaineers, and a scrumptious barbeque dinner to set the festive mood, as we gathered and shared our meal together on the grass. It was the warmest day of our delayed summer! Speaking with eloquent tribute to the many folks who made this gathering happen and have been part of the long history of giving birth to the monument, and seeing it through many labor pains to create management plans to assure its protection, Dave Willis had council members read warm, supportive letters from Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkeley, setting the tone of the evening.

This grassroots mission to protect and promote wildlands in the Soda Mountain-Pilot Rock area began in 1984. We listened to Pepper Trail speak with the background of a botanist and passion of a poet in answer to Dave's question, "Why wilderness?" Included in his speech was a cell-phone conversation with God about how she created wilderness with all its interdependence, checks and balances to be very low-maintenance; the difficulties have come with human interventions that have so seriously disrupted, disturbed and ignored that balance. It was a passionate, both humorous and serious answer to why we need wilderness more than ever if we are to chart a wise course through the chaos to come.

Doug Scott spoke of the history of legislation on a national level on behalf, and against, wilderness, ending with his optimism that he has never seen so many bipartisan folks in Washington who do champion preservation of wilderness through legislative action, certainly supported by our current administration.

It was a wonderful evening of tributes and storytelling, and maybe wild dancing, but I had to leave before the post-speech party began. The energy of these supporters of wilderness is palpable, and it is true, we are setting the standard for this nation of what a small group of ardent, talented, diverse folks can do to protect, expand and change the dialogue with Bureau of Land Management and United States Forest Service about how best to manage wilderness when local citizens step up to create and carry through a vision that is meant to last.

Carol Browning

Ashland