The ancient Siskiyou and Klamath Mountains meet the volcanic Cascade Mountains near the border of California and Oregon, creating an intersection of three ecoregions in Jackson and Klamath Counties in Oregon and Siskiyou County in California. Towering rock peaks covered in alpine forests rise above mixed woodlands, open glades, dense chaparral, meadows filled with stunning wildflowers, and swiftly-flowing streams.

-President Barack Obama, Jan. 12, 2017

There’s no way to sugarcoat it, these are dark days for those of us who love the astounding biodiversity and geology of the Cascade Siskiyou National Monument. The shared values that we find in our public lands heritage are under assault like never before. It can feel discouraging to see bedrock protections for our wildlands, wildlife, watersheds and forests rolled back by powerful interests in Washington, D.C.

The best antidote to such despair? Action and gratefulness.

On the “action” side, people from all walks of life are coming together to work for retention of the unique and special places and experiences that they find in and near the Cascade Siskiyou National Monument. It is heartening to see volunteers, educators, scientists, hunters and conservation folks pulling together to retain protections for this unique part of our natural heritage.

As for “gratefulness?” That’s the easy part. I for one am especially grateful for:

• Being able to snowshoe to icy Pilot Rock in the winter.

• Finding butterflies at Box-O Ranch with my friends and family.

• Green Springs Inn.

• Camping near Little Hyatt Lake and seeing bats twirl in the twilight.

• The view from Bocard Point.

• The work that volunteers with the Siskiyou Mountain Club have done to maintain hiking trails in the Soda Mountain Wilderness.

• Wildflower blooms near Green Springs Mountain.

• The efforts of the Xerces Society to protect meadow habitat from off-road vehicle damage.

• Morels!

• Decades of inspiration from Dave Willis and the Soda Mountain Wilderness Council.

• The Pacific Crest Trail.

• “Fall in the Field” school programs in the Monument.

• Biodiversity!

• Observing the changing face of the north side of Mount Shasta from the Cascade-Siskiyou high country through the seasons.

• The annual star thistle weed pull at the Mariposa Preserve.

• Agate Flat!

• The Klamath Tribe’s continued cultural and political connection to the monument.

• Old-growth forests and Great Gray Owls near Moon Prairie.

• Being part of a community that cares about the future of public lands like those found in and around the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument.

When one takes the long view, we’re all pretty fortunate to live in such an amazing place at a time when we have the opportunity to hand our forests down to the generations that come after us in as good of shape (or better) than they was handed down to us. In my book, that’s something to be very grateful for.

—George Sexton is Conservation Director for KS Wild in Ashland and is filling in to cover Joseph Vaile’s Wild Side column while Joseph is on sabbatical.