Connecting the dots

Obama’s expansion of Oregon’s Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument is a small nod to the value of biodiversity and landscape connectivity.

Michael Parker scrambles to the top of Vulture Rock just as the first drops of rain start to fall. Through the mist, the vast green tapestry of southern Oregon unfolds below him, a patchwork of recently logged and unlogged forests, river valleys and meadows. The broad ridge leading up to Surveyor Mountain marches off to the east, bristling with conifers. Between the far horizon and the low clouds, the snowy flanks of Mount Shasta wink in the California sun.

From the precarious summit, Parker, an ecologist at Southern Oregon University in nearby Ashland, points across the valley to the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument. It became the latest beneficiary of President Obama’s environmental legacy when he announced the expansion of its boundaries on Thursday to include, among other places, the spot beneath Parker’s feet. The reserve was established in 2000 by President Clinton, and was the first national monument ever set aside solely to protect biodiversity. Though it’s not obvious to an untrained eye like mine, this spot on the California-Oregon border sits in one of the most ecologically rich regions in North America.

Read the full story at

Pilot Rock (foreground) is a landmark in the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument. (Credit: John Craig/BLM)