Siskiyou County residents and visitors will soon have a new outdoor recreational opportunity, but it will require the help of a community volunteer effort to come to fruition.

Siskiyou County residents and visitors will soon have a new outdoor recreational opportunity, but it will require the help of a community volunteer effort to come to fruition.

The Shasta Valley Resource Conservation District (SVRCD), the Siskiyou Land Trust, the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) and 80-year-old landowner Thamar Wherrit are developing a 600-acre conservation easement that will eventually result in outdoor education opportunities, public access to world-class hiking and recreation in the scenic Mt. Shasta viewshed.

Wherrit is an enthusiastic supporter of conservation and forest stewardship and has voluntarily offered her expansive property  for the easement. The easement means the property will be maintained as open space and will never be developed. Public access trails will be developed in the future.

Along with Wherrit, the partnership is organizing a volunteer effort on Dec. 1 from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. to help clear excess forest fuels from the property at 1917 Wyehka Way, Mount Shasta. The project aims to have at least 25-30 volunteers to be able to meet their goal of 3-5 acres of ground fuels removed on the first day.

 It’s a big job but “many hands make light work,” a SVRCD press release stated.
Volunteers are needed to:
• Help organize events;
• Lead volunteer crews;
• Organize tools and equipment for the event;
• Operate chainsaw equipment at events to cut logs into manageable sizes for stacking or burning;
• Move brush into piles;
• Assist with overseeing safety;
• Document the event activities for public outreach; and
• Use GPS to mark the extent of completed work.
Volunteers should bring sturdy work boots, work gloves, a warm jacket, hat and water bottle. Lunch will be provided for those who notify the land trust in advance.

The effort – part of the land trusts’ ongoing Rainbow Ridge Collaborative Forest Stewardship Project – is working to improve the forest ecology in the Rainbow Ridge area both for reduction of fire risk and public enjoyment. This forested ridge just west of Mt. Shasta is a wildland-urban interface zone identified by local fire safe councils, CAL FIRE and the U.S. Forest Service as containing heavy forest fire fuel loads that would likely result in catastrophic fire and potentially sterilize the ground. Intense forest fires can damage forests for decades making it difficult for the ecosystem to recover and produce new vegetation.

According to the SVRCD, the Klamath-Cascade forests are fire dependent, meaning the forest relies on the periodic occurrence of fire to maintain a healthy ecosystem. Historically, low intensity forest fires took out small and weakened trees and downed fuels.  
According to U.S. Forest Service data, the last fire to hit the Rainbow Ridge area was nearly 70 years ago. With strict fire suppression since then, forest floors are thick with fuels that would have otherwise burned.
According to Dr. Eric Knapp of the U.S. Forest Service Pacific Southwest Research Station, his research shows that, on average, over 50 percent of fuels burned in a forest fire are on the ground.

Forest stewardship
Forest stewardship means taking an active role in the care and management of our forest lands. These lands, both public and private, provide our community with building materials, water, habitat, heat, income, recreation, scenery and health.

According to project partners, forest stewardship can play the role that fire once did. The wildland-urban interface zone is the community’s first line of defense against a fire originating in the national forest and the first line of defense for public forest lands in the event of a fire started within the community. Strategically reducing forest fuel loads in this area can help protect lives, property, important wildlife habitat, water and forest resources, public lands and local communities.

In addition to the tangible effects of these kinds of projects, organizers hope the volunteer work day will also cultivate a sense of ownership and value for this forested land as a community asset while providing a much-needed service to an elderly forest landowner.

The project will be hosting multiple community volunteer events to gather and pile forest ground fuels at Wherrit’s property. Future events will consist of volunteer work days and educational work days. The general volunteer work days will consist of limbing trees, collecting and piling ground fuels and burning the piles. Depending on weather conditions, separate events may be held for the different activities.  Educational work days will consist of forest interpretation, educational activities and collecting and piling ground fuels. Students are also welcome to attend a volunteer work day with their parent or guardian.
For more information about the Dec. 1 work day or any of the other events, contact the Siskiyou Land Trust office at 926-2259 or