An insatiable curiosity and passion for the forest, and its wildlife, is what inspired Kimberly Baker to begin her conservation advocacy work. Originally from Georgia, by way of Alaska, she moved to Sandy Bar Ranch, on the Klamath River, in 1998. “California’s Klamath-Siskiyou bioregion is widely recognized as a global center for biodiversity,” said Kimberly. “Our forests shelter an incredible complex of rare and unique species found only in this region.” It was while living on the river that she began to see what was happening to the national forests—old growth logging and the destruction of native wildlife habitat. “I started as a volunteer doing forest watch monitoring national forest timber sales and realized that even one person could make a big difference,” said Kimberly.
“Public involvement absolutely results in better management of our forests,” said Kimberly. “By paying attention to what projects are being developed by the U.S. Forest Service, watching out for plans that target big trees, understanding science, basic ecology and environmental laws, and by providing substantive place based comments—forests can be protected.”
Getting into the back county, out on the ground and seeing exactly what is being proposed and where is one of the most important components of timber sale monitoring. “One of the first projects I worked on was the Elk Creek Timber Sale. One of the units was proposed for tractor logging, and upon walking into the unit I saw springs and pools of water everywhere, —and because of my comments the unit was dropped,” said Kimberly. “It also it made me realize why it is so important to ground truth forest service projects.”
When asked what inspires her, Kimberly said, “I draw my inspiration from all of the wildlife inhabiting these mountains and watersheds, —the beautiful and amazing communities out in the forest—that is what I work to protect.”
One of Kimberly’s favorite places is the Garden Gulch Trail on the North Fork Salmon River. “Although it is not the most spectacular old growth, it’s a particular stand that has been targeted three or four times by different timber sales and every time we’ve been able to save it, said Kimberly. I like going there, being in that forest, and knowing that it is still standing. The trees are all marked up with multiple different colors of paint from the various timber sales the agency has attempted—it reminds me that caring people make a difference.”
In the past twenty years, Kimberly has seen changes in how National Forests are managed because of different forest leadership and changing cultural values. I asked her what does she see happening as she looks ahead. “It could go either way, the Six Rivers National Forest is making great strides by incorporating Traditional Ecological Knowledge and working toward long-term solutions to return fire back to our landscapes, and by working with the people in the communities,” said Kimberly. “We know so much from the decades of intensive study, how biodiverse northern California is, how many endemic species are here, and how globally important our forest are. So I see the future going either way, either we protect it and follow the best available science, or we don’t. Which for example is what the Klamath National Forest is doing, where it is cutting trees at any cost to the environment, and not considering science or the people in the community. It is working to reach timber targets without regard for wildlife or water quality. We either make the change or we don’t. With the recent congress forest and wildlife management has been ruled by politics and misguided opinions rather than science based.”
When asked what needs to happen, Kimberly said, “I think the key to species survival is landscape connectivity. We need connect wild places by protecting the remaining roadless areas, mature forests and high quality habitat and restoring cut over forests. It is time enact policy that will implement climate adaption strategies—which is why I am working with leaders in office and in forest, water and wildlife management to make the necessary shifts in order to conserve our quality of life, wildlife and wild places.”
It is because this courage and determination that thousands of acres of ancient forest are still standing, and it is with this same level of determination that Kimberly will continue to advocate for the future of the forests and wildlife of northwest California.