Snow, water, frogs, beavers, life

You may have noticed that the December Surprise storm that tied Ashland in knots brought hardly any moisture to southern Oregon, just enough to leave a dangerous, icy crust on hillside streets. What’s remarkable about this weather event is the persistent cold and overcast that followed.  As I write, the sidewalks along Siskiyou Boulevard are still frozen over like Mt. Ashland half pipes.

What we are currently experiencing is a very cold drought. Maybe this is one of the new weather extremes that climatologists have been predicting.
What does this mean for us? Snow play deferred, for one thing. As of today (December 19), we don’t have enough snow pack for winter recreation on the BLM sliding hill at Table Mountain or the Nordic ski trails above Hyatt Lake.

Of course there are much bigger stakes: The future of agriculture in the Rogue Valley, for one. Not to mention water for drinking, bathing, making beer, rinsing wine glasses and other civilized pursuits.  Actually, this is not a joke.

Which takes us to spotted frogs.

One of our heroes, Dr. Michael S. Parker of SOU and his colleagues have been studying a population of Oregon Spotted Frogs at our local Parsnip Lakes for over a decade. Currently, due in part to Michael’s work, the US Fish & Wildlife Service is proposing to protect 68,192 acres and 23 miles of waterways as critical habitat for this iconic amphibian, whose survival is increasingly threatened. (For some beautiful Parsnip Lake photos, virtual amphibian porn, see http://www.cascade-siskiyou.org/parsnip-lakes-and-the-oregon-spotted-frog.)

Michael told us recently that our Parsnip Lakes frog population is in fact declining. The problem is insufficient water.  Our frogs need more beavers. The work of beavers holds water in the mountains.  Since the days of Jacob Astor, these furry hydraulic engineers have been removed by trappers and converted into top hats, luxurious overcoats and such. Even today, beavers are 100% unprotected.  The Army Corps of Engineers can’t begin to build enough dams to replace the missing beavers.  Parsnip Lakes and, in fact, entire mountain ranges are drying up due to, in significant part, a beaver deficit.

Would you consider joining a movement to restore the natural hydrology of the Cascades, combat climate change and possibly save civilization as we know it? Call or email another one of our local heroes, Joe Vaile at Cascade-Siskiyou Wildlands Center, (541) 488-5789 or joseph@kswild.org.  Tell him you want to sign up for a Save the Beaver campaign, throw some money in the pot, chain yourself to a Congressman, whatever it takes.  KS Wild doesn’t currently have a Save the Beaver campaign, but maybe they will.