Kin to the Earth: Kimberly Baker

June, 2016

 

Kimberly Baker - Public Land Advocate at the Environmental Protection Information Center

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. 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. “California’s Klamath-Siskiyou bioregion is widely recognized as a global center for biodiversity. Our forests shelter an incredible complex of rare and unique species found only in this region,” said Kimberly. “I started as a volunteer doing forest watch monitoring national forest timber sales and realized that even one person could make a big difference.”

Getting into the back country, out on the ground, 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 made me realize why it is so important to ground truth forest service projects.”

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  timber sales and every time we’ve been able to save it.” Kimberly likes going there, being in the forest and knowing it’s 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 due to changes in forest leadership and cultural values.  “It could go either way,” she says. “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 decades of intensive study, how biodiverse northern California is, how many endemic species are here, and how globally important our forests are. Either we protect it and follow the best available science, or we don’t.”

She points to the Klamath National Forest  as an example of the latter—cutting trees at any cost to the environment, without due  consideration of science or the people in the community and “working to reach timber targets without regard for wildlife or water quality.”

She believes the key to species survival is landscape connectivity. “We need to connect wild places by protecting the remaining roadless areas, mature forests and high quality habitats and restoring cut over forests. It is time to enact policy that will implement climate adaptation strategies—which is why I am working with leaders in elected 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 of 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.

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