By Jack Duggan
Tucked above private lands along Highway 238 between Ruch and Applegate is an untouched jewel of Applegate wilderness. Centered on Wellington Butte, the Wellington Wildlands is 12 square miles of unentered public land with one hiking trail at its border along the ridge above Forest Creek and an unpermitted, user-created OHV trail poking its way into the wilderness.
Conservation, recreational groups and southern Oregon citizens have mobilized to protect the Wellington Wildlands Wilderness (WWW) from proposed logging in the Middle Applegate Timber Sale, currently being designed by the Medford District, Bureau of Land Management (BLM).
Most of this preserve is made up of south facing slopes covered in brush and oak woodlands but there is just enough timber hidden in the canyon folds to attract BLM’s attention. Wellington Butte, with its distinctive mountain meadow, stands at the center and is visible from Ruch and most of the Middle Applegate area. Views from this rare land span both valleys from Williams to Mt. Ashland and from Medford to Crater Lake. Private lands border three sides, so for many residents of the Applegate Valley the wildlands is their viewshed or back yard.
Originally recognized as a Land with Wilderness Characteristics (LWC) at 5711 acres, locals believe the WWW should be expanded to 7527 acres by including the BLM managed lands on both sides of China Gulch.
The Wellington Wildlands and Dakubutede, another LWC with the historic Sterling Mine Ditch Trail running through it, are highlights in a recreation area along the narrow band of mountains between Grants Pass and Mt. Ashland that separate the Applegate and Rogue Valleys. It is in these hills, christened the Applegate Rogue Recreation Corridor (ARRC), where recreation is varied and thriving.
Extensive non-motorized trails systems like Cathedral Hills, Jacksonville Forest Park, Sterling Mine Ditch Trail and the Jacksonville Woodlands already exist in this corridor. The eventual completion of the Jack-Ash and Applegate Ridge Trails will provide a continuous upland trail from Grants Pass to Jacksonville and Ashland and the Pacific Crest Trail. From paragliding, skiing, hiking, running, hunting, backpacking, cycling, camping, horseback riding, bird watching, photography and OHV’s (Off Highway Vehicles), the ARRC is a recreation haven for both valleys.
The Save the Wellington Wildlands Council and its partners want to raise public awareness of this backyard gem and the threat posed to future generations if these wildlands are entered for timber harvest. David Calahan, a long time Applegate resident and neighbor to the WWW, comments “Most people aren’t opposed to sustainable forest management as long as it preserves scenic and conservation values. There’s a world of change going on here with rising tourism and awareness that good conservation practices mean good things for our economy and quality of life.”
At this point only BLM knows when the Middle Applegate Timber Sale will be announced and if the WWW will be proposed for logging in that project. People will be able to comment once the plan is released and it provides an opportunity for you to voice your concerns. Meanwhile, a petition to Preserve the Wellington Wildlands can be found at https://www.savewildlands.org and you can also sign up for future notifications if desired.
Calahan is reflective. “This isn’t just about us. It’s about our children too,” said Calahan, noting that since the Wellington Wildlands are so close, they are within sight of thousands of people every day.
More information can be found at:
Download David Calahan article, Applegater: applegater.org/pdf/2018/v11n01/v11n01p21.pdf