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Chapter 2 -- Description of the Smith River watershed (continued)

Botanical areas

Unique plant communities are protected in four botanical areas on public lands in the Smith River watershed. These areas are managed to maintain the special plant communities. The four botanical areas are: North Fork Smith River, Bear Basin Butte, Broken Rib, and Myrtle Creek.

The North Fork Smith River Botanical Area encompasses 31,331 acres north of Gasquet and ranges in elevation from 700 feet to 3500 feet. Serpentine soils dominate the area and create unfavorable conditions for most plants. Over eons, unique plant species have developed that can tolerate these harsh soils. These "serpentine barrens" support 27 rare plants and have the greatest concentration of endemic plants in North America (Cooperrider and Garrett 1995). On ridges, the common plant communities are Jeffrey pine woodlands and stands of lodgepole and knobcone pine. Port Orford cedar and western azalea are found along valley bottoms (USFS 1992). Recently, roads into this area were closed to prevent the spread of Port Orford cedar root rot. This fungus is eliminating Port Orford cedar in many areas of California and Oregon. Road closures are actively opposed by off-highway vehicle users (Mike Furniss personal communication 1997).

Bear Basin Butte Botanical Area is 8,764 acres in size and ranges in elevation from 2400 to 5200 feet. The area is noted for diversity of conifers including 14 species. There are relict stands of Brewer spruce and Alaska yellow cedar which have persisted from a previous climate (USFS 1992, Griffin and Critchfield 1972).

Broken Rib Botanical Area is a few miles north of Bear Basin Butte Botanical Area and has a similar diversity of conifers. The area comprises 1,138 acres and ranges in elevation from 2800 to 5800 feet. The distribution of plant communities is influenced by patterns of fire and geology (USFS 1992).

Myrtle Creek Botanical Area consists of 1,949 acres with elevations ranging from 600 to 1400 feet. The area includes the transition zone between coastal forests and interior forests. Vegetation includes shady redwood groves adjacent to sparse stands of knobcone pine. Wet areas often support the California pitcher plant, an unusual plant that captures insects (USFS 1992).


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