“Connecting the Dots”

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The Story

“Connecting the Dots”
by Julia Rosen
Undark, January 13, 2017

The Pitch

Protecting one of the most diverse — and obscure — places in America

In the southwest corner of Oregon, where the Cascade, Klamath, and Siskiyou Mountains form a tangled knot of topography, lies one of the most biologically diverse places in North America. But aside from ecologists, few people know of its ecological significance. The region is home to roughly 4,000 species of plants and animals, including the carnivorous cobra lily and the lungless Siskiyou Mountain salamander. Many evolved here and are found nowhere else on Earth.

But this pocket of biodiversity faces numerous threats from grazing, logging, and, of course, climate change. That’s why Oregon lawmakers are seeking to expand the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, to protect the last fragments of intact habitat, and link them together so that threatened species can migrate toward cooler and wetter conditions. It’s an example of establishing so-called climate corridors, which land managers increasingly recognize as crucial to helping species adapt to climate change.

Eighty-five scientists signed a letter last year supporting the expansion, and advocates hope that Obama will approve it before he leaves office. The administration is at least considering it; Deputy Secretary of the Interior Michael Connor recently visited Ashland, Oregon, to attend a public meeting on the issue. There, opponents voiced their concerns that expanding the monument would hurt local ranching and timber operations.

I propose to write a short feature for Undark about the threats facing the Klamath-Siskiyou region, and how increasing the connectivity of protected areas could help. The story will also explore how we value these obscure pockets of biodiversity, and weigh their preservation against local economic considerations.

For the story, I will speak with Dominick DellaSala, the chief scientist at the Geos institute, who has studied the region for decades, and Susan Harrison, an ecologist at UC-Davis who has already found evidence that species are moving in response to climate change. I will also reach out to Dave Willis, a volunteer leading the expansion effort, as well as ranchers and loggers who oppose the project.

I am well qualified to write this story because I’m a freelance journalist based in Portland, Oregon, and can travel to the monument for on-site reporting. I have previously covered climate change adaptation, and my work has appeared in Science, Nature, and High Country News, among other places. Please find samples of my work attached, and more on my website, http://www.julia-rosen.com

I will be at the Science Writers meeting this weekend, if you would like to discuss the story in person. Thank you for your consideration.

Best wishes,


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