Lookout Mountain: An eastside classic
One of the most diverse and stunning landscapes in eastern Oregon.
Lookout Mountain contains some of the finest old-growth mixed conifer and ponderosa pine in Central Oregon. The roadless mountain has several life zones from low elevation pine forest to subalpine meadows and sage steppe. This pristine area is home to the headwaters of the Wild & Scenic North Fork Crooked River which harbors the sensitive Redband trout. The hills, valleys, and meadows of Lookout Mountain provide 19,200 acres of important habitat for elk, deer, bear, cougar, bobcat, antelope, martens, ruffed grouse, and a variety of hawks. With elevations that range from just over 3,000 feet to almost 7,000 feet, there is plenty of space and variety for year round habitat for these beautiful animals.
Lookout Mountain is well known for its open, park-like forests. One of the more popular trails in the Ochoco Mountains rises up 3,000 feet in just over seven miles to the summit of Lookout Mountain. It passes through ponderosa pine, Douglas fir, western larch, lodgepole pine, Engelmann spruce, and even subalpine fir as you reach timberline and the summit where views of the Cascades await.
Lookout Mountain represents a microcosm of all the threats facing eastern Oregon’s forests:
- Snowmobile use during the winter months radically alters the quiet recreation wilderness experience.
- Excessive fuel build-ups of small trees and brush threaten the survival of fire-dependent old growth ponderosa pine, western larch, and Douglas fir by competing for limited water, soil, and light resources and increasing fire risk due to ladder fuels and fuels build up. Natural fires used to burn through the lower elevations in a frequent low intensity manner that left fire resistant pines and larch intact while periodically clearing much of the understory of highly flammable small trees and brush.
- Annual domestic livestock grazing negatively affects the many small streams, wet areas, and aspen stands found throughout the area. Grazing reduces fish and wildlife habitat diversity for many species including Redband trout and neotropical migrating songbirds.
To protect the existing old-growth forest and wildlife habitat from motor vehicle use, new roads, logging, and mining this wild area should be designated as Wilderness.
And to restore natural conditions after a century of human-caused changes a prescribed fire program should help reduce excessive fuels, protect the existing old growth, and prepare the ecosystem for maintenance by natural fires in appropriate areas. In some areas, non-commercial mechanical fuels reduction can prepare for prescribed fire and future fire management. In addition, streams, wet areas, and aspen stands must be protected from domestic livestock grazing to improve these rare and critical habitats for fish and wildlife.