Medicine Lake Highlands Press Release
On the first day of Native American Heritage Month (November), the Pit River Tribe underscored the urgent need to protect ancestral homelands and spiritual sites currently managed by the US Forest Service in Northern California by calling on President Biden and California’s federal delegation to put in place national monument protections for a little more than 200,000 acres in the Medicine Lake Highlands. The area, known as Sáttítla, is about 30 miles from Mount Shasta.
For thousands of years the forested lands and clear blue water have been sacred to numerous Tribes including the Pit River, Modoc, Shasta, Karuk, and Wintu. Sáttítla and the Medicine Lake Highlands are a spiritual center. Tribes continue to use the area for religious activities, ceremonies, and gatherings. Permanently protecting these sacred lands will not only honor their long standing efforts, but also will ensure that current and future generations are able to practice time-honored traditions on unspoiled lands.
For decades, the Pit River Tribe and allies, including the Mt Shasta Bioregional Ecology Center, have fought to safeguard these ancestral lands from ongoing threats, including more than two dozen leases issued by the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) for large-scale geothermal energy development. Successful legal battles have proven the unsuitability of industrial development in this area, emphasizing risks to underground aquifers and the irreversible impacts to cultural and historical sites. The BLM has yet to take these lands off the table and pending leases remain.
Geothermal power plants, utility lines, clear cutting of the forest, and hydraulic fracturing continue to be a threat to the sacredness and ecological importance of the Medicine Lake Highlands’ lands and waters. The risks associated with these energy projects not only threaten the cultural and historic Tribal resources and uses of the land, but they also put the water, the wildlife, and the Tribal way of life at risk.
The lands being proposed for protection in the Medicine Lake Highlands are already federally managed by the US Forest Service (there are no private lands being proposed for inclusion) and that would continue under a monument proclamation. Designating Medicine Lakes Highlands as a national monument will create an opportunity for federal agencies to work with Tribal nations to steward important cultural resources and lands.
Development in the national forest would increase traffic, noise, water and air pollution and would fragment wildlife habitat. Geothermal development in particular would include the injection of hydrofluoric and hydrochloric acids, and release arsenic, mercury, and hydrogen sulfide and other substances into the air that are known to cause cancer or birth defects. This would turn the remote landscape into an industrial wasteland that threatens a reliable source of pure water for millions of people.
Establishing this national monument will protect a major groundwater resource for farms and cities and millions of people throughout the state of California. The freshwater springs provide a buffer from increasing drought and climate change and are also key to ensuring enough drinking water for major metropolitan areas downstream.
The Pit River Nation is leading the effort to establish national monument protections for this area. Designating Sátíttla as a national monument enables federal agencies to collaborate with Tribal Nations to steward and preserve cultural resources and lands. In May 2022 the Pit River Tribal Council passed a resolution in support of monument protections and have since been reaching out to local communities, elected leaders, and appointed officials about the future of stewarding these lands. That resolution was followed by another from the National Congress of American Indians.
To learn more and support this effort, visit www.protectmedicinelakehighlands.org.