The bill promotes restoration, wildfire protection, conservation, and recreation in four counties
WASHINGTON, D.C. — On February 12th, the House of Representatives passed the Northwest California Wilderness, Recreation, and Working Forests Act. This bill will guard communities against wildfires, boost local economies, improve outdoor recreation access, and enhance water quality and wildlife protections in California. The protections span public lands throughout Northern California’s Humboldt, Mendocino, Trinity, and Del Norte Counties.
Representative Jared Huffman (D-CA) introduced the Act in the House following years of input from dozens of community leaders, tourism organizations, outdoor recreation groups, restoration specialists, tribes, county supervisors, conservationists, forestry experts, fisheries biologists, fire ecologists, timber companies, and other business owners.
The Act will establish the South Fork Trinity River-Mad River Restoration Area, which will restore forests, habitat, and fisheries. In addition, provisions in the bill will help improve community fire safety by creating a network of roadside shaded fuel breaks in the South Fork Trinity-Mad River Restoration Area, and requiring the US Forest Service and the BLM to work with local residents to create a new coordinated fire management plan for all of the designated wilderness areas in the region. The Act will also help clean up public lands that have been damaged by illegal trespass activity, such as marijuana grows.
The Act will also help preserve and expand trail access and opportunities for hiking in the wilderness, fishing area rivers and streams, whitewater boating, and mountain biking for residents and visitors alike.
“The Trinity River is one of those special steelhead fisheries where you can have multiple fish days,” said Leslie Ajari, fishing guide with Confluence Outfitters. “It’s kind of unique in that way. Rivers like this can provide a really good quality of life. We have to think in bigger terms about how to keep watersheds like the Trinity productive as habitat and as places where fishing helps support local economies. I’m very pleased that Rep. Huffman’s and Senator Harris’ bill will do this for the Trinity and other important streams in one of the last great steelhead strongholds in North America.”
“Northwest California’s wild places have been my refuge for the past 40 years, helping me process my time in Vietnam and build relationships with other veterans,” said Steve Robinson, a Navy Vietnam War veteran. “It’s gratifying to see this legislation pass the House of Representatives, and I urge the Senate to act soon to help ensure that the region’s forests and rivers are healthy and thriving for future generations to enjoy. Veteran’s deserve it and so do our grandchildren.”
Permanent protection of these lands will also support Northwest California’s tourism industry, which attracts visitors locally and from around the globe. According to Visit California, in 2018 visitors spent nearly $1.2 billion in Del Norte, Humboldt, and Mendocino counties combined. Sport fishing and whitewater boating contribute significantly to the area’s economy, and the enhanced protections in this Act would draw even more outdoor enthusiasts and their dollars to local economies.
“As a local business owner and parent, I am thrilled that the House has passed the Northwest California Wilderness, Recreation, and Working Forests Act,” said Jennifer Johnson, owner of Adventures Edge. “The Trinity Alps Wilderness and the Canyon Creek Watershed bring in tourism that support my business, and I take my kids backpacking and floating in these areas during the summer. I want to continue recreating in these areas for years to come.”
“Like many other businesses in this area, ours is fueled by people seeking to experience the wild beauty of Trinity County,” said Kent Collard, Director of Bar 717 Ranch, Camp Trinity. “We need wilderness, clean free-flowing rivers, trails and healthy forests to sustain our business, just as we need economic development in our communities for our employees and their families to thrive. I applaud the House for passing the bill and urge the Senate to take action.”
Last year, Senator Kamala Harris also introduced the Northwest California Wilderness, Recreation, and Working Forests Act in the Senate. Senator Harris is expected to re-introduce a single piece of companion legislation that will protect public lands in the Northwest, as well as in the Central Coast and San Gabriels areas.
The Act extends special conservation designations to local rivers and streams which will protect watersheds for native fish populations, recreational activities, and drinking water for downstream communities while also safeguarding habitat for endangered salmon and steelhead populations. Dozens of streams and rivers in Northwest California contribute to the region’s world-renowned salmon and steelhead habitat and water quality.
If passed by the Senate, the Act will protect local wild lands, boost local economies, expand recreational opportunities, improve fire management, and restore impacted watersheds in Northwest California. The Act includes protections for nearly 300,000 acres of wilderness and 480 miles of wild and scenic rivers, and establishes a 729,000-acre restoration area.
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The Northwest Mountains and Rivers Campaign is a coalition of conservation organizations, business owners, land owners, biologists, hunters, anglers and other community members who support Congressman Huffman’s effort to protect special places, restore watersheds and fisheries, support economic development, enhance recreational opportunities, and protect communities. Learn more: mountainsandrivers.org