U.S. House Subcommittee Hears Testimony on Bill to Restore and Protect Northwest California Public Lands and Rivers

Huffman measure would support local economies and improve forest health and wildfire resiliency

July 10, 2019 — The House of Representatives Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands today heard testimony on legislation to benefit some of Northwest California’s most unique lands and waters. The Northwest California Wilderness, Recreation, and Working Forests Act (H.R. 2250), sponsored by Rep. Jared Huffman (D-CA), would protect and restore important public lands and rivers, improve community safety from fire, and help local communities capitalize on the region’s reputation as an outstanding destination for fishing, hunting, hiking, mountain biking, and other outdoor recreation opportunities.

The bill would conserve approximately 262,000 acres as wilderness, designate 379 miles of new wild and scenic rivers, and create a special restoration area to protect communities from fire. Years of input, from business leaders, conservationists, anglers, mountain bikers, fire management professionals, and other stakeholders, has led to broad public support for the legislation.

Testifying before the committee, Kent Collard, owner and director of the Bar 717 Ranch/Camp Trinity in Hayfork, CA, said, “Like many other businesses in this area, ours is fueled by people seeking to experience the wild beauty of Trinity County. Our business is recreation, and recreation is a growing industry as California’s population increases and urbanizes. The Northwest California Wilderness, Recreation, and Working Forests Act recognizes and promotes the economic opportunities that recreation presents to our rural communities. 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. H.R. 2250 recognizes these needs are interlinked and works to support both preservation and the economic development that recreation-based business in the region require.”

The public lands and rivers at the heart of this legislation are the setting for countless world class outdoor recreation pursuits, including steelhead and salmon fishing, river floating and rafting, backcountry hiking and mountain biking, and sightseeing among the primeval redwoods. Such activities help support the regional economy and enhance outdoor recreation opportunities by encouraging new infrastructure and upgrades to roads, trails and camping facilities, and by improving the health of the forest and its resilience to wildfire.

“The Northwest California Wilderness, Recreation and Working Forests Act is important to those of us who work and live in Humboldt County, because it will help support our local economy,” said Steve O’Meara, founder and president of Kokatat, whose 180 employees produce paddlesports apparel and gear. “Fifty years ago, I established my business here in Arcata, because of the amazing recreational opportunities available in the region. Further protections of our public lands and rivers will greatly enhance the economic and recreational opportunities for our future generations.” 

According to the Outdoor Industry Association, outdoor recreation generates $92 billion in consumer spending and 691,000 direct jobs in California. Residents of the state’s 2nd congressional district spend $1.93 billion annually on outdoor recreation, and 134 outdoor companies are based here.

Cynthia LeDoux-Bloom, PhD, a fisheries biologist at Humboldt State University, said, “The rivers of the northwest corner of California provide some of the best remaining habitat in the state for at-risk fishes, such as salmon and steelhead. Anything we can do to better protect and restore stream habitat, water sources and forests here will support the ongoing efforts to rebuild their populations and the fisheries that depend on them. This legislation has been built with feedback from the scientific community to do that.”

Provisions in the bill would 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 legislation would also help cleanup public lands and waters impacted by trespass marijuana grows by creating a local, state, federal and tribal partnership to coordinate activities and provide resources and expertise.

Additionally, the legislation would establish the Elk Camp Ridge Recreation Trail for off-highway vehicles and mountain bikes, and the Horse Mountain Special Management Area. It would also call for developing a Regional Trails Plan and studying the feasibility of establishing The Bigfoot National Recreation Trail, which would highlight the world-­renowned botanical and biological diversity found in this region.

Representatives Judy Chu and Salud Carbajal, both (CA-D), are original cosponsors of the bill. Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) sponsors the bill in the Senate.

Community Members Praise Rep. Huffman/Sen. Harris Bill to Restore and Protect Northwest California Public Lands and Rivers

Measure would support local economies and improve forest health and wildfire resiliency

April 10, 2019–Businesses, community leaders, and conservationists from across the region today applauded the introduction of legislation by Rep. Jared Huffman and Sen. Kamala Harris that would protect and restore some of Northwest California’s most unique lands and waters, improve community safety from fire, and help local communities capitalize on the region’s reputation as an outstanding destination for fishing, hunting, hiking, mountain biking, and other outdoor recreation opportunities.

The Northwest California Wilderness, Recreation, and Working Forests Act would conserve approximately 262,000 acres as wilderness, designate 379 miles of new wild and scenic rivers, and create a special restoration area of more than 700,000 acres. The bill was crafted after years of input from business leaders, conservationists, anglers, mountain bikers, fire management professionals, and other stakeholders interested in the enjoyment and well-being of these iconic lands.

Visitors come to this region from around the globe to fish for steelhead and salmon, float the rivers, hike and mountain bike the backcountry trails, and find solitude in primeval redwood groves. The legislation will support the regional economy and enhance outdoor recreation opportunities by
spurring new infrastructure and upgrades to old roads, trails and camping facilities, and by improving forest health and resilience to wildfire.

“As a local business owner, I am glad to see the introduction of the Northwest California Wilderness, Recreation, and Working Forests Act,” said Aaron Ostrom, co-owner of Pacific Outfitters . “My father started our business in 1968 and my brother and I have continued the family tradition of helping people get the gear they need to explore, camp, fish, and hunt across our region. These beautiful places support all of our local businesses, since people come to the area to explore and shop while they are here.”

According to the Outdoor Industry Association, outdoor recreation generates $92 billion in consumer spending and 691,000 direct jobs in California. Residents of the state’s 2nd congressional district spend $1.93 billion annually on outdoor recreation, and 134 outdoor companies are based here.

“The Trinity River is one of those special steelhead fisheries where you can have multiple fish days. It’s kind of unique in that way,” said fishing guide Leslie Ajari . “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 Sen. Harris’s bill will do this for the Trinity and other important streams in one of the last great steelhead strongholds in North America.”

The legislation would establish the Elk Camp Ridge Recreation Trail for off-highway vehicles and mountain bikes, and the Horse Mountain Special Management Area. It would also call for developing a Regional Trails Plan and studying the feasibility of establishing The Bigfoot National Recreation Trail, which would highlight the world- renowned botanical and biological diversity found in this region.

“I started backpacking in the 1970s after returning from the Vietnam War,” said U.S. Navy veteran Steve Robinson. “Like many veterans, the adjustment back to civilian life was difficult. Backpacking was and still is my therapy. I believe we all need to spend more time in parks and wilderness, but public land is especially important for those of us with PTSD or other forms of trauma. I am very grateful to Rep. Huffman and Sen. Harris for recognizing the importance of public lands for all of us to heal and connect with our wild lands.”

“We are enthusiastic about the expanded mountain biking opportunities that this legislation would create, including trails in Del Norte County and a Trinity Lake Trail,” said Tom Phillips, Chair of the Redwood Coast Mountain Bike Association . “It also would authorize the Horse Mountain Special Management Area and a Regional Trail Study to create and expand even more mountain biking trails in the future.”

The legislation will help cleanup public lands and waters impacted by trespass marijuana grows by creating a local, state, federal and tribal partnership to coordinate activities and provide resources and
expertise.

Pristine public forests are currently experiencing an emerging new threat from the destructive ramifications associated with illegal cultivation of cannabis,” said Mourad Gabriel, Ph.d, Executive Director, Integral Ecology Research Center. “Rep. Huffman’s and Sen. Harris’s continued forward vision is necessary for those invested in this topic to gain a foothold and start to effectively address this misuse of our public lands.”

The measure would also 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 Northwest California Wilderness, Recreation, and Working Forests Act was built from the ground up to protect the unique public lands and waters of Northwest California, enhance outdoor recreation opportunities, help safeguard local residents and communities from catastrophic wildfire, restore vital fish and wildlife habitat, and boost the regional tourist and recreation economy.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:
Public TV series This American Land segment on local efforts to protect Northwest California
https://youtu.be/FClqYjm6bhY?t=89

Also see Northwest California Mountains and Rivers support website: https://mountainsandrivers.org/

The Northwest Mountains and Rivers Campaign is a coalition of conservation organizations, business owners, land owners, biologists, hunters, anglers mountain bikers, and other community members who support congressional efforts to protect special places, restore watersheds and fisheries, support economic development, enhance recreational opportunities, and protect communities.

Olsen Creek Proposed Wild and Scenic River

The South Fork Trinity River is one of the largest undammed river systems in California. The river and its tributaries support important populations of threatened and endangered salmon and steelhead and old-growth forest dependent wildlife species. The river and tributaries also offer outstanding outdoor recreation opportunities.

The federal coho recovery plan identifies Olsen Creek as a high priority restoration target. This Hayfork Creek tributary may also provide important thermal refugia for coho and other anadromous fish.


Management Agency: U.S. Forest Service ~ Shasta-Trinity & Six Rivers National Forests
Location: Trinity & Humboldt Counties, CA 2nd Congressional District
Watershed: Trinity River
Proposed Wild & Scenic River Miles:  2.8

Outstanding Values: Anadromous fisheries, ecological, recreation

Rusch Creek Proposed Wild and Scenic River

The South Fork Trinity River is one of the largest undammed river systems in California. The river and its tributaries support important populations of threatened and endangered salmon and steelhead and old-growth forest dependent wildlife species. The river and tributaries also offer outstanding outdoor recreation opportunities.

Rusch Creek is an important cold water contributor to Hayfork Creek and may provide a thermal refuge for anadromous fish. The creek supports moderate to high densities of steelhead.


Management Agency: U.S. Forest Service ~ Shasta-Trinity & Six Rivers National Forests
Location: Trinity & Humboldt Counties, CA 2nd Congressional District
Watershed: Trinity River
Proposed Wild & Scenic River Miles:  3.2

Outstanding Values: Anadromous fisheries, ecological, recreation

Madden Creek Proposed Wild and Scenic River

The South Fork Trinity River is one of the largest undammed river systems in California. The river and its tributaries support important populations of threatened and endangered salmon and steelhead and old-growth forest dependent wildlife species. The river and tributaries also offer outstanding outdoor recreation opportunities.

Madden Creek is one of the few lower South Fork tributaries with good water quality due to its relatively undisturbed watershed. Cold water from Madden Creek creates a critical thermal refuge for coho salmon migrating up the South Fork and the lower segment of the creek offers suitable habitat for coho, Chinook, and steelhead.


Management Agency: U.S. Forest Service ~ Shasta-Trinity & Six Rivers National Forests
Location: Trinity & Humboldt Counties, CA 2nd Congressional District
Watershed: Trinity River
Proposed Wild & Scenic River Miles:  8.4

Outstanding Values: Anadromous fisheries, ecological, recreation

Grouse Creek Proposed Wild and Scenic River

The South Fork Trinity River is one of the largest undammed river systems in California. The river and its tributaries support important populations of threatened and endangered salmon and steelhead and old-growth forest dependent wildlife species. The river and tributaries also offer outstanding outdoor recreation opportunities.

Grouse Creek is a high priority watershed for the restoration of coho and other South Fork fish stocks. The creek is also offers potential thermal refugia for fish migrating up the South Fork.


Management Agency: U.S. Forest Service ~ Shasta-Trinity & Six Rivers National Forests
Location: Trinity & Humboldt Counties, CA 2nd Congressional District
Watershed: Trinity River
Proposed Wild & Scenic River Miles:  11.3

Outstanding Values: Anadromous fisheries, ecological, recreation

Eltapom Creek Proposed Wild and Scenic River

The South Fork Trinity River is one of the largest undammed river systems in California. The river and its tributaries support important populations of threatened and endangered salmon and steelhead and old-growth forest dependent wildlife species. The river and tributaries also offer outstanding outdoor recreation opportunities.

A government fisheries report describes Eltapom Creek as the “gem” of the South Fork due to its excellent spawning gravel, holding pools, and dense riparian corridor. A critical thermal refuge, the creek supports endangered coho salmon and high densities of winter steelhead, as well as suitable habitat for spring Chinook salmon.


Management Agency: U.S. Forest Service ~ Shasta-Trinity & Six Rivers National Forests
Location: Trinity & Humboldt Counties, CA 2nd Congressional District
Watershed: Trinity River
Proposed Wild & Scenic River Miles:  3.4

Outstanding Values: Anadromous fisheries, ecological, recreation

Lacks Creek

credit – Bob Wick

These proposed Wild and Scenic Rivers flow through or are located upstream of Redwood National Park. They provide important habitat for threatened and endangered salmon and steelhead and nationally significant recreation opportunities.

A major tributary of Redwood Creek, Lacks Creek was determined by the BLM to be eligible for Wild & Scenic protection due to its outstanding old growth forests and anadromous fishery values. Federal officials recently identified the creek as essential for the recovery of threatened salmon and steelhead. The public lands in the Lacks Creek watershed are managed by the BLM to provide a wide variety of outdoor recreation, including mountain biking, hiking, camping, angling, and hunting. The lower 2.7 miles of Lacks Creek is proposed as a “potential” Wild and Scenic River pending acquisition for public conservation purposes.


Management Agency:  National Park Service ~ Redwood National Park
Bureau of Land Management (BLM) ~ Arcata Field Office

Location: Humboldt County, CA 2nd Congressional District

Watershed: Redwood Creek

Proposed Wild & Scenic River Miles:  7.8 miles

Outstanding Values: Anadromous fisheries, wildlife, ecological, recreation

Lost Man and Little Lost Man Creeks

These proposed Wild and Scenic Rivers flow through or are located upstream of Redwood National Park. They provide important habitat for threatened and endangered salmon and steelhead and nationally significant recreation opportunities.

Supporting self-sustaining populations of Chinook and coho salmon, steelhead, and coastal cutthroat trout, these streams are important to the recovery and expansion of the anadromous salmonid populations of the Redwood Creek basin. Little Lost Man creek provides high quality refugia for at-risk fish species and Lost Man Creek has high potential to provide refugia. The outstanding and irreplaceable ecological values of these streams are recognized world-wide as part of the Redwood National Park World Heritage Site. The streams provide an excellent opportunity for scientific study of disturbed and undisturbed watersheds.


Management Agency:  National Park Service ~ Redwood National Park
Bureau of Land Management (BLM) ~ Arcata Field Office

Location: Humboldt County, CA 2nd Congressional District

Watershed: Redwood Creek

Proposed Wild & Scenic River Miles:  19.6

Outstanding Values: Anadromous fisheries, wildlife, ecological, recreation

Black Butte Proposed Wilderness

The Wild and Scenic Black Butte River flows northwest for almost 30 miles from the crest of the northern Coast Range to the Wild and Scenic Middle Fork Eel River downstream.

The proposed wilderness is situated in the river’s V-shaped, rugged canyon, where it hosts resident trout, Chinook salmon, and winter-run steelhead. Downstream, the Middle Fork Eel supports what is presently considered to be the southernmost population of summer-run steelhead on the West Coast and the largest single run of summer steelhead in the state. Rich oak forests, meadows, and abundant ancient pine, fir and cedar forest grace the slopes above the river. The Forest Service notes that the region contains so many pristine archeological sites that it is of “exceptional” cultural importance. The Black Butte has been rated as a class IV+ stream (very difficult) by American Whitewater for those brave enough to kayak it.

The Bauer brothers had this to say in American Whitewater Journal after running the stream in the 1970s: “The Black Butte is an all-time classic! We all agreed that we had never experienced a better combination of fantastic rapids, beautiful scenery, abundant wildlife, and isolation from humanity. Along the way we saw a bear, otters, golden eagles, deer, and some bunnies…For more than twenty miles along the river corridor there were literally no traces left by mankind. Pure wilderness at its best. I can hardly say enough about the quality of the rapids – mile after mile of exhilarating class III-IV+.” The proposed wilderness also has several historic foot and horse trails that offer almost guaranteed solitude.


Management Agency: U.S. Forest Service, Mendocino National Forest

Location:
Mendocino County, CA; 2nd Congressional District

Watershed: Black Butte River, a tributary of the Middle Fork Eel River

Size:
11,065 acres

Recreational Uses: Fishing, kayaking, hiking, horseback riding, important historical sites

Ecological Values: Ancient conifer and hardwood forests, critically-important salmon and steelhead habitat, meadows dominated by native grasses