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

Nov. 20, 2019–Today, the U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources passed the Northwest California Wilderness, Recreation, and Working Forests Act (H.R. 2250), a bill that would safeguard some of the state’s most unique public lands and rivers for future generations. Rep. Jared Huffman (D-CA) and Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) introduced the legislation to 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.

Committee action on the bill builds on momentum in Congress to permanently protect cherished landscapes and waters across the nation, including enactment earlier this year of the widely celebrated John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act. In October, the House passed legislation to protect public lands in Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico. Local supporters are now urging quick passage of the Northwest California Wilderness, Recreation, and Working Forests Act by the full House and consideration in the Senate.

“I am pleased to see the Northwest California Wilderness, Recreation, and Working Forests Act moving through Congress,” said Mike Wilson, Humboldt County Supervisor. “This multi-faceted legislation addresses many of our community’s public lands needs, including fire management and safety, expanding recreation opportunities, and protecting some of our region’s wild public lands and rivers. We are grateful Rep. Huffman is undertaking this important work on our behalf.”

“As a local business owner, I am glad to see that the Northwest California Wilderness, Recreation and Working Forests Act is moving through Congress,” said Aaron Ostrom, Co-owner of Pacific Outfitters and Co-founder of PacOut Green Team.  “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 beautiful region. These beautiful places support all of our local businesses, when people come to the area to experience the outdoors and shop while they are here.”

“This legislation helps provide the kind of diverse recreation opportunities that benefit our communities,” said Tom Phillips, Chair, Redwood Coast Mountain Bike Association.  “Accessibility to public lands is a key issue to recreationists, and we appreciate that Rep. Huffman addressed this community need by preserving access to existing trails, adding new trails and requiring a study of additional potential trails. Of special importance to our more than 250 members who rely on access to public lands are:  Preservation of access to the South Fork Trinity River trail, designation of the Elk Camp Ridge Recreation trail and establishment of the Horse Mountain Special Management Area.”

“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. “This legislation will 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.” 

The Northwest California Wilderness, Recreation, and Working Forests Act is the product of years of input from business leaders, conservationists, anglers, mountain bikers, fire management professionals, and other stakeholders, which has led to broad public support for the legislation. The bill would conserve approximately 262,000 acres as wilderness, safeguard more than 379 miles of our wildest remaining streams as wild and scenic rivers, and create a special restoration area to protect communities from fire. 

Protected public lands 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 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.

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.

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 affected by illegal marijuana cultivation by creating a local, state, federal and tribal partnership to coordinate activities and provide resources and expertise.

The bill 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.

The widely supported legislation is cosponsored by 14 members of the California House delegation. The Northwest California Wilderness, Recreation, and Working Forests Act now awaits a vote by the full House and a hearing in the Senate.