Bill would promote restoration, wildfire protection, conservation, and recreation in four counties


May 3, 2021

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, Senator Alex Padilla announced the introduction of the PUBLIC Lands Act, co-sponsored by Senator Dianne Feinstein, to protect local wild lands, boost local economies, expand recreational opportunities, improve fire management, and enhance water quality and wildlife protections in Northwest California. The bill is a companion to Representative Jared Huffman (D-CA)’s Northwest California Wilderness, Recreation, and Working Forests Act, which passed the House of Representatives in February.

The legislation 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 in Northern California’s Humboldt, Mendocino, Trinity, and Del Norte Counties.

The bill 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 Bureau of Land Management 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.

Will Harling, Director of the Mid Klamath Watershed Council, said, “This bill is a well thought out and balanced approach to protecting key watersheds while still protecting our rural communities from the ever increasing risk of wildfire.”

Dozens of community leaders, tourism organizations, outdoor recreation groups, restoration specialists, county supervisors, conservationists, forestry experts, fisheries biologists, fire ecologists, and business owners provided input on the bill. It will help preserve and expand trail access and opportunities for hiking in Wilderness, fishing regional rivers and streams, whitewater boating, and mountain biking for residents and visitors alike.

“In this modern age of smartphones and social media, young people need experiences in our natural world,” said Kent Collard, Director of Bar 717 Ranch in Hayfork. “These opportunities are a rare and irreplaceable part of their lives. The Pattison Roadless Area, Hayfork Creek and the surrounding Wilderness are not only the backdrop for these experiences at our Camp Trinity, they are the palate with which our campers paint the canvas of their self-image and confidence for their future lives. Our alumni are spread across the country and around the world, and they carry the legacy of these wild and special places close to their hearts. I deeply appreciate Senator Padilla’s introduction of this important legislation.”

Jennifer Johnson, owner of Adventures Edge, said, “As the current owner of an outdoor recreation business that has been a part of Humboldt’s recreation economy for over 50 years, and employs 18 people, I am thrilled that Senator Padilla has introduced the PUBLIC Lands Act that includes the Northwest California Wilderness, Recreation and Working Forests Act. The legislation builds on the strong recreation economy of northwest California that has benefited local citizens and drawn visitors from around the nation. I look forward to exploring these important places with my family and sharing them with our visitors.”

The PUBLIC Lands Act also 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.

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 bill would draw even more outdoor enthusiasts and their dollars to local economies.

“Local economies in Northwest California benefit when people come to visit our spectacular public lands and rivers,” commented Gregg Foster, Executive Director of Redwood Region Economic Development Commission, “I greatly appreciate and am excited to celebrate the Senate introduction of this legislation that will protect and restore some of the region’s most cherished landscapes. Thank you Senator Padilla for your leadership on this issue.”

During the last Congress, then-Senator Kamala Harris and Sen. Feinstein championed similar legislation. Advocates are celebrating the fact that Sen. Padilla reintroduced the bill so soon after taking office. The bill includes measures that will protect public lands and rivers throughout the state.

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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: