Huffman Bill Passes as Part of Multi-State Public Lands Management Package

Huffman’s Northwest California Wilderness, Recreation, and Working Forests Act Moves to Senate

February 12, 2020

Washington, D.C. – Today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Protecting America’s Wilderness Act, a massive new public lands management package that would permanently protect 1.37 million acres of federal land and 1,000 river miles in three states. Representative Jared Huffman’s (D-San Rafael) bill, the Northwest California Wilderness, Recreation, and Working Forests Act was approved as part of this legislative package.

“Visitors from all over the world come to California’s second district to explore, recreate, and find solitude on our diverse public lands,” said Representative Huffman. “My bill includes protections for wilderness and rivers, but it’s more than that – we’re creating significant new recreation and tourism opportunities, proactively managing forests for fire resilience and watershed health, and remediating harmful trespass marijuana grow sites that have threatened our public lands. My bill takes a comprehensive approach for everyone in Northwest California who has a stake in the future of our public lands - whether it’s supporting the outdoor recreation economy, clean water, or healthy forests, it’s critical to take care of these places and ensure a future for the communities that rely on them.”

Representative Huffman introduced this legislation in April of 2019, along with Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) who led companion legislation in the Senate. Prior to introducing the bill, Rep. Huffman conducted a sweeping public outreach effort in Mendocino, Humboldt, Trinity, and Del Norte counties, consulting with dozens of community leaders, tourism organizations, outdoor recreation groups, restoration specialists, tribes, county supervisors, conservation groups, forestry experts, fisheries scientists, fire ecologists, the timber industry, and other business owners. Rep. Huffman held four public meetings on the legislative proposal in Eureka, Crescent City, Weaverville, and Ukiah, and has met with constituents both in California and in Washington D.C. about the bill.

Click here to view Rep. Huffman’s remarks on the House Floor

“This bill has important components to improve public safety. The integration of forest restoration with fire and fuels management in this legislation is critical to the health and fire resilience of our forests in Trinity County. The time is now for the Senate to take action,” said Kenneth Baldwin, a California Registered Professional Forester based in Trinity County.

“Protecting our public lands and rivers is vital for sustaining the famous steelhead and salmon runs of this region and our fishing-based economy,” said Herb and Patty Burton, Trinity Fish Shop owners and guides. “Fishing our beautiful lakes and rivers is a way of life for us - the backbone of our 37-year-long family business. This legislation will benefit the South Fork of the Trinity River and all of us who guide and fish the iconic Trinity and its tributaries. We urge the Senate to take action on this important bill."

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

"Our region benefits economically when people come to visit our spectacular, world-renowned public lands and rivers. We appreciate this positive impact and are grateful for Rep. Huffman's and Sen. Harris' prioritization of a multi-faceted approach to protecting and restoring our public lands and hence directly supporting our local economy," said Gregg Foster, Executive Director of Redwood Regional Economic Development Commission.

The bill was considered at a legislative hearing in the Natural Resources Committee’s Subcommittee on National Forests, Parks, and Public Lands in July 2019. At that hearing, the Subcommittee heard testimony from Kent Collard, the Director of Bar 717 Ranch in Trinity County, and from Trinity County Supervisor Keith Groves, along with executive branch witnesses. Trinity County Supervisor Jeremy Brown was also in attendance at the hearing.

The bill was approved by the House Natural Resources Committee in November 2019 by a bipartisan vote of 22 to 11. During the committee’s deliberations, Congressman John Curtis (R-UT) offered remarks in favor of the legislation from across the aisle, commending the local support for the bill and Congressman Huffman’s extensive public outreach efforts. Congressman Huffman’s remarks can be viewed here, and the full Natural Resources Committee markup can be viewed here. During the committee meeting, Huffman amended the bill to include a number of improvements recommended by constituents, business interests, environmental advocates, and local elected officials.

The legislation would not limit hunting or fishing, close any legally open roads or trails to vehicles, or affect access to or the use of private property. The wilderness designations only apply to federal lands, and wilderness and Wild and Scenic River designations do not impact existing rights and do not limit access. Maps of these proposals, a list of frequently asked questions, a one-page summary of the bill, photographs of the protected areas, and other background information is available here.

This bill has been endorsed by Redwood Regional Economic Development Commission, Smith River Alliance, Northcoast Environmental Center, CalWild, CalTrout, California Chapter of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, The Wilderness Society, The Pew Charitable Trusts, Vet Voice Foundation, American Whitewater, American Rivers, Conservation Alliance, Outdoor Alliance, Outdoor Industry Association, Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, Trout Unlimited, Save the Redwoods League, Access Fund, International Mountain Bicycling Association, NRDC, Defenders of Wildlife, Sierra Club, and dozens of local business and community leaders, local outfitters and guides, former elected officials, and adjacent landowners. A full list of supporters can be found here.

More information on the Northwest California Wilderness, Recreation, and Working Forests Act is available here.

More information on the Protecting America’s Wilderness Act is available here.