Huffman Bill Passes in Multi-State Public Lands Package

February 26, 2021

Washington, D.C. – Today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Protecting America’s Wilderness and Public Lands Act, a bill that includes eight individual measures that provide lasting protections for key public lands and waters in Arizona, Colorado, California, and Washington. 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.

“Being active in the outdoors and experiencing wild places is a way of life in my district and over the past year with lockdowns and isolation, we have seen how important getting outside has been for our well-being,” said Rep. Huffman. “We all depend on the ecological, economic, and mental health benefits that our public lands provide and that's why my legislation takes a multifaceted approach to public land management. This bill is focused on a future for Northwest California where public lands are resilient and our outdoor recreation economy grows while we preserve environmental values for future generations. I believe good process leads to good policy, and the broad support for this comprehensive, carefully developed bill reflects that. Once again, we have successfully passed this legislation out of the House and I’m looking forward to getting it across the finish line under the Biden administration.


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

Rep. Huffman also cosponsored the Southwestern Oregon Watershed and Salmon Protection amendment, led by Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR), that was included in the final package. It permanently withdraws vulnerable headwaters in southwest Oregon from mining, protecting salmon habitat and important watersheds in both of the representatives’ districts.

Background

In addition to this year, Representative Huffman has introduced this bill in the last two congresses. To develop this legislation, 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 continued to meet with constituents both in California and in Washington D.C. about the bill. The legislation incorporated several changes recommended by constituents, business interests, environmental advocates, landowners, and local elected officials following Rep. Huffman’s calls for feedback and based on numerous discussions on the bill throughout the last several years.

The legislation includes several innovative new programs to increase fire resilience; restore forests and fish habitat, as well as lands impaired by illegal marijuana growing operations; stimulate local economies through forest stewardship programs; enhance recreational opportunities including through trails and visitor centers; and permanently protect many of northwest California’s spectacular wild places and pristine streams. It 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.

Last Congress, the bill passed in the House with bipartisan support as part of the Protecting America’s Wilderness Act and also as an amendment to the NDAA. Huffman’s bill was approved by the House Natural Resources Committee in November 2019 by a bipartisan vote of 22 to 11.

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.

Resources

  • A fact sheet on the bill here and FAQs here.
  • Quotes from supporters of the bill are located here.
  • A full list of supporters here.
  • More information on the Northwest California Wilderness, Recreation, and Working Forests Act here.

The Protecting America’s Wilderness and Public Lands Act designates approximately 1.49 million acres of public land as wilderness and incorporates more than 1,000 river miles into the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System. The bill would also withdraw more than 1.2 million acres of public land from new oil and gas and mining claims, ensuring that iconic landscapes like the Grand Canyon and Colorado’s Thompson Divide are permanently protected from the irreversible threats posed by extraction. Advancing this package to the House floor is just one of many actions the House is taking to protect the integrity of our public lands and waters, promote outdoor recreation for all Americans, and enhance community resiliency to the impacts of the climate crisis.

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Congressman Jared Huffman represents California’s 2nd Congressional District, which spans the North Coast of the state from the Golden Gate Bridge to the Oregon border, and includes Marin, Sonoma, Mendocino, Humboldt, Trinity, and Del Norte counties. He currently serves on the Committee on Natural Resources, the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, and the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis. In the 116th Congress, he chairs the Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water, Oceans, and Wildlife. He is the founder of the Congressional Freethought Caucus.