Huffman Public Lands Bill Approved by Natural Resources Committee

Northwest California Wilderness, Recreation, and Working Forests Act Passes with Bipartisan Support

November 20, 2019

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, the House Natural Resources Committee approved the Northwest California Wilderness, Recreation, and Working Forests Act, Congressman Jared Huffman’s (D-San Rafael) bill to increase fire resilience, restore forests and fish habitat, rehabilitate lands impaired by illegal marijuana growing operations, increase recreation opportunities through new trails and visitor centers, and permanently protect many of northwest California’s most spectacular wild places and pristine streams. This bill was approved by a vote of 22 to 11, an unusually strong and bipartisan vote for a public lands bill.    


“Today’s committee vote shows real momentum for a bill that is so important to the residents of my district, to Californians, and to the millions of visitors who come to experience the natural treasures our state has to offer,” said Representative Huffman. “The Northwest California Wilderness, Recreation, and Working Forests Act is focused on a future for Northwest California where public lands are restored and protected, the outdoor recreation economy continues to grow, and rural communities can thrive. I am grateful to the countless constituents, local officials, business owners, and experts who have worked with me to make this bill the comprehensive, innovative legislation that was recognized by my congressional colleagues today.” 


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.


“This bill has important components to improve public safety,” said Kenneth Baldwin, a California Registered Professional Forester. “The integration of forest restoration and fire and fuels management in this legislation is critical to the health and fire resilience of our forests in Trinity County.  Shaded fuel breaks near communities and along roads will enhance wildfire protection efforts and benefit local residents.”


“I see first-hand the relationship between protecting the region’s public lands and benefits to our local economy,” said Donna Friedman, co-owner of Mamma Llama Eatery & Café.  “Local businesses host Steelhead fisherman on the Trinity River, backpackers on their way back from the Trinity Alps, local mountain bikers, and other visitors drawn to the spectacular public lands and rivers in Northwest California.  Their protection is essential to ensure continued benefits to our growing recreation economy.” 


Representative Huffman introduced this legislation in April of this year, 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.


"We are grateful to Representative Huffman and Senator Harris that this legislation includes the clean-up of trespass marijuana grows on our public lands," said Humboldt County Sheriff William Honsal. "Not only are these trespass grows a public safety issue, but cleaning them up is a tremendous benefit to down-stream communities who are impacted by toxic runoff of this illegal activity. Eradicating and cleaning up these trespass grows on federally managed lands helps all of us."


"Our region benefits economically when people come to visit our spectacular, world-renowned public lands and rivers,” said Gregg Foster, Executive Director, Redwood Regional Economic Development Commission (RREDC). “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."


"We're grateful that Rep. Huffman and Sen.Harris recognize that 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, Owners, Trinity Fly Shop. “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."


The bill was considered at a legislative hearing in the Natural Resources Committee’s Subcommittee on National Forests, Parks, and Public Lands in July. At that hearing, the Subcommittee heard testimony from 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 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 and Wild and Scenic River designations do not impact existing rights and would 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 CalWild, The Wilderness Society, Pew, Vet Voice Foundation, American Whitewater, Conservation Alliance, Outdoor Alliance, Outdoor Industry Association, NRDC, Defenders of Wildlife, Sierra Club, Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, Trout Unlimited, Save the Redwoods League, Access Fund, International Mountain Bicycling Association, California Chapter of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, 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