Rep. Huffman Introduces Northwest California Wilderness, Recreation, and Working Forests Act
Washington, D.C.- After incorporating community input and ideas from across Northwest California, Rep. Huffman (D-San Rafael) introduced improved legislation today to guard communities against wildfires, provide local jobs, restore lands impaired by illegal marijuana growing operations, and protect many of Northwest California’s spectacular wild places and pristine streams.
Huffman’s Northwest California Wilderness, Recreation, and Working Forests Act would restore national forest land and fish habitat, stimulate local economies through forest stewardship programs, enhance recreational opportunities including through trails and visitor centers, and reduce fire danger. 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.
“From the majestic Smith River to the ancient redwoods and old-growth forests, and the rugged mountains in between, our public lands are worth protecting and restoring for future generations to enjoy,” said Rep. Huffman. “Today, some of these landscapes are not fully protected, and others are not managed to their full potential: we can do more to ensure fire resilience, support healthy wildlife, and spur outdoor recreation. After hearing from countless constituents and stakeholders on my draft legislation to address these issues, I’m introducing the Northwest California Wilderness, Recreation, and Working Forests Act, a carefully developed bill to protect the communities and lands we value the most. I’m grateful for all the constituents who took the time to share their thoughts and innovative ideas, which ultimately shaped the bill I introduced today.”
During this process, Rep. Huffman consulted with many stakeholders including: dozens of community leaders, tourism organizations, outdoor recreation groups, restoration specialists, tribes, county supervisors, conservation groups, timber industry, forestry experts, fisheries scientists, fire ecologists, and business owners.
Huffman’s office has received over 200 letters of support and heard from constituents at four public meetings in Eureka, Crescent City, Weaverville, and Ukiah.
Interested individuals can explore a map of these proposals.
Specifically, the Northwest California Wilderness, Recreation, and Working Forests Act would:
Restore and Revitalize Forests and Watersheds:
- Designate a 730,000-acre South Fork Trinity-Mad River Restoration Area in the South Fork Trinity River, Mad River, and North Fork Eel watersheds in Trinity and Humboldt counties. Within this area, the ecological health of previously logged forests will be improved and the danger of unnaturally severe fires will be reduced through a careful program of individual tree-removal, especially within “shaded fuel-breaks.” Within these fuel-breaks, the trees with the greatest potential to provide the most shade over the longest period of time will be retained including, but not limited to, hardwoods like oaks and madrones. This will improve forest diversity, decrease fire danger along roads where most human-caused fires occur, and help young groves of trees develop into mature forest more quickly. Any proceeds generated from these projects will be returned to fund additional restoration in the Restoration Area, including steps to improve habitat for endangered salmon and steelhead trout.
- Establish a partnership of federal, state, and local entities that can help to clean and restore federal public lands in northwestern California affected by illegal trespass marijuana grows. Illegal marijuana growing on public lands has catastrophic impacts on wildlife and water quality and it poses serious threats to public safety. Experience shows that when illegal growing sites are fully cleaned up and restored that they are far less likely to be used again for trespass cultivation.
- Authorize old-growth redwoods restoration in Redwood National and State Parks through partnerships between the Department of Interior and state and local stakeholders. Ancient old-growth redwood forests provide carbon storage, clean air and water, are the ancestral home of several tribes, and bring millions of visitors to California every year.
- Require federal agencies such as the Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service to cooperate and coordinate in managing fires in northwestern California’s wilderness areas. Therefore, even when a landscape such as the Trinity Alps Wilderness is managed by multiple federal agencies, these agencies must have a coordinated approach to managing fire in the area.
Conserve Ecologically Significant Areas:
- Protect roughly 260,000 acres of federal public lands as “wilderness” by expanding nine existing wilderness areas and establishing eight new ones. Wilderness is the strongest protection available for certain areas of public land available under federal law. While camping, hunting, fishing, horseback riding, and other recreational activities can continue in these areas, logging, mining, the construction of new roads and other development is prohibited. The appropriate management of fire, including fire-fighting with bulldozers and aircraft, can continue in these wilderness areas if it is deemed necessary to protect public safety.
- Designate 379 miles of new “wild and scenic rivers” and mandates federal agencies to create management plans for 101 miles of existing wild and scenic rivers. Wild and scenic status will protect our purest and wildest remaining rivers from the construction of new dams or major new water diversions. As with wilderness, the protection of wild and scenic rivers will not impair existing private property rights. Protecting streams and watersheds safeguards habitat for endangered salmon and steelhead populations and conserves vital sources of clean water for drinking, fishing, and recreation.
Expand Recreation Opportunities:
- Direct federal agencies to work collaboratively with each other, local communities, and other interested parties to assess trail improvement needs in national forests in Del Norte, Humboldt, Trinity, and Mendocino counties. This could offer a blueprint for increasing access to trails for hikers, equestrians, off-road enthusiasts and others throughout the region.
- Require federal agencies to study the possibility of establishing the “Bigfoot National Recreation Trail” that will run from southern Trinity County to Crescent City. The trail will highlight the immense ecological diversity of Northwest California’s ancient conifer forests and other unique landscapes.
- Direct a study, and if feasible, construction of mountain biking routes in Del Norte County; designate the Elk Camp Ridge Recreation Trail; study the possibility of establishing the Trinity Lake Trail; and designate the Horse Mountain Special Management Area, which would enhance the recreational and scenic values of the recreation area while conserving the plants, wildlife, and other natural resource values of the area.
- Authorize the construction of interagency visitor centers in Weaverville in Trinity County and Crescent City in Del Norte County.
Huffman’s legislation incorporated several changes following his public meetings and call for feedback, including:
- The addition of law enforcement from federal land management agencies, the National Guard Counter Drug Program, and scientific experts to be represented in the remediation partnership to address illegal trespass grows;
- In Trinity County, the removal of Bonanza King and eastern Trinity Alps additions in wilderness proposals;
- In Del Norte County, the removal of Ship Mountain and Blue Creek from wilderness proposals; and
- The removal of all wilderness boundaries 200 feet away from private timber parcels, in response to concerns regarding California Forest Practice Rules.