New Draft Wilderness Proposal

October, 2017

 

Congressman Huffman shares a draft vision for protecting and restoring threatened wild lands and streams on federal public lands in northwestern California.

Hiking in the Yolla-Bolly wilderness. Photo: Scott LaMorte.

 


The NEC and other conservation groups have spent decades fighting to restore and defend northwestern California’s federal public lands against powerful industries seeking to log the forests, mine the earth, and fill in what remained with paved roads.

The latest chapter in this historic struggle is a happy one: Congressman Jared Huffman has released draft legislation known as the Northern California Conservation and Recreation Act that would establish a massive Special Restoration Area and protect threatened wild lands and streams on federal public lands in Del Norte, Humboldt, Mendocino, and Trinity counties. Congressman Huffman has posted a copy of this legislation on his website for public review HERE.

Among other provisions, the draft legislation would:

• Establish an 800,000-acre South Fork Trinity-Mad River Special Restoration Area in the South Fork Trinity River watershed and the Forest Service portion of the Mad River watershed in southern Trinity and eastern 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-cutting, especially along roads. Proceeds from the sale of the trees will be returned to fund additional restoration in the Special Restoration Area, including steps to improve habitat for endangered salmon and steelhead trout.

• Protect over 326,000 acres of federal public lands as wilderness by expanding nine existing wilderness areas and establishing 10 new ones. Wilderness is the strongest protection available for certain areas of public land 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 following new wilderness areas will be protected by the legislation: Underwood, Bonanza King, Mad River Buttes, South Fork Trinity River, Chinquapin, Headwaters Forest, Pattison, Redwood Creek, Black Butte River and English Ridge. The following existing wilderness areas will be expanded by the legislation: Siskiyou, Trinity Alps, Chanchelulla, Mount Lassic, Yolla Bolly-Middle Eel, South Fork Eel, Yuki, Sanhedrin, and North Fork Eel. 

• Protect over 480 miles of streams on federal land as wild and scenic rivers. Wild and scenic designation protects our most pristine remaining streams on federal land from the construction of new dams or major water diversions. The largest stream that would be protected as a wild and scenic river by the legislation is the South Fork Trinity River
above Highway 36. 

• Restore public lands affected by illegal trespass marijuana grows by establishing a partnership of federal, state, and local entities dedicated to cleaning up these polluted areas. When illegal grow sites are fully cleaned up and restored, they are far less likely to be used again for trespass cultivation. Unfortunately, illegal marijuana cultivation on public lands leads to mounds of trash and water and soil poisoned with herbicides and pesticides, which result in the killing of wildlife and a host of other problems. 

• Authorize the construction of an interagency visitor center in Trinity County for people seeking to enjoy the region’s federal public lands. 

• Require federal agencies to cooperate and coordinate fire management in northwestern California’s wilderness areas.

• Explore the possibility of establishing the Bigfoot National Recreation Trail that will highlight the immense ecological diversity of northwestern California’s ancient forests and other unique landscapes. The trail would run from the Yolla Bolly-Middle Eel Wilderness in the south to the Oregon border, then south through the Siskiyou Wilderness and west through Redwood National Park and Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park. 

• Direct federal agencies to conduct a trails study that would explore ways to improve motorized and non-motorized recreation trail opportunities (including mountain bicycling) in northwestern California.

The measure will not limit hunting or fishing, close any legally-open roads or trails to vehicles, or affect access to or the use of private property.

Congressman Huffman will be taking public input on his draft legislation until early November (the date has not been announced as of print). In August, he held a series of public meetings to discuss the draft in Crescent City, Eureka, Weaverville and Ukiah. Over 550 people attended and support for Mr. Huffman’s efforts was overwhelming. The public can also comment on the draft legislation via e-mail at ca02publiclands@gmail.com

For more information on the draft bill, please contact Ryan Henson of the California Wilderness Coalition (CalWild) at rhenson@calwild.org or at 530-365-1455. CalWild, the NEC and other organizations hope that Representative Huffman will introduce the bill this winter in the House, and that Senator Kamala Harris will introduce it in the Senate soon thereafter. 

 

 

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