The Northcoast Environmental Center (NEC) has been conducting member surveys for much of its existence and wilderness creation and protection has always been the top priority for our members. During the last six years, the NEC has played an important role in a coalition pursuing protections for these key proposed wilderness areas with the eager cooperation of our Congressman Jared Huffman and his staff.
On Wednesday, April 10, Congressman Jared Huffman and US Senator from California, Kamala Harris, reintroduced ‘‘Northwest California Wilderness, Recreation, and Working Forests Act’’ in the House of Representatives and the Senate.
The NEC is grateful to Congressman Huffman and Senator Harris for their support in Northwest California on behalf of environmental protection, recreation economy and safety measures for fire-prone communities near our forests. The NEC has worked closely with local stakeholders, community leaders and a coalition of local and national environmental organizations to help identify opportunities to protect our public lands, strengthen our local recreation economy and help address fire concerns from our communities located near forests. If enacted, the bills would:
• Protect over 300,000 acres of federal public lands in perpetuity from road-building and other development;
• Protect over 370 miles of some of our wildest remaining rivers from new dams and water diversions;
• Promote forest restoration and fuel-reduction work across 700,000 acres of public land. This will help to improve the ecological health of forests that were clearcut in the past while reducing fire danger along roads (where most fires start) and near communities by providing potential control points;
• Authorize the construction of over 295 miles of new trails open to horses, hikers and mountain bikes;
• Begin to help fully restore the thousands of sites on public lands affected by illegal cannabis cultivation.
As Adventure’s Edge owner Jennifer Johnson said, “In my role as a local business owner and parent, I see the many benefits of these protected places, because of the money they bring to our community and the physical well-being of those who access and enjoy these places.”
Registered Professional Forester Kenneth Baldwin stated: “This bill has important components for public safety. Shaded fuel breaks near communities and along roads would increase fire protection and would benefit local residents.”
“I started backpacking in the 1970s after returning from the Vietnam War,” said U.S. Navy veteran Steve Robinson. “Like many veterans, the adjustment back to civilian life was difficult. Backpacking was and still is my therapy. I believe we all need to spend more time in parks and wilderness, but public land is especially important for those of us with PTSD or other forms of trauma. I am very grateful to Rep. Huffman and Sen. Harris for recognizing the importance of public lands for all of us to heal and connect with our wild lands.”
Larry Glass, Executive Director of the NEC, says “The Northcoast Environmental Center is proud to support the ‘‘Northwest California Wilderness, Recreation, and Working Forests Act’’ reintroduced into Congress this week by both Representative Jared Huffman and Senator Kamala Harris. The NEC and our member groups have been a strong local voice for sustainable management and protection of our public lands and rivers for over 40 years. We recognize the importance of these irreplaceable resources to our local environment and economy. We only have a few opportunities in our lifetimes to make such a large positive impact on what we leave for future generations. This is one of those times.”
Information and updates on this bill can be found here: www.mountainsandrivers.org.