Anyone who has spent time in the vast expanses of public land in Northern California can attest to the richness of the landscape. From the ancient redwoods of the coasts to the sprawling ecosystems of the Mendocino, Six Rivers, Shasta-Trinity, and Klamath national forests, outdoor enthusiasts in the Golden State are privileged with easy access to hundreds of thousands of acres on which to hunt, fish or simply get outside and enjoy nature.
This tremendous gift comes with the responsibility to manage the health of these wild places for generations to come – and this is what makes the Northwest California Wilderness, Recreation, and Working Forests Act (H.R.2250) such a vital piece of legislation. As the California chapter of the conservation and public lands advocacy organization Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, we appreciate Congressman Jared Huffman (D-CA) and the substantial improvements to fish and wildlife habitat that will be made possible under his leadership.
H.R. 2250 is multi-faceted in its focus but exceptional in its acknowledgement of the work that needs to be done in order to ensure resilient ecosystems. As the recent wildfire suppression management practices have made clear, our forests have become dangerously susceptible to catastrophic wildfires. We need diligent and science-based management. Through the establishment of shaded fuel breaks, the utilization of prescribed burns and other appropriate management techniques defined in the bill, we can begin to make substantial progress in improving both human safety and wildlife habitat. Other causes of habitat degradation, particularly illegal marijuana grows that require diligent remediation, are specifically targeted in this legislation and will be of enormous benefit to fish and wildlife. As our understanding of how healthy forest systems function evolves, so too must our approaches to their management. The bill’s specific emphasis on restoring habitat through active forest management is both encouraging and necessary.
Of particular importance to wildlife – as well as to those of us who seek out opportunities to be challenged physically and rejuvenated mentally – are areas that have been designated as wilderness. In these locations, where the only travel permitted is by foot or by horse, wild animals are offered a respite from the sound of whirring engines and the grind of tires. The designation or expansion of wilderness areas stated in this bill – the 11,117 acres that would become the Black Butte River Wilderness, the 26,890 proposed acres of the Chinquapin Wilderness, and expansions to the Trinity Alps, Yuki, Siskiyou and others – are key to ensuring that our cherished wild places remain wild now and always.
Those of us who enjoy wild places feel a keen responsibility to ensure they thrive into the future. Whether we fish for trout in the mountain streams of Shasta-Trinity in the heat of the summer or hunt the Yuki for blacktail deer in the swirling mists of October, the public lands and waters are our privilege to enjoy and our duty to conserve. The Northwest California Wilderness, Recreation, and Working Forests Act is an important step in that direction.