Trout Unlimited applauds introduction of Northwest California Wilderness, Recreation, and Working Forests Act

Legislation will help protect and restore habitat in steelhead and salmon stronghold

EMERYVILLE, Calif—Trout Unlimited (TU) today lauded the introduction of legislation from Rep. Jared Huffman (CA-2) that will better protect and restore some of the most famous steelhead and salmon fisheries in the world, including the Trinity, Eel, Mad and Mattole Rivers.

The Northwest California Wilderness, Recreation and Working Forests Act (H.R. 6596) covers some of California’s most unique public lands and waters and will improve the resiliency of the landscape to catastrophic wildfire. It will also help local communities capitalize on the region’s reputation as one of the best areas for fishing, hunting and other outdoor recreation in the West.

Michael Caranci, president of TU’s Shasta Trinity Cascades Chapter, said, “Rep. Huffman, being an experienced angler himself, knows the importance of good water quality and healthy forests for our salmon and steelhead streams. This legislation strikes a good balance between resource protection, wildfire prevention, and improving recreational opportunities. We can’t be passive about protecting our real wealth here – our scenic wild country and legendary fishing waters. Hats off to Rep. Huffman for building this legislation the right way and working to ensure these amazing places are protected for future generations.”

Anglers are drawn to this area for a chance to catch steelhead trout, the great freshwater sport fish of the Pacific Northwest. Steelhead have one of the most diverse life histories of any species and are a good bellwether for the health of a watershed in this region—they require cold, clean water and a variety of habitat conditions to thrive. TU’s Wild Steelhead Initiative, through our North Coast Coho Project, actively build partnerships with private timber companies and leads construction projects in this region, to improve fish passage and habitat conditions in dozens of smaller tributary streams.

“My clients hail from all over the world and are drawn to this area for our dramatic scenery, emerald-green rivers, and especially for our fly fishing,” said Greg Kennedy, co-owner of Fish Kennedy Brothers Guide Service. “Fishing has long been important for our communities here and our business depends on local rivers like the Trinity, Eel and Mattole to provide a great fishing experience for our clients. Rep. Huffman’s bill will help keep our streams running clean and cold, and good for fish and fishing.”

H.R. 6596 includes measures to restore forested lands, protect rivers, reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire, rehabilitate habitat degraded by illegal trespass marijuana grow operations, and improve and construct new trails and other infrastructure to promote and expand recreational use.

One of the measures that will help steelhead and salmon and sustain angling opportunities is establishment of a 730,000-acre Special Restoration Area in the South Fork Trinity River watershed and the Forest Service-managed portion of the Mad River watershed. In these areas there will be a rigorous restoration and wildfire reduction effort, including a dedicated program of individual tree-removal, especially in shaded fuel-breaks. This will improve forest diversity and decrease fire danger along roads where most human-caused fires begin. It should also help protect water quality in these watersheds—in this region large flushes of sediment from post-fire landscapes after storms can be one of the most significant impacts on salmon and steelhead habitat.

“For sportsmen, there is no substitute for good habitat,” said Charlie Schneider, founding board member of TU’s Redwood Empire Chapter. “Some of the best steelhead and salmon habitat in California is found in the public lands that will be better protected and restored under Rep. Huffman’s bill. TU’s Redwood Empire Chapter and our partners have worked for years to improve fish passage, protect water quality, and restore stream and riparian habitat in many of the waters that will benefit from this legislation. We’re thankful that Rep. Huffman and local community leaders have listened to their constituents about the importance of our freshwater fisheries. We salute their commitment to conserving our legendary steelhead and salmon runs and to supporting the robust recreational fishing economy of our region. ”

The Northwest California Wilderness, Recreation and Working Forests Act is timely and sensible legislation that will improve protections for vital salmon and steelhead habitat and better conserve the unique scenery, ecology, and water quality of northwest California, while enhancing outdoor recreation opportunities, safeguarding local residents and communities from wildfire, and boosting the regional economy. TU thanked Rep. Huffman for building the bill the right way—guided by feedback from all stakeholders—and pledged to work with other sportsmen’s groups to help pass it.