Rep. Jared Huffman is pushing a lengthy bill aimed at protecting and restoring wilderness land areas while opening up recreational trails around the North Coast.
The bill, HR 2250, addresses primarily land areas in Trinity County, including an over 700,000-acre special restoration area in the South Fork, Trinity River, Mad River and North Fork Eel River watersheds. Part of the restoration would work to curb the possibility of future wildfires.
In “ambitious” fashion, the bill would also open up more than 295 miles of trails, Huffman said in a statement to a Washington, D.C., subcommittee on Wednesday, the bill’s first legislative hearing. He emphasized the importance of the outdoor economy in the North Coast region.
The bill has been in the works for a while — since the “dawn of time,” Huffman told the Times-Standard on Thursday.
“It takes a while to really do outreach in the four different counties that have most of the public lands in my district,” he said. “It’s not your typical wilderness bill. Many people are going to gravitate to the specific areas of wilderness designated by this bill.”
Among the more specific ventures in the bill are building a new visitors center in Trinity County and assessing lodging possibilities at Redwood National Park, which Huffman said has the same potential for appeal as Yellowstone or Yosemite parks.
Costs and timelines associated with the bill’s implementation will be determined as the bill moves through the U.S. Congress. Much depends on the feasibility of various projects outlined in the bill.
Huffman said he has garnered public input on the bill for years, which he said has culminated in an encouraging initial reception. But there are those who are “doggedly opposed to wilderness,” he said.
“In Trinity County, there are some who believe it has too much wilderness,” he said. “They feel it limits their ability for mining and logging.”
Opponents exist across the aisle in Congress as well. Some of Huffman’s Republican colleagues in Congress “don’t really care” for the idea of public lands, he said.
“We have anticipated some of the concerns that always come with a bill like this,” he said. “We really have been careful to do things differently. This does not close any roads or trails. There is no reduction to public access, no impact on private property rights.”
Shomik Mukherjee can be reached at 707-441-0504.