The northwest corner of California, between the Russian and Klamath Rivers, is home to some of the best remaining salmon and steelhead streams in the West. This region boasts some of the most famous steelhead fisheries in the world, including the Trinity, Mad, Mattole, and Eel River systems.
Trout Unlimited’s North Coast Coho Project has been working for two decades throughout this region to restore spawning and rearing habitat, and improve dry season streamflows and fish passage, in dozens of high value streams for anadromous fish. More recently, TU’s Wild Steelhead Initiative has leveraged that work to improve monitoring of steelhead and salmon in the legendary Eel River watershed.
TU’s efforts here will get a big boost from new legislation from Rep. Jared Huffman (D-2), whose district covers these remarkable fisheries. The Northwest California Wilderness, Recreation and Working Forests Act (H.R. 6596), introduced July 26, covers some of California’s most unique public lands and waters.
TU chapters and local guides quickly expressed strong support for H.R. 6596. 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. 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.”
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. A rigorous restoration and wildfire reduction effort here will improve forest diversity, decrease fire danger along roads, and help protect water quality in these watersheds.
Large flushes of sediment from post-fire landscapes after storms can be one of the most significant impacts on salmon and steelhead habitat.
“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.”
“For sportsmen, there is no substitute for good habitat,” said Charlie Schneider, founding board member of TU’s Redwood Empire Chapter. “The 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 legendary steelhead and salmon runs and of supporting the robust recreational fishing economy of our region.”
The Northwest California Wilderness, Recreation and Working Forests Act was built the right way—guided by feedback from all stakeholders—and will improve protections for vital salmon and steelhead habitat and better conserve the unique scenery, ecology, and water quality of northwest California. It will also enhance outdoor recreation opportunities, safeguard local residents and communities from wildfire, and help sustain the regional economy.
TU will work with local, regional, and national sportsmen’s groups to help pass this timely and sensible legislation. To read TU’s press release on the introduction of HR 6596, click here.