Red Letter Week for Conservation

by Victoria Brandon, Redwood Chapter Chair

This has been a truly remarkable week for conservation here on the North Coast. The first big event came on the evening of Monday July 22, when Congressman Jared Huffman’s first-ever piece of federal legislation passed the House. HR 1411 would add the 1,255-acre BLM-managed Stornetta Public Lands on the Mendocino Coast to the Coastal National Monument and tap into mitigation funding from the Gulf Coast oil spill to acquire an additional keystone parcel that will allow creation of a 10-mile coastal trail from the town of Point Arena to Manchester Beach.

This spectacularly beautiful land includes many dramatic coastal features and is a famous pupping location for seals as well as providing habitat for several endangered species. The bill maintains current recreational, ranching and research uses and will boost the regional economy with an increase in tourism, the area’s largest employer. With no known opposition, passage would not ordinarily be remarkable, but these are not ordinary times: this bill is the very first public lands preservation legislation to pass the Republican-controlled House of Representatives in more than three years, so can be seen as a tribute to the adept political skills of our freshman Congressman. It moves on to the Senate next, where easy passage is expected.
 
Then on Tuesday July 23 the House Public Lands and Environmental Regulation subcommittee held a hearing on the proposed Berryessa Snow Mountain National Conservation Area Act (H.R. 1025), an important landscape-level conservation proposal that would permanently protect 350,000 acres of federal public lands with outstanding conservation values.  The bill, which is co-sponsored by all three members of Redwood Chapter’s congressional delegation (Congressmen Mike Thompson, John Garamendi, and Jared Huffman) covers land managed by three federal agencies in five counties,  including three Wilderness areas and a state Wild and Scenic River. Along with Congressmen Thompson and Garamendi, Napa county cattle rancher Judy Ahmann testified in its support. The hearing has been posted at http://naturalresources.house.gov/calendar/eventsingle.aspx?EventID=342550

 
In the meantime, the Chapter has been watching with dismay as pressure on the over-allocated waters of the Klamath River system continue to mount. Large returns of fall Chinook salmon are expected again this year (a Good Thing), but if these spawning fish encounter low flows and warm algae laden water a fish kill on the scale of the one that occurred in 2002 is all too possible. Releases of Trinity River water offer the best chance of averting this catastrophe, so we were heartened to see a letter from Congressmen Thompson, Huffman, and George Miller to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell advocating this course of action. This excellent letter is also available on line at http://www.times-standard.com/guest_opinion/ci_23698708/plea-interior-department-prevent-fish-kill-trinity-klamath?source=rss
 
 
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