Central Coast Wild Heritage Campaign: The Central Coast Heritage Protection Act (CCHPA, H.R. 2199/S. 1111), jointly re-introduced by Rep. Carbajal and Senators Harris and Feinstein in April 2019, will permanently protect 244,909 acres of federal land as wilderness, establish two scenic areas totaling 34,882 acres, and protect 159 miles of wild and scenic rivers. Consistent with our role in this campaign over the last 8 years, CalWild is working closely and frequently with legislative staff from all offices, acting as the lead contact for concerns about fire and fuels, mountain biking, horseback riding, and wild and scenic rivers. To stoke our efforts, we have a supporter list of over 500 stakeholders including chambers of commerce, businesses, groups, and individuals.
Northwest California Mountains and Rivers: Six years ago, CalWild began organizing with a wide swath of stakeholders in Mendocino, Humboldt, Del Norte, and Trinity counties for what would become our Northwest California Mountains and Rivers campaign. Building a coalition of logging companies, landowners, tourism interests, off-roaders, recreationalists, county supervisors, and tribes, we were able to address and overcome longstanding political turbulence amongst these stakeholders and craft a uniquely multifaceted conservation proposal with Rep. Huffman, a known public lands champion. Alongside Senators Harris and Feinstein, Rep. Huffman re-introduced the Northwest California Wilderness, Recreation, and Working Forests Act (NCWRWFA, H.R. 2250, S. 1110) in April 2019. The NCWRWFA will designate 261,889 acres of wilderness and 480 miles of wild and scenic rivers. Another bill highlight is the 729,000-acre South Fork Trinity-Mad River Special Restoration Area where previously-logged forests would be restored to a more mature and fire-resilient condition.
San Gabriel Mountains: Building on President Obama’s 2014 designation of the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument (SGMNM), CalWild and its allies are working with Rep. Judy Chu to provide even stronger wilderness and wild and scenic river protection for eligible areas and streams within and adjacent to the monument, including parts of the Angeles National Forest.
In April 2019, Rep. Chu introduced the San Gabriel Mountains Forever Act alongside Senators Harris and Feinstein. The bill proposes to add 109,000 acres to the SGMNM, establish the 51,000-acre San Gabriel Foothills and River National Recreation Area, protect 31,069 acres of wilderness additions (and two new areas), and designate 46 miles of new wild and scenic rivers. CalWild, with our local partners Nature for All, will continue to generate public support in Rep. Katie Hill’s district and seek an agreement with mountain bike interests for the protection of the 69,000 acre Castaic Wilderness in the northern San Gabriels. In addition, we will work closely with our allies to oppose any attempt to reduce the size of the SGMNM by eliminating acreage in San Bernardino County, as proposed by Rep. Paul Cook.
Sierra Forest Plan Revisions: While many of CalWild’s documented successes involve the passage of legislation, a critical component of long-term organizing for wild places occurs slowly, through agency planning processes. Every National Forest is required by law to revise its management plan at least every 15 years, but agency budget cuts and rapidly changing priorities have delayed the development of some plan revisions by 30 years or more. These plans are the blueprint for the management of millions of acres of public land in California and include determining which areas will be protected as wilderness and which streams will be identified as eligible for wild and scenic rivers protection. CalWild’s objectives are to secure wilderness recommendations for 568,430 acres of wild lands and wild and scenic river eligibility findings for 1,020 miles of rivers and streams in the Inyo, Sequoia, and Sierra National Forests.
Public Lands Defense Network: Our current political climate is decidedly unfriendly – if not outright hostile – to most environmental protections. This includes direct threats to the bedrock laws of wilderness conservation and CalWild’s work. Examples include Trump’s thinly-veiled attempt to weaken the Antiquities Act through former Secretary Zinke’s review on national monuments, the alarming number of legislative attempts to gut bedrock laws like the Wilderness Act and the National Environmental Policy Act, the unprovoked attempt to undo the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP), finalized in 2016 and re-opened in 2018 seemingly to serve the interests of extractive industries focused on mining in the California desert, and the recent efforts to expand drilling by one million acres in California’s Central Valley and Central Coast.
The makeup of this year’s Congress has so far been less threatening and more able to generate bipartisan bill passage, but, as noted above, CalWild has learned from past attacks and we are more prepared for the heretofore unpredictable. Mainly, we have re-activated and continue to lead our Public Lands Defense Network, which unites conservation groups across the state to be alerted to threats early on. The Network also utilizes each group’s strengths to share information and defense funding opportunities, and disperse tools and communications content to make a serious dent in any attempts to rollback public lands protections. Case in point: CalWild and partners responded swiftly to President Trump’s surprise review of the long-ago-completed DRECP in February 2018. Our response included a coordinated communications plan (generating infographics, op-eds, feature stories, and advertisements), outreach to encourage attendance at the public meetings (624 people went to the 8 meetings), and two action alerts that generated 1,256 comments to keep the DRECP as it is. We also will hold more Stand By Your Public Lands workshops in 2019 so activists can learn about public lands defense skills.
Wild Rivers Project: Much like our incredibly diverse landscapes, California’s wildest rivers range from the seasonal flows of the Amargosa River in the Mojave Desert to the mighty Klamath River watershed that cuts across northern California. CalWild has been involved in the protection of virtually every National Wild & Scenic River in California since 1984. With over 2,000 miles already designated, we’re aiming to grow that inventory to 6,000 miles by 2028.
Cannabis Removal on Public Lands (CROP): The primary goal of the CROP Project is cut illicit cannabis production on the national forests of northern California. The key objective is to secure funding for the prioritized decommissioning and remediation of up to 2,000 grow sites, along with additional funding to place more Rangers on the ground in California’s National Forests. This will effectively reduce exposure rates of toxic pesticides and insecticides to communities downstream or near trespass grows, users of public land, as well as reduce wildlife poisonings.