Eel River Groups and Federal Agencies Celebrate 50th Anniversary of Wild and Scenic Rivers Act
This is a press release from the Eel River Recovery Project:
The Eel River Recovery Project (ERRP) is teaming up with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the U.S. Forest Service, and California Wilderness Coalition (CWC) to celebrate 50 years of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. The celebration includes events, hikes, and floats in the Eel River basin and culminates with a Wild and Scenic and Wilderness conference on November 4.
Hikes in Wild and Scenic River basins will take place in September and October, with Middle Fork hikes to Elk Creek and to Montague Bluff on September 15 and October 19, respectively. On October 21, ERRP will host a hike in Humboldt Redwoods State Park in the South Fork Eel River watershed. People can call ERRP Wilderness Coordinator Phill Hosking for more information at (707) 354-0631. Wild and Scenic river floats will happen as flows permit in the lower Eel River and lower South Fork in late October or early November. These floats are being organized by Eric Stockwell (707 845-0400) and participants must have their own boats and safety gear. Events include a Wild and Scenic Rivers Night & BBQ at the Willits Hub on the evening of Friday October 5. On October 20, the Salmon Awareness Festival in Covelo with have a Wild and Scenic and Wilderness theme.
North Fork Eel River.
The Eel River Wild and Scenic and Wilderness Conference will be held at the Fortuna River Lodge on Sunday, November 4 and will feature author and presenter Tim Palmer as the keynote speaker. This conference will allow people to become acquainted with more remote areas of the Eel River basin that have unique beauty and to find out how they can get connected through hikes, floats or volunteering to help protect and improve access to Wilderness Areas.
CWC Coordinator Ryan Henson will give a talk on the history of Wilderness designation in the Eel River basin and also explain plans for Wilderness and Wild and Scenic designations currently proposed for the Eel River basin in legislation being advanced by Congressman Jared Huffman.
The Wild and Scenic Rivers Act was passed on October 6, 1968 and protects 12,754 miles of the most outstanding rivers in America from being dammed or despoiled. Patrick Higgins, ERRP Managing Director notes that “Less than one half of one percent of the total extent of rivers nation-wide, which places the Eel River in elite company.” A total of 394 miles of the Eel River was designated Wild and Scenic the request of Calif. Gov. Jerry Brown to Secretary of the Interior Cecil Andrus in 1981. This was shortly after the battle over at the Dos Rios Dam that would have flooded the Middle Fork Valley and the Round Valley Tribes Indian Reservation.
The designation meant that there would never be dams on Eel River tributaries, including the North Fork, Middle Fork, South Fork from Branscomb to Dyerville, the Van Duzen River and the main Eel from Cape Horn Dam to the ocean.
The BLM Arcata Field Office manages public lands in many tributary basins designated Wild and Scenic, most significantly the South Fork Eel River. The Red Mountain, Cahto Peak and Elkhorn Ridge Wilderness Areas managed by the BLM supply clean water, support biodiversity and offer great opportunities for recreation. ERRP Wilderness Committee Chair Jeff Hedin notes that “We plan to help BLM improve access and trails using volunteers to improve local quality of life and to stimulate ecotourism.”
Two national forests have extensive holdings in the Eel River area. The Six Rivers National Forest manages the upper Van Duzen and North Fork Eel watersheds, while Mendocino National Forest manages the Middle Fork and upper Eel River watersheds. Pat Higgins stated that “The Lassics Wilderness and North Fork Eel River Wilderness are amazingly beautiful areas and we plan to work with SRNF to improve trails and access in these areas.” The MNF manages the Yolla Bolla and Snow Mountain Wilderness Areas. ERRP Wilderness Coordinator Phillip Hoskings said “In the next several years we would like to recruit volunteers to maintain, restore and possibly expand trails in the Middle Fork and upper Eel River basins.”
More information on events is on-line at the ERRP website at www.eelriverrecovery.org and on the ERRP Facebook page at www.facebook.com/EelRiverRecovery. More information on the national Wild and Scenic Celebration is at https://rivers.gov/wsr50/index.php.