Protecting and Increasing Wilderness Areas

Eel River Recovery Project (ERRP) members first became involved in Wilderness through clean-up efforts of large scale industrial marijuana grows on Mendocino National Forest, but our involvement has since broadened. The ERRP Wilderness Committee formed in January 2013 to focus on cleaning up and expanding the South Fork Eel River Wilderness Areas under management by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Activity now includes improving Wilderness access, expanding recreational opportunities, and forging a campaign plan that helps protect wild places and maintain the biological resilience of the Eel River ecosystem.

The blight of industrial cartel marijuana grows was spreading rapidly when ERRP was forming, but according to law enforcement agencies it has diminished in recent years. Creeks were dammed, fertilizers and pesticides mixed in the creek, and water was being routed away from streams to remote patches using miles of plastic pipe. Also, top food chain predators like bears and fishers were succumbing to rat poison that was building up in the food chain.

Since 2013, ERRP has done extensive clean up of large scale trespass-grows in and around the Red Mountain Wilderness Area. See our report to the Rose Foundation.  ERRP clean ups always occur well after any active cultivation is taking place, and are coordinated with agencies, with permission and co-participation of law enforcemen.  Often, U.S. Coast Guard helicopters airlift trash out of remote sites after clean up is over. See report on ERRP’s Big Dann Creek clean ups.

Even if industrial grows are no longer occurring, ERRP wants to expand partnerships with agencies to complete clean up of grow sites on all federal lands within the Eel River basin. If you are interested in helping clean up one of these blighted sites, call Bruce Hilbach-Barger at 707 983-6169.

Expanding Wilderness Recreational Opportunities and Promoting Ecotourism for Economic Development

Once Wilderness Areas are free of trespass grows and sites have been cleaned up, ERRP wants to help federal agencies with access and improvements to increase recreational uses. ERRP also has interest in regional trail linking interior Wilderness areas with coastal ones with corridors through Redwood Forest Foundation lands as well as public lands. We view this as a viable way of diversifying the economy of the Eel River basin and see potential for developing a world class trail system.

In November 2015, ERRP helped BLM near Cahto Peak with erosion control on skid trails created by the Wilderness Lodge Fire suppression efforts. There are also plans to work with BLM on improving access trails to the Red Mountain Wilderness Area through Dann Creek watershed where ERRP has done clean-up efforts. To volunteer for trail maintenance and improvement projects, call Bruce at 707 983-6169.

Wilderness Expansion/Campaign Planning

ERRP wants to expand Wilderness Areas with the Eel River basin to secure cold water refuge areas for salmon and steelhead, to increase habitat and corridors for wildlife, to maintain clean water supplies, and to provide places where people can seek solitude and have access to undespoiled nature.

We are allied with the California Wilderness Coalition, which is advancing legislation for expansion of northern California Wilderness, including several areas within the Eel River basin. See their plan. Wild and Scenic status for the East Brach South Fork Eel River is included in the coalition’s agenda so that BLM could acquire any suitable parcels and subsequently could add them to Wilderness Areas.

Presently we are helping create potential for the acquisition of the 4,000 acre Schmook Ranch for conservation purposes. Call Jeff Hedin to get involved or find out more at 707 247-3030. The Wilderness Committee is also formulating a Campaign Plan for the Eel River watershed that captures long-term goals and lays out strategies for attainment. If you have interest and a vision you want to share, call Felice Pace at 707 954-6588.

Wilderness issues will be discussed at the ERRP 2016 retreat coming up on January 10. 

See article on the Black Butte River where additional Wilderness may be proposed.


Elk Horn Wilderness Area.  Click Map to Enlarge

Red Mountain Wilderness Area. Click Map to Enlarge