DEL NORTE COUNTY- Six Rivers National Forest is now more than 300 acres larger, thanks to some recent acquisitions.
Over the last eight years, the U.S. Forest Service and the non-profit organization Smith River Alliance have worked together to add thousands of acres of public land to the Smith River National Recreation Area. Through a Federal Land and Water Conservation Fund, the U.S. Forest Service purchased the 160-acre Hurdygurdy Creek parcel from the Smith River Alliance.
"We've been in conversation with them for a number of years and they've been concerned about making sure the Smith River and its tributaries are preserved, because the waters are refugia for salmon and other species like that, so it's important to protect those head waters," said Peggi Lawrence, the Public Affairs Specialist with Six Rivers National Forest.
After that purchase, the Smith River Alliance donated another 160-acre parcel, the Siskiyou Fork area of the Smith River.
"We're not sure what the private land owners would do to these parcels. Perhaps they would just leave them be. But then, the public wouldn't have access through these parcels that are kind of in the middle of the national forest,”Lawrence said.
U.S. Forest Service officials say these formerly private areas are now open to the public.
“They can go on the roads or the trails, so they can go out and enjoy the scenery and the wildlife," said Lawrence.
Officials confirm wildlife in the area will benefit as well.
"The species habitat will be continuous. It won't be broken up by private parcels in between, so the animals will be able to move around, which they probably do already, but we'll be able to follow them and make sure that their habitat is clean and what they need to live on," Lawrence said.
Forest officials also say the area will now be better protected from wildfires.
"Say, 'Oh this area needs to be thinned. This area needs to have fuels management. Maybe the underbrush needs to be trimmed away.’ So we can now do that under the Forest Service land," said Lawrence.
U.S. Forest Service officials did not provide a time frame for when they will make a final decision on the recreational use in the area.