Lightly Visited Public Lands May Gain Higher Profile

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Legislation that would designate nearly 18,000 acres of public land along the Sacramento River, Battle Creek and Paynes Creek in Tehama County as a national recreation area has been introduced in Washington D.C. by California’s two senators, Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer.

Supporters of the designation say it would increase public awareness of the area’s features, create a local advisory council to help make land management decisions, and could lead to more funding. Currently, the Bureau of Land Management manages all of the territory, known as the Sacramento River Bend Area, on a shoestring budget. Previous legislation to designate the national recreation area stalled in Congress.

Opposition to the idea has generally come from ranchers who graze cattle on the federal land or on nearby properties. The ranchers fear the loss of grazing rights and the impact of increased visitor usage. Hunters have also raised questions about the designation.

According to the BLM, the proposed designation would continue to permit grazing where it currently exists, and would have no effect on hunting, fishing, motorboat use or private property rights. Boards of Supervisors in Shasta and Tehama County, the Redding City Council, and economic development organizations have previously endorsed the designation because of its potential to boost the tourism industry that is so important to the region.

I bet you’ve never been to the Bend Area. The BLM holdings only get 83,000 visitors a year, which is up from 36,000 in 2004 but is still a paltry amount considering the natural resources. (By comparison, Whiskeytown gets something on the order of 700,000 visitors a year.) One of the wildest stretches of the lower Sacramento River runs through the Bend Area. Wildlife ranging from bobcats to mule deer to bald eagles is abundant. In the springtime, the area is full of wildflowers, babbling brooks and seasonal wetlands. On clear winter and spring days, the views of mountain ranges to the east and west is spectacular.

But few people visit because the facilities, although improved during recent years, remain sparse. Trails are often rough and not always well-marked. Bathrooms, picnic tables and water faucets are rare. Camping areas are primitive.

I doubt the legislation designating the Sacramento River National Recreation Area will advance this year. The proposal is more likely to be a consideration for the next Congress. In the meantime, load up your backpack, mountain bike, horse or boat and go check out the area. The BLM website provides an outline and a few maps.

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• The Shasta County Sheriff’s Office collected 129 pounds of outdated or unwanted medications during “National Take Back Day” last month. The intent of the first-ever event was to keep prescription drugs from ending up on the street. If you missed the event, you may still dispose of unwanted or outdated pills for free today through Saturday (October 7 through 9) at the City of Redding’s waste transfer station on Abernathy Road. The city’s event is aimed at preventing people from flushing old drugs down the toilet and fouling waterways.

• The City of Redding is looking for people to fill three open positions on an advisory board that recommends how the city should allocate about $1 million a year in Community Development Block Grant funds. The federal grant monies are intended to improve community facilities and services, spur economic development and improve poor neighborhoods. The city typically awards the money to nonprofit organizations and other government agencies. The advisory committee meets two or three times a year. You must live, work or own a business in the city to serve. Contact the city clerk’s office for details and an application form, (530) 225-4055.

shigley-mugshotPaul Shigley is senior editor of California Planning & Development Report, a frequent contributor to Planning magazine and strongly recommends not crashing your mountain bike on volcanic rocks at the Sacramento River Bend Area. (Ouch!) He lives in Centerville. Paul Shigley may be reached at pauls.anewscafe@gmail.com.

A News Cafe, founded in Shasta County by Redding, CA journalist Doni Greenberg, is the place for people craving local Northern California news, commentary, food, arts and entertainment.

Paul Shigley

has been a professional journalist since 1987. For 12 years, he served as editor or senior editor of California Planning & Development Report, a statewide trade publication for land use planners, real estate development professionals and attorneys. Prior to that, he worked as a reporter or editor at newspapers in Redding, Grass Valley, Napa and Calistoga. Shigley's work also has appeared in the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, Planning magazine, Governing magazine, California Law Week, National Speed Sport News and elsewhere. In addition, he is co-author of Guide to California Planning, a college text and reference book, and is currently working on a book for the American Planning Association about the Bay Delta and California water resources. A graduate of California State University, Sacramento, Shigley has contributed to A News Cafe since 2009. He and his wife, Dana, live in western Shasta County.