Hello, Del Norte County. I am Jeffrey Marszal, the new district ranger of the Smith River National Recreation Area (NRA), Gasquet Ranger District. As the new district ranger, I will be penning regular articles for the Triplicate with the goal of highlighting U.S. Forest Service project work, our strong partnerships, recreational opportunities and features about some of our outstanding employees and crews. I see these articles as a vehicle for telling our story so we, as stewards of your public lands, can be open and available to the residents of this county.
The Smith River NRA, Six Rivers National Forest is your backyard and this special place offers visitors world-class recreational experiences with our remarkable scenery, hiking and mountain bike trails, backcountry roads, botanical areas, fishing opportunities, white-water rafting, and the gem of the Wild and Scenic Rivers system — the Smith River — with its clear, free-flowing, jade-green waters.
The Smith River is the only major river system in California that flows freely and naturally for its entire length. It is also one of the largest single undammed river systems in the United States. It was because of these outstanding qualities that this 320,000-acre Smith River NRA was designated by Congress in November 1990.
As stewards of the Smith River NRA, the Forest Service is committed to conserving these resources, providing and enhancing recreational opportunities and serving the residents of this county and the nation.
In order to fulfill our mission and meet our obligations to this community, I’ve established a broad set of priorities and goals that I’d like to share with you. This is the 30,000-foot perspective — subsequent articles will provide greater detail and specifics on how the district is meeting these priorities.
As district ranger, I’m committed to planning and implementing landscape-scale restoration with the goal of restoring our forests and ensuring our communities are more resilient to natural disturbances. We’re doing this by focusing our timber management and hazardous fuels reduction projects around communities, along ridges and on roads.
With support from our partners, we’re pursuing large funding opportunities to ensure we’re increasing the pace and scale of restoration while supporting local economies. In addition, the district is working with local partners and stakeholders to restore and enhance aquatic ecosystems through implementation of the Six Rivers Aquatic Restoration Plan.
As a national recreation area, the district is working to improve recreational opportunities recognizing the important role recreation plays in the economy of Del Norte County. We’re making investments in our campgrounds, river access points and day-use areas. With support from our partners, we’re highlighting our existing mountain-bike trail system and developing new trails and routes for users at all levels.
This year, and in the coming years, we’ll be working with Del Norte Trail Alliance, Siskiyou Mountain Club, and others, to clear and improve our trails, especially backcountry trails in the Siskiyou Wilderness, impacted by recent fires.
The district is moving quickly to implement the Smith River NRA Travel Management Plan. Signed in 2017, the plan and decision outline a strategy that improves vehicle access, while protecting and enhancing the hydrological condition of the Smith River watershed to protect its outstanding fish habitat. Again, the district, with strong support from our partners, is pursuing watershed-scale funding opportunities to ensure we’re meeting our obligations as defined in the travel management plan.
Lastly, we’re working to improve and enhance our partnerships. The Smith River NRA cannot accomplish its work without the support of our stakeholders and partners, including the Smith River Collaborative (SRC). Formed in 2016, the SRC includes the Six Rivers National Forest, Del Norte County, local and regional environmental groups, Elk Valley Rancheria, Tolowa Dee-ni’ Nation, Del Norte Fire Safe Council, the American Forest Resource Council and local citizens.
Together, we’re working to build consensus and enhance the district’s ability to reduce hazardous fuels, restore habitats, support the local economy, and increase recreational capacity and opportunities on the Smith River NRA.
At the Smith River NRA, we’re focused on protecting and managing resources, supporting communities, and providing you with outstanding recreational opportunities to experience your public lands. Our door is open, so get out and enjoy your public lands and work and partner with us to improve the Smith River NRA, so future generations can experience its beauty and wonder.
Jeffrey Marszal is district ranger for the U.S. Forest Service Smith River National Recreation Area.