As both a California Assemblyman and now U.S. Representative, Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael) earned a reputation as a stalwart champion of the environment, including the redwood forest. In the Assembly, he sponsored 60 pieces of successful legislation, including numerous bills protecting fisheries, wildlife and forests. He was named Chairman of the Assembly Committee on Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials in 2006, and chaired the Water, Parks, and Wildlife Committee in 2008.
Elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2012, he promptly introduced a bill that enhanced protections for a spectacular portion of the Mendocino Coast; the legislation was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives and protected by President Barack Obama by executive order.
But Huffman’s conservation bona fides predate his tenures in the Assembly and Congress. He served 12 years on the Marin Municipal Water District, where he worked to safeguard the county’s watersheds by fostering protection of local coastal forests.
Today, preservation of the nation’s forests, including the redwood forest, remains one of his highest priorities. In part, that’s because it’s in the interests of his constituents: His congressional district spans from the Golden Gate Bridge north to the Oregon border, consisting of Marin, Sonoma, Mendocino, Humboldt, Trinity and Del Norte counties, encompassing a significant portion of the coast redwood range.
“The redwoods are an iconic part of the coastal landscape, of the area I represent,” said Huffman. “I take that very seriously. Part of my job is ensuring their protection.”
That imperative has been given added urgency by the drought, said Huffman.
“I introduced a drought response bill that includes a watershed pilot program aimed at forest resiliency,” said Huffman. “Senator Martin Heinrich of New Mexico introduced companion legislation. Save the Redwoods League provided us with very valuable data indicating proper management can dramatically increase forest water retention capability, fire resistance and biodiversity. It would have been very difficult to draft this legislation without the painstaking research undertaken by the League. ”
‘The Redwoods Represent Home’
But the redwoods aren’t strictly a political issue with Huffman; his connections to the ancient groves are personal, deep, and emotional.
“To a real degree, the redwoods represent home to me,” said Huffman, a Marin County resident. “They’ve given me some very special and indelible family memories.”
One of those memories involves an old-growth redwood near a hiking trail in the San Geronimo Valley in West Marin.
“Like a lot of ancient redwoods, it has a large cavity at its base that has been hollowed out by wildfire,” said Huffman. “My kids discovered the tree, and whenever we were on the trail they’d race ahead to see who could be first to hide in the hole. We have some wonderful photos of them peeking out from it. Even though they’re in their teens now, they still run ahead to that redwood whenever we’re hiking the trail. I’ll always associate them with that tree.”