Huffman is doing what a political leader should do
By Dick Spotswood
Political leadership means playing a decisive role to resolve difficult community issues.
Rep. Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, is doing just that by joining Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, to jointly introduce HR 6687. The bill, if passed, will “direct the Secretary of the Interior to manage the Point Reyes National Seashore in the State of California consistent with Congress’ longstanding intent to maintain working dairies and ranches on agricultural property as part of the seashore’s unique historic, cultural, scenic and natural values.”
Some in the environmental movement have long dreamed of removing the historic family-owned ranches on Point Reyes Peninsula. Their stated goal is to return the land to wilderness. They are opposed by the ranching families and their mostly Hispanic workforce along with other environmentalists who contend that sustainable dairy and cattle ranches are an appropriate use of much of the splendid peninsula.
The ranchers and now Huffman are also backed by a huge number of Marinites who see the original purpose behind the federal government’s acquisition of the peninsula as maintaining in perpetuity what is widely regard as the very symbol of Marin agriculture.
This Cow War is round two in a fight that has gone on for a decade. It started when these very same activists successfully fought the Oyster War. That round one ejected the Lunny family oyster farm from Drake’s Estero. Then and now the goal was to “wild” the land. Despite the many water-cleansing benefits of oysters, the bivalves weren’t wild enough for the purists.
Instead of letting this Cow War fester, Huffman — with passage of HR 6687 — will have Congress clearly making its will known that working dairies and ranches have a permanent presence on West Marin’s federal lands. How that will be practically accomplished will be addressed in the preparation Point Reyes National Seashore’s General Management Plan update.
Wilderness activists were hoping the updated plan would be a bureaucratic device to ban the cows. After Huffman’s bill passes – a near certainty given its bipartisan backing – the cows will remain.
Huffman is one of the leading environmentalists in Congress. HR 6687 is a strong message to his congressional colleagues that mainstream environmentalists – which includes Huffman — find ranches and dairies on Point Reyes desirable.
Utah’s Bishop serving as a co-author is a message to Republicans that the agriculture community is supportive and that this isn’t just a Democratic effort but merits GOP support. This is a classic example of the bipartisan approach to legislation that every American — outside of each party’s extreme right and left wings — yearns for.
I’m not a critic of wilderness advocates who demand the cows go. That’s typical of the role activists need to play. They push hard for their ideal and no matter how many successes, by their nature there is always something more to achieve. Yesterday it was closing the oyster farm, now it’s re-wilding the San Geronimo Golf Course and tomorrow’s campaign is to eliminate Point Reyes’ ranches in favor of wild elk.
Elected officials, including those in sympathy to activists’ goals whatever the cause, have a different role. They shouldn’t just be water-carrying lackeys promoting whatever the most extreme elements believe essential. Every elected official’s prime job is to evaluate each issue and then pursue an outcome consistent with their own personal values and their constituents’ interests. That’s what Huffman is doing.
He’ll face much criticism from wilderness buffs, which will be more than matched with wide approval from Huffman’s constituents throughout his North Bay-North Coast 2nd District who strongly support retention of sustainable agriculture and humane ranching on Point Reyes.