On Tuesday, the Democratic members of the House Committee on Natural Resources elected Huffman to serve as chair for the newly established Water, Ocean and Wildlife Subcommittee.
The chair is the result of a long career championing environmental protections and, for Huffman, it’s both an honor and a welcome added responsibility.
“Offshore drilling is an obvious priority,” Huffman said in a phone interview on Wednesday. “The Trump administration has yet to unveil its new leasing plan and we know they are enthusiastic about drilling off California. We have to be vigilant on that and it’s not going to happen, and we know it’s not going to happen, but we may have to fight that fight.”
Huffman has coordinated closely with communities and tribes across Northern California on water issues related to the ocean and rivers. That coordination will continue as he works to protect salmon species and restore the health of the Klamath and Trinity rivers.
“I think we are running out of time to save our salmon populations and I am thrilled to be in a position to play some offense instead of playing defense,” Huffman said. “Rivers and fish are squarely within this committee’s jurisdiction. There are issues I have spent my entire career working and it’s exciting to hold the gavel and be in a position to make some real progress.”
Environmental groups on the North Coast, including Humboldt Baykeeper, applauded the election of Huffman as chair of the subcommittee, pointing out the health of rivers and oceans is key to our survival.
“The oceans really are at a critical point as far as current conditions (are concerned),” said Jennifer Kalt, director of Humboldt Baykeeper. “Oceans are suffering between decreasing pH and increasing temperatures and toxic algae blooms. We can’t sit around and wonder what it will look like in 10 years. Waterkeepers across the country are looking forward to working with Huffman.”
Kalt pointed out other projects, such as developing offshore wind farms to generate electricity, better protections for whales that get caught in fishing gear and a healthier ocean for commercial fishermen who are losing productive fishing grounds are key.
“It’s not a good time to be a commercial fisherman,” Kalt said. “We need somebody who understands the fishing industry and the biology involved. Trump is pushing to roll back the Clean Waters Act and that’s absurd; we have pollution and declining fisheries and we need to protect fishermen and marine life.”