(EnviroNews California) — LETTER TO THE EDITORS: [EDITOR’S NOTE: This letter to The Editors at EnviroNews is authored by Jeff Miller, Senior Conservation Advocate at the Center for Biological Diversity and former resident of Iverness, California, which sits adjacent to the Point Reyes National Seashore. The letter comes in response to a feature, in-depth, on-camera interview with Representative Jared Huffman (D) of California’s 2nd Congressional District, conducted by EnviroNews Editor-in-Chief Emerson Urry about California’s unique tule elk (Cervus canadensis nannodes). In the interview, Huffman referred to the Center for Biological Diversity (the Center) directly; the Center responded. Miller wrote the following letter to The Editors, countering statements from the interview and offering multiple rebukes of the Congressman’s comments. For the purposes of context, we are placing that raw interview with Rep. Huffman in the video player just below, followed by Miller’s letter.
Jeff Miller’s letter to The Editors reads as follow:
It’s very disappointing to see Huffman continue to misrepresent and deflect about his efforts to kill or remove native wildlife and expand agriculture in a national park to promote private profit for a handful of ranchers. I’d like to respond to the stream of misinformation from Huffman. Huffman is wrong on every point about the tule elk:
He claims the elk are thriving at Point Reyes. Yet one third of the fenced herd just died over the past year because the Park Service artificially confines them in an area with inadequate water and forage during drought years. Hundreds more elk may die this year. The Tomales elk are not thriving, but are suffering because of a fence put there solely for the benefit of ranchers.
He claims there is some need to “manage” the elk, implying that they are overpopulated or over carrying capacity, which is not the case. There is no valid ecological justification for “managing” the free-roaming elk herds. It is being done solely to financially benefit a handful of ranchers. And let’s call “management” what it actually is: shooting elk and deliberately starving elk on public lands to maximize subsidized cattle grazing lands for private profit.
Tule elk are not moving into urban interfaces; this is a false narrative. They are in a National Park.
Huffman knows as well as we do that the Park Service’s preferred alternative does not set high environmental standards, as he claims. The Park Service identified Alternative F, removing ranching as the environmentally superior alternative. Alternative B will continue overgrazing, water pollution, soil erosion, spread of invasive species, and killing of elk, as well introduce new agricultural activities that will create new conflicts with other native wildlife. This is why the conservation groups sued in 2016 over efforts to extend the ranching leases. The Park Service has never once taken any action to enforce grazing lease conditions, despite numerous documented ongoing violations.
Huffman claims the Park Service’s management plan update has been a “really inclusive process.” Not exactly. The Park Service took the wish list and demands of the ranchers and turned them into a preferred alternative. Yes, they had a public comment process, but have ignored every point of view except for their predetermined outcome to give the ranchers long-term leases, expand agriculture, and lethally cull elk. Not a single suggestion or request from conservation groups was incorporated into the plan. The Park Service held dozens of backroom meetings with ranchers, who hired a wise-use lobbyist and have had unfettered access to craft a plan that benefits them financially.
Huffman promotes his hearsay interpretation of whether the ranches were intended to remain in perpetuity and claims “you’re not going to find absolute clarity on that question.” Fortunately public lands are not managed by hearsay. The ranchers themselves signed up for 25 year leases, which expired long ago. The laws governing management of Point Reyes – the Point Reyes enabling legislation and the Park Service’s Organic Act – require the park to be managed without impairment of the natural environment.
It is not only false, but insulting that Huffman tries to characterize those who oppose his elk killing and agricultural expansion plan as coming from out of his district. Or that they are “professional” protestors who are trying to hijack his town halls. He has heard from thousands of his constituents and dozens of in-district conservation groups who are very upset with his position and his legislation. Point Reyes is a national park that belongs to all Americans, not just Marinites, so everyone is “in the district” of our national park. Huffman has nothing but dismissive of his many constituents who do not support his position on Point Reyes.
It is empirical fact that more than 94% of the thousands of the members of the public that formally commented on the Park Service plan oppose continuing ranching in the park.
Huffman characterizes the issue as “immediately throwing out all the ranchers.” They signed up for limited term leases when they took the public’s money and sold their ranches to the public for the park. Most of those leases expired more than 25 years ago, so they’ve hung on a quarter century longer than they singed up for. That’s not very immediate.
Huffman paints himself as part of a unanimous consensus of elected representatives on this issue, yet he’s the only one (other than a right-wing anti-public land zealot) who introduced legislation to kill the tule elk and enshrine ranching as the highest purpose of the park. Huffman then tries to blame Rob Bishop for his legislation, but Bishop would never have brought the Point Reyes legislation without Huffman’s initiative. No legislation would ever have passed that removed Point Reyes from public lands. Another red herring from Huffman.
Huffman has been the main bully pulpit advocating for relocating (evicting) elk out of Point Reyes, the only national park where they occur. He knows they cannot be relocated because of the Johne’s wasting disease they contracted from the dairy cattle. That’s why he’s supporting shooting them instead.
Huffman states “you’re just going to get that same meat and dairy from Central Valley CAFOs that are a heck of a lot worse for the environment and you’re going to tack on a bunch of food-miles.” This is disingenuous. Produce from Point Reyes is sold on Amazon, and gets shipped out all over the place. We’re supposed to believe that the environmental alternative is to promote beef and dairy production on public land at Point Reyes that kills elk and massively pollutes water? There is nothing environmentally superior about Point Reyes agriculture.
Huffman knows full well that the Park Service’s Alternative B and their new ranching succession policy will prevent any of the ranch lands from ever being converted to non pastoral lands or wilderness.
Huffman is lying about not being friends with or being influenced by the ranchers and their extensive lobbying efforts. He has carried their water and advanced their personal financial interests over the public interest at every turn.
We met with Huffman on this issue and tried to provide him with accurate information. He has not been thoughtful, nuanced, or open to any information other than what the ranchers feed him.
I’m sure every tule elk that is shot at Point Reyes is going to be really grateful to know that Huffman has a self-proclaimed 100% lifetime environmental voting score.
Yes, we will continue to work with Huffman on the many other environmental issues where he is actually trying to protect the environment and the public interest.
Senior Conservation Advocate
Center for Biological Diversity