Congressman Jared Huffman visits Petaluma High School

After touring the Petaluma Wildlife Museum, Huffman took questions from students on the future of climate change action and more.|

Students at Petaluma High School got a brief but action-packed visit Wednesday from U.S. Rep. Jared Huffman, who toured the school’s wildlife museum before addressing questions on climate change and other topics.

Huffman, D-San Rafael, spent about an hour at the school in the late morning of Wednesday, Aug. 23, greeting students, staff and local leaders before getting a tour of the Petaluma Wildlife Museum led by student docents.

After seeing the museum’s exhibits as well as some of the live animals living there – including a Burmese python, an African spurred tortoise and other exotic creatures – Huffman called the program, and the students involved, “impressive in every way.”

“You don’t see young people often with that kind of confidence and poise, leading tours in such a professional way,” Huffman told the Argus-Courier. “And the passion that comes through. You know, when you find programs like this in a school that actually creates a spark with kids ... that’s pretty special.”

Huffman, who is known for his pro-environmental policies in Congress, added, “It all starts with inspiring young people to learn about these things, and for some of them pursue a career and a lifetime in this field. You can’t really overstate the impact with a program like this.”

Overall, he said, the visit to Petaluma High was part of his ongoing efforts to visit schools throughout his CA-2 or 2nd Congressional District, which extends along the coast from the Golden Gate Bridge to the Oregon border and includes Petaluma.

Led by longtime science teacher Phil Tacata, the Petaluma Wildlife Museum is said to be the first and only student-run natural history museum on a high school campus in the nation, and is a nonprofit that also works in collaboration with Petaluma City Schools.

The eight student docents were just as appreciative toward Huffman as they marked the importance of the museum and its wildlife-centered program in their own lives.

“I’ve been coming to this museum since I was 5 years old, I came to summer camp here,” said Charlie Scott, a lead docent. “I can confidently say that this museum has changed my life.”

Huffman then headed to the school’s multi-use room, where hundreds of students were gathered to hear his answers to questions ranging in topic from fighting climate change and preserving estuaries to taking action on the fentanyl crisis and reducing wildfire risk.

When asked how he is helping to slow the effects of climate change, Huffman said the country is late in tackling the crisis, but he described legislation intended to improve things. In particular he discussed the Inflation Reduction Act, passed one year ago and designed not only to decrease inflation rates but to spur global investment in climate action. That legislation, he said, has prompted clean energy and climate investment of more than $500 billion, with more than 180,000 new clean-energy jobs added to the U.S. economy.

“This is a law that prioritized investments and jobs in what we call energy communities. These are places that historically have been all about fossil fuel, places like the Gulf Coast, places like Oklahoma,” Huffman said. “And the clean energy investments of those places are pouring in.”

He added, “It’s going to transform not only our economy but some of the political barriers that have been keeping us from tackling this together.”

Huffman said slowing climate change remains at the top of his priority list, “because I think you folks ought to have a livable planet to inherit.”

Amelia Richardson is a staff writer for the Argus-Courier. She can be reached at or 707-521-5208.

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