Napa Valley Vintners Announce Opposition to Flawed Oak Woodland Initiative

The Napa Valley Vintners recently announced to their membership on Thursday that they will be opposing the upcoming Napa County Watershed and Oak Woodland Protection Initiative of 2018. This is very good news, very wise and a boost to the opposition to a seriously flawed, unnecessary and punitive undertaking.

In addition to announcing to their membership that they will oppose the initiative, the Napa Vintners noted that they “prepared to put resources toward an opposition campaign and formed a task force that will meet immediately to help determine its involvement.” This too is very good news. The caucus of sanity opposing the initiative is going to need all the help they can get.

What passage of the Watershed and Oak Woodland Initiative would mean would be an immediate and forever ban on any vineyard planting in the AGRICULTURAL Watershed. Why is this necessary? If you ask the proponents of the initiative the response you’ll get is….”because”! But, it will be a very heartfelt “because”—as are the “because” responses from my three and a half-year-old boy when I ask him, “why did you hit the dog”?

The fact is, emotion is what drives the proponents of this terrible idea masquerading as public policy. Now, I have nothing against emotion. But I don’t sign contracts based on the degree to which I tear up at the sight of one.

The fact is, the proponents of the Watershed and Oak Woodlands Initiative have failed to cite a problem that requires the Initiative to fix it. There is no science, no studies, no rigorous data analysis presented on the state of Napa’s hillsides, watershed or vineyards that justify forever banning the planting of vineyards anywhere in the AGRICULTURAL Watershed. Likewise, my son doesn’t outline or discuss the specific level of annoyance that our dog caused prior to the hitting incidence. It was an emotional response.

In the section of the Initiative titled “Purpose” we get this:

“The purpose of this Initiative is to protect the water quality, biological productivity, and economic and environmental value of Napa County’s streams, watersheds, wetlands and forests, and to safeguard the public health, safety and welfare of the County’s residents.”

Nowhere in the Initiative is it outlined exactly how or to what extent there is a problem with water quality, biological productivity, the economic and environmental value of the streams, watersheds or forests in Napa County, nor the health, safety or welfare of Napa Country residents that will be mitigated by banning all planting of any vineyards in the AGRICULTURAL watershed.

The Napa Valley Vintners join the Napa Grapegrowers, Napa Winegrowers, and the Napa County Farm Bureau in opposing the Initiative. This is a strong group with deep experience working to protect the Napa Valley environment. I hope that, together, they can shut down this unusually blatant attempt to roll back the Napa Valley wine industry that has been generated out of profound ignorance.

5 Responses

  1. Patricia - January 14, 2018


    Not sure what the so-called “Initiative” is meant to achieve? Less pollution? Fewer visitors? Less traffic on HWY 29? Napa is no longer a back-water and some tourists enjoy their visits. Fairly certain that the wineries benefit and possibly the local economy also?

  2. Kathy - January 15, 2018

    I couldn’t agree more, Tom. Further to your comments, there’s ambiguity and lack of definition in some of the Initiative’s parameters and these will undoubtedly be litigated and decided by a judge – not by our county supervisors or a local governing body. The County Plan was agreed upon by all industry associations and approved by the voters and already defines stream setbacks, development quotas, etc. It took years to develop the General Plan to ensure it did not inadvertently create chaos and all parameters were defined. You can’t knee-jerk an Initiative in one-year and expect it to be without problem. If it passes, residents should know it will limit their property rights and this is permanent – unless another Initiative later on revokes it. Makes you wonder if this Initiative process is really the appropriate avenue for major policy changes and changes to the General Plan.

  3. KellieAnderson - January 16, 2018

    Please correct the inaccuracy that the citizens initiative precludes agriculture in Agricultural Watershed and Open Space designated areas of the county. Did you read the initiative? Do you understand County of Napa General Plan Land use designations? Your entire opposition to this thoughtful initiative is incorrect. I will leave it to you to correct your mistakes.

    • Tom Wark - January 16, 2018


      My entire reasons for opposition? All of them are incorrect? Even the ones you don’t mention? Really? Every single one? Please feel free to correct me rather than simply make vague claims.

      Thank you,

  4. 20bet - September 6, 2023

    Your article gave me a lot of inspiration, I hope you can explain your point of view in more detail, because I have some doubts, thank you.

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