Saving Napa from The Knownothings by Getting To The Heart Of The Matter

Getting to the heart of the matter isn’t the easiest thing in the world to do. We often talk around the central point or never quite put our finger on what the important question is. So, when you see the point—the real point—illustrated, it is instructive.

Stu Smith, owner of Smith-Madrone Winery in Napa, recently got to the heart of the matter of the upcoming Oak Woodlands Agriculture Restriction Initiative that will be on the ballot in Napa County in June. In a letter to the Napa Register Smith perfectly explains what the initiative will do:

“The initiative will regulate some 165,000 acres of Napa County’s “Oak Woodlands” by requiring permits to cut just one oak tree five inches in diameter or larger and a “Use Permit” to cut ten or more oak trees in any one year. These permits will only be issued if a “finding” for removal is consistent with an extremely narrow set of “standards and policies” which excludes agriculture. Oak trees can be removed for agriculture provided “… the parcel is a minimum of 160 acres, and …. allows removal of no more than five oak trees from that parcel during any ten year period” (underlining added). The initiative will stop, forever, new vineyard plantings in the oak woodlands.”

But, Smith also explains what the initiative really means:

“The fundamental premise of their initiative is that our Board of Supervisors can no longer be trusted to protect the environment and the situation has become so dire that the people must step up and take control. While Hackett and Wilson give lip service to 50 years of nationally recognized environmental and land use leadership by our supervisors, the initiative itself is proof of their true beliefs and intentions.”

As I’ve noted a number of times on this blog, the proponents of the initiative have not identified the problem that is so desperate and deep it’s time to overthrow the work of county officials and the Napa wine industry’s measurably productive efforts to support environmental sustainability and the natural beauty of the Valley.

Smith recommends anyone who really cares about the Valley oppose the initiative. He’s right. Smart people who understand that deep feelings and hidden agendas ought not to guide how we address the environment and certainly ought not to result in a ballot initiative in which no problem is identified that the initiative is meant to address.

Stu puts it a little better than I can:

“If you believe, as I do, that Napa County’s supervisors have done a good job in protecting the environment while supporting agriculture and balancing the needs of our economy, then vote against the initiative as being completely unnecessary and an utter waste of our time and resources.”


4 Responses

  1. Matt - January 22, 2018

    I don’t quite understand your opposition to this Tom. Yes, it does seem a bit extreme, but now that the environmentalists have made their intentions clear, will you oppose candidates for Supervisor bankrolled by the deep, deep pockets of corporate wineries that see gold in them hills?

    No offense intended, but if environmentalists keep making concessions to business, the only relevant question is this: What is your acceptable timetable for the Napa Valley and sorrounding hills to consist ONLY of vineyards?

  2. Tom Wark - January 22, 2018

    Matt,

    Legitimate questions.

    As you put it, “it does seem a little extreme”. Indeed it does. Because it is. The problem that this initiative is supposed to solve has yet to be stated.

    And there is no possibilty that the hills will be covered in vineyards given the very strong restrictions and environmental policies currently in place, most all of which the wine industry supported.

    As for who I’ll oppose, it will be those who don’t support policies that benefit the community.

  3. Paul Hughes - January 23, 2018

    Well Said Tom. My question is given the general mistrust that most people seem to have for our political leaders (not totally without merit) and that In many (most) cases the voting public will choose “save the ecosystem” without a clear understanding of the social and economic fallout.
    How does the wine business community plan on educating the voters on the how this measure will effect our economy and future job growth?

  4. Tom Wark - January 23, 2018

    Paul,
    It is presumed that as the election gets closer (set for June), those both supporting and opposing the bill will step up their communications.


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