Sue Wagner, Resident Circle Oaks and member of Defenders of the East Napa Watersheds 

Enduring the heat! Protest at Hall Winery, July 31, 2016

 Destruction of thousands of oak and other indigenous trees for vineyard conversion projects has created a collision course with the environment, steadily reducing the ability of our earth to naturally offset green house gas (GHG) emissions.

In 2006, the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 (AB 32) was passed requiring a sharp reduction in GHG emissions in California. It mandates all counties develop a Climate Action Plan (CAP) to help mitigate risks associated with climate change.

Each county is required to establish baseline GHG levels and then demonstrate that it has reduced its GHG levels by at least 15% to reach 1990 levels by 2020.

According to the 2012 draft of Napa County’s CAP, Napa County’s baseline was established in 2005 as 443,670 metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2). In order to meet the mandates of AB32, Napa County must reduce its carbon footprint by 139,550 metric tons of CO2 by 2020.

Following extensive efforts by the Planning Commission and input from other concerned environmental groups and residents to develop a Napa County Climate Action Plan (CAP), a final draft was recommended for adoption in early 2012. However, the Board of Supervisors (BOS) fell short of taking decisive action, sending the document back for further review. It is only now resurfacing for further reconsideration.

On June 30, 2016, the Napa County Department of Planning, Building, and Environmental Services (PBES) hosted a meeting for the purpose of revisiting and updating its approach to GHG in Napa County. Although Napa County’s 2008 General Plan has committed to reduce GHG emissions to 1990 levels, less than 4 years remain to meet this commitment.

On August 1, 2016 Napa County approved the Walt Ranch Vineyard Conversion Project which, according to the approved FEIR, is slated to destroy 24,000 + trees. Director Donald Morrison has stated that there are more than 900 acres of vineyard conversion projects pending approval.

One mature oak can remove nearly 500 pounds of atmospheric carbon per year. While a leaf of grapevine and a leaf of an oak have similar photosynthetic rates per unit area (or similar rates of removal of CO2 from the air per unit of surface area), a tree has far more surface areas and layers of foliage, making it much more effective in sequestering carbon.

This is not a time to lose trees!

Napa County policy makers need to recognize the cumulative effects of their actions. Continually approving new vineyard projects that encroach into the Napa Valley hillsides and watersheds will ultimately result in a very high cost.