Earlier this month, the Napa Valley Vintners and the local Watershed Protection Committee announced our joint support of the Napa County Watershed and Oak Woodland Protection Initiative of 2018, a ballot initiative that will protect Napa Valley’s watershed and oak woodlands.

Since that announcement, we’ve had some questions from vintners, grapegrowers and community members. We want to provide facts and background about the initiative and the process behind it to set the record straight.

Last year, the Watershed Protection Committee, formed by environmental advocates Mike Hackett and Jim Wilson, sponsored a similar but far more onerous ballot initiative. The NVV and other local agricultural groups actively opposed that effort for being too restrictive for property owners. Although more than 6,300 local voters signed the petition in support of the initiative, ultimately it did not qualify for the ballot due to a technical flaw.

We knew, however, that this was not the end of the effort by the Watershed Protection Committee to get such an initiative passed. Nor would it be the end of the community’s interest in strengthening protections for our precious watershed and oak woodlands.

The NVV fully supports the preservation of this unique and special place. In fact, it is a core principle of our mission: “…to protect and enhance the Napa Valley for future generations.” With this in mind, in February we invited leaders from the NVV, the Napa Valley Grapegrowers and the Winegrowers of Napa County to discuss our options, knowing the initiative would return this year. In March the same group convened, but also included the leaders of the Watershed Protection Committee. The NVV’s hope was to explore a collaboration to protect our watershed and oak woodlands while still making future vineyard development feasible.

That gathering opened the door to finding the high middle ground. Agricultural land managed in an environmentally responsible manner can co-exist with healthy creeks and streams and protect oak woodlands in the Ag Watershed areas of Napa County. Following the initial meeting, the NVV continued direct discussions with the Watershed Protection Committee.

So began the process of developing the Napa County Watershed and Oak Woodland Protection Initiative of 2018. Fully supported by the NVV’s 11-member Board of Directors, we negotiated with the Watershed Protection Committee for several months to create an initiative we could both support. As is usually the case with delicate discussions between potential adversaries, these conversations were limited to a small group committed to collaboration and willing to listen to opposing viewpoints.

Once the initiative was drafted, we informed NVV members and our colleagues at the Napa Valley Grapegrowers, Winegrowers of Napa County and Farm Bureau about it. Along the way, we had positive conversations with county representatives to share the concept and answer questions.

Here are some facts about what the initiative will and won’t do:

It will further protect the water quality, biological productivity and economic and environmental value of Napa County’s streams, watersheds, wetlands and forests. It will further safeguard public health, safety and welfare for residents. Water affects the quality of life of every Napa County resident.

The initiative adopts policies and zoning requirements for Napa County’s Ag Watershed district that will further protect forests and tree canopy near streams and wetlands. It ensures the long-term preservation of Napa’s oak woodlands. It complements the protections wisely established by community leaders a half century ago for agricultural and open space lands in the Agricultural Preserve.

It will not create a moratorium on agriculture in Napa County. It will not halt future responsible vineyard development. And, it will not diminish the longstanding success and significant economic contributions of the local wine industry.

Napa County is a unique place requiring a delicate balance between the success of our local wine industry and the economic benefits that it brings, and the protection of our watershed and oak woodlands for future generations.

Leaders in our community have a long and successful history of collaboration and compromise for the greater good, going back to the establishment of the Ag Preserve in 1968. There are numerous examples since, like the enactment of Measure J and the creation of the Napa Green environmental sustainability program.

The Napa County Watershed and Oak Woodland Protection Initiative of 2018 is the next step in that longstanding local tradition and we’re proud to be working with the environmental community for the benefit of this special place that we all love and care so much about.

We are confident that ultimately, once questions are answered, this collaborative effort will be welcomed by both the community and the greater wine industry as a positive, proactive step toward protecting Napa Valley. We invite and encourage your support.

Michael Honig, chairman

Napa Valley Vintners Board of Directors

(submitted on behalf of the board)

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