With all due respect to Mr. Robert Pursell, fellow Realtor and fighting ally on other battles, my own experience tells me that he overlooked a basic dimension in asserting that the Oak Woodlands Initiative will lower property values (“Proposed Napa County oak woodlands initiative hurts property owners,” Oct. 3).

It is intuitive to believe that any restriction on one's property tends to diminish its value until, that is, we ask ourselves why doesn't the government restrict our neighbor from doing something that diminishes ours. How about that neighbor who wants to open an auto repair shop next door? One can argue that prohibiting such use lowers the value of that (or our) property, until one looks at the bigger picture.

Surveys have identified natural beauty as the second most important reason people visit the Napa Valley. One need only leaf through the magical photo albums of Chuck O'Rear to understand the many dimensions that contribute to our property values. Only one half of his books would exist were it not for our trees and forests.

There are many reasons why certain communities command higher property values than others. Most of us know what they are; suffice to say that beauty is one of them.

If we fail to protect our forests from being clear cut for agriculture, we will end up with denuded hills of monotonous vineyard landscapes. Even our most eminent wine critic, Mr. Parker, has pronounced the Napa Valley as the most beautiful in the world, and he has been to all of them.

If we place the agricultural interest of each property owner ahead of everything else, all property values will ultimately decline. There is no question that without the forest leading to my home, its value would decline.

Of course, beauty is only one dimension - and a secondary one at that - of what the initiative is trying to protect. By shielding the ground with their canopy from the direct pounding of the rain on the soil close to streams, trees give us clean water and healthy fish populations. They also allow water to slowly sink into the water table rather than run off carrying sedimentation to our reservoirs. Who can argue that this does not add to the desirability of the Napa Valley?

And not to forget wildlife that thrives in forests. When I encounter deer or fox on my drive home, I know that they contribute to the desirability of the Napa Valley. Were it not for both vineyards and forests in harmonious co existence without invading each others' ecosystems, why would people like me want to move here?

What better proof than the effect of the Agricultural Preserve on property values. The naysayers who fought it tooth and nail -- and they were plenty of them -- were predicting their demise. The rest is history. Consider that the Oak Woodlands initiative's restrictions pale in comparison.

We are blessed with a climate, topography and diversity of flora and wildlife, which are rare. This is the ultimate asset that makes this location special. Its protection allows each and every property to share in its increased value and is in need of protection. Remember: Location, location, location!

It is fateful that this initiative marks the 50th anniversary of the Ag preserve. We must continue its legacy.

Christine Tittel

Calistoga

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