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One of many initiatives on this June’s ballot will be the Oak Woodlands Initiative created by Mike Hackett and Jim Wilson, who obviously believe, like Chicken Little, that the sky is falling.

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.

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.

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.

If on the other hand, you believe that the supervisors have done a terrible job of protecting the environment, that our county is an ugly sore of environmental degradation and agree with Hackett and Wilson there is an “urgent need for solutions” ("Citizens and science take the long view for sustainability of Napa Valley," Nov. 28, 2017), and “Half-way measures are no longer acceptable … (and) We need a revolution in both thought and deed …” ("Napa County needs real climate protection commitments," July 1, 2017), then vote for their initiative as a last resort to save the environment.

I believe that that our supervisors and their staff should be trusted to continue their leadership role over our oak woodlands. The beauty that is Napa County is undeniable, and it didn’t just happen by accident. Give credit to the Ag Preserve, the Winery Definition Ordinance and Conservation Ordinance for being the first of their kind in the nation.

Then there is the Napa County General Plan, The Napa River Watershed Taskforce, the Napa County Oak Woodlands Management Plan, APAC, all illustrating more commendable supervisor leadership.

Yet this initiative is a referendum on 50 years of job performance by the Napa County Board of Supervisors, the planning commissioners and planning directors.

Help protect agriculture and our public planning process by joining the Napa Valley Grapegrowers, the Napa County Farm Bureau, the Winegrowers of Napa County, the Napa Valley Vintners, and Coalition Napa Valley in rejecting this initiative.

Stuart Smith

St. Helena

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