Forty-eight years ago I moved to Angwin and the Napa Valley and on to our 3-plus acres of land. Trees, wildlife and quiet enjoyment of nature and a rural backwater feeling was why we chose to live our lives in Angwin.

I have been all over the world, and this once bucolic valley was and still is one of the most beautiful places on earth.

We see coyotes, snakes, hawks, foxes, all kinds of birds and little critters and an occasional bear and bobcat. There are lots of red shouldered hawks, stellar jays, finches of all kinds, woodpeckers, hummingbirds, doves, vultures, towhees, ravens, Oregon juncos, tanagers, and other bird species too numerous to name. Many of these birds are nesting on our land and feeding and living on it.

In 48 years, we have seen a lot of changes. The forested mountains and hills and the agricultural Valley floor (mostly in wine grapes) have been a mainstay and stunningly beautiful. Now the hillsides are becoming a patchwork quilt and traditional watershed areas are being piecemealed in small vineyards that upset the forest environment. The fencing alone can be a catastrophe to the larger wild animals. The spraying of sulphur and herbicides and the tilling of the soil pollute the air and degrade the water supply.

During drought years in the fall, the capacity of the water wells in Angwin diminishes. We have to schedule and ration our use to keep the supply working. How can a lot of new, “thirsty” vineyards be a good thing in this situation? The groundwater is already depleted in the fall.

How can these assaults to the environment be kept at "less than significant"? What about the future?

I believe that the cumulative effect of piecemeal, patchwork vineyard building in Angwin and the mountain slopes of the Napa Valley, with fencing, significantly impact the larger wildlife in the area. Trees that are removed also remove the habitat for the birds and other creatures. Mono culture vineyards do not provide habitat; but provide fewer trees, more chemicals, less water and more traffic and noise and pollution -- all within walking distance of my home and land of 48 years. Woodlands we have all come to enjoy over the years are threatened by the regional monoculture of grapes.

I am distressed to learn of all the plans to clear yet more woodland areas in Angwin for grape growing where it has been traditionally rural for a long time.

Napa County encourages Sustainable Forest management. There should be a tree preservation policy with a key accent on the tree part!

Migration species would appreciate their traditional access corridors for food. I live a short walk to West Lane where Heiser Vineyard's clearing proposal is. Our property is not fenced to allow for a wildlife corridor; but vineyards use fencing, without regard for migrating animals.

The other proposals to clear trees for vineyards in Angwin are as follows: Le Colline and Mondavi on Cold Springs Road and Summit Lake Drive has a huge tree removal and clearing being done also.

Old Howell Mountain Road is no longer open and, I have used it in the past, to evacuate during a fire near my house. Now, there is one less road to use for evacuation purposes, with a purported increase in wineries and workers on Howell Mountain.

With more winery workers and more cars on the roads, Napa Valley traffic is awful at commute hours! How can this be a good situation?

Occasionally, during very wet years, we have small stream flooding and flash-flooding; where the water does not stay in established channels making possible the “pick up” of any chemicals nearby in the soil into the sensitive domestic water-supply drainage for Napa County and the City of St. Helena. Bell Canyon Reservoir is near one of the four or five proposed vineyard forest clearing projects on the table at the moment.

Does anyone consider protecting rural forests from “death by a thousand cuts” over many years?

Does anyone consider the cumulative effect of patchwork fencing?

Thank you for your consideration of my concerns.

Jacqueline Captanian


Editor’s Note: Captanian sent her letter both to the Star and to David Morrison, director of Napa County’s Planning, Building and Environmental Services.

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