I love living in Napa County. I love that I can spend a day out in the woods, where I might see a bear, and, in less than 15 minutes be enjoying a drink or fabulous meal at one of the world-class restaurants nearby.
I know that Napa’s preeminent position in the wine culture is partly responsible for that. And I thank everyone who has played a part in recognizing what a unique national treasure we have we here.
But what I see happening on our roads and in our hillsides is a serious threat to that position and we should all be concerned. If vineyards continue to be allowed to radically alter the landscape to produce wine and bring in juice from other places just to attach a Napa label to it, where does that leave the wonderful mystique that has made Napa wines so desirable?
And if we continue to uglify our hillsides by ripping out the forests and woodlands to replace them with vines, who will want to come to bask in the sheer beauty of the valley?
So, (with many thanks to everyone involved in the daunting task of the Napa County Strategic Plan) I was happy to see that a vibrant and sustainable environment was included as one of the "Five Pillars" to drive our success and included, as a goal, to “preserve and promote a sustainable environment and conserve resources for future generations.”
That is commendable.
However, I think the plan that has been outlined to achieve that goal is woefully insufficient.
For example, to “Develop a balanced approach to growth based on data-informed decisions” the county indicates it plans to “Use available data sources to evaluate grape and wine production to determine potential development capacity.”
To me, that is a nothing-burger. What are the “available data sources you’ll be using?” How are you going to define “potential development capacity?” What does that even mean?
The plan also indicates that the county intends to adopt and implement a Climate Action Plan.
Will this be part of the determination of potential development capacity?
Will the county be waiting until the Climate Action Plan has been completed before determining what the development capacity is?
And how many years into the future will the county be looking to determine the potential development capacity? One? Five? Ten? Twenty?
Will climate change be taken into account and the impact, for example, of more droughts, on our water supply?
Will the strategic plan be looking at the impacts rising temperatures will have on grape production?
As vineyards are replanted with grape varieties more suited to the changes in our climate and taste, will the county be considering the impact on air quality and carbon sequestration as existing vines are ripped out and burned and ground may be left fallow and less effective in sequestering carbon?
In the real world and here in Napa County, these things are all related to each other and impact each other. And yet it appears that this plan will be treating them independently. This seems very "old school" and inadequate in dealing with the very real threats climate change poses to both our well-being and our way of life. Napa County could (and should) be so much better than that.
Please, let’s not blow this singular opportunity to be a world leader in climate action and quality wine production.
Elaine de Man