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I oppose Measure C, the Oak Woodlands Initiative, because it discriminates against an entire group of stakeholders. It is ill-conceived and poorly drafted. It is a perversion of the initiative process and is anti-agriculture in a right-to-farm county.

The authors, Mike Hackett and Jim Wilson, want us to believe that if we don’t protect “our watersheds,” the people of Napa County will run out of water. Here is an existential threat, they argue, to our very existence. This need is so dire that the authors and their supporters are justified in seizing the watershed rights of others so that they can have more water.

With the collective use of “our watersheds,” shouldn’t there also be the collective use of “our shared responsibility?” If a great financial burden is to be borne for the good of the community, shouldn’t we all bear this burden equally? Placing this entire burden on a small group is not fair nor equitable.

Yet neither the authors nor their supporters have ever expressed any concern for the plight of those who will bear this burden, nor a willingness to share it. When government takes your land for a public use, they must pay the fair market price for it. With Measure C, the rights of the watershed owners will be – well – just taken.

I reject the basic premise of the proponents that by stopping new vineyards and virtually stopping all cutting of oak trees it will increase water availability downstream. It is an indisputable fact that if Measure C passes, the oak woodlands will become overgrown and will, with time, use more water and thus, release less water into the creeks and rivers when it’s needed most. This is the exact opposite of the goal of Measure C.

Additionally, those now overgrown oak forests will have a much greater fuel load so when the next wildfire gets cracking those forests will burn hotter and be more destructive.

The initiative process was never intended to be a first step in changing our regulations; it was intended to be the last. Yet Hackett and Wilson never went to the Board of Supervisors to ask for additional protection for oak woodlands.

Most importantly, they never held public meetings with diverse stakeholders, especially the watershed owners, to explore ideas, find compromise and come to a consensus. Fairness and property rights are basic American values: We should not subvert those values by supporting this poorly conceived initiative.

Mr. Hackett and Mr. Wilson, I submit that it is you, and your supporters, not us, who should be called “greedy” for trying to take something from others without their permission. Our existing vineyards are exempted from this initiative. And by supporting the initiative and limiting new vineyards, we would make our vineyards more valuable.

Yet we reject that option and defend the watershed owners and their rights. The Napa Valley Grapegrowers, the Winegrowers of Napa County, the Napa County Farm Bureau, Coalition Napa Valley and the Napa Valley Vintners believe in the fair treatment of others, property rights and due process. I stand with these groups: We choose principle over greed and oppose Measure C.

Stuart Smith

St. Helena

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