Measure C is a complex topic in our part of California, and I find bright, idealistic friends on both sides of the debate.

As a teacher of many lively years in Napa schools, I’m both socially committed to our community and fiercely devoted to conservation. Who could work with kids every day and not take the future to heart, even painfully to heart? I’m worried about the way things are going for the natural systems of our planet, nothing less.

The signs along the roads and in front yards, and informal conversations with friends and neighbors, have raised some serious concerns. I’ve thought about long and hard before coming down strongly on the side of Yes on C.

Is Measure C likely to “hurt farmers?” This question seems disingenuous. We don’t see many of the owners of Napa’s land hanging around the feed store in their overalls. Thank goodness, there are still have some families working land they’re owned for a generation or more, but Napa land is overwhelmingly planted in vineyards and increasingly owned by large investors and corporations.

The land here has become terribly, troublingly, valuable, and “value” is likely to be turned into money by large investors.

We would insist that there are other values that should take precedence: a healthy natural environment and adequate water, habitat for wildlife and, simply, compellingly, the beauty of the mixed woodlands and hillsides. These things enrich the lives of all of us who live here, and they are a big part of the reason for the tourism on which much of our economy depends.

Is Measure C vaguely worded? Few regulations of this type and complexity are entirely unambiguous, but the intent of the measure is clear by virtue of the public record, and will be clarified as cases arise.

It’s needed: it’s a strengthening of existing regulations, and coming out of a five-year drought, we know we are vulnerable to water shortages in our area. We haven’t forgotten.

Putting more land into vineyards would create more of a demand on existing water supplies, and in the next cycle of drought, the owners of those new vineyards will want water to protect their investments. We may not have it. In the last drought, we all chaffed under water restrictions and many of us got rid of our front lawns while the golf courses stayed green.

Resorts and vineyards are important to our local economy -- I get it -- but do we really want to deal ourselves in for more calls for preferential treatment?

Will land owners be required physically to count all the trees on their land? That does sound onerous, but there are ways of mapping using technology and photography that should streamline the process.

I wouldn’t wish the oaks and other trees to be counted and numbered, any more than I would wish for lions and elephants in Africa to be counted. But when individual things become few enough to be considered endangered, they need to be accounted for and protected in ways that were unnecessary before. The times have changed.

What of the argument that Measure C should be scrapped, and better-written measure to protect our trees and water could be drafted and passed? That, again, strikes me as disingenuous. It would take time, at least a year or two. A lot of development can take place in a year or two. Just off stage, one almost hears the sound of bulldozers starting their engines.

The story of the American West is the story of water (see "Cadillac Desert," Mark Reiser’s Pulitzer-winning book, just in case you don’t feel depressed and infuriated enough). We have the capacity to plan for a more secure path through the unknowable years ahead. Let’s do it.

Susan Crosby


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