Strenuous opposition to the development of the Walt Ranch Vineyard conversion project due to numerous concerns about how it will impact our environment resulted in the filing of Appeals by five organizations with the California Court of Appeals.
After hearing before the Court of Appeals, they determined that Walt Ranch did not adequately address Green House Gas emissions arising from this vineyard conversion project. It was returned to the Napa Courts which directed Napa County to prepare a revised mitigation.
In response to the court’s findings, Walt Ranch offered to plant 16,790 Oak seedlings and double that number if no one appealed. The county of Napa accepted Walt Ranch’s proposal to plant 16,790 Oak seedlings in the conservation area. They did not require planting of an additional 16,790 seedlings “elsewhere” on the property and agreed to reduce acreage to be placed into a permanent conservation easement from 248 acres to 124 acres.
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This litigation is in its final stages with the only remaining claim filed by the Center for Biodiversity coming before the Board of Supervisors once again on Appeal on Dec. 14.
The developers of Walt Ranch (Craig and Kathryn Hall) intend to cut down over 14,000 trees on the property to develop it into a new vineyard. Despite the Hall’s claim that over 97% of Walt Ranch burned, they were not required to determine how many trees survived both the Atlas Peak (2017) and LNU Complex (2020) wildfires. We know that many of these mature Oak trees did in fact survive only to face the chainsaw for this vineyard conversion project.
We are outraged that at a time of global climate crisis, the Halls still intend to continue on this path of destruction. The county has approved Walt’s Revised Mitigation plan to destroy more than 14,000 mature Oak trees and replace them with 33,580 Oak seedlings, but only 16,790 of them will be planted in protected areas. We feel that this is “fake mitigation” as science has demonstrated that planting 5,525 acorns resulted in the survival of only 936 Oak seedlings after 5 years. These surviving Oak seedlings, if they survive under current drought conditions, would only replace about one-half of the carbon sequestered by one mature Oak tree.
Our climate has changed significantly since the initial environmental studies were done for this project in 2008-2009. The loss of carbon sequestration resulting from demolition of more than 14,000 trees is irreversible. This is the wrong time and place for a project of this magnitude.
The final appeal hearing to consider whether the current mitigation plan is adequate is now scheduled before the Napa County Board of Supervisors on Dec. 14. There has been limited public notice about this hearing and it has been set on the same day as the Napa County’s Ground Water Sustainability Plan hearing. It is appalling that two major environmentally sensitive issues that affect the Napa Valley are being crammed into the same day for their final public hearings.
Many of my neighbors believe the Board of Supervisors have already decided to side with Hall Brambletree Associates and allow the Walt Ranch project to go forward without a responsible plan in place to offset the environmental degradation. I sincerely hope that’s not the case.
I hope our elected officials realize just how harmful the effects of climate change have been for Napa Valley and around the world. When we cut 14,000 trees, as this vineyard conversion project is proposing, we permanently take away a forest’s ability to store carbon.
I hope our supervisors understand that when it comes to our warming climate, we are at a tipping point. We must reverse course by permanently protecting the forests that remain in our beautiful valley. We must demand more of the developers who want to profit off our beautiful land. Let’s not turn a blind eye on Walt Ranch
We would like to request the Board of Supervisors to continue this hearing until after the holidays (at least 60 days) in order to allow enough time for all of us who wish to protest this action and submit public comment to do so.
We are asking residents to send an email or letter to the Napa County Board of Supervisors requesting that they continue this appeal at least 60 days to allow the public to meaningfully participate in the process.
Let them know that you oppose this projectThis is the wrong time and place for a project of this magnitude.
Replacing a mature Oak tree with two seedlings is Fake Mitigation and it is time for a meaningful mitigation policy when removal of our Oak Woodlands to replace them with vineyards is how this is handled in Napa County.
If you have any questions or concerns please contact either of us for further details on how you can help: email@example.com or carr4X4@gmail.com.
Sue Wagner and Lisa Hirayama