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What's really "highest and best?"

What's really "highest and best?"

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As a California Farm Bureau Member for 44 years (13 of which were in hands-on year-round production agriculture), I must take exception to the misleading representations made by the opponents of Measure C, the Watershed and Oak Woodland Protection Initiative.

The Farm Bureau’s mantra may be that “agriculture is the highest and best use of the land,” but that’s in the context of it being preferable to paving it over for development, not for ripping out riparian and hillside habitat for conversion to vineyards.

The actual “highest and best use” is for land to be kept in its natural state; however, that’s simply not universally practical in a modern, industrialized society. Hence, a balance must be struck at some time. I believe that balance here in the Napa Valley was reached some years ago, and is now clearly in jeopardy of reaching the point of no return.

When the Farm Bureau and its allied wine and hospitality industry partners use the “highest and best use” language, they are talking about vineyard and winery development - period. Never mind the historical agricultural uses of much of the Valley’s land, such as grains, vegetables and orchards. Never mind that the once-prevalent use of grazing on hillsides (“fuel management" in current wildfire-speak) greatly aided in the minimization of devastating conflagrations such as those of last October.

There is no disputing the vast sums that the initiative’s opponents have raised for, and donated to, worthy charities - but that’s just one component of the cost of doing business, namely, good PR.

If you follow the money, whether in corporate, individual or politicians' pockets or county coffers, it’s obvious how we’ve arrived at this juncture. The ever-rapacious opponents of the initiative cite the county General Plan as allowing for thousands of additional acres for vineyards and millions of gallons more wine.

“Plenty of room for growth,” say the developers, planners and their all-too-willing accomplices in local government. But those are just words on paper, drafted only with economics in mind. Words can be changed, as can elected officials, but watershed destruction may take centuries to repair.

And what happens to our lovely, slowly disappearing forested hillsides? They not not only give the Valley its beauty, but provide such crucial environmental benefits as sustainable, high-quality water supplies, preservation and enhancement of a myriad species and carbon sequestration.

This initiative is but one step in an effort to halt the ecological decimation of our watersheds, which, if left unchecked, will severely impact us all by “the death of a thousand cuts.” Voters should not be beguiled by the siren song of the initiative’s opponents, i.e., “We are truly stewards of the land - you can trust us.”

Vote 'yes' on Measure C.

Gordon Evans


Pop the cork on Napa Valley wine!

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