Monday, April 16, 2012

From the Napa Valley Register, Letter to the Editor, Sunday, April 15, 2012

Each year with the arrival of spring we turn our attention to the promise of renewal; in our gardens and our vineyards. While we celebrate Earth Day each April, it is important for all of us in Napa County to look back to April of 1968 when the Napa Valley Agricultural Preserve, the first of its kind in America, was established.

The Agricultural Preserve is the cornerstone of what has nurtured and sustained our rural culture, natural scenic beauty and finds Napa County the last in the Bay Area to count agriculture as its primary industry.
From the original 26,000 acres, today there are more than 38,000 acres of valley floor preserved for agriculture as the highest and best use of this land. Additionally, the urban footprint of each of our communities was defined by the Agricultural Preserve more than four decades ago, thereby curtailing sprawl. This locally-established land use initiative is something in which all county residents can feel pride.
We work diligently to find solutions with stakeholders on a variety of issues year-round that have potential impact on the Agricultural Preserve. Today, our valley faces a new threat to the preserve, unlike any other experienced in its 44-year history — the potential federal restoration of the Mishewal Wappo Indians of Alexander Valley (Sonoma County). The Wappo are seeking sovereign nation status for land in Napa Valley and all the independent rights that brings with it, including not having to conform to agricultural zoning and the development of large scale casino gaming in Napa Valley.
Here at Napa Valley Vintners, the non-profit trade association representing the Napa Valley wine industry, maintaining the integrity of the Ag Preserve has been, and continues to be, a major objective of our association’s strategic plan as we champion the sustainability of our local wine industry, often called the “crown jewel” of American agriculture for obvious reasons. The Ag Preserve set the stage for the hundreds of thousands of acres now zoned Ag Watershed, our stringent hillside farming ordinance, and stream set-backs to ensure riparian stream and river health. Napa County now has the wine industry’s most comprehensive, stringent and leading sustainable farming and wine production certification programs known as Napa Green Certified Land and Napa Green Certified Winery.

Between Ag Preserve and Ag Watershed lands, 91 percent of Napa County is protected for open space and agriculture — and only 9 percent of the county is planted to grapes.
We look forward to bringing all of the Napa County community to the table to defeat this threat to agriculture, rural life, water resources, traffic and air quality and more. I hope you will stay informed and join together to keep premium agriculture, not large scale casino gambling, as Napa Valley’s American legacy.

Hugh Davies lives in Calistoga. He is past board president of the Napa Valley Vintners.

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