Bill Hocker | Apr 14, 2022
The Walt Ranch development has divided Napa County since it was publicly announced over eight years ago, pitting residents and environmentalists against developers and much, though not all, of the wine industry. It has engendered countless packed county meetings and protests, fueled two election campaigns, spawned a major watershed initiative and changes to conservation regulations, drawn several court cases, consumed vast quantities of time and money on the parts of opponents, developers and the county alike, generated press far outside the county's boundries, and brought a whif of corruption down upon the government. The increasing recognition in that period that climate change is not an abstraction but has very real impacts on residents and the wine industry alike, has only further highlighted the debate over continuing to convert hundreds of acres of carbon-storing oak woodlands into carbon-emitting vineyards.
The fires and drought we now experience should have made clear this reality: that the continued conversion of watersheds into water-consuming, GHG-generating vineyards and the continued conversion of vineyards into GHG-generating tourist attractions has become less important than the preservation of the environmental resources needed for a current economy to be sustained and even to survive.
The reality is that any individual project, including Walt Ranch, may have little impact on the rate of climate change. But every project that has modified the natural landscape for human use has combined to produce the existential threat we now face. It is up to you to seriously weight the benefit of an individual project against the collective inpact that an economy based on ever-expanding development creates. Here it means asking if the tons of GHG's emitted in creating this vineyard and the ongoing tons GHG's emitted to farm it are worth the additional profits a few more bottles of wine will bring. Perhaps to the Halls, but not to the rest of the world.
Few projects are worth the effort of an elected official to stand up for a long term, perhaps nebulous, benefit to humanity over the near term benefits of tax revenues or jobs. But this project, given the envirnomental issues it illustrates, given the amount of unspoiled Napa woodland it encompasses, given the division it has sewn in the community, and given its high profile beyond the county, is one project that can define how serious Napa County is in doing its part to confront the climate crisis we now face, just as state courts are doing elsewhere in even larger development projects.
The current GHG mitigation proposal that you are voting on, guarding a few trees from some unspecified and unforeseeable project in the far future, will do nothing to offset the thousands of metric tons of GHG's emitted by this project now and in the near future. I urge you to uphold the appeal and deny this proposal.
And I also urge you to find the courage, after this vote is taken, to recognize that eternal economic growth is no longer a viable goal and that the preservation and protection of our existing resources and environment must now become the highest and best use of the land.