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News from the Redwood Empire
February 2000

The mission of the Town Hall Coalition is to build a social movement that promotes ecologically and economically healthy communities through responsible land use; conserving, protecting and restoring our watersheds, forests and natural habitats, and supporting sustainable and diverse agriculture.

It continues to be a busy winter for the Town Hall Coalition. We know that THC's growing influence is helping to make change happen. We successfully helped sponsor the first Sonoma Town Hall Coalition meeting in January, in Sonoma, our fourth successful forum in four months. Over 350 people attended. Moderated by Dave Henson of the Occidental Arts and Ecology Center, our panel of speakers included Jerry Bernhaut of the Sonoma THC, Lynn Hamilton, Allan Buckmann of the county Fish and Game Department, Ed Wilson, water rights attorney, and Patti Clary, of CATs.

During the open microphone portion of the meeting, numerous representatives of the agriculture community (grape growers, both conventional and organic) were able to speak and voice their concerns, disagreements and questions for the first time. It was a fine, lively and respectful forum for the community's shared voice of concern. The Sonoma Valley Vintner's & Growers Alliance (possibly inspired by THC) held a community meeting on Vineyard development issues on February 22nd, inviting Jerry Bernhaut of the Sonoma THC to be on their panel. A number of our Occidental THC members spoke at that event.

March Calendar of Meetings

w March 2, the Penngrove Area Plan Advisory Committee will hold it's first Town Hall Meeting.
w March 9, at 6:30 p.m. the Russian River Town Hall Meeting will be held in the Veteran's Auditorium, First St. in Guerneville to discuss the proposed 30-year Russian River Redevelopment Plan, community impact issues and concerns.
w We are helping the Healdsburg Alliance of Responsible Citizens (HARC) to plan a meeting in the late spring.
w The next Occidental Town Hall meeting is currently under discussion. Stay tuned!

Good News

Congratulations to the members of the agricultural community who are taking steps to comply with sustainable agricultural standards. Kendall-Jackson recently announced that they will no longer use methyl bromide or cut down forests to plant vineyards. The Sonoma County Grapegrowers Association received a grant to study the use of alternatives to pesticides in vineyards. A landowner in Forestville was recently convinced not to convert 2.99 acres of ridge top Douglas fir and large madrone to grapes. Talk about good neighbors!


The owners of the Bohemia Ranch are taking steps to convert up to 100 acres of the ranch to vineyard. This is an extremely environmentally sensitive 960-acre ranch. Please contact the THC office if you would like to join in strategy and action regarding this issue.

THC Takes Action

The THC Office continues to take calls and document complaints from the community regarding water problems, habitat destruction, toxics exposures and the like, due to vineyard development. We will fax, and call these concerns to the appropriate county and state agencies and assist in helping the voice of the community be truly heard, documented, and followed up on. Our actions have prompted investigations by not only county agencies, but also the local newspapers, particularly the Press Democrat. PLEASE CALL US WITH YOUR OBSERVATIONS, CONCERNS AND COMPLAINTS, including an address and/or AP number. We find that it gets much faster results. While it is best to use names when we report complaints, we will do our best to preserve your anonymity if you so request.

w In our continued response as a coalition to the Vineyard Erosion and Sedimentation Control Ordinance, we made a fine showing at the Board of Supervisors meeting on Feb 1st, during which a severely compromised ordinance was enacted. Brock Dolman, THC Core Group member made a rousing presentation in a full salmon suit, reminding the Supes of the loss that has occurred in our watersheds. Kimberly Burr, attorney and THC member, made a strong presentation of the Town Hall position, noting that the ordinance doesn't come close to reviewing the broader needs of the entire watershed community. Please take a look at our website to read their full statements.

The Citizen Actions Groups of THC have been very busy. Many many thanks to the dedicated and passionate people continuing to volunteer their precious time and energy. The groups can all use even more volunteers, including the THC office! Please call the THC office if you are interested. The groups meet once or twice a month. Here are brief summaries from the Citizen Action Groups:


In conjunction with the Sonoma County Surf Rider Chapter, has completed numerous well testings of quantity and re-charge, in response to calls from property owners worried as vineyards go in next door. We'll teach you how to log your well, and document your water rights. They are working with Supervisor Mike Reilly on the proposed ground water ordinance for Sonoma County. The committee met with the Well Drillers association recently in the on- going investigative efforts regarding this issue.


In addition to the work with the Water group, the legal committee now has a legal defense fund, which will be available to help our community in appropriate situations.


Keeps a close watch on Timber Harvest Plans - (copies of THPs are available at the THC office), Bohemia Ranch, CYO, Togneri and others. Members address concerns to the Department of Forestry, attend hearings, and seek to develop strategies to mitigate or defeat destructive timber operations. In addition, they have identified many concerns for possible future action.


Is working to promote public eco-literacy, preserve habitat for plants and animals, and monitor vineyard development in order to prevent habitat degradation and loss. They are developing content for a THC habitat brochure and two-page handouts on subjects like Habitat Laws and Regulations, Wildlife Corridors and Wildlife Friendly Fencing, Habitat Friendly Plants, "So You're thinking of Buying Property in Sonoma County" which we will distribute to vineyard managers, real estate agents, new rural home owners as well as the general public. A longer-term project involves gathering technical information from various agencies and overlaying it on GIS maps to show where habitat loss is occurring and what plants/animals are endangered.

Toxics/Organics and Winery Safety

Has received a small grant to develop a brochure. The brochure will provide real suggestions on how to reduce pesticides and toxins in the home and garden. It will also include resources and phone numbers you can use if you see or are exposed to potential problems. In addition, it will discuss safety issues for field and winery workers who do the real work and are most often at risk. We have come to find out that smaller wineries are not required to comply with OSHA on confined space training, signage or any written documented safety training. If we are to form alliances with vineyards for environmentally friendly wines, we must also implement proper protection for our winery workers. The brochure will have an insert listing all of the organic and biodynamic vineyards in Sonoma County.


Is pleased to announce the long-awaited raffle drawing for the three original pieces of artwork by Sonoma County Artists, will be held on March
18th, at a Core Group Citizen Action group meeting. You do not need to be present to win. There is still time to buy tickets!! You can purchase them directly from the THC office, or QuickSilver Mining Co. in Sebastopol.

What Else You Can Do

w Support 3rd District Supervisor candidate Noreen Evans. Even if you can't vote for her, you can help in this extremely important campaign. She supports the ideals and goals of the Town Hall, and is the best environmental candidate. You can call Noreen's office at: 578-3101, and also join us in walking precincts in Rohnert Park Sat March 4th and Sunday the 5th.

w Support the Rural Heritage Initiative: this initiative will prevent urban sprawl on about 80% of the County's land area by implementing the "city and community-centered growth" policy of the General Plan. It will require, with limited exceptions, a vote of the people for changes to the County General Plan Agricultural or Resources and Rural Development land use designations until the year 2031. Signature gathering campaign is underway. For more info or to help out call 575-3661 or 869-5616.


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Town Hall Coalition
6741 Sebastopol Ave. Ste. 140 Sebastopol California 95472
T: 707-824-4371 / F: 707-824-4372