grape growers argue over conversion regulations
April 22, 2005
By SPENCER SOPER
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
squared off with grape growers Thursday over proposed
regulations that could make it more difficult to convert redwood
Douglas fir forests in Sonoma County to vineyards and other
debate played out in a four-hour hearing of the Sonoma County
Planning Commission that drew about 50 people, including
environmentalists with green paper trees taped to their shirts.
public wants our Redwood Empire forests to remain forests,"
Margaret Pennington, chairwoman of the local chapter of the
who delivered 1,000 postcards to the Planning Commission supporting
some farmers and property owners said state laws already provide
adequate protection for the county's timberlands and new regulations
would infringe on their property rights.
am concerned about the erosion of my ability to farm my land,"
Nick Peay, a grape grower who owns 280acres in Annapolis.
Planning Commission did not take action and continued the matter
May 12. County supervisors, who have the ultimate say on the
scheduled to discuss it this summer.
county is considering a pioneering ordinance to discourage the
conversion of timberlands to other uses, which are ordinarily
by the state Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
make up about one-fourth of the county, or 230,000 acres.
Since 1989, the department of forestry has approved 22 timber
conversions in Sonoma County that have eliminated less of 1,000
woodlands, or less than 0.5 percent of the county's overall
of the conversions were for vineyards in the northwest corner
the county, raising concerns from environmentalists about erosion
degradation of watersheds critical to endangered fish.
proposed regulations follow the sale of 19,000 acres of coastal
hills near Annapolis to Napa-based Premier Pacific Vineyards,
intends to turn 1,900 acres of timberland into vineyards while
restocking the rest of the property that has been logged.
Thompson, a manager with the proposed Preservation Ranch project,
said allowing the conversion of 10 percent of the property will
extensive forest restoration on the remaining 90 percent.
Spaulding, an attorney representing Preservation Ranch, said
of the proposed regulations would conflict with state law that
department of forestry jurisdiction over timber conversions.
county has identified several options to regulate conversions,
including banning them altogether or imposing a "no net
loss" rule that
would require a timber conversion applicant to restock denuded
environmentalists questioned the validity of that option, saying
saplings planted to replace mature trees would take 50 to 70
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