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Letter to Vineyard Owners

Dear Vineyard Owner,

Formation of the Town Hall Coalition

Vineyard development is growing rapidly in Sonoma County. The Town Hall Coalition (THC) was formed as a response to environmental destruction and public health impacts that have resulted from some vineyard development activities. The THC is a group of concerned Sonoma County citizens with a common desire to preserve environmental quality and public health as Sonoma County grows. The THC-organized communities focus on areas such as habitat preservation, water resources, toxics, and forestry. Many of these committees include professionals in these fields. The THC committees are available to assist you should you have any questions.

Why We Are Writing to You

The THC is writing to all individuals who may be planning to develop new vineyards in Sonoma County in an effort to avoid the errors made in the past by uniformed growers. The THC is also working with the grower community in Sonoma County to promote organic agriculture and encourage growers to use practices that provide the least damage to existing wildlife and native habitat. Even more desirable, growers use practices that provide the least damage to existing wildlife and native habitat. Even more desirable, growers would use practices that actually enhance these resources. Many of the environmentally progressive agricultural techniques discussed below are also included in The Vineyard Manual: A Grape Growers Manual for Vineyard Development and Maintenance published by the South Sonoma County Resource Conservation District in partnership with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. Following these best management practices is the surest way to avoid costly fines, bad publicity, and upset neighbors.

Suggested Best Management Vineyard Practices

Before developing your land, enlist the help of a professional naturalist to identify the native plants and animals that live on or travel through your land so that you can determine the habitat needs of these species. When you install fencing, make sure it is wildlife friendly so that animals can travel their accustomed routes to eat, drink, and care for their young. The simple act of using organic pest control rather than commercial pesticides and herbicides goes a long way toward preserving native plants and wildlife.

You can enhance the habitat and implement natural pest control by adding habitat features like nest boxes to attract owls, bats, bluebirds, and other animals that help keep the pest population in balance. Another important enhancement is to leave old trees standing; these trees provide nesting cavities for wildlife. Retaining the old and large trees on your property will ensure that there are nesting trees for hawks and owls. Wood and brush piles are also important wildlife habitat. You should be aware that the law protects many species of trees, for example, Valley Oaks. Make sure that you consult with the appropriate regulatory agency before cutting down any trees.

Water conservation techniques are constantly evolving. Organic agriculture offers much water conserving techniques. Whenever possible use recycled and treated water for irrigation. And be aware of how your well draw-down may affect neighboring landowners. You can assist in the preservation of endangered salmon, steelhead, and other aquatic species by preventing erosion and sediment-laden runoff from entering creeks, and by being careful not to disturb sensitive habitat in wetlands, forests, and waterways. You should be aware that any activity in a stream or creek requires a 1603 permit from the California Department of Fish and Game.

Available Resources

Enclosed you will find a list of agencies and non-profit organizations where you can find information about your rights and legal responsibilities and get advice about agricultural practices. Please call the Town Hall Coalition at 874-9110 if you know of other resources we can add to this contact list or if there is any way we can be of assistance.

An important resource not included in the current contact list is Sonoma County Grape Growers Association web-site: This site has valuable information at its Grower's Toolbox: Resources for Grape Growers. Here you will find detailed descriptions of cavity nesting birds, how they benefit grape growers by eating pests, and nest box building guides and plans. The Toolbox also includes Grower's Resources for the Vineyard Resource Guide to vineyard planning and development and Grape Growing Issues for regulatory considerations before buying land or planting a vineyard.


Town Hall Coalition Members:

Lorraine Bazan
Donald R. Frank
Christopher Stover
E. Ryder Sutton

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