Esther Mobley, SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE
…the valley floor was planted to capacity long ago. The only land still available to plant is on the hillsides — essentially, in the agricultural watershed, the area that concerns Measure C.
Fifty years ago Monday, Napa County passed an ordinance that has defined the course of its history and, one could argue, determined the history of California wine.
The Napa Valley Agricultural Preserve, passed by the Board of Supervisors on April 9, 1968, resolved to protect the valley’s most precious resource: land.
Here, land holds an extraordinary potential for producing fine wine grapes, and Napa residents wanted to protect it from strip malls and subdivisions. Agriculture, which in Napa means viticulture, was declared the “highest and best use” of this unique, unmatched slice of earth.
Now, a half century later, Napa has arrived at another turning point, this time with a June ballot initiative that could alter the course of its history again.
Measure C, the Watershed and Oak Woodland Protection Initiative, on a mail-in ballot to be tallied June 5, seeks to curb further vineyard development to preserve the streams, oak trees and natural habitats on the Napa Valley hillsides. It’s a proposal that has bitterly divided the valley.
Its supporters, led by local environmentalists Mike Hackett and Jim Wilson, believe that after 50 years of unbridled success, the profit-hungry wine industry has brutally exploited the landscape. In the name of growing grapes, too many trees have been cut down, too much water contaminated. Measure C would mandate that vineyards have larger setbacks from streams and would set a hard limit on further deforestation.