Posted on Categories Local OrganizationsTags Leave a comment on Environmental report card for local officials

Environmental report card for local officials

SONOMA VALLEY SUN

Sonoma City Councilmembers Laurie Gallian and Steve Barbose, along with Supervisor Susan Gorin, earned high grades from Sonoma County Conservation Action on its annual Environmental Report Card.

Each received a grade of A- for the period between the summer of 2012 and the fall of 2013.

“Assessment of the responsiveness and voting behavior of our elected officials between elections is a better gauge for the voting public to consider than a campaign flyer,” said Bill Kortum, SCCA board president.

via Evironmental report card for local officials | Sonoma Valley Sun.

SCCA Report Card

Posted on Categories Sustainable LivingTags , Leave a comment on As Sonoma County mulls plastic bag ban,court upholds SF ban law

As Sonoma County mulls plastic bag ban,court upholds SF ban law

Cody Kitaura (Editor), SONOMA VALLEY PATCH

A state appeals court has upheld a San Francisco law banning the use of non-compostable plastic bags at checkout stands in retail stores and grocery markets.

The 2012 law, an expansion of an earlier measure, prohibits most single-use plastic checkout bags and requires stores to charge 10 cents for paper or compostable plastic bags.

The ordinance was upheld Tuesday by a three-judge panel of the state Court of Appeal in San Francisco. The court ruled on a challenge by the Los-Angeles-based Save the Plastic Bag Coalition, a manufacturers’ association that has been battling plastic bag laws around the state.

Among other arguments, the coalition claims paper bags are a greater burden to the environment than their plastic counterparts.

Supporters of the bans contend the laws reduce litter, waste, pollution of waterways and harm to wildlife.

via As Sonoma County Mulls Plastic Bag Ban, Court Upholds SF Ban Law – Government – Sonoma Valley, CA Patch.

Posted on Categories Land Use, WildlifeTags , , Leave a comment on Wildlife corridor at risk in Sonoma Valley

Wildlife corridor at risk in Sonoma Valley

Enviro Updates
A state task force recommended on Friday that the Sonoma Developmental Center be downsized dramatically, putting into limbo the futures of the severely disabled long-term residents of the Center. The decision will also open the property to development, threatening a crucial wildlife corridor. A coalition of groups has formed to protect both the Center’s services and the environmental resources of the property.

At almost 1,000 acres, the Sonoma Developmental Center (SDC)
property is the largest and most significant unprotected land in the
Sonoma Valley. In addition to providing services for developmentally
disabled individuals, this property is situated at the heart of the
Sonoma Valley Wildlife Corridor, a crucial passage for wildlife that
extends over 5 miles from Sonoma Mountain to the Mayacamas
Mountains and is at risk of being developed.
Sonoma Developmental Center Coalition

Press Democrat: Major changes eyed for Sonoma Developmental Center

Posted on Categories Land Use, Local OrganizationsTags , , , Leave a comment on 1,000 acres added to Skaggs Island wetlands area

1,000 acres added to Skaggs Island wetlands area

Jamie Hansen, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

A key piece in the puzzle of restoring wetlands in San Pablo Bay slid into place Friday with the purchase of the 1,092-acre Haire ranch on Skaggs Island.

The Sonoma Land Trust coordinated the $8.3 million purchase, something it has been trying to do since 2010.

“I’m kind of pinching myself,” said Wendy Eliot, conservation director at the trust. She described the ranch as the “holy grail” of conservation projects. “It’s a big day.”

via 1,000 acres added to Skaggs Island wetlands area | The Press Democrat.

Posted on Categories WildlifeTags Leave a comment on Sonoma County's wild pigs a spreading problem

Sonoma County's wild pigs a spreading problem

Sean Scully, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Besides the coyote, what would you guess is the most problematic type of wildlife in California?

Mountain lions? Hawks? Bears? Landscape-munching, car-wrecking deer?

Wrong. Try pigs.

“They are a major problem in the county,” Sonoma County Agricultural Commissioner Tony Linegar said. “We deal a lot in agriculture with problem pig cases.”

In 2012, farmers and landowners asked for help from the commissioner’s two animal control agents almost 900 times: Coyotes accounted for 736 calls. Pigs came in second with 80 calls, more than twice the number of calls for all other animals combined, including mountain lions, bears, raccoons, and skunks.

via Sonoma County's wild pigs a spreading problem | The Press Democrat.

Posted on Categories Agriculture/Food System, Land UseTags , , Leave a comment on Vineyard expansion's likely to slow

Vineyard expansion's likely to slow

Cathy Bussewitz, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

As the largest wineries increase their vineyard holdings, industry veterans say future expansion of vineyards in Sonoma County may be minimal because there is little land left to plant.

The land that remains doesn’t have the water or the warmth to support premium vineyards, and regulations on hillside planting are strong enough to dissuade those who can’t afford to clear those hurdles, many say.

via Wine industry veterans see declining vineyard expansion | The Press Democrat.

Posted on Categories Agriculture/Food System, Land UseTags , , Leave a comment on Jackson, Gallo, Silverado drive vineyard expansion

Jackson, Gallo, Silverado drive vineyard expansion

Cathy Bussewitz, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

The top three owners of vineyard land in Sonoma County — Jackson Family Wines, E&J Gallo and Silverado Premium Properties — largely began their buying sprees in the 1980s, when vineyards cost half the price of what they sell for today.

Their demand for premium grapes would help drive up land prices as they targeted top vineyards and undeveloped land to plant new vines.

Today, the three companies own about 8,800 acres planted to grapes, according to a Press Democrat analysis of county property tax records. The vineyards, buildings and equipment on that land have an assessed value of $436 million, although the actual market value is likely far higher.

Their vision of the future — and their access to capital — drove an expansion that has helped turn Sonoma County into a global brand.

via Jackson, Gallo, Silverado drive vineyard expansion | The Press Democrat.

Posted on Categories Sonoma Coast, WildlifeTags Leave a comment on Close to Home: Farallon Islands ecosystem at risk

Close to Home: Farallon Islands ecosystem at risk

Richard Charter, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Looking westward from the Golden Gate out at the Farallon Islands, we’re often reminded that we are privileged here to proudly protect our lush ocean waters within one of America’s flagship national marine sanctuaries.

Amid this natural beauty, however, a new threat is emerging in which a multitude of wildlife species on these islands suddenly face an unforeseen jeopardy — the proposed aerial broadcast of 40 helicopter loads of what’s known as a “supertoxic” poison, in the form of the already-controversial rodenticide called brodifacoum. The broad ecosystem dangers posed by this new generation of persistent rodenticides to “non-target” species throughout the food chain are well known to scientists and veterinary caregivers, causing these chemicals to come under increasing regulatory scrutiny by both the Environmental Protection Agency and the California Department of Pesticide Regulation.

via Close to Home: Farallon Islands ecosystem at risk | The Press Democrat.

Posted on Categories Agriculture/Food System, Land UseTags , , Leave a comment on Vineyard owners shape environmental policy

Vineyard owners shape environmental policy

Cathy Bussewitz, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

The wine companies that dominate the vineyard landscape in Sonoma County frequently have played a weighty role in shaping public and environmental policies in the region.

As the industry amassed greater land holdings in the 1990s during a planting boom that nearly doubled the vineyard acreage in Sonoma County, regulators saw the need to tighten the rules on how farmers use the county’s land and water.

Growers from top companies like Rodney Strong Vineyards and Silverado Premium Properties were there every step of the way to shape the rules on how farmers use water from the Russian River and how vineyards are planted on hillsides.

via Vineyard owners shape environmental policy | The Press Democrat.

Posted on Categories Agriculture/Food System, Land UseTags , , Leave a comment on Big players dominate Sonoma County vineyard holdings

Big players dominate Sonoma County vineyard holdings

Cathy Bussewitz, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

How The Press Democrat researched Sonoma County vineyard ownership

Search the PD’s interactive map of Sonoma County vineyard owners

For two centuries, farmers have worked the vineyards in Sonoma County, blending soil, sunshine, science and sweat to produce grapes that are used to create some of the world’s top wines.

Today, there are 1,500 farmers who grow the county’s signature crop, selling their fruit to 550 local wineries or crushing it themselves to transform the juice into wines that are sold around the globe.

But increasingly, the county’s largest wineries, together with a small group of big growers, are taking control of the vineyards and the $400 million crop they yield each fall.

The top five vineyard owners in Sonoma County control nearly a fifth of the county’s grape supply, according to an analysis by The Press Democrat of county property tax records. The vineyards and winery assets on that land have an assessed value of more than a half-billion dollars, although the actual market value is likely much higher.

The two largest players, perennial rivals Jackson Family Wines and E&J Gallo, are locked in a virtual tie. Each owns about 3,200 acres, with Jackson Family Wines ahead by a mere 61 acres, including properties owned by affiliated companies, executives and family members. The vineyards, buildings and equipment on Jackson Family Wines’ land are valued at $251 million on county tax rolls, and Gallo’s is valued at $105 million, according to an analysis of county records.

Silverado Premium Properties, a Napa vineyard investment firm, is in third place, with nearly 2,400 acres of vineyards valued at $80 million, according to an analysis of county records.

The Sangiacomo family, a longtime grape-growing family in Sonoma, and Ferrari-Carano winery west of Healdsburg round out the top five. The two own a combined 2,300 acres of planted vineyards with an assessed value of $138 million.

In a region where much of the potential vineyard land has been planted, and what remains is considered ill-suited for vineyards or too environmentally sensitive to develop, these players have emerged as a dominant force in shaping the direction of the industry.

via Big players dominate Sonoma County vineyard holdings | The Press Democrat.