Posted on Categories Land Use, Sustainable LivingTags , , Leave a comment on Apples to Grapes Protest in Sebastopol

Apples to Grapes Protest in Sebastopol

Shepherd Bliss, SONOMA COUNTY GAZETTE

Do not be deceived by the thin perimeter of a few live apple trees remaining next to Apple Blossom School and the five schools near 622 Watertrough Road in the Sebastopol countryside. A glorious, historic 40-acre orchard that nurtured people, wildlife, and the environment thrived there for many decades. Chain-sawed trees now languish on their sides with dying green apples, which will never ripen to red, cut down on June 14. Witnessing this slaughter is enough to make a grown man weep. 

Paul Hobbs Winery plans yet another chemical vineyard by this clear cutting. The orchard attack is only the first in a series of blows. The downed beauties will soon be burned or disposed of in some way. The soil–which tests indicate contains DDT, arsenic, and lead–will be ripped deeply, adding more waves of deadly drift to the schools, its students, teachers, staff, and visitors.

via Apples to Grapes Protest in Sebastopol.

Posted on Categories Sustainable LivingTags , Leave a comment on Growing the Granges

Growing the Granges

Connie Madden, SONOMA COUNTY GAZETTE
California once had vibrant granges, most with their own halls, but they had since disappeared in many towns.  In the past few years, Grange news is upbeat and, in Sonoma County, there are now a total of TWELVE granges, several new, all of them growing.  Nationally, The Grange is comprised of over 350,000 members holding over 100,000 general membership meetings, Pomona Grange gatherings and Junior Grange meetings.
The Grange is news again as it was since its inception in 1867, and during the 1930’s when Granges helped each other recover from the hard farming days of the Depression.
Knowing that local foods are more sustainable and usually more flavorful and vibrant than those requiring fossil fuels to ship them thousands of miles, and that recent “100 year” droughts and floods events are becoming longer and more harsh than ever in history, the time to build local sources for food security is right in line the Grange practice called “Patrons of Husbandry” and a more communal way of life has come around again.
via Growing the Granges.

Posted on Categories Sustainable LivingTags , Leave a comment on Farmers expand to meet demand for pasture-raised eggs

Farmers expand to meet demand for pasture-raised eggs

Robert Digitale, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

In 2008, when Don Gilardi heard that California voters might dictate the living conditions of laying hens, he began to take a keen interest in chickens. Gilardi, a Marin County rancher, concluded that the looming issue signaled consumers wanted a different approach to egg production. So he traded some of his sheep for hens and began selling eggs to Bay Area restaurants already buying his lamb.

That fall, voters overwhelmingly passed Proposition 2, which in 2015 will ban most existing chicken cages. About a year later, buyers from Whole Foods visited Gilardi to see if he would sell them eggs from the hens he raises a different way — not caged in warehouses but allowed to roam outside in pastures.

via Farmers expand to meet demand for pasture-raised eggs | Petaluma360.com | Petaluma Argus-Courier | Petaluma, CA.

Posted on Categories Climate Change & Energy, WildlifeTags , , Leave a comment on Large waste-to-fuel project hangs on federal subsidy renewal

Large waste-to-fuel project hangs on federal subsidy renewal

Jeff Quackenbush, NORTH BAY BUSINESS JOURNAL
A $40 million project near Charles M. Schulz-Sonoma County Airport that would convert agricultural waste such as chicken manure into natural gas, electricity and certified-organic fertilizer has run afoul of the 2013 expiration of a federal renewable-energy incentive said to be crucial to the economics of the venture.
The Sonoma County Farms to Fuel Project had a green light from local government to start construction, approval for $35 million in low-interest state bond financing, a $3.37 million state matching grant and a market for about half the estimated plant revenue. But the project has been on hold for months, after it became apparent it wouldn’t be finished and on line by the end of next year, the current sunset for a federal business energy investment tax credit equal to 30 percent of project costs for renewable-energy sources, according to John Martin, chief operating officer of Kansas-based BioStar Systems, LLC 913-438-3002, biostarsystems.com.
via Large waste-to-fuel project hangs on federal subsidy renewal – North Bay Business Journal – North San Francisco Bay Area, Sonoma, Marin, Napa counties – Archive.

Posted on Categories Water, WildlifeTags , , Leave a comment on Steelhead trout lose out when water is low in wine country

Steelhead trout lose out when water is low in wine country

by Sarah Yang, UC BERKELEY NEWS CENTER
The competition between farmers and fish for precious water in California is intensifying in wine country, suggests a new study by biologists at the University of California, Berkeley. Juvenile steelhead trout are hit hard when water levels are low.
The findings, published in the May issue of the journal Transactions of the American Fisheries Society, link higher death rates for threatened juvenile steelhead trout with low water levels in the summer and the amount of vineyard acreage upstream.
via Steelhead trout lose out when water is low in wine country.

Posted on Categories ForestsTags , , , Leave a comment on State OKs Artesa Vineyards forest-to-vineyard plan

State OKs Artesa Vineyards forest-to-vineyard plan

by Brett Wilkison, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

State forestry officials on Tuesday approved a controversial timber-to-vineyard conversion project in northwest Sonoma County, following through with a decision expected months ago.

The decision on what is considered the largest timber-to-vineyard project in state history clears the most significant regulatory hurdle facing Artesa Vineyards and Winery.

State OKs forest-to-vineyard plan in Sonoma County | PressDemocrat.com.

Posted on Categories ForestsTags , , , Leave a comment on Draft rules out on hillside vineyard tree removal in Sonoma County

Draft rules out on hillside vineyard tree removal in Sonoma County

by Kevin McCallum, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Sonoma County grape growers aiming to convert forested hillsides with neat rows of vineyards will have to prove their projects won’t damage local waterways under draft regulations released Thursday.
The new rules, proposed by Sonoma County Agricultural Commissioner Tony Linegar, would prohibit tree removal on the steepest of slopes, keep vineyards 50 to 100 feet away from unstable hillsides, and require three years of follow-up to ensure the regulations are effective.
“The ultimate goal of these standards is to protect water quality,” Linegar said.
via Draft rules out on hillside vineyard tree removal in Sonoma County | Petaluma360.

Posted on Categories Forests, Land Use, Water, WildlifeTags , , , , , Leave a comment on Fall of the redwood empire

Fall of the redwood empire

Alastair Bland, NORTH BAY BOHEMIAN

Clearcutting for vineyards is nothing new in wine country. Can it be stopped?

This past Oct. 11, in a rare instance of a local politician speaking out publicly against a member of the North Bay’s influential winemaking community, Sonoma County supervisor Efren Carrillo lambasted winemaker Paul Hobbs for uprooting hundreds of trees in Sebastopol and adding one more open wound to a Russian River watershed already impacted by erosion and sediment.

Carrillo called Hobbs "one bad apple," and noted that the globally renowned maker of high-end wines hadn’t bothered to acquire a permit to remove the trees, part of the old Davis Christmas Tree farm, which Hobbs is planning to buy and convert to vines. It was one of three instances this year in which Hobbs has cut down trees to the dismay of onlookers; he leveled 10 acres in Pocket Canyon just east of Guerneville, and eight acres of redwood trees along Highway 116 on land acquired in a court settlement from his neighbor John Jenkel.

"Paul Hobbs has shown a blatant disregard for Sonoma County, its resources, his fellow vintners and community sentiment," Carrillo declared in his editorial, printed in the Sonoma County Gazette.

But local environmentalists feel Carrillo’s outburst needs to be echoed a hundred times over. To Jim Doerksen, who has lived in the Mayacamas Mountains for 44 years and has watched local streams sucked dry as wineries near his property have been built, Carrillo’s words on Hobbs only amplify the silence that nearly all officials have kept toward the local wine industry through years of alleged environmental abuse.

"Efren said Hobbs is ‘one bad apple,’" Doerksen says, "but all we have are bad apples."

Doerksen points straight to his neighbors, whom he charges with illegally cutting down about 60 acres of conifers to plant vineyards. This activity, along with overuse of the area’s groundwater, has virtually destroyed Mark West Creek, a story covered in January in the Bohemian.

via Fall of the Redwood Empire | Features | North Bay Bohemian.

Posted on Categories Land Use, WaterTags , , Leave a comment on How wine rules

How wine rules

Darwin Bond-Graham and Will Parrish, ANDERSON VALLEY ADVERTISER

If you’ve followed the Anderson Valley Advertiser for any length of time, you’re no doubt aware that the wine industry wields inordinate political power, not only here on the North Coast, but at the state-wide level also. Whether they’re fighting to prevent regulation of their enormous appetite for water, or greasing the political gears for a big forest-to-vineyard conversion, the wine industry’s major players are deeply involved in politics. As case after case has shown, the wine industry tends to get its way with respect to water, zoning, labor laws, subsidies, and more. But what is it, specifically, that makes the grape-based booze industry so powerful?

For one thing, there’s the cultural stature of the beverage itself. To appreciate fine wine is to signify membership in a learned, privileged order. No other luxury item is as capable of serving as an expression of ruling class solidarity as premium wine. And, it should be noted — if only for the purposes of this particular article – that California’s ruling class certainly includes most of its elected officials and many of its would-be regulators.

Every bit as important is the fact that the wine business has become a juggernaut of free market capitalism (although underwritten partly by taxpayers, as per the socialism-for-the-rich structure of the larger economy). The California wine industry annually reaps about $20 billion in revenue, much of it through exports to Europe, Canada, and Asia. The industry has become so profitable that most of the North Coast’s officials, from county supervisors to members of Congress have internalized the notion that, perforce, their role is to do virtually everything they can to facilitate the industry’s continued growth.

That’s especially the case owing to the wine industry’s thorough integration with Northern California’s all-important real estate sector. More than any other artifact or image, it is the vineyard and wine glass that have come to epitomize the “good life” of Northern California for a global market of real estate investors, vacation-takers, and home buyers. Crushed grapes and autumnal vineyards became a symbol, and an important economic component, of the region’s land boom in the 1990s and 2000s. The grape-alcohol plantations, fetishized as “family estates,” or “small farm vineyards” served, through a peculiar symbiosis, to both “preserve” the pastoral countryside, while simultaneously increasing land values, thereby creating a market for both McMansions and tract housing, and all the attendant gentrification and sprawl that was the basis of economic growth between San Francisco and the Oregon border until 2008.

via How Wine Rules | Anderson Valley Advertiser.

Posted on Categories Land Use, Water, WildlifeTags , , , , Leave a comment on The wrath of grapes

The wrath of grapes

Alastair Bland, NORTH BAY BOHEMIAN

How a Goldman Sachs executive is helping to kill Mark West Creek— and what the county isn’t doing about it

For decades, Sonoma County’s wine industry has been thriving. The county’s salmon and steelhead, meanwhile, are vanishing, and some fisheries biologists, attorneys and conservationists assure that the wine industry’s gain is the Russian River’s loss.

To Patrick Higgins, the story boils down to a one-line synopsis: "The county is trading fish for wine." Higgins is a private-practice fisheries biologist in Arcata. Among his ongoing battles to save the North Coast’s struggling fish species, including federally endangered coho salmon and steelhead trout, is the fight for Mark West Creek.

Though many streams naturally dry up during the arid summers of Sonoma County, this small tributary of the Russian River historically has not. Mark West Creek was once the main spawning stream for the steelhead and coho salmon that made the Russian River famous.

But lately, Mark West and its feeder streams have been running dry, according to residents who live nearby. Jim Doerksen, who has lived within sight of Mark West Creek for 43 years, has been measuring its flow levels since 2005 after visibly dwindling water levels spurred concern. Between 2006 and 2009, he says, its flows almost entirely vanished each summer. In 2008, Doerksen measured what might have been the lowest flow ever recorded in Mark West Creek, a volume of six one-hundredths of a cubic foot per second.

via The Wrath of Grapes | Culture | North Bay Bohemian.