Celebrating the Board of Supervisors’ Decision
by Laurie Claudon, Clark-Claudon Vineyards
When the Napa Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 to uphold an appeal brought by the Center for Biological Diversity, it was the first time that a vineyard was denied due to environmental and natural resource concerns. The three women on the Board of supervisors, Anne Cottrell, Joelle Gallagher, and Belia Ramos, had done their homework and they asked intelligent, clarifying questions. The appeal had nothing to do with anti-agriculture sentiments as the attorney for the applicant claimed. Rather, it was about the wrong vineyard at the wrong time.
No one would support a project that potentially jeopardized their own quantity and quality of drinking water. Yet this proposed project, situated in the Conn Creek headwaters which flow into Lake Hennessey, thus providing the drinking water for the city of Napa, would do just that. The supervisors’ decision was not pro- or anti-agriculture. It was pro-water, pro-essential biodiversity, and pro-community.
Many of us who supported the appeal are grape growers and environmentalists. Yes, it is possible to be both. We are seasoned, experienced farmers who recognize an ill-advised vineyard project when we see it. We are all aware of infamous vineyard failures that caused extreme damage. In each case negative press followed that for a time affected the general reputation of Napa Valley growers. Yet, it was the environment and all who were physically impacted by the failure who suffered the long-term consequences.
Consequently, I support stopping ill-advised projects before the community, our leaders, the environment, and the wine growing community must deal with the negative impacts of a project that was just wrong from its beginnings. We growers understand that best vineyard practices are based on science, experience, shared information, and good judgement. Without these elements, Napa Valley would not be one of the premier grape growing regions in the world.
When phylloxera hit Napa Valley, destroying vineyard after vineyard, grape growers didn’t close their eyes, pretend it wasn’t there and fight among themselves about how to react. Rather, the legends from that time, stepped up with urgency. They studied, shared information, and acted based on science. The Napa Valley of today and largely across the world, is the result of their extraordinary efforts.
To maintain that excellence, we can’t just take it for granted. Now, like then, we must open our eyes, face the facts and act with urgency. The “phylloxera” of our time is climate change and decreasing natural resources. Sticking with the status quo is a sad plan for addressing this challenge.
So today, I am celebrating the courage of our three brave supervisors, Anne Cottrell, Joelle Gallagher and Belia Ramos who voted in favor of the Le Colline appeal. Their decision bodes well for the community, the environment and the continued excellence of grape growing in the Napa Valley.