In June, our voters will have an opportunity to vote on the Watershed and Oak Woodland Protection Initiative to enhance protection that will maintain the balance that is needed to protect our water resources here in Napa Valley.
The ballot initiative was developed collaboratively by a group of Napa area residents, interested in the long term sustainability of our water for agriculture, city residents and the health of our local ecosystem, along with key leaders from the Napa Valley Vintners (NVV), the leading wine trade organization with a world-presence.

During this effort, it was apparent that the forward-thinking leadership from the NVV was aware of the need for this realistic way forward for conserving shared precious natural resources while supporting a productive wine industry. The NVV believed that the citizens from the Napa Valley are very supportive of restoring a balance here and understand this can be done without undue burdens on property owners.

Unfortunately, under pressure from a vocal sub-set of NVV members who are benefitting from the status quo, the NVV board, which had recently voted unanimously to support, abruptly reversed course on the measure. This vocal minority at the NVV took the ill-advised move to oppose the same initiative they helped craft and pay for.

Let’s be clear here, though, many of Napa’s long-time leaders in the wine industry fully support this effort to conserve the water resource we so desperately need to protect for future generations. The trade organizations are showing a schism within their own membership and along with the voters here in Napa County, will wage a battle with resources not seen since the establishment of the Ag Preserve exactly 50 years ago.

The reality is that the oak woodlands that allow habitat to thrive on our rural hillsides and provide beautiful scenic views for residents and visitors alike, are threatened by over development of vineyards. We can’t allow special-interest developers to control too much of our Ag Watershed and Open Space designated land because of the services provided by these woodlands that feed and protect our small creeks and streams that replenish our groundwater and converge in the Napa River and our city’s reservoirs. As climate disruption continues, rural residents, city and town dwellers, winery owners and other farmers will become even more dependent on this water for survival.

The more trees that are removed for development, the more erosion our watershed suffers and the quality and quantity of our shared resource will have long term negative consequences for our water security. This initiative is aimed and preventing further clear-cutting of our oak woodlands. It allows agriculture to continue without disturbing our fragile natural eco-system. This measure is definitely pro- agriculture, pro- environment and pro-community and pro-climate. The sustainability of the Ag Preserve depends directly on a healthy and natural Ag Watershed.

In the next few weeks, the initiative will have over 7,000 citizen signature validated by the County later this week. Let’s all support and spread the word to our friends, families and contacts to vote for the Watershed and Oak Woodland Protection Initiative in June. The future of this treasure we call the Napa Valley is at stake.

Mike Hackett