June 16, 2013
EDITOR: Kudos to Sierra Keller (“Closer look needed,” Letters, June 9) for calling on officials to subject forest-replacing vineyard developments to the same environmental oversight required of timber harvesters. The timber harvest plans mentioned must have a comprehensive environmental review overseen by the state Board of Forestry.
Though the board dutifully requires reviews for timber harvest operations, it has largely betrayed the intent of state environmental law when it comes to vineyard conversions. Normally, the board requires environmental review of vineyard projects only if they would cut traditional timber trees, such as redwood or fir.
A vineyard speculator is free then to raze entire forests without regard to environmental effects as long as only oak or other non-timber trees are cut. County ordinances, including Sonoma’s, add only negligible oversight as they ask developers to consider erosion risks exclusively.
Three no-brainer suggestions:
Regulators should require comprehensive environmental review of all large-scale tree cutting, no exceptions.
The Press Democrat should request notification from the county whenever a wildland-to-vineyard proposal is received (whether subject to state/county review or not) and publish these plans on its news pages.
Winemakers who source grapes exclusively from valley floor vineyards should advertise their products as “forest friendly.”