On October 4, 2017, environmental advocates Jim Wilson and Mike Hackett filed the Napa County Watershed and Oak Woodland Protection Initiative of 2018. The initiative has been filed for the June 2018 ballot.
As a result of a lengthy process, the Farm Bureau’s Board of Directors voted to oppose the initiative.
The initiative would:
Establish a 795 acre limit on removal of oak trees in the Ag Watershed, and require a County permit for further removal of oaks after the limit is reached, but only if one of a group of specified exemptions is met and agriculture is not an exception.
In the past weeks, the Napa County Farm Bureau’s staff and Board of Directors have engaged fully with this issue. The Farm Bureau’s Executive and Land Use Committee met with backers of the initiatives and our board completed due diligence through fact gathering and a process of multiple rounds of clarifications between Farm Bureau, the backers, and their legal counsel.
The initiative as currently filed appears to be a ban on agriculture in the Ag Watershed after the specified removal limit is reached. Oak removal within oak woodlands would be possible only through a County permit process needing certain exemptions to be met, and agricultural activities would not qualify.
We have actively negotiated with the backers in an attempt to address our concerns, proposing several changes along the way.
During its special meeting, the NCFB Board of Directors established a committee to include a broad group of stakeholders for the purpose of opposing the initiative as currently filed and communicating to the public the reality of stringent conservation practices already in place in Napa County.
We further remain concerned that this initiative was written without proper collaboration by other industry groups and without public input. In order to properly address an issue of this magnitude, it is imperative that the public and industry groups have an equal say in the process of developing such a proposal.
Governance by initiative should be a last resort when all other options have been exhausted. We remain disappointed that once the initiative was released, those not involved in their drafting were relegated to seeking clarifications rather than collaborating in a more thorough process.
This initiative has started a discussion that should be inclusive of a broad range of agricultural and conservation planning interests, and uphold the primary tenets of Napa County’s General Plan – to maintain its rural and agricultural character for the benefit and quality of life of Napa’s citizenry.
The Napa County Farm Bureau takes its responsibility to its membership very seriously. We stand ready to act in the best interests of our membership and the community at large to advance sound public policy that supports our mission of protecting the rich agricultural heritage and natural resources of Napa County.
To achieve this, we seek to collaborate with all interested stakeholders to achieve our goals of preserving the environment and protecting agriculture. We are confident that both goals can be achieved simultaneously.
In future communications and meetings of members and other stakeholders, Farm Bureau will specifically address the adverse effects that this initiative would have on our community.
As the Napa County General Plan states, agriculture is the highest and best use of the land. The citizens of Napa can be assured that the Farm Bureau is working tirelessly to protect and defend that mission and advance public policy that achieves broader community interests in safeguarding our environment and protecting our agricultural heritage.
To contact the Napa County Farm Bureau, please call (707) 224-5403 or email us.