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Napa Measure C: Ecological health vs. grape cultivation

Stan Shebs
Wikimedia Commons


Fifty years ago, Napa Valley winemakers and community members wanted to protect the valley from housing and commercial development.

They declared agriculture — which in Napa Valley basically means grapes — the “highest and best use” of the land.

This paved way for the growth of the wine industry that currently coats the valley floor, and the tens of billions in profit the valley churns out each year.

But now some winemakers and environmentalists feel Napa Valley has reached its limit.

There isn’t any space to expand, so winemakers have to get creative — and plant new vines on the valley’s hillsides.

These hillsides are covered with dense oak woodlands that help replenish and filter groundwater. Proponents of Measure C say that if we don’t preserve the streams and oak trees we eventually won’t even have a Napa Valley.

So they’re going to the ballot box for a solution.

Measure C is called the the Watershed and Oak Woodland Protection Initiative. It puts a cap on the amount of oak trees that can be removed from the Napa Valley hillsides.

Once that quota has been met, landowners will have to apply for a permit to cut down additional trees. And for every tree cut down, landowners would have to plant three more elsewhere. The Measure also creates a buffer zone around streams where no trees of any type can be removed.


The Yes on C campaign has raised over $160,000. Supporters include local environmentalists and prominent winemakers.


But the “no” campaign has just as many big wine-industry names, and the backing of the Napa Valley Vintner’s Association.

They plan to raise close to $1 million to defeat the measure. They think there are already too many environmental regulations in Napa, that the science behind the quotas is flawed, and that these limits will harm the industry — making it nearly impossible for the Valley to grow and thrive.


So, if you want to set limits on the ways wineries in Napa can expand, vote yes. If you don’t want these restrictions, vote no.



Angela Johnston is the Senior Producer of Uncuffed and an editor in the KALW newsroom. She holds a Master’s degree in journalism and graduated from KALW’s Audio Academy program. She’s worked for KALW in numerous roles - from the deputy news director, to the health and environment reporter, and she's covered everything from lead poisoning to climate change. Her work has aired on KALW, KQED, Reveal, and The Pulse. She also freelances as a producer and editor for Cosmic Standard and AFAR Media. Outside of work, she loves to swim in the bay, surf small waves on her longboard, read, backpack, cook, and garden.