Forests or vineyards? North Coast can’t decide
This is a tough call. Fine winemakers want to put Pinot Noir where redwoods and Douglas firs grow now, and environmentalists say No! You can’t rip out these wonderful trees for a farm crop.
I see both sides. Nobody more than I wants more great coastal Pinot Noir, and this area is right there in the Sonoma Coast AVA that produces such great wine. Can’t have too much of that.
On the other hand, our big trees are some of our greatest natural treasures. Anyone who lives in the Bay Area, even the innermost parts such as I do, is only a short drive away from pristine nature. You’ve all heard the bad stuff about Oakland, but within our city limits–a ten minute drive from my house–are hills and valleys as wild as they were before the white man invaded these parts.
Nobody of good conscience wants to see our wildlands destroyed. Yet that doesn’t mean not a single redwood tree or fir can ever be cut down. The area in question doesn’t include Old Growth redwoods, which would be protected. These are subsequent generation trees. There are young redwood trees across the street from where I live. I’d hate to see them cut down for any reason–but I’d hate to see any of the trees on my street cut down, whether they’re oak, magnolia or Doug fir. So I can’t see exempting redwoods from cutting down simply because of the name of their species.
This contentiousness between environmentalists and vineyardists is nothing new in California. I’ve reported for years on ongoing battles between (sometimes anonymous) defenders of the land against winery interests who want to terraform the hills and install vineyards. My instincts are usually with the wineries. I happen to think that vineyards are very beautiful things, and while they’re not “natural,” strictly speaking, they’re preferable to most any other kind of development. But, yes, it’s true that a wild, untouched landscape is the most beautiful of all.
There has to be a balance between preservation and development, which means that each side has to be willing to talk to the other and give a little. Lord knows, compromise is not popular these days. Just look at the BART situation in San Francisco and the protestors who want to shut down train stations because BART turned off their cell phone signals a week ago. I’m not taking sides in that one–but whenever both sides in a pitched battle become intransigent, things just get worse, and solutions fade away.
In this particular case, it seems nearly impossible to find a middle ground. One one side are Pomo Native Americans who are incensed that their tribal burial grounds and sacred spaces are being tampered with. On the other are the winery economic interests that, if successful, will bring much needed jobs and tax revenues to Sonoma County, which like most counties isn’t doing so well these days.
Like Rodney King once asked, Why can’t we all just get along?