For Immediate Release, October 25, 2021

Contact:

Ross Middlemiss, (707) 599-2743, rmiddlemiss@biologicaldiversity.org

Appeal Challenges Weak Climate Plan for Harmful Napa Vineyard Project

NAPA COUNTY, Calif.— The Center for Biological Diversity filed an appeal today challenging a mitigation plan that fails to address the climate harms of a massive vineyard project near Napa. The appeal to the Napa County Board of Supervisors outlines steps to improve mitigation for the destruction of more than 14,000 trees for the Walt Ranch development.

“Napa residents facing the consequences of a severe drought and recent wildfires don’t have to be reminded that they’re living in the midst of a climate crisis,” said Ross Middlemiss, an attorney at the Center. “Chopping down so many carbon-sequestering trees at Walt Ranch without a responsible plan in place would be foolish, and it’ll contribute to a worsening emergency that spells disaster for the entire valley.”

Today’s challenge asserts that the mitigation plan, which received county administrative approval, does not comply with the California Environmental Quality Act. The appeal details the county’s flawed approach that allows the project proponent to preserve fewer existing woodlands in exchange for a planting program that is vague and unsupported by science.

It also points out that the proposal creates confusion over where seedlings will be planted, lacks sufficient information about the current conditions of those areas, and doesn’t detail how the county plans to ensure the mitigation plantings will be successful.

To better address the greenhouse gas emissions caused by the project, the county is urged to approve a plan that prioritizes preservation of existing habitats, requires planting new trees only in historic oak woodland areas and caring for and monitoring the trees to ensure a survival rate of no less than 80% after at least seven years. Today’s appeal points out that the plan must also clearly identify contiguous areas that are vulnerable to development and will be permanently protected.

“There are reasonable steps Napa supervisors can take to make sure this project is built in a way that causes the least harm,” Middlemiss said. “We don’t want to be standing here five years from now looking at a handful of struggling trees near a once thriving forest.”

The Walt Ranch project was first approved in 2016 but the Center and Sierra Club challenged the county’s decision, citing violation of state environmental laws. A state appeals court later ruled that the project did not have an adequate plan to offset the climate harms of cutting down thousands of trees to make way for vineyards.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.