Lawsuit Filed to Stop Clearcutting of Redwoods
for Sonoma County Vineyard
Conservation groups filed a lawsuit today challenging a controversial proposal by a Spanish corporation to clearcut 154 acres of redwood forest to plant wine grapes in northwestern Sonoma County. Press Release, June 7, 2012
Petition filed in Sonoma County Superior Court
We find legal fault with Codorniu/Artesa's "Fairfax" Conversion Project EIR on numerous grounds, including but not limited to its analysis of alternatives, water quality impacts, cultural resources, environmental setting, noise and greenhouse gases, and request the Court to set aside Cal-Fire's approval of the project and its timberland conversion permit, as well as certification of its EIR.
Opponents file lawsuits over Artesa vineyard project
"Three environmental groups sued the state and a Spanish wine conglomerate on Thursday over approval of a hotly disputed vineyard project in northwest Sonoma County."
June 7, 2012, Santa Rosa Press Democrat
A Giant Step
Friends of the Gualala River (FoGR) has taken a giant step to stop vineyard projects that clearcut the river's forest, and we need your help! This is your opportunity to make a difference right in your own "back yard."
Codorníu Napa's Artesa Vineyards & Winery plans to develop a 173-acre vineyard project ("Fairfax") near Annapolis in northwestern Sonoma County, five miles east of the Pacific Ocean, between Grasshopper Creek and the Wheatfield Fork of the Gualala River, clearcutting 154 acres of coastal redwood forest in the process.
The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) approved the project and certified the Final Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for Artesa Winery's "Fairfax Conversion Project" on May 8, 2012.
Clear-cutting redwood forest to plant a vineyard
The Environmental Impact Report (EIR) claims implausibly that the proposed project will have no significant, unmitigated adverse environmental or cultural impacts.
Artesa applied to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) to clearcut 154 acres of coastal redwood forest in Annapolis, California, and convert the timberland to vineyard. Artesa is owned by Spanish-based corporation Codorníu, S.A., one of the oldest and largest winemaking companies in the world.
This proposed conversion, which would be the largest to date in Sonoma County, threatens habitat for many species, including coho salmon and steelhead trout, and also threatens significant Native American cultural heritage sites.
The forestland at risk is located one half mile southeast of Annapolis, in the northwestern corner of Sonoma County. The land straddles a ridge; the southern portion drains to Patchett Creek, tributary to the Wheatfield Fork of the Gualala River, while the northern portion drains to Grasshopper Creek, then to Buckeye Creek, and finally into the Gualala River. Both Patchett Creek and Grasshopper Creek are "Class 1" (fish bearing) streams.
Salmon & Steelhead
The Gualala River was once a famous salmon stream prized by fishing enthusiasts. Today coho salmon are on the verge of extinction, and steelhead are threatened.
The Gualala River and its tributaries are listed as impaired by the US Environmental Protection Agency for excess sediment and high temperature under the provisions of the Clean Water Act. Excess sediment and high temperature are harmful to the once abundant but now officially endangered coho salmon and threatened steelhead trout.
In converting forestland to vineyard, clear cutting is followed by complete removal of vegetation and ripping of the soil to remove tree stumps and roots, resulting in total and permanent destruction of a complex forest ecosystem. The stripped land sends large quantities of sediment into the river and its tributaries. The vineyard which replaces the forest is a monoculture surrounded by fencing which fragments the former wildlife habitat.
According to experts who have reviewed the Artesa plan, the proposed conversion would result in increased sediment, increased water temperature, and decreased summer stream flows, all of which threaten the continued survival of salmonids in the affected streams.
Pesticides, fungicides, herbicides and fertilizers
Chemical intensive agricultural methods used by today's wine industry pose additional risks to the watershed. Herbicides, insecticides and fungicides expose species dependent on the river -- including humans -- to dangerous toxins. Organic alternatives exist, but are not widely employed.
Pesticide application on Annapolis vineyard
CAL FIRE maintains that Artesa will attempt to minimize the use of toxic agricultural chemicals, but there is a long list of toxics included in the project plan, and there are no enforceable mitigations on the risk to humans or other species, nor is there any monitoring of offsite transport of the chemicals either by drift from spraying or in groundwater.
Intensive irrigation of the vineyard and the building of a large reservoir reduce stream flow and could deplete the local aquifer. The EIR says that the reservoir planned by Artesa will be adequate to provide water for irrigation, and that no groundwater will be used for irrigation, even during drought. However, there is no permit condition to enforce a restriction on use of groundwater for irrigation, nor any monitoring to ensure that the project does not deplete groundwater or reduce summer base flows critical to the survival of coho & steelhead.
Domestic water supply
The EIR provide no evidence that proposed buffers around domestic water supplies adequately protect against contamination due to pesticide drift. The baseline condition is that no pesticides are applied to the areas near decades-old domestic water supplies.
Carbon sequestration / Greenhouse gases
Forests are one of this planet's greatest attributes in terms of sequestering carbon, and, consequently, any loss of forest is cause for serious concern. CAL FIRE has stated that, "One of the activities recognized as having adverse impacts to CO2 sequestration potential of California's forests is deforestation through conversion." However, the EIR fails to adequately address the impact of 154 acres of trees that will be clearcut and will no longer be sequestering carbon. This is a big deal, especially when considered in light of the many other conversions that have occurred or are occurring just in Sonoma County alone.
Redwood forest on the Artesa property in Annapolis, CA
Archaeological and cultural resource impacts
The plan disregards the expert archaeological and anthropological comments of Prof. Peter Schmidt of the University of Florida, concerning the eligibility of the site as an archaeological district for nomination to the National Register of Historic Places. The proposed conversion threatens key heritage sites that are critical to the cultural well-being of Native peoples.
The Tribal Council of the Kashia Band of Pomo Indians of the Stewarts Point Rancheria is on record as opposing the project because it threatens " ...our watershed, forests, sacred sites, and tribal archeological sites and cultural resources that are of cultural and religious significance to the Tribe."
For more information, see: "Erasing redwoods forests and Native American history?" by archeologist Peter Schmidt, PhD. and Pomo elders speak out about vineyards by Violet Parrish Chappell and Vivian Parrish Wilder.
Public opposition to the project has been intense and sustained. Over 92,000 people signed a petition opposing the Artesa and Preservation Ranch projects. Even more alarming for the Spanish corporation (Codorníu) promoting the project, over 37,000 Spaniards signed a petition asking Codorníu "not to destroy forests to produce their wines."
Friends of the Gualala River and supporters present the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors with an 18 foot long copy of a petition with over 90,000 signatures opposing the giant redwood forest destroying vineyard conversion projects, Preservation Ranch and Artesa Sonoma.
The local Kashia Band of Pomo Indians, whose ancestors have lived in the area since time immemorial, passed a strongly worded resolution opposing the project. Even the Starcross Monastic Community (located across the road from the Artesa property) which seeks a quiet, comtemplative life and avoids public controversy, felt compelled by Artesa's lack of response to voice their concerns publicly; Brother Tolbert McCarroll wrote an impassioned op ed piece in the Press Democrat, "What price one more bottle of wine?" ?
The Draft Environmental Impact Report was released in May, 2009; two sections (Cultural Resources and Climate Change) were revised and recirculated in March, 2011. Many experts submitted detailed, site-specific comments on the proposed project:
Comments on the Draft EIR
Comments on the Partially Recirculated Draft EIR
For additional information, see:
Issues summary: Artesa Annapolis forest conversion to vineyards
A short summary of some of the reason we are opposed to Artesa Vineyards & Winery's plan to clearcut redwood forest near Annapolis to plant grapes.
State approves Artesa forest-to-vineyard project in Annapolis
"State forestry officials... approved a controversial timber-to-vineyard conversion project in northwest Sonoma County, following through with a decision expected months ago."
May 8, 2012, Press Democrat
What price one more bottle of wine?
Recently, when I stepped out of our chapel, the sun had just risen. A piercing cry of a mountain lion came out of the redwood trees that may soon be cut down. Probably the lion was only looking for a mate, as his ancestors have been doing for centuries. But as our neighbor, a Kashia Pomo spiritual elder, said to me a few weeks back about a similar situation, "He is crying over the loss of his home."
Brother Tolbert McCarroll, Starcross Monastic Community
Artesa's Hired Gun
"Rarely has any North Coast wine industry entity received so much negative attention, this being an industry that carefully identifies itself with the trope of enlightened small farmers in bucolic settings living in harmony with the land."
May, 2012, Anderson Valley Advertiser
FoGR asks Codorniu to withdraw their proposal
Friends of the Gualala River again asks Codorniu of Barcelona, Spain, to withdraw its controversial Artesa Sonoma proposal to clear-cut ~150 acres of coastal redwood forest for new vineyards to produce wine grapes. April 2012, FoGR
Artesa: Clear-cut old growth redwood trees or destroying redwood forest?
Artesa wants to correct the supposed newspaper mis-statements that they plan to clear-cut old growth redwood trees, but we can't find ANY articles that say that. We're opposed to their plan to destroy redwood forest.
Stop Wineries from Destroying Redwoods
Protest at Board of Supervisors meeting
Friends of the Gualala River and supporters presented the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors with an 18 foot long copy of a petition with over 90,000 signatures opposing the giant redwood forest destroying vineyard conversion projects, Preservation Ranch and Artesa Winery / Annapolis.
Into the Woods
"Two proposed vineyard projects in remote areas of Sonoma County are drawing the ire of neighbors and environmentalists -- but can winegrapes preserve a redwood forest?" December, 2011, North Bay Biz
Codorníu's statement & our response
Following a tidal wave of negative publicity (over 125,000 signatures on petitions opposing their project), Codorníu issues a statement defending their project, and Friends of the Gualala River responds.
Artesa Vineyards & Winery
Artesa's Facebook page has a description of their vineyard "conversion" project in Annapolis, but it doesn't match what they say in their draft Environmental Impact Report.
Petition opposing destruction of redwood forests
Please encourage our elected officials to help us stop Codorníu's Artesa Napa Winery and Premier Pacific Vineyards from destroying coastal redwood forest and Native American heritage for financial gain. 92,000 signatures so far!
Read and sign the petition!
"Pídele a Codorníu que no destruya los bosques para producir sus vinos"
Ask Codorníu not to destroy forests to produce their wines
Over 37,000 people have signed a petition on Spanish website Actuable asking Codorníu [based in Spain] not to destroy redwood forest in Sonoma County to produce their wines. Read and sign the petition!
The Mendonoma Coast's Second Spanish Invasion
Spanish wine corporation Grupo Codorníu is accustomed to doing things in a big way. It is reputed to own a greater expanse of vineyard acreage than any wine company in Spain, which in turn has more land under grapevine cultivation than any nation in the world.
June, 2011, Anderson Valley Advertiser
Gualala vineyard conversions get national attention
June, 2011: "Plan to cut forest for vineyards faces opposition", an article by the Associated Press, appears in newspapers across the country, including the San Francisco Chronicle, Washington Post, Sacramento Bee, etc., as well as Salon, Huffington Post, Forbes and many others.
Coalition asks Spanish corporation to withdraw proposal to clear-cut coastal redwood forest for vineyards
Friends of the Gualala River has joined with 18 national, California, and regional environmental organizations in asking the international wine corporation, Codorníu of Barcelona, Spain, to withdraw its controversial proposal to destroy nearly 150 acres of coastal redwood forest by clear-cutting and converting the area for new vineyards to produce premier wine grapes.
Pomo heritage threatened
The Artesa vineyard project area is "very possibly the Kashaya Pomo village Kabatui" where "human remains may be present," and which contains rich archaeological areas that are eligible for listing in the National Registry of Historic Places.
Pomo elders speak out about vineyards
Where we used to live, no one can see anything now. It is time we open our mouths. Those vineyard people are interfering with our ancestors' area...
Erasing Native American history?
As an early morning mist filters through the Redwoods in the village of Annapolis in NW Sonoma County, a Pomo elder of the Kashia band walks through the forest toward an ancient settlement site...
Artesa ("Fairfax") vineyard conversion history
Information about the history of this proposed conversion.
River Facts | Forestry | Vineyards | Water Export