Two large wineries in northern California are petitioning the state for the right to clear 2,000 acres of redwood trees. If the request is approved, it would be the largest woodland-to-vineyard conversion in California history, Sonoma County officials tell the Los Angeles Times. In exchange, the wineries promise to plant a million redwoods elsewhere, restore waterways, and donate 200 acres to a public park.
At first blush, this looks like a reasonable effort to balance commerce and the environment. However, there are three more factors that need to be considered.
First, there is a social consideration for the Pomo Native American Indians. The lands slated for clear-cutting includes a large heritage site, as reported by Friends of the Gualala River.
The zone in which the forest conversion is proposed by Artesa Winery (owned by the Spanish winery Codorniu, one of the largest corporate wineries in the world) was once densely populated by Pomo ancestors. We know this from early anthropological studies done by Barrett and Kroeber, both famous UC Berkeley anthropologists who studied the Pomo and other northern California Native Americans.Second, there is immediate concern for the land. As reported by the Sierra Club
Third, is the long term concern about loss of forest and its relation to climate change. A study out this month, as reported by Oregon State University
“Ecosystems are always changing at the landscape level, but normally the rate of change is too slow for humans to notice,” said Steven Running, the University of Montana Regents Professor and a co-author of the study. “Now the rate of change is fast enough we can see it.”The introduction to the study begins
Over the last three to four decades, forests throughout much of western North AmericaThis does not take into account forest loss due to clear cutting. From the discussion section of the study
have been subjected to disturbance at a scale well beyond that previously recorded over the last century (Raffa et al., 2008). Although some disturbances may be attributed to fire suppression policies, which have resulted in fuel accumulation and denser stands prone to insect attack (Coops et al., 2009a), climate change is more likely the cause, based on recent surveys and analyses of natural mortality caused by drought (Allen et al., 2010), bark beetles (Raffa et al., 2008; Bentz et al., 2010), needle blight (Woods et al., 2005), Swiss needle cast (Manter et al., 2005), a reduction in protective snow cover (Beier et al., 2008 ) and an increased frequency and intensity of wildfires (Westerling et al., 2006). Recent changes in climate are well documented in the Pacific Northwest Region of North America and the rates are predicted to accelerate (Mote et al. 2003;Mote and Salathe, 2010).
Because climatic warming trends are projected to continue under a range of greenhouse gas emission scenarios (IPCC, 2007), new equilibrium conditions may not soon occur (Thuiller 20 et al., 2008; Jackson et al., 2009). We would expect additional disturbance in those ecoregionsDisrupting the old-growth redwoods of the region is likely to be a recipe for long-term disaster.
with substantial subalpine zones and well as those where drought is becoming more frequent and intense. The exception is those ecoregions within the maritime influence of the Pacific
Ocean, which seem well buffered against climatic alterations that would favor replacement of the current mix of native tree species (Coops & Waring, 2011).
Thanks to ForceChange for the heads up.