Napa Valley, a world-famous symbol of American excellence in wine, is threatened by too much of a good thing. Ever-increasing wine production has inflicted damage on the region’s economy and ecology.  The industrialization of Napa has resulted in the loss of 95 percent of the oak trees that once covered the valley, and now locals are organizing to protect the area.

Grapevines in Napa Valley

“With great success came great money and outsiders,” Napa expert and journalist James Conaway told the Guardian. Only a few decades ago, the region was home to fruit orchards and livestock farms as well as vineyards. “Now it’s monoculture with a vengeance,” said Conaway. “Hundreds of miles of steel trellising holding up the vines from one end of the valley to the next. It has an industrial sheen.”

Napa County contains California‘s densest concentration of oak forests, a source of pride for residents that provides invaluable ecological services to the living things that call Napa home. The oak trees sequester carbon, capture rainwater and prevent erosion through their thick roots. The majority of Napa’s oak trees are found in the surrounding hills. However, one-third of the remaining oaks are standing on what is considered to be potential agricultural land.

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In response to the rapid expansion of the area’s wine industry, local residents have organized around Measure C, an upcoming ballot initiative that would guarantee protection to much of the remaining oak woodland. While the measure would limit the potential growth of the wine industry, those in favor of it say that they are motivated not by opposition to the wineries, but by an understanding that the valley needs sustainable growth.

“Something’s very wrong with the way we are thinking about our resources,” said Warren Winiarski, whose Napa cabernet sauvignon won an upset 1976 taste test victory in Paris and put Napa on the map. “They are finite. And yet we go on with development as though we could do that indefinitely.”

Via The Guardian

Images via Stan Shebs on Wikimedia Commons (1, 2)