CalPERS vineyard venture attacked
North Coast project will worsen global warming, critics say
| By Matt Weiser
August 5, 2007
A $100 million investment in vineyards by the California Public Employees’ Retirement System is sour grapes to environmentalists, who claim the project violates the pension plan’s own campaign against global warming.
In partnership with Premier Pacific Vineyards of Napa, the nation’s largest public pension plan in 2004 purchased a 20,000-acre tract of forest in the coastal mountains of Sonoma County. The venture wants to clear-cut 2,000 acres to plant premium grapes like the popular pinot noir and then sell the land at a profit to winemakers.
Called Preservation Ranch, it would be the largest conversion of forest to vineyards ever in California, according to the the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. It also symbolizes a growing consumer thirst for premium wine that has driven recent forest-clearing projects along California’s North Coast, where conditions are ideal for wine grapes.
Environmentalists say the project will fragment habitat and contribute to climate change by eliminating coastal forest that could absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
The spectacular and remote Preservation Ranch property lies near the town of Annapolis and covers much of Sonoma County’s northwest corner. It includes sweeping ocean views, forested ridges, deeply shaded river canyons and oak woodlands.
John Holland, president of Friends of the Gualala River, said the project conflicts with CalPERS’ oft-stated desire to invest in ways that don’t cause climate change or environmental harm.
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See also: “Worse than a Clearcut”