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A GIANT STEP: FoGR Files a Lawsuit to Defend our Watershed from Forestland Conversions to Vineyards!

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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!

On June 7, 2012, we filed a lawsuit against CAL FIRE, the state agency approving the controversial landmark proposal by a Spanish winery giant to clearcut 154 acres of redwood forest and plant wine grapes in the Gualala River watershed in Annapolis. This winery giant CodornĂ­u S.A. of Barcelona, Spain, owns the Napa Valley Artesa Winery that is proposing the Artesa “Fairfax” conversion project.

Joining us in the lawsuit are the Sierra Club’s Redwood Chapter and the Center for Biological Diversity. The lawsuit contends the lead state permit agency for vineyard conversions, California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE), failed to follow California law in its preparation of the Artesa project’s Environmental Impact Report (EIR).

This is the first EIR for a redwood forest-to-vineyard conversion to ever get approval in California. It sets a ground-breaking precedent for more and more, one-at-a-time, conversions of forest to intensive agriculture. If projects like this become business as usual for state approvals, they will transform our whole region into a mosaic of clear-cuts that will never heal, permanently sacrificing forests and steelhead streams.

Help us take a stand right here, to tell the State that this is unacceptable. A thriving wine industry can exist without sacrificing forests and rivers for speculative boom-and-bust projects like this.

Redwood forest on Artesa Vineyards & Winery's Fairfax property in Annapolis, CA
Redwood forest on the Artesa property in Annapolis, CA

This giant step taken by FoGR needs your financial help.

FoGR has been the lead watchdog for the Artesa project ever since it first appeared in 2001. With your help, we succeeded in our 2003 lawsuit against CAL FIRE for trying to permit forest conversion to vineyards without even preparing EIRs at all. We won! CAL FIRE was forced to prepare an EIR for Artesa. FoGR paid for carefully prepared expert comment letters for the EIR files. But CAL FIRE has just approved the Artesa permit with a permissive EIR that simply dismisses significant impacts and public comments from citizens, experts, and agencies. We must not let this stand as a precedent.

FoGR has put in countless hours for over 10 years to stop Artesa’s destructive plan. And now we are at the final showdown – not just for the approval of Artesa as the breakthrough precedent, but for all the forest-vineyard conversions watching and waiting in the wings for its outcome – including the 20,000 acre Preservation Ranch project. FoGR volunteers will continue to work tirelessly (we have no paid staff!), but we are facing daunting bills for attorney and expert consultant services and related court costs.

This is your opportunity to make a difference right in your own “back yard.” Our story to protect these temperate rainforests is just as compelling as those we hear coming in from distant places — tropical rainforest destruction, mountaintop removal for coal, vast oil spills. Where this story is different for you is that it is playing out minutes from your home and you have the local leverage to do something about it.

Choose this moment to change the fate of our river. Continued destruction and exploitation, OR recovery and conservation? Modest donations will help, but with our small local population, those will not combine to meet the challenge we face. Please consider making your difference count by being as generous as you can afford to be. Our non-profit status makes your donation tax-deductible and effective in assuring a legacy of natural beauty and diversity for future generations in the place you call home.

Donate online, or send checks to:
Friends of the Gualala River
PO Box 1543
Gualala, CA 95445

We thank you for being a friend of the Gualala River and of the countless species of plants and animals at risk.

Together, with your help, we will prevail and determine the fate of our watershed.

Sincerely,
Chris Poehlmann
Friends of the Gualala River

location of proposed Artesa timberland conversion
click to enlarge


For additional information, see:

Artesa Sonoma forest-to-vineyard conversion
Redwood forest on the Artesa Annapolis property
CAL FIRE has approved the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for Artesa Winery’s controversial plan to clear-cut 154 acres of coastal redwood forest to plant a vineyard in Annapolis. The EIR claims that the project will have no significant environmental or cultural impacts.

Petition filed in Sonoma County Superior Court
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.


 

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