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Public presentation of a petition opposing destruction of redwood forests to the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Friends of the Gualala River and supporters will gather to present the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors with an 18 foot long copy of the 90,000-signature petition opposing the giant redwood forest destroying vineyard conversion project, Preservation Ranch, in public comment session at the supervisor’s public meeting on Tuesday, February 7, 2012.

90,000-signature petition opposing destruction of redwood forestsclick to enlarge

The event will start with a photo op in the courtyard in front of the BOS chambers entrance at 1PM. The 4×18 foot petition, tree costumed people, and an 8 foot high walking “Chainsaw Wine” bottle complete with chainsaw will gather ahead of time and then present the petition indoors at the 2PM start of public comment.

1PM outside the Supervisor’s Chambers
2PM inside the Chambers for presentation

Supervisor’s Chambers
Sonoma County Administration Building
575 Administration Drive, Room 102 A
Santa Rosa, CA 95403

On the Sonoma County website

The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors will have the final authority to approve the massive 20 thousand acre Preservation Ranch project after a review of the final Environmental Impact Report (EIR). The county is the lead agency in charge of the EIR effort. Being presented is a national on-line petition with over 91,000 signatures opposing the mass destruction of California coastal redwood forest for conversion to vineyards.

Friends of the Gualala River (FoGR), in alliance with a broad coalition of local, state, and national environmental organizations is additionally requesting the public investment advisors that own and manage the struggling 20,000 acre Preservation Ranch forest-to-vineyard conversion project to withdraw it, and avoid unnecessary and unacceptable harm to the environment and public retiree investments.

Friends of the Gualala River, a small local all-volunteer grassroots conservation advocacy group on California’s north coast, has appealed directly to CalPERS (California Public Employees Retirement System), the primary investor in the Preservation Ranch project.

The unprecedented oversize Preservation Ranch project began its official environmental review and permit process in 2008, but has yet to advance one step in the permit process since, while national and international notoriety and opposition to the project has mounted following intensive national media coverage in summer-fall 2011 by the Associated Press, Los Angeles Times and New York Times as well as regional coverage in the Santa Rosa Press Democrat, North Bay Bohemian, North Bay Biz, and Anderson Valley Advertiser.

Opposition to the project culminated in an on-line petition independently initiated by Marie Casias of Los Angeles, California, following Los Angeles Times coverage of the Sonoma County mega-vineyard and deforestation proposal. The petition exceeded 91,000 supporters by late January, 2012.

In December, 2011, FoGR and a coalition of environmental organizations contacted CalPERS investment directors after learning that CalPERS severed ties in October with Premier Pacific Vineyards, the Napa-based vineyard development firm that conceived of Preservation Ranch and recently posted major losses (nearly 40%) in the value of the $200 million CalPERS investment.

FoGR and allies appealed to CalPERS to re-evaluate the current financial prospects and risks for the project in view of escalating public opposition to the environmental costs, extreme slow progress of environmental review, risks of legal challenge, and the increasing risk of failure to provide a reasonable and timely return on public employee investments. FoGR and allies encouraged CalPERS to consider keeping the project lands forested, either selling off the forestry assets and reinvesting, or managing them sustainably.

PPV originally promoted its proposed deforestation of nearly 1800 acres for vineyards as an environmental public benefit, “in order to make possible the preservation and restoration” of what it called “wounded lands.” The proposal’s environmental “preservation and restoration” conceit was received with responses from the conservation community ranging from disbelief to outrage.

The proposal also drew skepticism from environmental scientists who doubted the premise that fragmentation and deforestation of 1600 acres of forest, with 90 miles of permanent roads (built in an area with 1700 active slope failures), 100 miles of wildlife fences, 40 reservoirs, reopened rock quarries distributed over 20,000 acres of remote, inaccessible northwestern Sonoma County, were actually offset by “restoration.” This restoration mostly translates to thinning tanoaks (already devastated by sudden oak death) and planting conifer seedlings (conventional industrial forestry practices) in forestland that already met or exceeded tree stocking standards in over 70% of the project area even in 2006.

For more information, go to the Friends of the Gualala River website.

Contact: Chris Poehlmann, President, Friends of the Gualala River, 707-886-5182, or contact@GualalaRiver.org.

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