Friday, September 30, 2016

Is Fish Friendly LandSmart enough?

This letter's in response to an earlier one (see Sept. 26 post) by an environmental activist deploring the effects of widespread tree-cutting in the hills. The questions that remain are: if so much is being done, why isn't the Napa River in better shape, and how much political cover is being provided indirectly by claims like this for business as usual in the hills?                                                   

From the Napa Register:

As we near the end of another harvest season, I ask myself, what’s different today than nearly 15 years ago in the way that vineyard properties are managed? Today, unpaved roads are being maintained to protect water quality, stream sides are being restored to provide shade and habitat, fish barriers are being removed, and water use is being more carefully monitored on site.
Nearly 15 years ago, a small handful of growers throughout Napa County were involved in this type of stewardship. Today, over 45 percent of vineyards and over 72,000 acres of land are being managed in a way to protect water quality, enhance stream habitat, and efficiently use local water supplies.
The Napa Green Certified Land program, developed in 2002 by a diverse group of over 20 stakeholders representing environmental and agricultural interests, helped propel stewardship to the next level.
Napa Green is a program where growers receive technical assistance from the Fish Friendly Farming and LandSmart programs to evaluate their property and then develop and implement a conservation plan that includes a site-specific set of beneficial management practices to protect and enhance the natural resources on their property. The plan is certified by independent third-party local, state and federal agencies with qualifications and responsibilities to protect water quality and endangered species.
Guided by professionals--experts in hydrology, fisheries biology, fluvial geomorphology, riparian restoration, erosion and sediment control, agronomy--Napa Green participants are hands-on environmental leaders working through the LandSmart and Fish Friendly Farming programs. They are implementing watershed-wide erosion reduction projects on unpaved roads in tributaries that are critical to threatened steelhead trout.
They have worked with the Napa County Resource Conservation District to remove fish migration barriers in the Napa River watershed, providing improved access to high quality habitat in local tributaries. They implement practices to evaluate and improve their water use efficiency for irrigation and frost protection. They are leaders in several reach-scale restoration projects on the Napa River and in the Bear Creek, Bale Slough, and Carneros Creek watersheds. They are working together, parcel by parcel, to manage their land in a way that is mindful of their stewardship responsibilities.

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Over 15 years ago, diverse stakeholders came together to discuss common goals related to improving the health of the Napa River. We talked about difficult issues, we didn’t always agree, we worked to find common ground, we agreed to a program, Napa Green, that would help growers and vintners meet shared environmental goals. The process wasn’t driven by regulations or the ballot box – the process was driven by a shared interest in protecting a special place, a place we call home, a place we work, a place we love: the Napa Valley.
There are pressing environmental issues, no doubt. Today, we’d be well-served to think about how we can best work together, like we did 15 years ago, to find common ground and address our shared challenges to meet our shared interests. Anything else will serve only to fragment our community and dissipate constructive conservation efforts.
Leigh Sharp, executive director
Napa County Resource Conservation District

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