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Protecting our Environmental Resources
Updated: 22 hours 2 min ago

“Friends of Suisun Valley” formed to counter Wagner and local government rush to give wine industry their wish list

Sat, 12/09/2017 - 11:07
Mary, welcome to “industrial wine business hell” that our group (Napa, Sonoma, Lake and Mendocino counties) has been working for some time to expose the bad players. Government works hand in hand to promote the destruction of our environment for profit. This is why over 200 municipalities have passed or are passing “Community Bill of Rights/Rights of Nature”.  We have the same government officials allowing low peak and very old traffic studies to approve further big wine destruction. With water a huge problem and discharge waivers you have the state water boards to help you. Our officials allow massive water use in areas of scarce water according to their own maps and have never seen an oak woodlands or forest they didn’t want to sacrifice for those special interests.  These special interests only want profit while the rest of us want a healthy community we can pass on to future generations. Let us know how we can support your efforts! Great appreciation  to your efforts Mary.

“Only after the last tree has been cut down,
Only after the last river has been poisoned,
Only after the last fish has been caught,
Only then will you find that money cannot be eaten.”
–Cree Indian proverb


From Mary Browning:


Thank you Alliance for Responsible Governance!!! The numerous failures described, CEQA violations, lack of traffic study’s….everything mentioned here is also happening over the hill in the Suisun Valley region of Solano County, and very few people are aware of the true consequences of a burgeoning wine tourism here. We citizens have been sold out and our rural character is not being protected, all because of greed. For those who don’t know it yet, Chuck Wagner is moving his entire production here. He is already in control of a third of the prime farmland

Removing tree canopy destroys the watershed, depleted groundwater and raises temperatures.

of Suisun Valley. The valley is just under 9,000 acres, and at an August PC meeting, Wagner’s attorney said they controlled 3,000 acres as of the end of 2016. His new Cordelia Winery near Budweiser off I/80 at Fairfield is expected to produce 5.5 million gallons annually. Solano County does not have a winery ordinance. Our district Supervisor said “he doesn’t like ordinances as they restrict business”. Wagner’s second winery, Caymus Suisun Winery, will be for son Charlie, on Suisun Valley Road. It’s first tasting room  will be 5,000 sf. The second tasting room will be 8,000 sf. Those buildings will be located approximately 400- 500 feet from the Suisun Valley Elementary School. This project does not have it’s water source yet, nor does it have it’s waste water plan decided. Prior to use permit application, Wagner requested and was easily granted double production, or 200,000 gal. annually. This project will be massive for this small, beautiful valley. There was no traffic study. However, an unofficial count was finally done, and 5,000 vehicles during a Friday commute time.

Organizing a resistance isn’t easy, but I’m working on it. Because of Chuck Wagner, I’m now on this mission with all of you. I went from living peacefully with my husband and animals on our mini farm, on our little slice of heaven, to now having my name on the internet associated with Chuck Wagner, because we appealed our planning commissions decision to double his production limits. It was a sight to behold, an entire planning commission “bought off”. And I’ve learned Wagner began financially contributing to the school as soon as he selected the location across the road five years ago. Amazing to witness such actions after reading about this happening in other counties.

Thank you to all who support the efforts to preserve the true definition of Agriculture, who care about our environment, who want real sustainability, who understand cumulative impacts, and more. Your successes are much needed examples that we should learn from. But timing is critical before it’s too late to save Suisun Valley from being swamped with commercial uses that have nothing to do with Ag. Alliance, make good news we can use! Special thanks to Geoff Ellsworth, Padi Selwyn, and others for your guidance and encouragement.

We are the newly formed ‘Friends of Suisun Valley’. Wish us luck!

Categories: Food and Farming

Climate scientists see alarming new threat to California

Thu, 12/07/2017 - 10:41
There should be no allowance for merchandizing our aquifers beyond recharge. In Northern California that means the wine and now the cannabis industry. We must defend our common pool resources from being used for profit beyond resiliency.      ““As we learn more about the subtleties in the dynamics of climate change, we are learning that certain climate change impacts, like California drought, may be far worse than we had previously thought,” Mann wrote. “It also means that, when it comes to water resource issues in California, the impacts of climate change may exceed our adaptive capacity. That leaves only mitigation — doing something about climate change — as a viable strategy moving forward.” Climate scientists see alarming new threat to California


California could be hit with significantly more dangerous and more frequent droughts in the near future as changes in weather patterns triggered by global warming block rainfall from reaching the state, according to new research led by scientists at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

Using complex new modeling, the scientists have found that rapidly melting Arctic sea ice now threatens to diminish precipitation over California by as much as 15% within 20 to 30 years. Such a change would have profound economic impacts in a state where the most recent drought drained several billion dollars out of the economy, severely stressed infrastructure and highlighted how even the state most proactively confronting global warming is not prepared for its fallout.

The latest study adds a worrying dimension to the challenge California is already facing in adapting to climate change, and shifts focus to melting polar ice that only recently has been discovered to have such a direct, potentially dramatic impact on the West Coast. While climate scientists generally agree that the increased temperatures already resulting from climate change have seriously exacerbated drought in California, there has been debate over whether global warming would affect the amount of precipitation that comes to California.

The study, published Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications, provides compelling evidence that it would. The model the scientists used homed in on the link between the disappearance of sea ice in the Arctic and the buildup of high ridges of atmospheric pressure over the Pacific Ocean. Those ridges push winter storms away from the state, causing drought.

The scientists found that as the sea ice goes away, there is an increase in the formation of ridges.

“Our design was aimed at looking at what will happen in 20 to 30 years, when the Arctic becomes ice-free in the summer,” said Ivana Cvijanovic, the lead climate scientist on the study. “It is coming soon. We want to understand what the impact would be. … The similarities between what will happen and [how weather patterns caused] the most recent drought are really striking.”

Rainfall in California would drop, on average, 10% to 15% in the coming decades under Cvijanovic’s model, but the decline would present itself sporadically, exacerbating the potential for drought. Some years the decline in rainfall because of diminished Arctic ice would be much steeper than 15%. Other years would be wetter than they otherwise would be.

The study is yet another by federally funded researchers that finds the failure to more rapidly diminish greenhouse gas emissions could have a serious impact on California and other parts of the country. The findings contrast starkly with Trump administration policy on warming, which ignores the mainstream scientific consensus that human activity is driving it. The administration has been working aggressively to unravel Obama-era action on climate change, withdrawing from the Paris agreement that seeks to limit its impact, dismantling restrictions on power plant emissions, and signaling that it will relax vehicle mileage rules that are a critical component to addressing global warming.

The warnings about the impact of melting sea ice on California are being embraced by some prominent climate scientists. They say that while the study is just one of multiple models being used to project global warming impacts, it is bolstered by other studies that have signaled a connection between the ice melt in the Arctic and the buildup of atmospheric ridges affecting California. Michael Mann, director of the Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State University, said in an email that it paints a sobering picture for the state.

“As we learn more about the subtleties in the dynamics of climate change, we are learning that certain climate change impacts, like California drought, may be far worse than we had previously thought,” Mann wrote. “It also means that, when it comes to water resource issues in California, the impacts of climate change may exceed our adaptive capacity. That leaves only mitigation — doing something about climate change — as a viable strategy moving forward.”

Gov. Jerry Brown has been taking a lead globally in confronting climate change, warning the Trump administration’s approach is reckless and defies science. He traveled last month to a United Nations climate conference in Bonn, Germany, to meet with world leaders and send the signal that much of the nation is moving to act on climate change, even if President Trump is not. Brown is helping lead a coalition of state and local governments that is vowing to reduce emissions enough to meet the entire country’s obligation under the Paris agreement, which President Obama signed last year.

But the Trump administration’s retreat threatens to substantially slow the rate at which U.S. climate emissions decline. And even if all commitments made in the Paris agreement are kept, climate scientists say the Arctic ice situation would still be dire.

“This is happening very quickly,” said Noah Diffenbaugh, a climate scientist at Stanford University. “The change is dramatic, and it is taking place faster than had been projected by climate models.”

The change is dramatic, and it is taking place faster than had been projected by climate models.

Noah Diffenbaugh, Stanford University climate scientist

Diffenbaugh said the study is a breakthrough for climate researchers who have been struggling to pinpoint the impacts of melting Arctic ice. “Being able to isolate the effect of melting sea ice on the atmosphere and the ocean’s response — and how it impacts precipitation in California — that is a big step forward,” he said.

Because the model only projects future impacts, the study does not focus on the role melting Arctic ice may have played in the massive drought from which California recently emerged — the most severe in 1,200 years, according to one scientific study. But the atmospheric patterns leading to that drought had all the characteristics of those that can be triggered by Arctic sea ice melt, Cvijanovic said, raising the prospect that California might have dodged the latest drought — or at least not have been hit as hard — if not for the large amount of ice that has already vanished.

“There is lots of research to be done,” she said. “Hopefully we do it in time to allow people to plan for whatever may be coming.”

Categories: Food and Farming

Gualala River Watershed’s Battle Over Timber Harvest Plan Continues

Mon, 12/04/2017 - 10:39

Gualala River Watershed’s Battle Over Timber Harvest Plan Continues

By Steve Lemig

The Gualala Redwood Timber Company has submitted a new, revised proposal to log a 402-acre plot of land in the lower Gualala River. This comes just weeks after The California Department of Forestry and Wildfire (CAL FIRE) revoked the timber company’s previous permit due to its incomplete assessment of the environment impact of the logging operation.

This latest development is part of an ongoing battle to protect the lower Gualala River watershed, which empties into the Pacific Ocean 110 miles north of San Francisco along the Sonoma and Mendocino county line. The area is home to old growth and second growth redwoods, and supports dozens of threatened and endangered species such as steelhead salmon, Coho salmon, the northern spotted owl, and a host of rare native plants.

Hundreds of locals and members of environmental groups, including Friends of Gualala River, Forest Unlimited, and California Native Plant Society, assembled against the initial approval of the Dogwood Timber Harvest Plan in July of 2016. A coalition of environmental groups in the region sued CAL FIRE for its hasty approval of the logging permit without considering its full environmental impact on the area.

On April 18, 2017, the Sonoma County Superior Court ordered CAL FIRE to revoke the Gualala Redwood Timber Company’s permit, which included selective logging of 330 acres and more aggressive logging of the remaining 42 acres in the timber harvest plan. The court entered the judgment against CAL FIRE, citing the agency’s failure to assess any negative impacts of the logging operation on the century-old floodplain redwood forest. CAL FIRE finally responded in September with a “Notice of Director’s Decision Vacating Approval” banning logging in the Dogwood THP area.

To log on private or corporate land, a Registered Professional Forester (RPF) must prepare a document which outlines the proposed logging operations, known as a Timber Harvest Plan (THP), and submit this to the state. The RPFs describe THPs as having two functions: to provide information for the CAL FIRE director to determine if the proposed logging conforms to the rules, and to provide direction to logging operators who carry out the THP. These documents were certified as the “functional equivalent” of an Environmental Impact Report. They are supposed to evaluate all of the potential direct and cumulative impacts that might occur as a result of the logging plan and implement any feasible measures which would reduce this impact to a level of insignificance.

“[The Dogwood THP] decision confirms that CAL FIRE failed yet again to regulate the timber industry and protect the environment,” said Larry Hanson, president of Forest Unlimited. He said CAL FIRE ignored the combined impact of this logging operation and several others in the region, “despite forestry rules specifically designed to protect floodplain forests against cumulative impacts.” CAL FIRE’s initial approval of the Dogwood THP was especially alarming considering the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency listed the Gualala River watershed as “impaired” in 1998 due to sediment created in large part by logging practices in the region. Friends of Gualala River reported that for decades the Gualala Redwood Timber Company has ignored the environmental and erosive impact of their practice of clearcutting on steep ridges. In addition, the timber company looks at the Dogwood THP permit revocation as a minor setback and plan to hasten logging most of the floodplain of the lower Gualala River that falls outside the Dogwood THP in the German South THP and Plum THP, which have already been approved by CAL FIRE. “The real problem isn’t going to go away until the Board of Forestry and CAL FIRE follow their own rules, including CEQA,” said Charlie Ivor, president of Friends of Gualala River on the group’s website. “Until they do, we are not going away either.”

WHAT CAN YOU DO TO HELP? Stay informed! Email Leslie Markham at and request to be put on CAL FIRE’s Timber Harvesting Plan submission notification list.

You can track the list of THP’s submitted on CAL FIRE’s FTP site:

You can also get a copy of the Forest Practice Rules (Title 14 California Code of Regulations) at: d_Act.pdf.

Steve Lemig is a writer, outdoor athlete, and environmental advocate who spends lots and lots of time outdoors with his family. He is the founder of, which educates parents on the importance of raising kids to love and take care of the environment.


Categories: Food and Farming

Slow Down After the fires, the wine industry needs to change

Sun, 12/03/2017 - 12:17

Slow Down After the fires, the wine industry needs to change

by Pamela Singer

Since the October fires, I have read periodicals and listened to the news regarding accounts of the catastrophic fires and the tragic aftermath, but nowhere has there been any mention of water use by the wine industry. Vineyard owners sink wells hundreds of feet into aquifers, divert water from rivers, streams, creeks, and seem not to care about how their practices affect the environment. If wineries keep extracting ground water and diverting water from natural sources, the environment will become drier leading to more extensive, catastrophic fires than the North Bay fire. states, “Sonoma County stretches from the Pacific Coast in the west to the Mayacamas Mountains in the east, and is home to almost 60,000 acres of vineyards and more than 425 wineries.” In 2016, 62,136 acres of grapes were irrigated.

Since so many people have to start over, it is time for people involved in the wine industry to become introspective, to take a long, hard look at their practices and change them in a way that respects people, animals and the natural world.

It is time for the wine industry to be accountable to the people who live in Sonoma County and to stop catering to tourists. While I understand that the county needs the revenue generated by the wine industry, too much is too much. Too many vineyards, wineries, tasting rooms, event centers. Too many mountains, hills, woodlands, meadows and fields destroyed in order to plant grapes. Too many animals dead on our roads because what once was their habitat is fenced off to protect vineyards. Too much traffic and inebriated people driving county roads that they do not know.

Due to the catastrophic fires, thousands of people have lost homes, belongings, businesses and animals, so I say to the people in the wine industry, “Slow down.” People in this county are suffering and will be in shock for a while. Nothing is normal in Sonoma County, and no one will ever be the same. We are a changed people. Please change your winery practices to something that involves the whole, not just the few.

Pamela Singer is a poet and teacher who lives in Occidental.

Open Mic is a weekly feature in the ‘Bohemian.’ We welcome your contribution. To have your topical essay of 350 words considered for publication, write

Categories: Food and Farming

Will Parrish’s newest articles

Thu, 11/30/2017 - 10:33
The corporate coup continues to marginalize/harass environmentalists or anyone that stands in the way of corporate profit. Dakota Access Pipeline Company Paid Mercenaries to Build Conspiracy Lawsuit Against Environmentalists

The private security firm TigerSwan worked to build a RICO suit accusing Greenpeace, Earth First, and BankTrack of inciting protests to increase donations.

The private security firm TigerSwan, hired by Energy Transfer Partners to protect the controversial Dakota Access pipeline, was paid to gather information for what would become a sprawling conspiracy lawsuit accusing environmentalist groups of inciting the anti-pipeline protests in an effort to increase donations, three former TigerSwan contractors told The Intercept.

For months, a conference room wall at TigerSwan’s Apex, North Carolina, headquarters was covered with a web-like map of funding nodes the firm believed it had uncovered — linking billionaire backers to nonprofit organizations to pipeline opponents protesting at Standing Rock. It was a “showpiece” for board members and ETP executives, according to a former TigerSwan contractor — part of a project that had little to do with the pipeline’s physical security.

In August, the law firm founded by Marc Kasowitz, Donald Trump’s personal attorney for more than a decade, filed a 187-page racketeering complaint against Greenpeace, Earth First, and the divestment group BankTrack in the U.S. District Court of North Dakota, seeking $300 million in damages on behalf of Energy Transfer Partners. The NoDAPL movement, the suit claims, was driven by “a network of putative not-for-profits and rogue eco-terrorist groups who employ patterns of criminal activity and campaigns of misinformation to target legitimate companies and industries with fabricated environmental claims.”

“It was as if the entire campaign came in a box. And of course it did,” the suit alleges. “Its objective was not to protect the environment or Native Americans but to produce as sensational and public a dispute as possible, and to use that publicity and emotion to drive fundraising.”

Among the nonprofit network’s alleged crimes: “perpetrating acts of terrorism under the U.S. Patriot Act, including destruction of an energy facility, destruction of hazardous liquid pipeline facility, arson and bombing of government property risking or causing injury or death.”

“We felt compelled to file the lawsuit against Greenpeace and others because we want the truth to come out about the illegal actions that took place in North Dakota and the funding of these actions,” ETP spokesperson Vicki Granado told The Intercept. “In many cases, the only way the truth comes out is through the legal process.”

The case was filed under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, passed in 1970 to prosecute organized crime — primarily the mob. Greenpeace says it amounts to a strategic lawsuit against public participation, or SLAPP, designed to curtail free speech through expensive, time-consuming litigation.

“It grossly distorts the law and facts at Standing Rock,” said Greenpeace general counsel Tom Wetterer. “We’ll win the lawsuit, but it’s not really what this is about for ETP. What they’re really trying to do is silence future protests and advocacy work against the company and other corporations.”

“[The lawsuit] had some major racist overtones. They were basically saying that we were not intelligent enough to know for ourselves what the possibilities were in case the pipeline were to leak. They were basically saying we were manipulated,” said Linda Black Elk, a member of the Catawba Nation who lives on the Standing Rock reservation and organized against the

pipeline months before the protests began. “I think the whole purpose of it is to scare tribes from further activism when it comes to the fossil fuel industries and to scare these green groups to keep them from supporting us in those future fights.”

TigerSwan, which got its start working U.S. government contracts in Afghanistan and Iraq, was hired by Energy Transfer Partners to coordinate the DAPL operation in September 2016, after dogs handled by private security officers were caught on film biting pipeline opponents. The firm began collecting information on the movement’s funding streams soon afterward, submitting intelligence to ETP via daily situation reports, more than 100 of which were leaked to The Intercept by a TigerSwan contractor.

But the effort to build a lawsuit began in earnest in January. TigerSwan personnel were tasked directly by lawyers working for ETP with fulfilling information requests, according to two former contractors. Situation reports from the beginning of February note that the company planned to “continue to proceed with the ETP legal team’s requests.”

In response to the requests, TigerSwan personnel sent reports on trespassing incidents and pipeline sabotage, including information about who was suspected to be involved and monetary damages caused by the work stoppages. The firm also compiled descriptions of movement leaders and individuals arrested by law enforcement, and tracked donations to DAPL-related GoFundMe accounts. Much of the intelligence collection was carried out via fake social media accounts and infiltration of protest camps by TigerSwan operatives.

According to the former contractors, the company intended to sell its legal investigative services to future clients. A PowerPoint presentation obtained by The Intercept, which a former contractor described as marketing material to attract a new contract, shows TigerSwan applying its follow-the-money tactics to a new pipeline fight against Pennsylvania’s Mariner East 2 project. The presentation traces nonprofit funds to various “action arms,” which include activist groups — Lancaster Against Pipelines and Marcellus Shale Earth First — as well as a member of the press, StateImpact, a regionally focused public radio project.

“As concerns StateImpact, the TigerSwan graphic is incorrect,” editor Scott Blanchard told The Intercept. “StateImpact, which covers Pennsylvania’s energy economy, is independent of outside influence and is not aligned with any stakeholders.”

While TigerSwan eventually landed security work on the Pennsylvania pipeline, its RICO work for Energy Transfer Partners was short-lived. By early March, the legal team working for ETP had pulled the security firm off the lawsuit. Former TigerSwan contractors speculated the firm’s lack of experience building legal cases made it ill-equipped for the project.

Michael Bowe, the Kasowitz attorney representing ETP in the RICO case, told The Intercept, “We did not retain or work with TigerSwan.” Former TigerSwan personnel agreed that the ETP lawyers working most closely with TigerSwan were not with Kasowitz.

ETP declined to comment on TigerSwan’s work, stating, “We do not comment on any specifics related to our security programs.” A TigerSwan spokesperson stated, “We do not discuss the details of our efforts for any client. We are proud of our work to provide the very best in consultative risk management services to our clients around the world.”

Categories: Food and Farming

Activists sue in water project

Wed, 11/29/2017 - 10:25
CADIZ, a foreign company who privatizes water projects worldwide, worked with local officials to hold the mandated public hearings 100 miles away so no one would show up. It’s all about corporate profits……water is a right and owned by everyone.


Activists sue in water project Groups aim to block plan to pump from Mojave Desert



LOS ANGELES — Environmental activists sued Tuesday to halt a plan to pump water from beneath the Mojave Desert and sell it to Southern California cities and counties.

The lawsuit takes aim at the U.S. Bureau of Land Management for allowing Cadiz Inc. to build a 43-mile pipeline to transfer the water from its desert wells into the Colorado River Aqueduct so it can be sold to water districts.

The BLM released guidelines during the Obama administration to block construction of the pipeline along an existing federal railroad right of way, but the Trump administration reversed them this year and the project is on a priority infrastructure list.

The lawsuit says the new guidelines would illegally permit construction of the pipeline on public land, including the newly created Mojave Trails National Monument, “while circumventing laws enacted to protect human health and the environment.”

According to the suit, Cadiz could draw perhaps billions of gallons of water from fragile desert aquifers — far more than could be replenished naturally — and that would dry up streams that are important for plants and wildlife and create dry lakebeds that would produce windblown dust pollution.

The suit also contends that the underground water contains a cancer-causing chemical and other toxins, such as mercury.

“The Cadiz project will suck the desert dry while developers count their money,” said Ileene Anderson, a senior scientist with the Center for Biological Diversity, which filed the suit along with the Center for Food Safety. “It’s an unsustainable water-privatization scheme.”

The BLM had not reviewed the complaint and could not comment, spokeswoman Sarah Webster said in

a statement.

The BLM ruled in October that Cadiz could use the current railroad right of way rather than having to seek approval through a process that would include public comment and an environmental review, the suit said.

Categories: Food and Farming

New Farmers Big Challenge: finding land

Tue, 11/28/2017 - 11:36
Food security in wine regions should be a top priority. This article suggest it is the homeowners that are pushing out young farmers but here in Sonoma, Napa, Lake and Mendocino counties it is the wine and the new emerging cannabis industry. Tourism also has huge impacts on local business and vacation rentals drive up prices for locals vs. investors.  No more vineyards until food security is addressed. In Sonoma County,  GoLocal did a study and found 96% of food is imported. Don’t call us an agriculture county, we grow alcohol.     New Farmers Big Challenge: finding land

by Jonathan Kauffman

Gillyflower Farm in Capay (Yolo County) is so new that owner Laura Reynolds has no tractors, employees or spare cash. By late fall, she has only planted one-third of her 1-acre plot. On harvest day for her weekly customer deliveries, which focus on greens and salad-friendly vegetables, she cools the produce in a generator-powered freezer that she unplugs before ice crystals form.

The recent UC Davis grad and longtime farm intern does have good land, though, and the ear of her landlord, Sherri Wood, when problems arise. That’s because Wood is building her house a few hundred feet away.

Reynolds is not alone in farming land in, essentially, someone else’s yard — particularly in this state. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s August 2017 Land Values Summary, the average price per acre of farmland in California was $8,700, among the highest in the country. Just as significant, land prices here rose 10.1 percent over the past year, faster than any other state. “Land access is one of the most difficult issues that young farmers face across the country,” said Lindsey Lusher Shute, executive director of the National Young Farmers Coalition.

Homeowners are outcompeting farmers for rural land. At the same time, many of the newest generation of aspiring farmers don’t come from farming families who offer the prospect of one day taking over their parents’ fields. These two intersecting shifts in the profession are leading new farmers in Northern California to lease land from owners who live on the property.

The advantage of this arrangement is that new farmers can spend their scant income on essential equipment, and their landlords have someone to manage their large tracts of land, sometimes gaining fresh produce as a bonus.

But renting farmland from homeowners can be a tenuous existence: Without careful negotiation and realistic expectations on both sides, novices can find themselves bouncing around, struggling to make a profit.

The 2012 National Resources Inventory found that between 1982 and 2012, 1.84 million acres of agricultural land in California was converted to residential use. As the sale of Star Route Farms, Warren Weber’s 100-acre plot in Bolinas to the University of San Francisco for $10.4 million in August, demonstrated, some once-agricultural areas of Northern California have almost become too valuable to farm.

As farms flow out of Northern California’s more rural areas, they are being replaced by homeowners.

One of them is Wood. After the longtime San Franciscan’s husband died and she left her job in banking, she asked herself, “What do I want to do with my life with the time I have left?” The question brought her to Capay, where she bought 27 acres of farmland in 2016. She commissioned plans for a house and tore out 600 neglected and diseased almond trees.

Her aim wasn’t only to better see the surrounding hills from the kitchen window. “It’s a beautiful piece of property that needs to be farmed,” she said. County pesticide records showed no chemicals had been applied to the trees for years, so she quickly obtained organic certification. Wood replanted 3 acres with lavender, and has begun looking for tenants for the remaining 20. She named the project Patchwork Farm.

She found her first tenant, Reynolds, through California FarmLink, an organization that helps older farmers plan for retirement and assists beginning farmers with sustainability-minded practices to find land and capital, even negotiating leases. A recent graduate of UC Davis’ International Agricultural Development program, the 29-year-old Reynolds has interned on farms for five years. “I knew that I wanted to start a farm, but I also know that I change my mind sometimes,” Reynolds said. The challenge: finding a parcel tiny enough to get her going.

A Craigslist post first put Reynolds in contact with another homeowner. He wanted her to text every time she entered the property, but it would be free. The morning she planned to move her equipment onto the land, he called the deal off.

Talk to farmers who rent residential plots of land, and you hear similar stories. Some homeowners find their bucolic fantasies of country living don’t match up with the tractor dust, ragged-looking fields and exposed equipment of a real, working farm.

Across the country, 39 percent of all farmland is rented, the USDA reports, a figure that has remained relatively unchanged since the 1960s. Within those figures, 44 percent of small family farms rent some land to expand their operations, and that percentage rises as the size of the farm does. Farmland costs are high; rental prices for agricultural land, though, can be “pretty minor,” according to Farmlink’s Schwartzman.

What is new, though, Schwartzman added, is the blending of residential and agricultural. And rural homeowners do not always make stable landlords. Ryan Abelson, owner of Pajaro Pastures, raises chickens, goats, rabbits and occasionally pigs on pasture outside Soquel (Santa Cruz County), selling both meat and chicken eggs. He has spent six years bouncing from rental property to rental property.

Abelson says he has been forced off properties he was renting due to reasons that were as unconventional as the plots themselves: neighbors complaining about his dogs barking at night; a landowner who locked Abelson out in the hopes of taking over his business. “It’s just a nomadic lifestyle I’ve come to accept,” he said. He recently signed a 2½-year lease on 12 acres. “That’s more stability than I’ve had since I’ve started.” 

Reynolds finally spotted Wood’s listing on Farmlink. The organization helped the two negotiate needs most homeowners and beginning farmers might not think about, such as water access and space in a barn to store her equipment.

Much of the farmland for rent, too, comes in parcels too large for a new business to take on. “It is harder to find small properties,” says Juan Vergara, whose 4-year-old J & F Farms grows organic herbs in Watsonville. That’s why residential land offers so much promise for new enterprises like his.

Vergara struggled to find fields with less than 10 acres until he was able to locate 6 acres of organic land on a property whose owner rents out the house on-site to other tenants. The site has its challenges — Vergara has to pay city prices for water — but he’s also closer to urban markets, too. He has a year-to-year lease, but feels confident enough in the relationship to plant acres of perennial rosemary and thyme bushes.

Not all homeowner-farmer agreements are so short-term.

Chris Hay founded Say Hay Farms with his mother in 2010, raising both chickens and more than 70 varieties of fruits and vegetables. Like many farmers, he has found that diversification isn’t enough to be profitable: Scale is key. But he hasn’t had the capital to invest in land and convert it to organic. His most stable rental has been 20 acres in Capay Valley, a few miles south of Wood’s property, which he has had to farm as intensively as possible.

In 2015, though, he began negotiating with Pat Meade and her husband, Jon Robbins, who had been living on 50 acres since 1987. The two former pilots and airplane engineers, now in their mid-60s, purchased the site because it had an airstrip, but have built several houses on-site and rented out 30 acres to farmers. Meade was looking to transition the land to organic, and approached Hay, who had rented a half-acre orange orchard from her since 2013.

The two parties liked each other. They felt like their goals were in sync enough to sign a 34-year-lease. Yet the negotiations, aided in part by FarmLink, took 16 months.

It required considerable financial investment on both sides. The landowners needed to fallow their property, forgoing income from previous tenants or Hay, for several years to certify it as organic. Hay needed to pay $150,000 for a well to be drilled and $80,000 to renovate a barn, not to mention buying extra equipment. “It was the start of a relationship in which our landlords aren’t financial partners but are invested in what we do,” Hay said.

“Our philosophy has always been, we’re not trying to maximize every penny,” Meade said. “If we can make this financially work for us, doing what we thought was the best and most sustainable thing, it happened to work.”

The lease agreement also gives Hay the option to purchase the land at some point from the couple, who do not have children. “Having the conversation ‘So, when you die …’ — you have to have a rapport with someone to just go there,” Hay said.

Hay’s mother now lives on the property. Her horses graze with Meade’s alpacas. The long lease has given Hay the confidence to plant a larger citrus orchard, which won’t pay for itself for eight or nine years. The older couple pitch in on Say Hay Farms from time to time. They see each other every day.

“It’s not a commune, but we realize it’s like an extended family relationship,” Hay said. “We’re fortunate to have met them.”

Jonathan Kauffman is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: Twitter: @jonkauffman

Categories: Food and Farming

How climate change will mess with water ‘recharge’ in Western U.S.

Sat, 11/25/2017 - 09:38
Over pumping our aquifers beyond recharge is a dangerous situation and not “sustainable” as Northern California wine makers sell us. Both Sonoma, Napa and Lake counties have been merchandising our water resources beyond recharge for years according to our state. We are on the edge of drought patterns. How climate change will mess with water ‘recharge’ in Western U.S.

Source: University of Arizona

Original Study DOI: 10.1002/2017GL075421

As the climate warms, the dry southern regions of the Western United States will have less groundwater recharge while the northern regions will have more, researchers report.

“Our study asked what will be the effect of climate change on groundwater recharge in the Western US in the near future, 2021-2050, and the far future, 2070-2100,” says first author Rewati Niraula, who worked on the research as part of his doctoral work in the University of Arizona hydrology and atmospheric sciences department.

“…for those places that are already having problems, climate change is going to tighten the screws…”

The new study covers the entire US West, from the High Plains states to the Pacific coast, and provides the first detailed look at how groundwater recharge may change as the climate changes, says senior author Thomas Meixner, professor of hydrology and atmospheric sciences at the University of Arizona.

“For the southern region of the Western US there will be a reduction in groundwater recharge, and in the northern region of the Western US we will have an increase,” says Niraula, now a senior research associate at the Texas Institute of Applied Environmental Research at Tarleton State University.

Groundwater is an important source of freshwater, particularly in the West, and is often used to make up for the lack of surface water during droughts, the authors note. In many areas of the West, groundwater pumping currently exceeds the amount of groundwater recharge.

“The portions of the West that are already stretched in terms of water resources—Arizona, New Mexico, the High Plains of Texas, the southern Central Valley—for those places that are already having problems, climate change is going to tighten the screws,” Meixner says.

Niraula says, “2021 is pretty close, so we need to start acting now. At the individual level and water-manager level there are many things we can do.”

The researchers tested how future precipitation and temperature projections would interact with aspects of the land surface such as vegetation and soil type to affect groundwater recharge during two time intervals: 2021-2050 and 2071-2100.

Various changes

Although generally the dry areas are going to get drier and the wet areas will get wetter under climate change, the new research indicates that future changes in groundwater recharge are more complex.

“The future is saying there’s going to be less recharge. That doesn’t mean you drain the aquifers dry…”

“Changes in recharge don’t necessarily map onto changes in precipitation even at a very local scale,” Meixner says. “The geology and the ecology of the landscape have an effect.”

Because the various climatic regimes in the West will affect recharge differently, the team divided the West into five hydro-climatic regions: south (Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas), southwest (Utah, Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico), west (California and Nevada), northwest (Washington, Oregon, and Idaho), and the northern Rockies and Plains states (Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Nebraska).

To estimate groundwater recharge for the baseline period of 1971-2000, the researchers used a model known as Variable Infiltration Capacity, or VIC. Information from VIC is available for the entire coterminous US on a grid of about 7.5 miles (12 km) on a side.

In addition to temperature and precipitation, VIC’s groundwater recharge estimates take into consideration a particular location’s land surface, vegetation and soil type. Those factors influence whether water on the landscape evaporates, runs off, or soaks into the ground and recharges the aquifer.

What climate change means for northern, colder cities

For projections of future temperature and precipitation during the near future (2021-2050) and the far future (2071-2100), the researchers used 11 different global climate models. The scientists then plugged the future climate estimates from each of the 11 models into the VIC model to generate projected groundwater recharge scenarios.

For each region and time period, the researchers compared the projected groundwater recharge with the recharge during 1971-2000.

For the near future, the majority of models projected that recharge will increase in the northern Rockies and Plains region. The models agreed that groundwater recharge would decrease for the west and southwest regions. For the south and northwest regions, the projections were more uncertain and decreased and increased, respectively.

The difference among the recharge projections from the 11 global change models reflects the difference in future regional precipitation that the models project, the authors write.

Deposits in the ‘bank’

This new research provides a broad picture of how climate change may alter groundwater recharge in the future, Meixner says.

“Groundwater represents a bank. We can store water from decade to decade, and arguably millennium to millennium—but when we take a withdrawal from that bank, we have to hope there are deposits making up for our withdrawal,” Meixner says. “If there aren’t deposits making up for the withdrawals, we have less water in the future to face water resource challenges with.”

Managing groundwater now and in the future is the role of management and policy, Meixner says.

Satellites gauge water below Silicon Valley

“The future is saying there’s going to be less recharge. That doesn’t mean you drain the aquifers dry,” Meixner says. “Whether we drain the aquifers dry is a management decision.”

Additional coauthors of the study are from the University of Illinois; the University of Michigan; NASA Goddard Space Flight Center; the University of California; the National Center for Atmospheric Research; and the University of Arizona.

The researchers report their findings in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. The US Geological Survey’s John Wesley Powell Center and the National Science Foundation funded the research.

Source: University of Arizona

Original Study DOI: 10.1002/2017GL075421

Categories: Food and Farming

Climate Change Challenges Chile’s Vineyards

Sat, 11/25/2017 - 09:24
Climate Change Challenges Chile’s Vineyards

November 24, 20175:08 AM ET

Heard on Morning Edition

Climate change is having a big impact on Chile’s wine industry. Growers are being forced to change the way they position their grapes, face historic wildfires and battle a plague of hungry rabbits.


Picture a map of North and South America. The two continents, together, have one incredibly long Pacific coast. So they share an ocean and an interconnected chain of mountains – similar landscapes, similar climates in some places – and similar news stories. Last month, wildfires spread across California wine country. NPR’s Philip Reeves found a strikingly similar tale far down the coast.

PHILIP REEVES, BYLINE: If you think there’s nowhere on earth like California, you might want to reconsider. There is a place 5,000 miles due south.


REEVES: This is it. Chile sits on South America’s western edge. Like California, it’s a long, thin sliver of land between the mountains and the sea. Like California, that quirk of geography allows Chile to produce world-class wines. Add to the list earthquakes, deserts and a couple of gold rushes and these two places seem similar. There’s something else.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Speaking Spanish).

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (Speaking Spanish).

REEVES: We’re in the hills of Petorca in central Chile. This is part of a big chunk of Chile that recently suffered a severe seven-year drought. Anna Varas lives here with three young kids in one of a cluster of ramshackle homes near a river. The river provided water for a local gold mine where her husband worked. The drought reduced the river to a trickle. The mine closed. Her husband’s moved away to find a job, returning home only at weekends. Varas plans to move the family out.

ANNA VARAS: (Speaking Spanish).

REEVES: “A place without water has no future,” she says.

In January, Chile was hit by an extreme heatwave followed by the worst wildfires in the country’s history.

MAISA ROJAS: The sunsets were like purple, you know, with all the smog.

REEVES: Maisa Rojas is a climatologist at the University of Chile.

ROJAS: I remember taking a plane from the south of Santiago and I would look out of the window, and it was just smoke and smoke and smoke – really terrifying (laughter).

REEVES: The fires destroyed forests and farmland and even small towns – 2,300 square miles were burnt. Like California, it happened in wine country.

GERALDO LEAL: We got, you know, some fires there between these mountains. This mountain totally burned, you know.

REEVES: The mountain right there in front of us – the hill right there was burned?

LEAL: Yes, exactly. Just in front of us, just in front of us.

REEVES: Geraldo Leal is viticulture manager for the Santa Rita Estates, one of Chile’s top winemakers. The fires reached the edge of this Santa Rita vineyard near Chile’s capital, Santiago. Leal also saw them from the air.

LEAL: I was flying by helicopters, you know, and controlling with water, you know. I was in one helicopter but not controlling, you know. And – just looking for the tragedy, just looking for the specific points to control, you know, in the best way.

REEVES: The fires were a huge shock to Chileans, who wanted to know why they happened. Maisa Rojas, the climatologist, says the wildfires can’t be blamed on one single factor.

ROJAS: Lots of things explain why these fires occur. But the drought and high temperatures is of course the fuel for this to happen. REEVES: Rojas says Chile has been going through some extreme climatic conditions recently. Chile’s government directly attributes these to climate change.

LEAL: We are using here – you can see here we are using this kind of metal post.

REEVES: The effects of that are felt here in the vineyards, says Geraldo Leal. New vines are being grown in different positions to give grapes more shade ’cause in this part of Chile these days, the ripening season’s hotter and sunlight’s more intense.

Do you believe that is because of climate change?

LEAL: Absolutely.

REEVES: No doubt in your mind…

LEAL: No doubt. No doubt.

REEVES: But some people do doubt.

LEAL: (Laughter) Yes, I know. (Laughter).

REEVES: Santa Rita and other Chilean winemakers have begun establishing vineyards in the cooler, wetter south of Chile.

In the end, this vineyard was saved from the January fires. Just a few vines were burned, says Leal – though lots of grapes were damaged by smoke.

LEAL: We were lucky. We were lucky.

REEVES: That’s the kind of luck many Californians could have done with.

Philip Reeves, NPR News.

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Categories: Food and Farming

Internet neutrality under attack…time to act is now!

Fri, 11/24/2017 - 13:59

From Senator Kamala Harris:

This week we learned that the FCC is moving forward to repeal net neutrality rules that protect our free and open internet. As I said in my letter to the FCC just a few months ago: this proposal is a grave threat to the idea that the internet should be free and accessible for all. It’s a danger to our economy and free speech rights and we must defeat it.

The final version of these rules was introduced yesterday, with a final vote planned in December. We have to mobilize NOW to save the internet:

Add your name to mine if you agree that we need to protect and expand the internet so that everyone in America — regardless of how much money they make or where they live — can access the internet >>

SIGN THE PETITIONMore than 700,000 Californians  —  and more than 8 million Americans  —  have already submitted comments in response to the FCC’s misguided proposal, including myself. Our message has been clear: broadband providers must not be allowed to tilt the playing field by blocking or throttling their competitors, prioritizing their offerings, or otherwise unreasonably interfering with lawful content.

The basic principle of Net Neutrality is that access to all websites and web services should be treated equally — that anyone can start their own website and make it accessible to anyone with internet access.

What the FCC wants to do is empower broadband service provides — the gatekeepers of the internet — to potentially distort the online marketplace and set up a pay-for-play system. This would be a terrible mistake that would hurt the most vulnerable and voiceless and among us. It will imperil our economy while reducing innovation, entrepreneurship, and creativity.

I have confidence that if enough of us come together in the next several weeks, we can make our voices and save the internet. That’s why I’m asking you to add your name to my petition today:

Sign on if you agree: the free and open internet is a cornerstone of our society and must be protected at all costs. Urge the members of the FCC to vote down these new rules and save the internet >>

Fifty years ago, California researchers invented the internet — and today, engineers, entrepreneurs, and artists continue to invent the future both in my state and around the country.

Let’s not roll back our progress. Help us fight back today and save the free and open internet.

Thanks for all you do.

Kamala Harris
U.S. Senator, California

The internet belongs to all of us. It is a utility and a necessity to most everyone in this country. The proposed new roll backs for protecting the internet are undemocratic, pro big business and just plan un-American. Huge internet companies will have the ability to censor what you see and also make it nearly impossible to have fair and balanced searches. If you have money you’ll get the exposure. If not too bad. Many industry spokesman’s claim it will stifle innovation and creativity, exposure to new and exciting ideas. This is just wrong!

We hope you are able to take part in nation wide protesting this big corporate give away. The day of action is December 7th at your local Verizon store. Verizon and Comcast have been said to have written the new regulations themselves…… just say NO. Call your representatives NOW.


Yesterday FCC Chair Ajit Pai finally released his plan to kill net neutrality. Sign here to fight back and help save the internet.

He thought by announcing his plan right before Thanksgiving, internet users wouldn’t notice. But in the past 24 hours alone, we’ve driven in a record-shattering 200,000 phone calls to Congress calling on them to step in and stop Pai’s plan.

Now we need to keep up the pressure. Congress is feeling the heat on this issue like never before. We have three weeks before the FCC is scheduled to vote on Pai’s plan to kill the internet as we know it. We saw with the healthcare fight that when ordinary Americans pull out all the stops and don’t let up, we can force Congress to stop policies that harm our communities.

Click here right away to tell your member of Congress: Stop the Trump FCC’s attack on net neutrality!

Kurt Walters

No beating around the bush here, I’ve got bad news.It would be a disaster. Net neutrality rules are what protect the free and open internet, by stopping Big Cable companies like Comcast and Verizon from blocking, censoring, or controlling what we see and do online.


Click here to send an email to Congress. Tell your Rep to stop the Trump FCC’s attack on net neutrality!

But I’ve got some good news, too: We’re hearing that key lawmakers in Congress are considering taking action to slow down the FCC’s assault on the internet.

But we know from experience that Congress will only act if they hear their constituents demanding it – we need to send in a flood of emails from constituents telling them to stand up and save net neutrality.

Click here to send an email to Congress. Tell your Rep to stop the Trump FCC’s attack on net neutrality!


Categories: Food and Farming

All Aboard the Cannabis Bus???

Fri, 11/24/2017 - 12:52
This week’s Bohemian cover article, it is yet one more example that cannabis growing throughout Sonoma County leads to the opening line: “Look out, wine tours. Make way, brewery crawl.”  The PD also gives lots of coverage of the growing cannabis industrialization, though not in those words. Be sure to also get to Jonah Raskin’s article on “cannabis frontier justice,” mentioned at the bottom below. He also has a book out on marijuana. This explosion, in our opinion, is as much a threat to rural SoCo and our already limited food ag., as the wine industry is.

On the Bus Pot tourism has arrived


We were packed and ready to board when a couple hustled over to our idling Mercedes Sprinter cargo van at a Rohnert Park park-and-ride lot. “Is this the van for the beer tour?” asked the man.

Our tour guide, Brian Applegarth, chuckled a bit and greeted the eager beer drinkers. “This is a cannabis tour,” he said. “It’s the first of its kind in the North Bay.”

Applegarth, co-founder of Emerald Country Tours, California’s first cannabis tour company, explained what the tour was about and where we were going, and by the end of their conversation, the couple wished they could get on our bus and skip the beer tour. But this was a test run for media and the tour wasn’t open to the public yet. That happens next year. The couple said they would be back.

The exchange was a bit of a vindication for Applegarth, who has been working with partner Jeromy Zajonc to get the tour company off the ground for the past few years. With recreational cannabis becoming legal Jan. 1, and growing mainstream interest in cannabis culture and products, Applegarth is poised to capitalize on Sonoma County’s unique location in the middle of what he calls “Emerald Country”—a region from Santa Cruz to Arcata that’s home to decades of cannabis cultivation, culture and history. The Emerald Triangle (Mendocino, Humboldt and Trinity counties) is the heart of California’s marijuana cultivation, but the larger region outlined by Applegarth has great stories and characters, and Applegarth wants to guide pot tourists there just as they now flock to the North Bay for winetasting and beer tours.

“Our goal is to empower people with information, promote a sense of wonder and let them feel transported.”

Applegarth is not creating a booze cruise for stoners. There is no smoking or vaping on the bus. Cannabis consumption is not allowed for legal reasons (but participants can partake off the bus where permitted), but Applegarth also wants the tours to focus on cannabis culture, heritage and health and wellness, not clouds of smoke. He’s also working on a self-guided tour with key stops along cannabis’ road to legalization, with a focus on the people who fought for the plant’s acceptance as a health benefit for those with chronic illness.

“The history is deep,” he says.

Applegarth has traveled extensively internationally and gone on many sightseeing tours himself, and he likens his tours to Vietnam’s Cú Chi Viet Cong tunnel tours, a window into a formerly secret world.

Our first stop was Rohnert Park’s not-so-secret OrganiCann, a dispensary that bills itself as the first and biggest outlet in Sonoma County. Guerneville’s Riverside Wellness might dispute that claim to being first, but OrganiCann is certainly the biggest. The 30,000-square-foot warehouse retail space is the largest in California. Anyone with a medical recommendation can visit the dispensary (and after Jan. 1 that won’t be necessary).

So what is there on the tour that’s not available to the public? Access. While the nature of the tour will likely evolve once it’s open to the public, our stop at OrganiCann featured a behind-the-scenes tour of the business operations and plant nursery. It would be an eye-opener to anyone who has never entered a dispensary before—more than a hundred kinds of edibles—but probably not particularly illuminating to those who have. Applegarth says his tours are aimed at anyone with interest in the history, culture and medical benefits of cannabis.

“It’s an exciting time because we get to invent what cannabis tourism looks like,” he says.

Will people spend the $179 for a tour? It remains to be seen. Applegarth says interest is high.

“We’re excited to see where it goes,” he says. “We’re going to follow the direction of the consumer.”

For newcomers and old hands alike, visits to cannabis farms will probably be the most interesting part of Emerald Country’s tours, since these are the places that were hidden and off-limits until we entered the new legal era. And to be sure, many operations still want to remain hidden. Applegarth says he reaches out to growers looking to build brands and stake a position in the new legal marketplace. He’s in contact with about a dozen growers for the tours.

On the way to visit a grower in Forestville, Applegarth unfurled a poster of “cannabis man,” a medical chart that described how the human endocannabinoid system works and how cannabis affects the body. It was a short tutorial, just a hint of some of the health and wellness information he will be imparting on the tours, one of which is focused just on that subject.

For a bit of fun, Applegarth invited us to don blindfolds as we neared the grow site to recreate the experience of “trimmigrants” being shuttled to clandestine gardens to trim and process freshly harvested pot. Back in the day, some growers hid the location of their grows, lest some trimmers come back and rip them off.

Turning off Highway 116 near the Blue Rock Quarry, we bumped up a dirt road and immediately passed a Sonoma County sheriff’s deputy handcuffing a Latino man. Was this a pot bust, we all wondered? It turns out the man was an undocumented worker arrested on an immigration charge and headed to the clutches of Immigration Customs Enforcement. But as we drove up the road, we were reminded that even growers who comply with state and local authorities can still face arrest and destruction of their crops.

The grower we met was “Oaky” Joe Munson. He grows cannabis for AIDS patients free of charge. He’s been raided by the sheriff and had his plants confiscated several times (see the Nugget, p30). He said he showed deputies his permits to grow medical marijuana, but that hasn’t stopped the raids.

“They said, ‘No, marijuana is bullshit.'”

Even though he says he’s in compliance, he fears another raid.

“I put the biggest plants at the bottom of the hill so the cops have to work really hard to get them out.”

He asked us not name him or publish any photographs before he harvested his crops, which he has since done.

From Munson’s farm, we headed to Guerneville for a catered lunch on the Russian River and a visit to the shoebox-size Riverside Wellness, a densely stocked dispensary that caters to the Russian River community. It was a pretty idyllic end to the sneak-peek tour.

Will cannabis tourists come running next year? My guess is yes, especially as Applegarth and Zajonc add more growers to the itinerary. Everyone wants to meet former outlaws and their old hideouts.

As the North Bay tourism industry seeks to attract visitors after the fires, pot tours may be an attractive option. Applegarth sits on Sonoma County Tourism’s marketing committee, but so far the organization is not promoting the tours alongside the many excursions it does support in Sonoma County. That’s not a slight against the tour company, but simply a reflection of the fact the tours aren’t open to the public yet, says Tim Zahner, Sonoma County Tourism’s interim CEO. There may be opportunities for collaboration next year, he says.

“After January we’re going to start figuring all this stuff out and have a lot of good questions,” says Zahner.

“Right now we’re in a waiting game.”

Categories: Food and Farming

Wait! Not so Fast! Don’t cut those trees! They are important to our water supply!

Sun, 11/19/2017 - 11:40 Wait! Not so Fast! Don’t cut those trees! They are important to our water supply! Native oak woodlands and forests are critically important to our groundwater levels and surface runoff, and never more so than now in this time of changing climate. Being the most biodiverse ecosystem in California, oak woodlands provide abundant habitat for native plants and animals, including hollows in trees and snags from fire. The greater the biodiversity of an ecosystem, the greater its chances of surviving the increasingly frequent challenges of drought, flooding, and warming temperatures. Forest experts say our native oak woodlands and forests are made for fire and often will recover. Fire thins and cleans the forest floor, reducing disease and making minerals available. Although trees’ bark may be blackened and their leaves burned, many will sprout new leaves over this winter and spring.

However, PG&E has started cutting damaged trees without fully evaluating their potential for recovery. Of course, hazardous  trees along roads or near structures need to be removed, but many of these trees are only scorched and will remain strong and healthy.

Napa County Resource Conservation District has guidelines to help your land recover. Visit their site here.  Trees slated to be removed by PG&E are marked with green. (The County has marked trees with red that they plan to cut.)  Contact your county supervisor  to insist scientific guidelines are followed by the county and by PG&E. Protect our forests and oak woodlands. Protect our water supply.

Categories: Food and Farming


Sun, 11/19/2017 - 11:35


This Initiative provides vital environmental protections for Napa’s precious oak woodlands and watersheds.  It is the product of years of discussions among a wide variety of stakeholders in Napa County, all of whom were interested in finding a common-sense approach to protecting our important natural resources and ensuring responsible development. 



Categories: Food and Farming

“Wing and barrel Hunt Club” hearing today….Petaluma River Council say wrong project, wrong place

Thu, 11/16/2017 - 09:44

RE: Appeal of PLP15-0060, “Wing and Barrel Hunt Club” aka Kenwood-BPSC Hunt Club LLC, aka Black Point Sports Club
6600 and 5400 Noble Road; APN 68-190-005, -007, -008, -009, -013, -015, -017 and 068-180 -008
Zoning: LEA (Land Extensive Agriculture) B6 100, Z (Accessory Dwelling Exclusion) F2 (Flood Plain) RC 50/25 (Riparian Corridor) SR (Scenic Resource)
        Proposal: Appeal of staff’s administrative approval of a Conditional Use Permit modification authorizing a new 26,802 square foot hunting clubhouse, a 1.5 acre fly casting pond, and an 85 foot tall sporting clay shooting tower and related facilities on 978.5 acres utilized as a hay farm and hunting club.  The project includes a proposed lot line adjustment between the 825.6 acre hay farm/hunting club property (Lot A) under a non-prime land conservation contract and an associated 152.9 acre parcel (Lot B) containing levees, riparian wetland sloughs and adjoining hay land.  The Lot Line Adjustment is subject to Board of Supervisors approval due to the Land Conservation Act contract. The proposal is to remove 89 acres of land for the clubhouse from the contract and add 89 acres of the levee and wetland slough parcel to the reconfigured 825.6 acre contract parcel.

From our friends at Petaluma River Council

To: Sonoma County Board of Zoning Adjustments
Attn: Chairman Willie Lamberson and BZA Members

Dear BZA Chairman Willie Lamberson, members of the BZA, and Planning Director Tennis Wick:

Since 1991, members of the Petaluma River Council in Sonoma, Marin and San Francisco Counties, have worked to protect, restore and support the integrity of the Petaluma River, her tributaries, watershed lands, and the vast Petaluma Marsh and baylands.

The following are comments on the proposed expansion and construction of structures, activities and appurtenant facilities and related environmental impacts of the Wing and Barrel Hunt Club, PLP15-0060 (“Project”) in the Sonoma Baylands.  We firmly share and support the expressed concerns and appeal of the CUP (“Appeal”) initially filed by Sue Smith and Tom Rusert and other concerned citizens and neighbors. Further, we protest the administrative approval of the CUP and Mitigated Neg Dec for the Project with no public hearing.

Petaluma River Council strongly urges BZA to grant the Appeal and deny the administrative approval of the CUP, and to subject the Project to a full EIR under CEQA, including the requisite public notice and public hearings.

As well described in the Appeal and other documents submitted in support of the Appeal, the Project would impose many significant and unmitigated impacts on the fish, birds (particularly within the effective refuge areas of the Pacific Flyway), wildlife, plants, biotic, visual and scenic resources of the Baylands, Sonoma and Tolay Creeks; traffic congestion and safety of Highway 37; air and water quality; increased flooding risks to life and property as global warming and sea level rise inundate this property increasingly over its expected 50+ year lifespan; as well as the long-term health of San Pablo Bay wetlands complex and tidal margins.

In addition, the proposed change of intensity, expanded times and days of use and areal extent of the Project’s structures and impacts is inconsistent with LEA agricultural use and the overlay zoning limitations on site and on neighboring parcels, and essentially converts the property into a social club and large event center in an unsuitable location. The Project includes a retail pro shop for firearms, ammunition and other sporting supplies, instructional facilities for sporting and cooking activities, a large ‘clubhouse’, and three 85′ towers, with all the impacts predictably associated with those changes, including significant traffic, noise, lights, visual intrusions in an area that currently has mostly unimpeded views from Hwy. 37 to San Pablo Bay, San Francisco Bay and the Bay’s urban skyline silhouettes, polluted runoff, and water supply, groundwater and wastewater disposal impacts.

This proposed Project is growth inducing within a large region of the Sonoma County baylands and San Pablo Bay frontage that has been protected from development and been preserved for tidal, wetlands, and agricultural preservation through the investment of millions of dollars of public and NGO funds.  There is no demonstrated need to start taking that preservation and restoration efforts apart with this Project.

We believe strongly that this Project requires a full EIR under CEQA.  The mitigated Neg Dec used for this Project does not satisfy the obligations under CEQA to fully inform both the public and decision makers of the potential impacts and means and methods to identify, avoid or mitigate predictable negative environmental impacts while also examining reasonable and feasible alternatives, including the “No Project” alternative. These problems were compounded by not having any public hearings on the Project’s CUP or Neg Dec. Nor does it give the public the opportunity to address a wider range of substantive issues raised in the Appeal, and to have the issues responded to and considered in advance of any agency decisions or approvals.

Petaluma River Council urges that the Appead be granted, and that the proposed Project and administrative approval of the CUP be denied, and that it be subject to a full EIR under CEQA.


David Keller
Director, Petaluma River Council
Petaluma, CA

Categories: Food and Farming

Tasting Rooms Battle Heats Up in Sonoma

Mon, 11/13/2017 - 13:35

Influential wine writer Liza B. Zimmerman asks a question that Wine and Water Watch has been trying to find an answer to for several years: “How many tasting rooms are too many? “

“Is Sonoma overdoing the number of tasting rooms in the town center?”

Her investigative report (November 2017) found that many wine industry representatives refused to speak with her when she asked such tough questions.

“According to recent Sonoma City Council meeting notes, there are currently 26 wine tasting facilities in the Sonoma Plaza the other seven are in greater downtown and are wine and bar taprooms – whereas in 2012 there were only 17. This represents a 35 percent increase in five years, according to the City Council. What is more, rents for retail space in the area have been inching up from the $2-$2.50 range per square foot to approximately a whopping $6 in the zoning district in the last year.

“Rents have spiraled upwards to such a point that the interesting, affordable stores that existed even 10 years ago cannot generate a positive cash flow today,” said Jeanette Fung the owner of Sox de Vine, a gift store, in an email to City Council members. “Tasting rooms don’t have that issue because their goal is to sign up wine club members.”

According to Liza, many of the tasting rooms have really turned into glorified bars.

Clients of Rob McMillan, the St. Helena-based executive vice president and founder of Silicon Valley Bank’s (SBV) wine division concludes – in a September SVB report called Is Opening a Downtown Tasting Room Smart? – that “The tasting experience is more like a bar and visitors neither joined the club or took wine home.” He adds that, “In truth, urban tasting rooms are a relatively new phenomenon and the jury is still out on their true effectiveness.”

“From polling wineries over time, the conversion rate of visitors into the wine club in a downtown tasting room isn’t as high when compared with [when they visit] the tasting room at the winery. It is a different experience,” he continues. He adds that a moratorium on tasting rooms should certainly be considered “Because land-use and sensible zoning can have a positive impact for everyone in a community, including wineries.”

The town of Sonoma – which had approximately 11,000 residents in 2016 – is hardly alone in struggling to balance the needs’ of locals and tourists. Healdsburg, a half an hour north in Sonoma County, suffers from the same problem and the northern Napa Valley hamlet of St. Helena has long been a wine Disneyland offering little of use or interest for locals. The situation is even worse in Santa Barbara County – which was hard hit with tourist fallout from the 2004 movie Sideways – further south.

Read Liza’s full story at



Categories: Food and Farming

Owen’s Valley Redux? The merchandising of our water resources…..

Mon, 11/13/2017 - 11:33

Farm vs. City: California Landmark Water-Sharing Deal May Be Crumbling

Written by Matt Weiser

The state’s biggest urban supplier hopes to divert water from farms in the Palo Verde Valley by encouraging conservation. But the move may endanger an existing water-sharing deal that has become a model of cooperation.

ONE OF THE nation’s most successful partnerships between farm and urban water agencies has lately run into serious turbulence, potentially threatening an important Colorado River water-sharing deal.

Twelve years ago, the Palo Verde Irrigation District in Blythe, California, signed an agreement with the powerful Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. It allowed the latter to pay Palo Verde farmers to fallow up to 35 percent of their acreage in times of water scarcity, and take delivery of the unused irrigation water, via canal, to serve its urban customers in the Los Angeles area, some 200 miles away.

It’s been a great deal for both parties. Palo Verde farmers made millions “loaning” their water. Met gained access to the irrigation district’s senior water rights in the Colorado River, which remain available when the water district’s other supplies are restricted during drought. It also became a promising alternative to the so-called “buy and dry” deals that have taken farmland out of production permanently in other parts of the West.

But suddenly, tension is humming along that canal between Blythe and L.A.

In September, Palo Verde filed a lawsuit against Met, alleging the urban water giant violated state law when it purchased 12,000 acres of farmland within the Palo Verde district in 2015, adding to 10,000 acres it had bought previously. This made Met the largest single landowner in the valley, controlling almost 20 percent of the entire district, in addition to lesser control over more land via the fallowing contracts.

Met has leased the land to other farmers under terms that encourage water conservation, with a goal to divert any conserved water to the L.A.metro area.

Palo Verde officials fear the era of cooperative fallowing is over, and Met is now engaging in a new kind of “buy and dry” program that will eventually harm the rural region’s economy.

“This is simply a play for water,” said Bart Fisher, a farmer in the Palo Verde Valley and a member of the irrigation district’s board of trustees. “The only possible reason for them to own farmland is to try to take water from it.”

Fisher said he and others at the irrigation district feel betrayed by Met’s actions, and worry that it aims to make their region another Owens Valley by draining off all their water. In the early 1900, Los Angeles covertly bought farmland and water rights in the eastern California valley, leaving the Owens Valley with a legacy of toxic dust storms.

“I really can’t express how surprised and upset we are about this,” he said. “We basically opened the door to them and brought them into our valley in a trusting relationship. They grew roots into our organization and relationships with our farmers. Then, suddenly, they are willing to blow it all up in order to acquire water.”

Jeffrey Kightlinger, Met’s general manager, said there was no intention to seize water, but merely to improve existing cooperative relationships with farmers to use water more wisely. He said he was “disappointed” Palo Verde resorted to a lawsuit.

“If we wanted to be aggressive and just do nothing but acquire more water, we would just simply fallow all the land we bought. But we’re not doing that,” Kightlinger added. “The idea is that it would generate water for us and, at the same time, create a revenue stream to keep farming vibrant in the valley.”

It remains unclear if leasing land really will produce any water for Met.

The way the deals work, Kightlinger said, is that farmers pay the market rate to lease land, around $250 per acre (0.4 hectare), if they irrigate using an average amount of water on their crops (about 4.2 acre-feet per acre). If they use more water, their lease cost increases to $400. But if they take measures to conserve water and use less than average, their lease payments drop to only $150.

In the latter case, Met believes it will be able to claim the saved water and have it delivered to L.A.-area consumers.

“We’re trying to come up with some high-tech ways to keep farming productive and efficient and save water also,” Kightlinger said.

It might not be that simple. The Palo Verde board of trustees would have to approve the transfer of that saved water to Met, and Fisher said that isn’t a given.

An irrigation canal and farmland within the Palo Verde Irrigation District, which holds the highest-priority rights to Colorado River water in California. (Photo Courtesy Metropolitan Water District)

Palo Verde Valley is unique, he said. Property owners hold the highest-priority rights in California to water from the Colorado River – much higher than the water Met currently receives from the river. But those farm water rights are held in trust by the irrigation district. That means that when farmers need irrigation water, they don’t just turn a valve – they have to request the water from the irrigation district. As a landowner, Met will have to do the same, and the district might not want to release the water knowing it will not be used for agriculture.

“Any conservation program that occurs within our valley is water that belongs to the irrigation district. It doesn’t belong to Met,” Fisher said. “They disagree with that. They think they are legally entitled to that water. Hence the dispute.”

He asserts that if Met succeeds with the leasing plan, there could be grave consequences. And not just for the Colorado River, but for any other region where a wealthy urban water agency can buy up farmland. Essentially, Fisher said, Met’s farm leases are an attempt to leapfrog ahead in the water-rights priority system.

“Met is the junior water-right holder in California, and yet they are essentially hijacking first-priority water,” Fisher said. “This would allow an urban water agency such as Met to go anywhere they have potential conveyance and just acquire farmland, and use the farmland as a spigot that they can turn off and on depending upon their need for additional water.”

Some don’t see the situation in such dire terms.

Robert Glennon, a law professor at the University of Arizona who specializes in water issues, said the best way to preserve farms and farm communities is to improve water conservation. The saved water can be used to grow more valuable crops, sold to other farmers or to urban areas.

In addition, farmland that conserves water continues growing food, whereas fallowed acreage doesn’t.

In this case, Glennon said, Met’s leasing program is using market forces – in the form of variable lease payments – to drive water conservation. He advocated this very approach in a 2014 paper he co-wrote for the Brookings Institution.

“I’m thinking this is perfect for their farmers,” said Glennon. “If you have the municipal interests pay for the farmers to be more efficient, and then the municipal interest gets the water that’s conserved, this is better than the fallowing program for the long-term viability of the Palo Verde Valley.”

Palo Verde’s lawsuit alleges Met violated state law in two ways. First, by setting up the leasing program without first doing an environmental impact report. Second, by purchasing the land without conducting an appraisal. Fisher said Met paid twice the going rate for farmland in the Palo Verde Valley, and has a duty to its ratepayers to justify that price.

Kightlinger denied both claims and said Met plans to move for dismissal of the lawsuit.

Glennon noted the disagreement has the potential to escalate in some unsavory ways.

Met could decide to simply fallow all the farmland it now owns, then try to divert all that water to urban consumers. This would generate nearly as much water as the existing cooperative fallowing program, while saving Met millions of dollars in fallowing payments. But it would cut local farmers out of the proceeds entirely. Or, if Met cannot persuade the irrigation district to transfer the water saved through its leasing program, it could begin buying up more farmland until it attains a voting majority on the district’s board. This could create a situation in which the nation’s largest supplier of urban drinking water becomes a kind of benevolent dictator, controlling the fate of a far-flung rural area that depends entirely on farming. “If they’re willing to pay two-times agricultural land values, there are a lot of people who would raise their hand and exit the valley,” Fisher said. “It’s a scary proposition for those of us who live here.”    
Categories: Food and Farming

“Nature Has Rights”: Activists Call for a Legal Transformation

Sun, 11/12/2017 - 12:20
With no Planet B, Rights of Nature have to be acknowledged. With over 200 communities in the US passing these laws, time to do this everywhere…..we owe this to our children.  “Nature Has Rights”: Activists Call for a Legal Transformation

“Nature Has Rights”: Activists Call for a Legal Transformation

A lawsuit filed in Denver district court by the Colorado River ecosystem asking to be recognized as a “person” is part of a growing global movement to forge a new kind of environmental law around the legal rights of nature. After all, if a corporation can be granted personhood, why not a river ecosystem that has sustained humans for thousands of years?

The mighty Colorado River and its watersheds are a crucial source of life in the arid Southwest, supplying water to vast ecosystems and millions of people across seven states and northern Mexico. With so much depending on its existence, the Colorado River filed a groundbreaking lawsuit against the state of Colorado last month, demanding that its right to evolve, flourish and be restored in the wake of human interference be recognized in the court of law.

Well, sort of. An activist lawyer filed the legal complaint at a federal district court in Denver, naming the river itself as a plaintiff and calling on the court to recognize its ecosystems as a “person” under the law. Still, Colorado River v. Colorado is fairly unprecedented, at least in the United States.

Bodies of water can’t defend themselves in court, but they do not go untouched by the law. All the organisms — including humans — that depend on a river to survive can be affected when existing environmental laws fail to prevent water pollution, or when a government or corporation wins the legal right to guzzle up its life-giving resources.

Western states have fought over the Colorado River’s water resources for decades, damming and diverting more than 70 percent of its water to vast cities and cropland. In 2015, two tributaries of the Colorado River suffered an environmental disaster when federal remediation workers accidently allowed 880,000 gallons of wastewater contaminated with heavy metals to spill from the defunct Gold King Mine in Silverton, Colorado.

“Water is life,” declared the Native Water Protectors and allied activists at Standing Rock. Without clean water, clean air and a stable climate, the future of all life on Earth is in peril, including our own. This raises important questions: Is a river like the Colorado simply a collection of resources to be bought, sold and haggled over in courts and legislatures? Or do rivers and all ecosystems actually rise above monetary value?

The answer to this question is central to a growing global movement of activists and attorneys who are forging a new kind of environmental law by proclaiming the legal “rights of nature.” Since nature can’t directly assert legal rights itself (although the Earth may punish us for disrupting the climate and other follies), these advocates also fight for the right of local communities to protect the natural systems around them from destruction and exploitation.

“Nature Has Rights”: Activists Call for a Legal Transformation


That nature and its entities have the same “right” to exist and flourish as people do is not a new concept — many Indigenous people have embraced such ideas for millennia. However, the lawsuit filed on behalf of the Colorado River is attempting to inject this thinking into the contemporary legal system, challenging Western capitalist notions such as “corporate personhood” in the process.

“The rights of nature is all of us sitting here, because there is no separation,” said Casey Camp-Horinek, a water protector, grandmother and activist from the Ponca Tribe of Oklahoma, at a recent symposium on the rights of nature at Tulane University in New Orleans. “When we say ‘rights of nature,’ are we so ego-bound that we think it is separate from human beings?”

Does Nature Have Legal Rights? Colorado River v. Colorado outlines the basic ideas driving the “rights of nature” movement. The current system of law has failed to adequately protect the environment and the natural and human communities that depend on it, as evidenced by climate disruption and rampant pollution. Current laws fail because they treat the natural world as private property, with existing protections only regulating the rate at which it is exploited and destroyed in the name of profit. The lawsuit traces its legal roots back to a 1971 dissent written by liberal Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas, who argued that “inanimate objects” are unable to represent themselves in court but are parties to lawsuits all the time. For example, a cargo ship has a legal personality for the purpose of maritime law. “Contemporary public concern for protecting nature’s ecological equilibrium,” Douglas wrote, is reason to give “environmental objects” standing to sue for their own preservation.

After all, if a corporation can claim the same legal rights as persons, as the Supreme Court famously held in Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission and other cases, then why not a river ecosystem that has sustained human civilization in the Southwest for many thousands of years, and life for millions more? Still, the lawsuit faces a tough road ahead.

An initial hearing on the case is set for November 14, and Colorado’s attorney general has already called for it to be thrown out. The lawsuit asks the court to recognize members of the radical environmental group Deep Green Resistance as “next friends” of the Colorado River who may defend its rights in court, a request that could raise eyebrows because the group has promoted Earth-defense tactics such as sabotage that are technically illegal.

The case is not without precedent, however, at least internationally. Earlier this year, the high court in India’s northern state of Uttarakhand issued a ruling recognizing the Ganga and Yamuna Rivers as legal persons with certain rights in order to “preserve and conserve” water resources. The ruling came after the same court found that the rivers and glaciers that feed them are “central” to the well-being of half the Indian population, but still they suffer from pollution that threatens their very existence.

Similar rulings have come out of a number of other countries in recent years. A river in New Zealand now enjoys the same rights as a person under a law that Indigenous people spent decades fighting for. In 2010, Bolivia’s legislature passed a law affirming the “rights of Mother Earth.” In 2008, Ecuador enshrined the rights of nature or “pachamama” into its constitution, and legal rulings there have since recognized that rivers have rights that can be violated by human activity.

While these victories are milestones for the rights of nature movement, they have not put a total halt to pollution and resource extraction in their respective jurisdictions.

Ecuador’s constitutional amendment was a “top down” initiative won by NGOs and friendly lawmakers rather than a bottom-up grassroots effort, according to Natalia Green of Ecuador’s Pachamama Alliance, which pushed for the constitutional amendment and also works with Indigenous groups on the ground. Empowering local communities to defend the rights of the natural systems around them is often a different story, and it’s how the movement is making the most immediate impact in the US.

“We need to have everyone in the country believing that nature has rights, and that’s why we start at the local level,” said Ben Price, an organizer with the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF), during a symposium in New Orleans.

CELDF worked on the constitutional amendment in Ecuador and is at the forefront of the rights of nature movement in the US, where it’s a major backer of the Colorado River lawsuit. It’s also a driving force behind the “community rights movement,” which has taken hold in town halls across the US as local communities take a stand against invading polluters.

A Tiny Town Takes on the Fracking Industry

In 2013, Pennsylvania General Energy (PGE) proposed a fracking wastewater injection well in Grant Township, Pennsylvania, a rural community of about 700 people. Wastewater from fracking can contain dangerous chemicals and radioactive material, and injection wells have been linked to water pollution and earthquakes.

Residents weren’t happy about the proposal, which would bring 152 million gallons of fracking waste into Grant Township to be dumped down the well over the next decade, according to CELDF. About 50 people showed up in opposition to the injection well at an initial public hearing held by the Environmental Protection Agency, but months later they learned that a permit would be issued anyway.

So, in 2014, the township adopted a “community bills of rights” ordinance that banned injection wells and asserted the community’s right to self-governance, with help from CELDF.

PGE then sued the township, arguing the ordinance violated its corporate constitutional “right” to build the injection well. In response, CELDF filed a motion to intervene on behalf of residents and the local watershed, which is home to the hellbender salamander, the largest aquatic salamander in North America. CELDF’s assertion of the rights of nature alarmed the oil and gas industry, which feared that the move could set a dangerous precedent.

In 2015, a federal district court threw out the motion to intervene and ruled that state law preempted the local ordinance banning injection wells. The ruling put the well back on track, so local activists and township commissioners went to work knocking on doors and building opposition among their neighbors.

Within weeks, the township adopted the country’s first municipal charter establishing a local “bill of rights,” including the right to prohibit injection wells. Highland Township, another rural community in Pennsylvania facing a proposed injection well, worked with CELDF and passed a similar charter. The charters define local government structure and establish “home rule” in order to trump state laws seen as favorable to industry.

“What if your community could just say ‘no’ instead of using loopholes like industrial zoning [to stop polluters]?” said Grant Township Supervisor Stacy Long at the symposium in New Orleans.

The charters effectively stalled the state permits for the injection wells, but eventually the state relented. In March, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, which was mired in controversy for working too closely with the industry during the state’s fracking boom, finally issued permits for the injection wells. Regulators then sued both townships, arguing that the charters unlawfully interfered with state oil and gas policies.

For rights of nature activists, legal battles like this one are proof of the absurdity that plagues current environmental laws and regulations, which favor the rights of big business over ecosystems and fail to protect the people living in harm’s way.

“Our community wrote a new constitution, with wide community support and input, to protect our rights and our environment,” Long said in a statement at the time. “And now we’ve been sued, not only by a corporation that wants to profit by dumping toxic waste in our community, but also by our own state ‘environmental protection’ agency.”

PGE, perhaps wary of the community rights activism that boiled up in response to its injection well proposal, asked a federal court in July to order CELDF to pay $560,000 in compensation for the attorney fees it accrued while fighting Grant Township in court over the past three years. CELDF is a relatively small organization that provides pro bono and low-cost legal assistance, and the fees would suck up more than half of its annual budget.

However, both cases are still winding through the courts, effectively blocking the injection wells in both townships to date. Last year, Grant Township passed another ordinance recognizing the rights of local residents to engage in nonviolent civil disobedience if PGE wins the legal right to finally install the injection well.
“This work is really about conducting civil disobedience through municipal lawmaking, challenging the system by using the system,” CELDF Associate Director Mari Margil told Truthout in an interview.

If the goal is to block unwanted industrial activity, the rights of nature movement has had a number of successes. Margil said small towns in the Northeast have used community rights ordinances to ward off Nestle and other private water companies. About 200 communities across the country have now passed local ordinances declaring their rights to ban fracking, wastewater injection, sludge dumping, factory farming and other sources of industrial pollution.

“For the most part, those laws are in place and prohibiting the activity that has been banned,” Margil said.

In Ohio, Washington and other states where community rights initiatives have been challenged by powerful corporations and preempted by state law, networks of community activists are pushing legislation and ballot initiatives that would enshrine that right to local self-governance into state law. In Wisconsin, the Ho-Chunk Nation is considering a rights of nature amendment to its tribal constitution. A final vote is expected next year.

CELDF admits that its efforts cannot always succeed under the current legal system. However, activists say, inspiring people to challenge that system is a success all its own.

“Suddenly, people are willing to fight like hell when they didn’t used to be,” Price said. “For me right now, the success is that people are engaging in ways that they never have before.”

Just a decade ago, the rights of nature movement occupied an odd corner on the fringe of environmentalism. Since then, its influence has grown both globally and at home, operating at the intersection of traditional legal tactics and radical environmental ideas rooted in Indigenous wisdom that have called activists to direct action for decades. Whether the rights of nature will be accepted into the broader legal system remains to be seen, but in a time of mounting ecological crises, recognizing nature’s right to flourish may just be what preserves our own.

This post was originally published on this site

Categories: Food and Farming

From silent spring to silent night: Agrochemicals and the anthropocene

Fri, 11/10/2017 - 12:14
“There is probably no place on earth that is not affected by pesticides.” Time for “Rights of Nature” to be enacted everywhere….. From silent spring to silent night: Agrochemicals and the Anthropocene  click on above link for full report

Authors: Tyrone B. Hayes , Martin Hansen Laboratory for Integrative Studies in Amphibian Biology, Group in Endocrinology, Molecular Toxicology, Energy and Resources Group, Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, and Department of Integrative Biology, University of California, Berkeley, CA, US Abstract

We are now living in the Anthropocene, the first time in Earth’s history when synthetic chemicals—created by humans—are damaging the planet and contributing to a major loss of biodiversity. Pesticides are a particular problem in this regard. Agricultural practices changed dramatically following World War II. Methods for the production of nitrogen for manufacturing explosives were adapted for use as fertilizer in agriculture. Further, chemicals used to combat insect vectors for disease during World War II were adapted for the control of insect pests in agriculture. Eventually, herbicides used as defoliants to destroy food supplies and aid in combating soldiers using forests as cover, were customized to control weeds in agriculture. The heavy use of pesticides in agriculture has resulted in global exposure to these chemicals. Travelling through water, air, and in migrating animals, pesticides can be found in drinking water reservoirs, the atmosphere, on mountain tops, and even in remote areas in the Arctic where they are not used.

The widespread exposure to agrichemicals has altered landscapes and ecosystems around the world. In addition to directly killing non-target organisms, target and non-target organisms can evolve resistance to pesticides, resulting in altered gene pools. Further, emerging data demonstrate that even low— formerly considered “non-toxic”— concentrations of pesticides can impact health, physiology, reproduction and development through endocrine-disrupting effects. The development of genetically modified crops that are resistant to pesticides and that produce pesticides themselves, and the financial incentive of the chemical companies that produce the genetically modified organisms (GMOs) have resulted in increased pesticide applications.

There is probably no place on earth that is not affected by pesticides. The solution is the adoption of integrated pest management practices that reduce the use of chemical pesticides and fertilizers in agriculture and the decoupling of the agrichemical and seed industry.

Knowledge Domain: Sustainability Transitions Keywords: pesticides endocrine disruption agriculture  How to Cite: Hayes TB, Hansen M. From silent spring to silent night: Agrochemicals and the anthropocene. Elem Sci Anth. 2017;5:57. DOI:  
Categories: Food and Farming

Up is down and down is up……Disastrous Westerman bill, H.R. 2936 ironically called the Resilient Federal Forests Act of 2017

Thu, 11/09/2017 - 10:59
“Disaster Capitalism” at it’s worse. the Chinese definition of chaos is opportunity. We all know one political party routinely uses “opposite world” to name bills so hideous that no one in their right mind would support. They are counting on you  to not pay attention. This bill will be a catastrophe for everyone but corporate donors. Read the comments and letter from a member of Forest Unlimited and take action, please. Corporate interests have fast racked the destruction of our forests for their profit in HR 2936. Just say no! Email, phone contacts and letter you can copy and paste are below. Thanks for taking action.

We ask that you oppose an egregious forestry bill that has already passed the House of Representatives and needs action for the Senate.  There is a sample letter I wrote for Forest Unlimited below that you could model, add or subtract.

The potentially disastrous Westerman bill, H.R. 2936 , ironically called the Resilient Federal Forests Act of 2017, passed the House by a vote of 232 to 188 on November 2, 2017 and is now on its way to the Senate. It was sponsored by Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.), a licensed forester. 

So why is this disastrous – surely we all want resilient forests?  But no, this is a logging bill, that promotes logging on public lands, guts current environmental protections, undercuts the public process, and is masquerading as a bill to promote forest management and reduce fire risk.  It would allow logging in massive units of 10,000-30,000 acres with greatly reduced oversight.  

H.R. 2936 has nothing to do with fire protection.  “The top fire scientists and an ever-increasing contingent of scientists armed with over a century of fire data and decades of their own research, are spreading the word: Logging far from homes and communities destroys forests and their processes, and does nothing to protect homes or communities.” (Maya Khosla, filmmaker, “Firewise” – interviews with firefighters).

Studies by Alex Syphard, Ph.D. of the Conservation Biology Institute, and others, have shown that while defensible space of up to 100 ft around homes can protect homes and communities from fire, massive fuel reduction and fire suppression efforts further from communities, do not.

“It makes no sense to clear-cut miles away from a community,” says Tim Ingalsbee, director of Firefighters United for Safety, Ethics and Ecology. “We just have to make homes more fire-resistant, and we know how to do that.”

The bill ignores all the new science. It will be discussed in Senate sessions very soon. Please contact your US Senator now, to oppose HR 2936 or any other pro-logging bill that would be promoted as a “compromise.”  Sen. Barrasso (R-WY) is working with some others to attempt this.  Urge your Senators to strongly oppose any bills that would in any way further weaken environmental laws to promote logging on our federal public lands.

Please call your Senator NOW asking her to oppose the Westerman Bill.

U.S. Senator Kamala Harris

San Francisco:  (415) 355 9041

Sacramento:   (916) 448 2787

Washington D.C.:  (202)224 3553

Please phone as a priority, but if for some reason you can’t, then try emailing via


Senator Dianne Feinstein

San Francisco: (415) 393-0707

Washington D.C.: (202) 224-3841

Please phone as a priority, but if for some reason you can’t, then try emailing via

Sample Letter:  Oppose Resilient Federal Forests Act of 2017, HR 2936

We write you to oppose HR 2936.  We support the concept of productive and resilient federal forestlands. But this is a bill that does the OPPOSITE of creating resilient forests. It is designed to be a gift to the timber industry with a pretense to help forests.

The bill expands the reach of “categorical exclusion” so that NEPA provisions that protect natural resources can be ignored such as sedimentation to streams, wildlife considerations, and cumulative effects.  The bill allows anything that kills trees as reason to log, such as for fire, insect boring, or fungal rot. But for healthy forests to thrive with resiliency, they need fire, dead trees, and insects. A healthy forest is one that is allowed to function naturally and is in balance with these processes. Clearcutting methods will be practiced using herbicide application on ten thousand acres at a time.  

In addition, salvage logging can be expedited which damages a burned forest that would normally recover healthier than before the burn.

Finally, the bill eliminates judicial review and eliminates any opportunity for recovering legal fees by plaintiffs, even if the agency is held in violation of federal laws.

Please oppose this draconian bill on the environment meant for short-term profits.  Our intact forests and watersheds and wildlife give much more value to our society.

Larry Hanson, Board President

Forest Unlimited

According to the League of Conservation voters, H.R. 2936 if passed “would severely undermine bedrock environmental laws and ultimately harm, rather than protect, our national forests. This bill would allow for environmentally devastating projects without the necessary environmental checks required under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), dramatically expanding exclusions ideally meant only for non-controversial forest management practices. Among several environmentally harmful provisions, the bill includes language that would allow for harmful logging and road building in currently protected areas and even a section that would effectively repeal the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument’s protections under the Antiquities Act.

“By promoting commercial logging on a massive scale at the expense of sound environmental review and exempting huge projects without adequate safeguards, this bill represents another attempt by the radical leadership in Congress to meddle in the science-based decision making process that should be made by experts at the U.S. Forest Service and other land management agencies under existing law. Furthermore, by reducing public participation through the NEPA process, waiving the ability for citizens to challenge harmful logging projects in court, and limiting the rights of citizens to recover attorneys’ fees when they prevail in court, this bill curtails the public’s ability to engage in our forest management process.

“The goal of our nation’s forest management should be to make forests more resilient to the impacts of climate change, drought, and excessive wildfires, but this bill does nothing to achieve those goals.”

For further information see:

Questions? Contact: Maya Khosla  Email:

KRCB TV Sonoma fire update:



Categories: Food and Farming

EU Says NO to Five More Years of Monsanto’s Roundup

Thu, 11/09/2017 - 10:36
With millions of pounds of glyphosate used yearly in the vineyards of Sonoma and Napa it’s time to ban this cancer causing chemical. No excuses.


From our friends at Organic Consumers Association:

EU Says NO to Five More Years of Monsanto’s Roundup MILLIONS AGAINST MONSANTO EU Just Said NO!

Monsanto’s past is finally catching up with it. And that’s making the Biotech Bully’s future look not so good—especially in Europe.

Today (Thursday, November 9), the EU Parliament again failed to agree on whether to allow European farmers to spray glyphosate, the key active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup weedkiller, for another five years. The chemical’s license expires on December 15 (though there’s an additional 18-month grace period).

This is great news—made even sweeter by this media report which prominently features our findings, announced October 10 in Brussels, that Ben & Jerry’s ice cream in four EU countries tested positive for glyphosate.

Monsanto has come under fire not just for the impact its GMOs and poisonous chemicals are having on human health and the environment, but also for knowing glyphosate causes cancer—but hiding it.

From the Monsanto Tribunal, to the Monsanto Papers, to the millions of dedicated people in all corners of the world working tirelessly to rid the world of Roundup—today’s vote brings hope. This may not be the end of the battle—but it signals that no matter how long it takes, we’re not giving up.

Fourteen countries voted in favor of the renewal, nine voted against, and five, including Germany, abstained from voting. What’s next? An appeal committee could be asked to intervene. Or, the European Commission could draft a new proposal. (France, which voted against the five-year renewal, said it would support a three-year renewal).

Read ‘EU Fails to Agree on Glyphosate License Renewal’

Read the ‘Official Complaint on Monsanto Non-Compliance With EU Transparency Rules’

Support OCA’s Millions Against Monsanto Campaign with a tax-deductible donation.


Categories: Food and Farming