Letter received from Elaine de Man, who describes herself as a concerned citizen-scientist. We need more Elaines:
I'm sorry I can't make it to today's meeting [Board of Supervisors' comments on the 9111 report], but I have read through most of the 9111 report that is going to be discussed regarding the Oak Woodland Initiative and wanted to share a few thoughts with you.
When my eyes weren't crossing from the crazy legalese—that made no sense at all regardless of how many times I read certain passages—I found myself laughing out loud at some of the report’s conclusions and the authors' pretended knowledge of (and hastily added) "scientific facts," specifically pertaining to the implications of the recent wildfires.
What first caught my attention was their confusion regarding wetlands vs various streams. There really is no confusion there, unless you want to be confused. But then, the report just got worse and I gave up on addressing specific problems within it.
I must give kudos to the lawyers who prepared this report for creating a number of legal mountains out of little molehills (and collecting a hefty fee in the process) to conclude, basically, that regardless of all their obfuscation, the initiative has to appear on the ballot because they couldn't find any justifiable reason to exclude it.
Honestly, who paid for this? I hope it wasn't the tax payers! And were these folks paid by the hour? By the page?
It seemed clear to me that this document was prepared with the intent of creating fear of litigation, where no such threats may actually occur.
But what is most distressing is that it totally overlooks the much bigger, and very real, threats to air and water quality that will be created if we lose more of our oak woodlands and the subsequent damage to the watershed. Actual science has shown that this will incur even greater expense over a longer period of time through increased health costs and environmental damage contributing to climate change, not to mention scenic degradation and traffic impacts that could undermine Napa Valley’s position as a premier destination and ultimately damage the local economy.
Most policymakers in California recognize that oak woodlands and forests sequester and store atmospheric carbon in quantities that contribute to the health and wellbeing of all Californians. A study performed by the California Oak Federation in 2008 (attached) quantified the carbon assets inherent in oak woodlands for each county at that time and evaluated their future ability to sequester additional carbon. Here's how the oak woodlands of Napa County fared:
· Above and below ground carbon sequestered in live and dead trees in Oak "Woodlands": 2,257,715 metric tons
· Above and below ground carbon sequestered in live and dead trees in Oak "Forests": 1,001,057 metric tons
These figures do not include the sequestered carbon in the form of:
· Understory shrubs: 11-21 metric tons per hectare
· Grasses and forbs: 28-31 tons per hectare
· Downed woody debris in the form of decaying logs and twigs: 5-14 tons per hectare, and
· Soil borne carbon, not including below ground tree root systems (28 tons per hectare).
(I’m not ignoring the impact of wildfires here, but other than the number of hectares burned, I don’t believe we have the scientific data yet.)
Using the above figures, more than 3 million tons of sequestered carbon is at risk of entering the atmosphere in Napa County, alone, should development processes eliminate these oak woodlands and forests and their associated carbon pools.
When all is said and done, the issue really is the conversion of oak forests and woodlands to vineyards. As far as I know there is no comparable scientific data comparing carbon sequestration in oak forests and woodlands with the carbon balances or footprints for vineyards, which would also depend on various agricultural practices such as tillage and planting cover crops.
If it hasn't been done already, I think the county's money might have been better spent funding studies that would give us actual scientific data so we know the real cost of replacing oak woodlands with vineyards, instead of funding the junk emitted in the 9111 Report you will be considering today.
If anything, Napa County should be doing all that it can to combat climate change (through carbon sequestration) by protecting, even enhancing, as many of its oak woodlands and forests as possible, or by supporting actual science-based research into the real costs of oak woodland conversion.