QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
1. HOW MANY ACRES OF FORESTS DOES SONOMA COUNTY HAVE?
The actual number of acres currently devoted to timber production in Sonoma County as of March 2002 is about 230,000 acres. Altogether there are about 375,000 acres capable of growing mixed conifers that for various reasons are not presently doing so.
2. WHAT ARE WE PROTECTING THESE FOREST FROM?
We are trying to prevent these timberlands from being “converted” to industrial agricultural uses, mainly but not only vineyards. Conversion of forestlands is permanent. Many complex ecological processes are tragically disrupted. Once forestland is converted to agriculture or other uses, its regeneration into a healthy forest ecosystem will take generations.
3. WHY IS NOW THE TIME TO TRY AND PROTECT THEM?
With the growth of the wine industry, and other agricultural demands, there has been pressure even this year from outside our county, and our country, to clear these forests and plant industrial crops. Though the wine industry is presently slow, this could change in any future year. Also the Sonoma County General Plan is now being updated, providing the public a chance to express a desire to see these timberlands protected.
4. WHY SHOULDN’T THE FORESTS BE CONVERTED TO AGRICULTURAL USES?
Conversion of wildland to vineyards or other row crops causes serious environmental impacts. These include: a) disruption of wildlife corridors and habitat fragmentation. b) ground water depletion c) downstream flooding d) pollution to fresh water sources caused by pesticides/herbicides, sediment and mobilization of mercury, asbestos and other geological particulates e) sub-surface hydrologic flow changes f) water diversion g) recontouring h) deep soil disruption i) increasing rate of flow in streams causing stream bank failure, mass wasting of land and streams, and river disequilibrium j) micro-climate changes k) harm to endangered species and depletion of their habitat. l) aesthetic impacts.
5. WHAT IS THE GENERAL PLAN?
The County government of Sonoma County is responsible for regulating development within the unincorporated areas of the County. The County's principal means for accomplishing this task is the General Plan, which prescribes the policies and guidelines for making land use decisions.
It has been almost 12 years since the adoption of the current General Plan in March, 1989. Although some believe the Plan is still strongly supported by the community at large and remains effective, a number of its provisions are in need of reevaluation and updating. With the ongoing release of the year 2000 census, coupled with the ongoing update of the Housing Element, now is the time to update the Plan.
6. WHAT ARE THE CHOICES WE HAVE REGARDING THE TREATMENT OF OUR FORESTS?
The four options that are being considered as a part of the new General Plan are:
1. Continue with the status quo because the fraction of timberlands that have been converted to vineyards is less than 1%.
2. Discourage the conversion of timberland by not allowing agricultural uses that would require conversion in the 69,000 acres that are zoned TP (Timber Production).
3. Protect the 194,000 acres of forest in the RRD (resource and rural development) Land Use category by not allowing conversions for industrial or other development whether or not they are zoned for timber production.
4. Allow conversion of the 69,000 acres of TP on a case- by- case basis.
7. WHAT IS THE BEST OPTION?
Option 3 gives the most protection to the most number of forested acres, 194,000 acres.
8. WHAT ABOUT OPTION 2? WON’T THAT PROTECT FORESTS?
Option 2 is a step in the right direction, but an inadequate step. Option 2 will only protect about 1/3 as much forest as Option 3. Moreover, the 1/3 protected by Option 2 already enjoys some protection because it is in Timber Production Zoning (TPZ). Historically, most forest conversions have not been in the TPZ areas. So Option 2 is too little protection, and the protection that is offered is not where the protection is most needed.
9. WHAT ORGANIZATIONS SUPPORT OPTION 3?
Sierra Club, Townhall Coalition, Friends of Gualala River, and the Audubon Society all support Option Three. More organizations are expected to soon support Option 3.
10. HAVE ANY STATE OR FEDERAL AGENCIES TAKEN POSITIONS ON THE FOREST PROTECTION OPTIONS?
The North Coast Water Quality Control Board has publicly gone on record supporting Option 3.
11. WHAT IS THE PUBLIC RESPONSE TO THE QUESTION OF WHICH OPTION IS BEST?
Public comment has been almost unanimously supportive of Option 3.
12. WHAT ARE THE FORESTS THAT WOULD BE PROTECTED BY OPTION 3?
The vast majority of these forests are in the Western part of Sonoma County, in the Fifth Supervisoral District. That’s why it is so significant that Supervisor Mike Reilly, the Supervisor whose district would be most affected by Option 3, has come out in strong support of it.
13. WHAT HAPPENS IF OPTION 3 IS NOT PART OF THE GENERAL PLAN?
There will be less protection for the 194,000 acres of our Redwoods and Douglas firs, which can then be cleared more easily to make way for vineyards or other industrial agriculture projects.
14. WHO CAN WE CONTACT TO VOICE OUR OPINION?
The Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors need to hear from you. They need to hear from more than just those who stand to profit financially by destroying forests.
Please take just a minute or two to send letters to:
1) THE PLANNING COMMISSION: 707-565-2563 firstname.lastname@example.org
2550 Ventura Ave.
Santa Rosa, CA 95403
2) BOARD OF SUPERVISORS: 707-565-2241 email@example.com
575 Administration Drive, Room 100A
Santa Rosa, CA 95403
For a local issue like this, even one letter can significantly affect the outcome
Email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Or find out more at: www.redwood.sierraclub.org/sonoma