The following is a press release issued by the Center for Biological Diversity:
Approximately 2,300 acres of intact wildlife habitat in Napa County is expected to be sold to a land trust for permanent protection under an agreement announced this week.
The county re-approved the controversial vineyard development known as Walt Ranch in 2022, after years of community opposition and legal challenges. The proposed vineyard would have ripped out riparian, oak and native grassland habitat to plant grape vines. But the new deal will permanently protect the site and would save 14,000 mature oak trees and other important carbon-sequestering habitats from total destruction.
“This kind of conservation success story shows developers and decision-makers across California that there’s a better way to plan for the future,” said Aruna Prabhala, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The oak woodlands and chaparral of Walt Ranch is a Napa gem that we desperately need to help combat the climate crisis. It’s why we fought so hard for so many years to protect this land.”
The Center and Sierra Club filed a legal challenge to the Walt Ranch project when it was first approved by the county in 2016. A state appeals court ruled that the vineyard conversion project lacked an adequate plan to offset the environmental harms caused by cutting down thousands of mature oak trees. The Center continued to challenge the project’s mitigation plan, which led to a reduction in the size of the development. The county ultimately approved a revised version of the project in 2022.
On Wednesday, the Napa Valley Land Trust and Hall Wines announced the planned land deal, which will require fundraising before it’s finalized.