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GUEST OPINION: Clearing of trees exposes loopholes in county oversight

Clearing of trees exposes loopholes in county oversight

Trees were removed from a parcel on Highway 116 north of Sebastopol last week, triggering outrage from some neighbors and at least one county supervisor.

Bulldozers scraped the trees off another parcel on Highway 116 north of Sebastopol last week for another vineyard.

Supervisor Efren Carrillo has expressed outrage at this flouting of environmental rules and regulations. Even as chairman of the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors, Carrillo could do little to immediately halt this recent devastation, other than calling in the District Attorney’s Office after the fact.

It is no coincidence that this land on the corner of Vine Hill Road is in escrow, apparently being sold to the same grape-grower who used questionable “legal” tactics to take land further south along Highway 116 away from landowner John Jenkel and then ripped all the trees out before anyone could stop him.

But the problem isn’t the occasional bad apple. In recent years, the county rules governing land use have been slanted in favor of conversion to grapes and other development. The result has been large-scale clearing of the land that is alarming the public and which the county now seems unwilling to stop. Stripping parcels of all vegetation is allowed with little or no regard for the direct and cumulative impacts on neighbors, creeks, trees and wildlife.