While it may appear to the casual observ-
er that Napa County is bursting with grape
vines, the truth is that only nine percent of
Napa County is planted in vineyards and less
than three percent remains suitable for grape
planting, according to the findings of the
Napa County Watershed Task Force. Napa
County encompasses 485,120 acres in total
and approximately 45,000 acres are planted
to vineyard.
In the late 1950s and early 1960s, local land-
owners realized that the encroaching urban
growth to the south all but guaranteed that
their land values were about to increase ex-
ponentially. Left unchecked much of the val-
ley could by now have become paved-over,
covered in tract-homes and strip-malls simi-
lar to Santa Clara Valley, once a thriving ag-
ricultural area.
In 1968, Napa Valley vintners and others in
the community had the forethought to pre-
serve open space and prevent future over-
development by enacting the nation's first
Agriculture Preserve. Since its adoption, not
one acre of land has been removed from the
preserve. This land-zoning ordinance estab-
lished agriculture and open space as the
best use for the land in the fertile valley and
foothill areas of Napa County. Initially the or-
dinance protected 23,000 acres of agricul-
tural land stretching from Napa in the south
to Calistoga. Today, more than 38,000 acres
are contained within the Napa Valley Agri-
cultural Preserve. Additionally, the urban
footprint of all the county’s communities was
defined more than 40 years ago which has
safeguarded the region from sprawl.
Napa County, which encompasses the Napa
Valley American Viticultural Region, is the
last of the 9 Bay Area counties to count ag-
riculture as its top industry. What was once
viewed as a risky proposition to land value
by placing land in an ag preserve, Napa Val-
ley today is proud to have the most sought
after grapes for fine wine production in the
US valued at nearly a half billion dollars an-
nually. The economic impact of Napa Valley’s
wine is $50 billion annually. Though just 4%
of California’s wine grape harvest, it has a
mighty 27% share of the California wine in-
dustry’s economic impact on the US econo-
Local vintners are well into a second-gener-
ation effort to preserve the valley. Working
with the Land Trust of Napa County, vintners
are joining other property owners in plac-
ing their land into Conservation Easements.
These easements dictate how designated
parcels will be used in perpetuity—without a
sunset date.
Presently, nearly 53,000 acres of Napa Coun-
ty land is forever guaranteed to remain used
as open space and agricultural land through
the Conservation Easement program. Those
who place their land in these easements are
making a financial sacrifice of future prop-
erty sales. Additionally, another 18,500 acres
Ag Land Preservation and Open Space
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