Feb 07 2012

Feinstein Urges Protection of Napa Valley, Opposes New Casino Development

‘Napa Valley is a unique and cherished landmark’ and any land-use change in the Ag Preserve should be approved by voters

Washington–Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) today expressed firm opposition to any action by the Department of the Interior that would facilitate the development of an Indian casino within the Napa Valley Agricultural Preserve. 

In a letter to Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, Feinstein wrote, “While I support the Department’s efforts to restore sovereignty to de-recognized tribes, it is deeply concerning to me that the re-recognition process has become so closely intertwined with the development of new casinos in California.” 

The Mishewal Wappo Tribe has pending legal action against the Department of Interior in an effort to regain federal tribal status and thereby sovereignty in Napa, Sonoma and Lake counties.  Of the 109 tribal governments that are federally recognized in California, 60 are operating 67 casinos. 

“Napa Valley is a unique and cherished landmark for the people of California and wine-lovers worldwide.  To protect these valuable resources, Napa County residents approved the Napa Valley Agriculture Preserve in 1968.  Under the terms of the ordinance, all non-agricultural development is strictly forbidden unless approved by popular vote.”

Following is the text of the letter:

February 7, 2012

The Honorable Ken Salazar
Secretary
U.S. Department of the Interior
1849 C Street, N.W.
Washington DC 20240

Dear Secretary Salazar:

I write to inform you of my firm opposition to any action by the Department of the Interior that would facilitate the development of an Indian casino within the Napa Valley Agricultural Preserve. 

While I support the Department’s efforts to restore sovereignty to de-recognized tribes, it is deeply concerning to me that the re-recognition process has become so closely intertwined with the development of new casinos in California.  This correlation is particularly troubling in the case of the Mishewal Wappo tribe and its alleged historical connection to the Napa Valley area. 

Napa Valley is a unique and cherished landmark for the people of California and wine-lovers worldwide.  Its soil and weather characteristics make it ideally suited to producing world class wines, which have developed an industry that supports 231,000 jobs and creates $42.4 billion in economic activity. 

To protect these valuable resources, Napa County residents approved the Napa Valley Agriculture Preserve in 1968.  Under the terms of the ordinance, all non-agricultural development is strictly forbidden unless approved by popular vote.  This means that even the Napa County Board of Supervisors has no power to alter the character of Napa Valley.

It is my understanding that the Napa delegation presented Deputy Secretary David Hayes and BIA staff with letters opposing casino development from the Napa County Board of Supervisors, the Cities of Yountville, St. Helena, Calistoga, and American Canyon, as well as the Napa Chamber of Commerce, the Napa County Farm Bureau Federation, the Napa Valley Vintners Association, the Napa Wine Grape Growers, and the Sierra Club.  The opposition to a casino within the Preserve is virtually unanimous.

Should your Department determine that the Mishewal Wappo tribe meets the criteria for Federal recognition and that land within the Agriculture Preserve is the appropriate location for the tribe, I stand ready to support your decision.  However, that support is contingent upon a deed restriction that requires all land use changes to be approved by Napa County voters, the same as any other development within the Preserve.  Such a restriction is the only way to ensure that the character of the region is maintained.  

Please know that I greatly value the natural beauty and unique characteristics of the County’s Agricultural Preserve and that I will work to preserve its integrity.  I look forward to working with you and the Bureau to ensure that it is protected.  Should you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Sincerely

Dianne Feinstein
United States Senator

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