Resnicks’ deforestation ignites battle

June 15, 2016
Deforestation by Justin Vineyards

Deforestation by Justin Vineyards

By KAREN VELIE

In the rolling hills that surround northern San Luis Obispo County communities, some farmers have planted grapes among the oaks. Locally, there has been an emphasis on stewardship of the land and protecting the oaks.

Almost 20 years ago, amid concerns sparked when the owners of Kendall Jackson winery bulldozed 843 oaks to create a vineyard in Santa Barbara County, the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors discussed enacting an oak tree ordinance. However, a group of local farmers argued against the ordinance because they thought it would be onerous and in the past farmers had avoided clear cutting large swatches of oak trees.

But now, a group of farmers and San Luis Obispo County Supervisor Debbie Arnold say it is time to reconsider adopting an oak tree ordinance.

Truckloads of lumber being removed

Truckloads of lumber being removed

Prompted by the cutting of thousands of oak trees along with plans to create a 20-acre-foot agricultural reservoir that will drain millions of gallons of water out of the ground during a time of drought, many North County farmers no longer believe we can trust local property owners to self-regulate.

“This is the third property they have deforested,” said Matt Trevisan, with Linne Calodo Winery. “It is thousands of trees not hundreds. There is a bully in our county and they need to leave.”

Justin Vineyards and Winery, a company owned by Stewart and Lynda Resnick, violated a county code when it failed to get the permit required to grade on slopes in excess of 30 percent. Their company did submit a permit application for the construction of the water storage pond. However, the permit application stated no trees would be removed as a result of constructing the pond.

County staff responded to the violations with a stop work order.

“I am committed to providing more protection for our beautiful, native oaks,” Arnold said. “It is unfortunate we have to enact expensive and onerous regulation because not all landowners respect this amazing resource.”

Arnold said she contacted county Administrator Dan Buckshi and asked him to begin the process of bringing an oak tree ordinance proposal to the Board of Supervisors.

Following the clear cutting of oaks by Kendall Jackson winery, Santa Barbara County enacted an oak tree ordinance. That ordinance exempts oaks that are dead, within 50 feet of a home or are deemed dangerous. Property owners are then limited from removing more than a set amount of non-exempt oaks per acre, such as no more than 11 oak trees from a property between 800 to 899 acres.

“My goal is to bring forward an ordinance that includes common sense exemptions,” Arnold said. “I feel we need protection from this kind of abuse.”

While many bemoan the loss of our county’s forested lands, Resnicks neighbors fear the Resnicks will drain underground water sources to fill their reservoir, leaving their neighbors without the vital resource. And while several supporters of the failed Paso Robles water district claim its passage would have stopped the deforestation, the land Resnick recently deforested is outside the Paso Robles Basin’s boundaries.

Who are Stewart and Lynda Resnick?

The Resnicks own, among numerous other entities, POM Wonderful, Fiji Water, Roll Global, Paramount Farms International, and Justin Wines in Paso Robles. They are famed for their domination of pistachio, almond, pomegranate, and citrus agribusiness in the Central Valley.

Stewart and Lynda Resnick

Stewart and Lynda Resnick

Starting in 2010 with the purchase of Justin Winery, Resnick, through his wholly-owned The Wonderful Company, has been purchasing multiple acreages in the Paso Robles area. Since then, Resnick company holdings have grown to more than 1,600 acres in San Luis Obispo County.

A primary proponent of the proposed Paso Robles basin water district, the Resnicks donated $12,000 to the effort rejected by 77 percent of voters.

The Resnicks, whose agricultural empire of more than 3 million acres in the Americas, have garnered more than a 70 percent monopoly of several crops including almonds, pistachios, pomegranates and peaches.

In the 1980s and 90s, the Resnicks – through Paramount Farms – began buying up Central Valley land and water rights. Through their purchases, along with other wealthy landowners, they created the Kern Water Bank using public funds. This provided the Resnicks with an unlimited water supply for their ventures and the ability to resell water for big profits.

Nevertheless, some of their neighbors were left without clean water, and eventually lost their farms.

Another example of the Resnicks commandeering natural resources for profit, was their creation of a bottled water company called FIJI Water. While the Resnicks profit from exporting water, the Island residents don’t always have access to clean drinking water.

When the Fiji government wanted to impose a higher tax, Roll Global shut down operations in Nov. 2010 in protest. The shutdown lasted only a few days — until Roll Global executives and Fiji government representatives were able to reach agreement on future relations.

Locally, not everyone is eager to continue purchasing Resnick brands. Farmers and property owners are asking people to attend the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisor’s meeting next Tuesday to voice concerns.

“We are seeing an uprising,” Trevisan said. “This needs to stop. They need to answer the hard question, why are you doing this?”

 


Loading...
Mr. Holly

If the county claims that they can’t afford $1million to manage the water district then they should just give up on the Resnick’s. A million dollars to them is just pocket change to the rest of us. They will just start a court battle that the county can’t afford and the Resnick’s will just outlast them and come out the winner. Nothing new for them. We should just have a get out of town party for them.


Russ J

Ready to go! Just add water. Now that I stopped watering my lawn so much like Jerry told me, there should be plenty for Justin. Agriculture doesn’t use too much, that’s why Jerry went after you and me. Farmer boy is a great steward of our land – right? Could it be that there is a political connection to the Bel Air farmers of California?…………..Say it ain’t so – Joe!


scoopone

My question is: why did it take so long to report this? Did Meecham or other supervisors look the other way? This should have been stopped before the loss of hundreds of trees.


kayaknut

Of course they looked the other way and they would have preferred it stay that way but unfortunately too many locals made a fuss and got it out there and then they had to do something.


justbeware

Power to the people!


Mariposa

For starters, go here: http://www.wonderful.com/who-we-are and click on “Our Brands.” Scan the brands carefully and avoid purchasing anything that comes from the ‘Wonderful Resnicks’. Post the same on your social media accounts. Do your part to spread the word on boycotting anything/everything the Resnicks’ tentacles have touched!


swmut

Good luck. The Resnicks holdings are so wide spread in CA, it’s very hard to purchase fruits or nuts that are not in some way connected to him. And what you are looking at only includes their branded products; not the things they sell under other labels. 3 million acres of land is not easy to ignore or boycott.


RealityBytes

Paso Basin’s capacity of 850,000 acre feet has been drawn down to 450,000 monthly for the past few years, unlike it ever had experienced in the past.


I attended February’s Templeton Water District meeting where this was described in great detail during a presentation by a recent geologist’s survey.


The period of this drastic monthly use seems to coincide with Resnick’s pond installations, if it is true that his ponds have been in the Creston area since 2010.


sezlittle1

Paso Robles water basin was once one of the largest water basins in the United States. People in the know claim this company AKA Wonderful and Justin Winery has nearly single handedly drained the basin. Up until now the whistle blowers have not wanted to say anything for fear of being sued. Most of the 18 Vineyard sites this company has developed in not suitable for grape growing. Instead they are strategically located to drain as much water as possible. look at the picture in the link from this article that ran in 2013. The irrigation line they are burying is not suitable for vineyard irrigation. Those are the size of lines that are used for cities. Not for irrigation lines. Hope the momentum to cal this company out is just beginning.

http://calcoastnews.com/2013/08/water-crisis-dividing-friends-neighbors/


Daniel Blackburn

Sezlittle1 – please contact me at blackburn.danielj@gmail.com. Thanks


RealityBytes

“Supervisor Debbie Arnold, expressing reluctance to move toward wide-ranging sanctions, said she believes many people need a short-term answer to their water needs in the form of financial aid for deepening wells.”


It is environmentally negligent for our leaders who side with Debbie Arnold to allow unregulated water banking and suggest offering financial aid to appease those whose wells run dry.


A good steward of the environment would regulate and monitor our water supply, not suggest further drilling to exhaust what’s left of our natural resource that is vital to sustain life.


Jorge Estrada

I support Supervisor Arnold’s intention to have a common sense regulation to avoid the mass removal of native trees. The Resnick family should know better than to participate in genocide. I do not care about how much money they may have nor do I care about forming a stigma on corporations, this is America and we all have the same opportunity to do better. Sadly there are some where more is never enough, just stare at her face and ponder on this.


obispan

“Common sense regulation”? What is “common sense”? It that not “communal” and therefore “communism”? The Resnicks have the right to do what they want with their property, just like Debbie said in her campaign.


Mariposa

*mmark* referenced in his 6:23 pm post yesterday (06/15/2016) a Templeton Area Advisory Group (TAAG) meeting scheduled for tonight (06/16/2016) at 7 pm. No location was provided. WHERE will the meeting be held?


ajdury

I suggest calling the Templeton Community Services District (TCSD) at 805-434-4900.


Looking at the TAAG’s last meeting minutes (5/19/16) it was held at the TCSD office located at 5th & Crocker – 420 Crocker Street.


Good luck!


justbeware

This is what you call raping the land.


kayaknut

It’s the Resnick way. They feel rules and laws don’t apply to them.


obispan

Property rights, yes or no, no compromise, regulation or middle ground. Same goes for gun rights. No cry-baby Tea-Baggers saying “we didn’t mean that”.


tomsquawk

what have they done to our fair sister?