Giant redwoods have lots of enemies. First it was Pacific Lumber. Now, it's the growing horde of vintners who are demanding rights to raze the trees to make way for Pinot Noir vineyards and mansions. Two large wineries in northern California are petitioning the state for the right to clear 2,000 acres of redwood trees. If the request is approved, it would be the largest woodland-to-vineyard conversion in California history, Sonoma County officials tell the Los Angeles Times. In exchange, the wineries promise to plant a million redwoods elsewhere, restore waterways, and donate 200 acres to a public park.
"We are not going to let them rip these trees out by their roots, change the soil chemistry and develop neighborhoods so that these forests will never grow back," said one furious environmentalist. Unfortunately, grapes and redwoods seem to like very similar spots and conditions. Vineyards are sprouting up and expanding in California as domestic wine sales finally recover. For the first time last year, US drinkers bought more wine than the French. Sonoma planning officials have their work cut out for them as they consider allowing the change, according to one, that's "controversial from beginning to end." (Read more Sonoma County stories.)