Paul Hobbs faces fines for environmental ‘vandalism’3rd July, 2014 by Rupert Millar
US winemaking consultant Paul Hobbs is potentially facing multi-million dollar fines for cutting down trees on protected land in order to plant a vineyard.
According to Sonoma West Times & News, the Sonoma County District Attorney’s office is seeking “stiff penalties” against Hobbs who apparently “recklessly and carelessly” ignored state logging laws protecting a section of woodland near Highway 116 in Pocket Canyon and on Vine Hill and Watertrough roads in 2011.
The woodland had been protected in line with the county’s Vineyard Erosion and Sediment Control Ordinance.
Up to US$37,500 per violation is being sought for each day of unpermitted work on the sites and as unregulated work on the Pocket Canyon vineyard lasted for two years, the fine for that site alone adds up to over $32 million, although the penalties would be decided by the judge in the case.
Hobbs apparently began logging on the site before the state Timber Harvest Plan had been completed and last year gave the Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District a $175,000 endowment to protect 117 acres of woodland to help administer the land.
Hobbs got into trouble with other Sonoma residents last year when he got permission to cut down an apple orchard near Sebastopol.
When his team began uprooting blackberry bushes and bay laurel growing along a stream at the same site the county issued a stop-work order.
Likewise, Hobbs did have permission for the Watertrough Road project but the approval for that is facing a court challenge from neighbours who say it violates the California Environmental Quality Act.