By Gabe Meline
Paul Hobbs is well-known these days, and for all the wrong reasons. Hobbs is a winemaker who sued a very possibly mentally ill senior citizen, then purchased his land and clearcut its redwoods; who clearcut redwoods at his residence without proper permits; and who recently entered escrow on the Davis Christmas Tree Farm in Sebastopol by arranging to have the land clearcut. Yeah, we know—getting upset over the cutting of trees that are designed to be cut down is funny. What Paul Hobbs is up to is not.
Back before he became the face of wine country arrogance, Hobbs sued neighbor John Jenkel for allegedly damaging his own trees. But after buying Jenkel's land, Hobbs immediately felled the redwoods lining Gravenstein Highway, a protected state scenic corridor.
Cal Fire has said that clearing the trees at Davis Tree Farm on Vine Hill Road without a permit is technically legal. But downstream from the property is Atascadero Creek, which has seen an alarming decline in salmon population in the years since the region once known as the Redwood Empire became known instead as wine country. Both the district attorney and the Water Quality Control Board are investigating.
It is sadly common business policy to ask for forgiveness instead of permission, and in Hobbs' case, it's more convenient to pay the fines than to shoulder the time and money involved in a proper permitting process. But Hobbs has not even asked for forgiveness. Instead, he continues with controversial or outright illegal clearcuts, without shame. How can he even show his face in his adopted county?
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