What has happened to protecting our environment?
To the Editor:
The state of Vermont, with its easy access to the natural environment, is our backyard. Until quite recently that backyard was well protected. The ridgelines were considered sacred. High-elevation logging was not allowed, leaving the tops of the ridgelines free from assault by developers. Wildlife was allowed to move freely with only the occasional threat of a hunter. Wetlands were left intact and headwaters to local streams were unimpeded in produing good clean water.
With the blessing of the governor and the Public Service Board all this has changed. The construction on Sheffield and Lowell Mountain was not a small logging operation. On Lowell Mountain alone Green Mountain Power's contractors clear cut 175 acres of ridgeline. Later, contractors used thousands of pounds of explosives and tons of heavy equipment to reshape the ridgeline, creating an access road and a crane path. The Lowell ridgeline will never recover from this onslaught. It would be hard to plant trees in this new high-elevation environment with roads made of blasted mountain. It will be impossible to bring the Lowell and Sheffield ridgelines back to the majesty they held a few short years ago. The new giants on the mountains range from 420 to 469-feet high. Wind turbines that now claim the dubious distinct of being the tallest structures in the state, will dominate the landscape for years to come.
There is growing evidence that in the battle over climate change, it is more important than ever to protect our ecosystems and wildlife habitat. Natural and fragile ecosystems like Vermont's ridgelines provide pure clean water that will be necessary for the survival of future inhabitants of a warming planet. Wildlife that evolved over thousands of years are now becoming threatened or extinct. In Vermont the small brown bat, losing 90 percent of its population, has become an endangered species. Threatened to extinction by white nose syndrome, bats now have another threat in wind turbines. Now, after 10 months of operation the Sheffield Wind Project, knowing that some bats will die from wind turbines anyway, is asking ANR for a "taking" permit.
It seems that actually protecting these small mammals would not be cost effective and might threaten the very existence of the project. Real impact studies would have revealed this problem long before this wind project got off the ground, but wind developers have always been in a state of denial when it comes to environmental impacts. Other proposed wind projects face similar challenges.
It is more urgent than ever that we take a breather from industrial wind, sort out fact from fiction, and run the necessary impact studies developers refuse to conduct. We should also investigate our state government whose policies failed to protect an environment we were almost ready to take for granted.
Richard H. Rumery
Newport Center, Vt.