July 24, 2005

Towers on public land

Speak up, Vermonters. This state could become the first in the nation
to allow 300-foot wind towers along the ridge lines of national forest
land around Searsburg in southern Vermont. That is a serious proposition
and one that demands public input and scrutiny.

Deerfield Wind – a subsidy of French firm ENEXCO – has proposed
building 20 to 30 such towers on an 80-acre wind farm on these public
lands. This would provide enough power to serve up to 16,000 homes.

The U.S. Forest Service is being appropriately cautious with the
proposal, planning 18 months of environmental study and holding public
meetings on the proposal. Several significant issues are worthy of
public consideration, and people ought to tune in and speak out.

First, this is public land that belongs to all Americans. So important
does the public consider this property that it has been designated for
special protection to ensure future generations can enjoy the wild space.

Do we now want to see pristine ridge lines turned into pincushions with
enormous white turbines whirring along the skyline? Most people support
clean energy sources, but at what price? Is this the vision Americans
had of its national forests when these wild places were set aside for
our children and their children to enjoy?

There is a place for wind power in the clean energy mix, but pristine
ridge lines that are home to important wildlife and offer spectacular
natural vistas are not the place for turbines.

All the questions that apply to commercial development of wind farms on
private land apply here – even more so given public ownership of this
property. How will birds and other wildlife be impacted by the project?
What protections are in place for the important bear habitat located
here? What other threatened species rely on land to survive, and
therefore might face special threats?

The project will require about 4 miles of road into this area. Roads by
their very nature are worrisome because they erode the natural space,
divide and fragment the land, and make future development that much
easier. Is that acceptable for this site?

How much power will actually be generated by these towers, and is that
amount worth the environmental degradation that can be expected? How
visible will these towers be and at what distance? How noisy are the

These are just some of the questions the public should be asking as the
U.S. Forest Service considers this proposal. Commercial use of the land
is not necessarily a bad thing. After all, sustainable timbering has
been acceptable. However, windfarms on the high ridge lines pose real
environmental risks.

The Forest Service has two meetings set next month in southern Vermont.
It ought to add others around the state and seek comment nationally
because everyone owns this land.

Wind energy is clean, safe power that offsets the nation’s need for
dirtier sources such as coal. Encouraging wind-power production is sound
public policy.

Like all things, there are places where these farms belong – and places
they do not. Vermonters should make it clear that publicly owned ridge
lines should not become home to enormous, whirring wind turbines. To
learn more Public meetings are scheduled for 7 p.m. on Aug. 3 at the
Grand Summit Resort Hotel at Mount Snow in West Dover, and Aug. 4 at the
Whitingham Elementary School in Jacksonville.

Editorial Staff

URL to article:  https://www.wind-watch.org/news/2005/07/24/430/