During a week filled with concerns about protecting the environment comes the alarming news that state officials are considering exploiting one resource to develop another.
As reported by The Sun’s Tom Pelton, the O’Malley administration is weighing a request from Pennsylvania developers to lease and clear-cut 400 mountaintop acres in two state forests in Western Maryland so they can erect 100 wind turbines, 40 stories tall, to supply clean power to just 55,000 homes.
This counterproductive proposal should be rejected out of hand. Publicly owned land should be not be leased to private developers for any purpose, much less one that by definition will deny access to and enjoyment of that land to the public.
Further, those trees are making their own important contribution to the environment. They filter the air, slow the rush of rainwater, sequester carbon and support wildlife habitat. Maryland needs more forests and more land conservation; destroying some of what little pristine land it has put aside is an unnecessary waste of scarce resources.
Wind power is very attractive because it offers a renewable energy source that does not emit the pollutants that contribute to global warming and poison the Chesapeake Bay. But windmills don’t come without their own costs to the environment and to the quality of life of those who live nearby. Whether densely populated Maryland is an appropriate place for wind farms is still an open question.
The only windmill project to win state approval so far got it through a General Assembly mandate to overrule environmental conditions applied by the Public Service Commission.
Reports this week from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and the Maryland Commission on Climate Change outlined a grim scenario unless bold action is taken soon to better protect and manage the natural resources that have been the state’s greatest asset.
There is no single perfect solution. What’s required is a broad, comprehensive approach that involves conservation as well as cleaner energy sources, and that shows more respect for Maryland’s fragile ecology. For example, many of the trees in those forests have been damaged by a gypsy moth infestation that the state had neither the money nor manpower to treat.
The trees shouldn’t be cut down, though. They should be restored to good health and returned to active duty as stewards of the environment. Put the windmills someplace else.
7 December 2007
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