How would you like the George Washington National Forest to look in 50, or even 100 years?
The Forest Service met with residents down in Augusta County to determine just that, and a highly debated issue was whether wind farms will be on the horizon… literally.
Some are mountain bikers, others hikers, wilderness advocates, and some have just lived here a while, but in round two of public input, forest officials wanted to hear everything.
Henry Hickerson, Deputy Forest Supervisor, says, “I think we have to respond to a lot of different issues. Here in Virginia we have a lot of people coming in, we have a lot of users.”
Hickerson’s goal is to see a healthy National Forest, but whether it includes wind turbines is up in the air.
Sarah Francisco, Southern Environmental Law Center Attorney, says, “We have some concerns about industrial scale wind utility installations on the ridges.”
Francisco says there’s no question that wind is an element of a renewable energy future, “This is definitely an emerging issue, it something that come out, the public is very concerned about it, and I think there are a lot of questions about the significance of the impacts, and also about what the benefits would be.”
Some residents see things slightly different – though many are hesitant.
Richard Edwards, a Trails Specialist, says, “It depends where is most appropriate if there were wind farms, I would say they’d have to go through EIA’s or EIS’s, full environmental review and to have all the facts on the table, and to make an educated decision, it shouldn’t be done emotionally, we should look at the facts, and make the right decision.”
Regardless of wind projects in the future, Hickerson says the new management plan will shape the forest’s future, “It’ll have goals, it’ll have objectives, it’ll have monitoring, it’s a tremendous opportunity to get involved in the management of a national forest.”
One proposed wind farm project in the forest would construct more than 130 large wind turbines, standing at 440 feet tall.
The U.S. Department of Energy released a report on wind energy. They’d like to achieve the goal of generating 20% of our nation’s electricity from wind power by 2030.
Reporter: Keith Jones
18 July 2008
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