Industrial wind power is on the fast track to devastate the remote mountain ridges of Maine. Mainstream groups would have you believe that wind power is the next best solution to climate change; however, many Maine residents are beginning to realize that the only thing green about industrial wind power is the money that lines the corporate CEOs’ pockets. Activists from around the state are joining Earth First!ers’ to fight the most recent “green-washed” corporate attempt to pillage the mountains of Maine.
This threat is particularly relevant and frightening in the face of our current climate crisis. Wind power, amongst mainstream environmental groups stands as the answer to the crisis. Industrial wind power is not the answer to our current climate situation. Most wind power projects actually require more energy for their construction than they are able to produce, not to mention the energy needed to manufacture all of the elements for such projects. (To manufacture one of the cement pads that the average industrial wind turbine is placed upon produces 250,000 pounds of carbon.) However, nothing compares to the ecosystem destruction necessary to implement these projects in remote areas. Conservation, preservation and restoration of forested landscapes is one of the most valuable solutions to the effects of climate change on this planet’s non-human inhabitants. Yet the thousands of acres of clear-cutting, miles of new road-building, grading and clearing of sensitive alpine forests necessary for industrial wind power is being justified in the name of climate change. Allowing these sensitive mountain ecosystems to remain intact as wilderness corridors and carbon sinks provides an opportunity for these forests to regenerate; to eventually be capable of re-wilding the North Woods to its natural forested state, stretching from Maine to Minnesota, adding to this planets’ overall stability. Mountain ecosystems are also extremely important in the role they play in the hydrological cycle, with snow melt acting as a head water to rivers, streams, and ponds. Erosion and sedimentation that are often associated with wind power has the potential to contaminate these fresh water supplies: poisoning the life blood of this planet.
Corporations and the Maine government have been pushing through industrial wind power proposals around the state, following the creation of the “Wind Power Law,” signed in 2008, which placed two-thirds of the state within expedited wind power development areas. Within these zones, wind power projects require little to no environmental regulations and can be placed upon mountain ridges with no concern for the plants and animals who inhabit these areas. Two agencies—the Land Use Regulation Commission (LURC), infamous for their part in the Plum Creek proposal to develop Moosehead Lake (see EF! J January-February 2009) and the Department of Environmental Protection—have been given the authority to expand these expedited areas at the industry’s request despite having no qualifications or experience in making such decisions.
TransCanada is a 35 billion-dollar oil company from Alberta, Canada, responsible for the environmental devastation associated with tar sands (the most resource-intensive form of fossil fuel extraction). They have submitted an application to LURC to expand the expedited areas to include 631 acres on Sisk Mountain (they have already built 22 of 44 turbines on nearby Kibby Mountain). Sisk Mountain is located in the Boundary Mountains of western Maine in the Chain of Ponds area. Sisk Mountain and the Boundary Mountains are habitat to the Canada Lynx (listed threatened species), historic nesting grounds for the golden eagle, and home to the Bicknell’s Thrush, yellow-nosed vole, rock shrew, northern bog lemming, and thousands of migratory birds that pass through the range annually. Sisk Mountain is above 2,700 feet in elevation, placing it within the mountain protected zone because of the fragility of alpine ecosystems and their susceptibility to erosion. The fate of this remote mountain is being decided by LURC, the same commission that determined the fate of the Moosehead Lake area (the largest area of undeveloped land east of the Mississippi); zoning it to be developed as a playground for the rich.
Luckily, local community groups have formed around the state in opposition to wind power development. One of these groups, Friends of the Boundary Mountains (http://www.boundarymts.org), works to safeguard the Boundary Mountains from development and to conserve the area for traditional uses of wildlife, recreation and forestry. The group formed in 1995 when the protected mountain tops were threatened by rezoning for wind power development. The Friends of the Boundary Mountains has been particularly influential in the fight to protect Sisk Mountain from corporate driven ecological devastation; pushing the lines from “not in my back yard” (NIMBY) driven opposition to industrial wind power to more biocentric-based, no compromise messaging. These groups have recently formed a coalition called “The Citizens Task Force on Wind Power” to protect Maine’s mountain tops.
Because of Maine’s unique rural nature and “wealth” of natural resources, corporations like TransCanada are always around the next mountain ridge waiting to cash in this year’s federal stimulus package check in exchange for their role in ecological devastation. That is why Maine Earth First! is working to restore, re-wild and regenerate the shattered ecosystems that exist here and create long-lasting means of protection for the North Woods ecosystems and all of this planet’s interconnected neighbor ecosystems. Maine Earth First! will continue to take a no compromise stance in their eco-defense!