March 12, 2013
Opinions, Vermont

In denial about wind turbine bird impact

Written by Vanessa Mills Holmquist | Burlington Free Press | March 12, 2013 |

Does anyone else see the stunning irony? The Green Mountain Power (Gaz Metro) corporation is currently accepting nominations for the 2013 GMP-Zetterstrom Environmental Award. Let me process this by looking briefly into the history and potential future of the work of environmentalist Meeri Zetterstrom (1921-2010).

Finnish-born Meeri (Tikkanen) Zetterstrom eventually settled with her husband near Lake Arrowhead in Vermont, and she dedicated the last two decades of her life to saving the osprey population both around Lake Arrowhead and the state of Vermont, where the raptor species had practically disappeared. Due to her tireless work and inspiring commitment, she must have felt so very gratified to see the bird removed from the state’s endangered species list in 2005! She died in 2010, and I had read in an obituary that she’d asked “that people celebrate her life by carrying on her love for the ospreys and nature.”

It is fitting that she should be recognized. It is fitting that an environmental award be named after her, due to her diligent advocacy for the once-endangered osprey. What is disconcerting and sadly ironic, though, is that her great efforts are to be thwarted by the Georgia Mountain wind project that is not far from the region in which Meeri Zetterstrom lived and worked!

What would this woman, this passionate advocate for the osprey and the environment, think of the inefficient, greenwashed industrial-scale turbine project set so close to the now-thriving species she worked so hard to protect, so near the area where she worked to erect nesting platforms enough to enhance the chance of breeding and nesting, and the survival of osprey chicks?

I have unfortunately never actually seen an osprey. I hope to. I have, though, during last spring, had the breath-taken honor of catching sight of a golden eagle in flight over a field not far from the Pittsford Ridge! I understand that a raptor hunts with extremely honed precision and would so then, in such flight, be oblivious to the chopping action of spinning turbine blades. I also understand stakeholders and Big Wind promoters downplay this aspect of wind turbine projects, and that there is widespread denial of bird-and-bat takes. But I also know that the Sheffield project was granted permit for legal bat takes within this past year (this is crazy, backwards thinking when we suffer from a declining bat population, and when bats control mosquitoes naturally.

Link also to this fact that the bat populations of the state are already struggling and the mosquito-born EEE virus is on the rise. And when I think of how the current administration had tweaked federal legislation to allow for legal takes of endangered bird species by wind turbines, including bald eagles and golden eagles, I do so wonder how it all would strike Meeri Zetterstrom. I wonder what she’d think of the backwards thinking with regard to the bug-bat/bird connections and nature’s circles of life. I wonder what she’d have to say in her spirited manner and voice, to Green Mountain Power, for their Lowell Mountain turbines and their environmental impacts and their tremendous potential to kill birds. And I wonder how upset she would be by the idea that the Georgia Mountain industrial turbine project stands overshadowing the region where she lived and worked, threatening the raptors she loved and for whom she inexhaustibly fought.

Vanessa Mills Holmquist lives in Pittsford.

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