High in the hills of Hubbardton one blue sky July morning in 1777, part of John Burgoyne’s mighty British army surprised an American force under Seth Warner. Before the dew dried, Warner’s men had accomplished a bloody and successful rear guard action that history records as the only true battle ever fought in Vermont.
Some 20 years ago Edwin Cole Bearss, the foremost authority on American battlefields, visited Hubbardton and pronounced it the best preserved of all this nation’s battlefields, with field and setting remarkably intact.
Now, a big wind tower, planned for a nearby hilltop, would despoil the battlefield’s nearly pristine view shed. If power interests would put a tower there, with no consideration other than that the winds blow strong, where in Vermont would they not put one?
Vermont is making a tragic mistake in moving toward a major wind power commitment. Wind towers are ugly. They threaten our scenic beauty like nothing since a depression era federal plan to rip a scenic highway along the Green Mountains. Vermont said no.
An effort is now underway in the Legislature to place a three-year moratorium on wind power. It should be approved. There is a need for time. We even need to consider such arguments as one I heard the other day at the Statehouse. The line of reasoning went that these towers are OK, in part, because Vermont’s mountains are already damaged by ski area development and communications towers. Using that logic does it figure that we should care less about something, even a human being, because it has been damaged? We should, of course, care more.
But wind power is not just planned for already-developed mountains. The next big project will, I understand, be along a remote Northeast Kingdom ridge. Should near pristine areas of Vermont be subjected to despoliation? The experience of ridge line building in Lowell shows that wind tower construction tears up, alters, the mountains.
And how many of these monstrosities do the power companies plan, hundreds perhaps, even thousands, to be built in the name of renewable energy? Recall that, built in our best interests, a frail and aged radioactive monster now sits by the Connecticut River at Vernon. That, too, was a gift of Vermont power companies. And we cannot shut it down. At the time it was planned, many voices in this state were pleading against its construction.
The remarkable beauty of this state has been entrusted to the Vermonters of 2013 by generation on generation of predecessors. Our future lies in its preservation. If we continue to defend it, people from far and near, heart drawn from the despoiled places of their habitation, will come here to see how America the Beautiful once appeared.
But we are on the verge of seeing monstrous turbines built on mountain, hill, and ridge throughout the state. Ask Lowell if this is the way, where decent people have become lawbreakers for opposing turbine monsters that have taken a heavy toll on their quality of life.
The Legislature must approve a wind power moratorium, for time is needed to think. All that’s at stake is the beauty of Vermont, and our beauty is our future.
Howard Coffin of Montpelier is a Vermont author and historian.
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