Second annual ‘Honoring the Land’ rally broadens scope

  • Wendell resident and Harvard-trained biologist Bill Stubblefield speaks at the inaugural “Honoring the Land” rally last year in Greenfield. Stubblefield will be among the speakers again this year. STAFF FILE PHOTO/CHRIS LARABEE

Staff Writer
Published: 8/11/2022 7:26:47 PM
Modified: 8/11/2022 7:23:32 PM

TURNERS FALLS — Organizers of the second annual “Honoring the Land” event seek to build upon their tradition of advocacy opposing large-scale solar projects that destroy forested areas, while widening their focus to address FirstLight Hydro Generating Co.’s impact on the Connecticut River ecosystem.

The environmentalist rally, to be held Saturday from 2 to 6 p.m. at Peskeomskut Park, will include musical performances, poetry and speeches. A similar rally will also take place in Plymouth.

The Bruce Katz Band will be joined by locals Joe Graveline and Tom Neilson as musical performers, Don Ogden will present poetry, and speeches will be delivered by Graveline, Karl Meyer, Fred Beddall and Bill Stubblefield. 

The event is free to attend, with a raffle available to raise money to offset the cost of booking the Bruce Katz Band. Hosting the event are Concerned Citizens of Franklin County, Save Massachusetts Forests, Save the Pine Barrens, and the Community Land and Water Coalition.

Last year’s inaugural rally, held at Greenfield’s Energy Park and in Wareham, urged attendees to sign a petition, which organizer Janet Sinclair said will be brought to Gov. Charlie Baker. The petition calls for the state to stop using taxpayers’ money to finance solar projects larger than 5 acres. A proposed moratorium would give municipalities a chance to consider solar bylaws while also encouraging rooftop solar arrays.

The target amount of signatures for the petition, Sinclair said, has not yet been reached. She looks to garner more support at this year’s rally in hopes of delivering the petition to the governor soon.

This event is also timed in proximity to the conclusion of a legislative session in which two forest protection bills pushed by Save Massachusetts Forests, an advocacy group co-founded by Sinclair, were rejected. Despite the setback, Sinclair said the fight continues and people should take some time to have fun.

“Now, the legislative session has ended,” she said, “and we want a place to have people gather together and celebrate.”

Katz, a pianist praised by John Hammond, Gregg Allman and other musical titans, felt compelled to perform at Honoring the Land alongside his band because they are environmentalists themselves, Sinclair said.

“It’s like a top-notch band,” she said. “We’re so grateful they’re willing to play for us.”

Also performing is Graveline, who has shared the stage with Albert King, Johnny Winters, Chuck Berry and other notable artists. Like the Bruce Katz Band, Graveline felt inclined to take part in the rally due to strong concerns about the environment.

“A long time ago when I was a young man, my dad pulled me aside one day and said, ‘You know Joe, they’re not making any more land,’” recalled Graveline, who owns 20 acres of farmland and has lived on farms for more than 50 years.

“Every day that I walk across the land, it just grabs me how people from all over the world would give everything to have the farmland we have here.”

Graveline will be a speaker at the rally in addition to being featured as a musician. He looks to stress that land-clearing energy companies with “carpetbagger-type mentalities” are “all chasing the mighty buck” by opting for invasive means of deploying solar farms rather than working to install solar panels at existing parking lots and buildings.

“As soon as you put up the infrastructures, you kiss goodbye the best corn that you could have in the world,” he said of methods that take over farmland.

Another speaker will be Meyer, a member of the Society of Environmental Journalists. Meyer looks to broaden the rally’s scope to include more than just the land, invoking FirstLight Hydro Generating Co.’s Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) relicensing process.

“They didn’t come here to protect the Connecticut River,” he said of FirstLight. “They came here to make monopoly money.”

FirstLight has submitted its Amended Final License Application to FERC for a new 50-year license to operate. The three facilities up for relicensing through FERC — the hydro-pump facility at Northfield Mountain and two hydroelectric dams in Turners Falls — have been criticized for their impact on fish populations, the Connecticut River and the surrounding environment.

“That was never an ecologically sound project, and now 50 years later, it’s being relicensed and having a really negative effect on our river,” Sinclair said.

Meyer, in addition to voicing concerns about the fish population, charges that FirstLight has hidden ecological injustice “in plain sight” with its hydroelectric generation at Northfield Mountain being run on natural gas.

“I’m an ungarnished and honest voice about the ecological damage that Northfield Mountain has been doing to the Connecticut River for the last half-century, and it’ll be another ecological crime if it is relicensed for another half-century,” Meyer said.

Those associated with Saturday’s rally hope locals who attend will leave the event feeling incentivized.

“Everybody wants somebody to give them a direction to travel in,” Graveline noted, “especially with renewable energy.”

“We just really want to honor the land,” Sinclair said, “and remind people why it’s such a special place to live and why we need to protect it.”

Reach Julian Mendoza at 413-772-0261, ext. 261 or


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