My Turn: Maintain rural integrity

  • mactrunk

Published: 2/24/2022 8:39:56 AM
Modified: 2/24/2022 8:39:34 AM

This is a copy of a letter I wrote to the local Conservation Commission regarding the citing of a solar installation in Shutesbury that requires disregarding our conservation bylaws.

Dear Conservation Commission: I read the town newsletter this week and was surprised to find an outspoken strict warning from your commission warning residents to follow wetlands rules. The missive goes on to state that the “wetlands maintain water quality and serve as critical habitats. They are vital for a health ecosystem. Countless critters, from amphibians to birds depend on wetlands for food, and shelter and spawning. Massachusetts law and our local bylaw protect wetlands, and infractions are subject to penalties.”

I am aware that the Conservation Commission is being asked by AMP and Cowls to waive both town and state bylaws to allow for the siting of a large solar array. This property is located at the confluence of several wetlands that supply water to our town wells. Those of you who have traveled this country have seen for yourselves what happens when natural resources are extracted from land by out of state corporate entities. Think fracking, oil and coal. The areas that have hosted these endeavors are devastated with polluted water, erosion, loss of topsoil, missing mountaintops and land that cannot be restored without massive expenditures. In most cases the cost of restoring lands is either born by the federal government or local towns.

Over and over, the corporations do this because we operate with volunteer boards who hear the positive presentations prepared by the international companies promising revenue and jobs. These are professional presentations designed to provide one point of view. Over and over, the company benefits from the quickest and most destructive methods in siting their projects. Small towns are promised the moon and fall for the advertisement. Our small-town bylaws are not being respected. We have a population under 2,000 and as such, do not have the resources to fight an international company utilizing big business resources. We wrote our bylaws for a reason and cannot enforce them without state and local support.

Our town wants to maintain its rural integrity and protect the interests of wildlife. There is no reason that an international company should be allowed violate our bylaws. The installation may cost more but done right, its impact on the area could be limited. I urge you and anyone else to set limits on the ability of “the elites” whether they be corporations or wealthy Yale and Harvard graduates from running roughshod over the interests of the larger community. Please don’t allow George Orwell’s statement “some animals are more equal than others” to the rule of the day.

Cynthia Banfield-Weir writes from Poverty Mountain Farm in Shutesbury.


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