My Turn: The greater good is to preserve the forest


Published: 3/22/2021 4:05:32 PM

‘Forests require many years to mature; consequently the long point of view is necessary if the forests are to be maintained for the good of our country.” — Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1935.

Re the March 12, 2021, article: “Massive solar projects in works,” regarding a proposed solar development on 190 acres of forested land in Shutesbury. I am not opposed to solar panel arrays, in fact I have an array on my roof. I am very opposed to solar panel development on forested land, requiring the clear-cutting of forest.

The idea of supplanting fossil fuel electricity generation with photovoltaic electricity generation is logical and sound. PV panels do generate CO2 in their manufacture and installation, but they generate no CO2 once in operation. Fossil fuels generate much CO2 both in their procurement and their combustion to produce electricity. For that reason, PV panels installed on rooftops, highway medians, or on brownfields make sense to me.

But clear-cutting a forest to make way for PV negates reason. One of the primary benefits of trees is their ability to convert CO2 into O2, and O2 is essential to the existence of humans and animals on this planet. In what way does it make any sense to destroy a forest in order to replace it with solar panels?

Let me list some of the other benefits of the forest: the regulation of extreme temperature swings, which is particularly crucial in the mitigation of the effects of climate change; soil preservation and improvement; the prevention of flooding and drought; the prevention of erosion; and of course wildlife habitat. That is just a partial list.

Solar panels provide none of these benefits. The overriding attraction currently of solar panel installations are government subsidies for the installer, in this case Amp Energy, and tax income for the host town.

There is a vestigial belief going back to the original European settlers of New England that the vast resources of this region are limitless. This is not true. The forests of Massachusetts are finite, and they are being destroyed at the rate of 6000 acres per year. Please, Shutesbury, don’t let this year’s loss of Massachusetts forest be 6,190 acres. I am aware of the financial incentives, but this choice is about far more than money.

In considering the impact of the proposed development on local residents, Shutesbury Selectboard member April Stein states: “Sometimes you have to think of the greater good.” In this case, the far-and-away greater good is to preserve the forest.

Mark Fraser, of Montague Center, is a musician, the director of Mohawk Trail Concerts, and a farmer.


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