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Putnam Investments’ insistence that the state cut down several trees just so the traffic going by could see their sign along Interstate 93 in Andover, Mass., is either laughable or pathetic, or quite possibly both.

An article in today’s Boston Globe chronicles this exercise in the absurd.

The situation is this.

Some years ago, this friendly neighborhood multinational put its offices in a building alongside the interstate. It then cleverly put its corporate sign on the ground, behind a stand of trees, where no one could see it, instead of up on the building, where it might be more visible.

This prompted them to worry they might lose business, so they cut the trees down. The problem was, the trees were on state property. They were ordered to replant them.

Well, the trees grew up, as they are wont to do. This time the global investment firm asked the state to do their cutting for them. Which they did! Next problem, the trees also border a wetland, and they never bothered with the necessary permissions.

This has stirred the ire of the local conservation commission. The state’s response was that the investment firm had threatened to pull out of the state, losing a thousand jobs in the process.

Now, I realize we’re not talking about cutting into an old-growth forest like the Wachusett Mountain Ski Area, or clear-cutting protected land like around Quabbin and elsewhere, but seriously… do the people at Putnam think that investment decisions are determined by a drive-by glance at a corporate sign?

And then for the boneheads in state government to give in to their heavy-handed approach to the problem?

To paraphrase an old airline slogan …

Is this any way to run an investment firm?

I caught part of a segment on NPR the other day about people who were complaining that their dishes were coming out of the dishwasher with spots and film and whatever. I was thinking they’ve joined the parade away from real news coverage to the softer, more digestible stuff.

As it turns out, dishwasher detergent makers have cut down on the amount of phosphates in their product. Good for the environment, bad for people who like sparkly clean dishes. Phosphates that make their way into lakes and other bodies of water have been known to cause algae blooms as well as the growth of other plants that choke out the rest of the aquatic life.

It’s also the active ingredient that cuts out all those nasty food stains and gets things clean.

I have no real sympathy for dishwasher users. They use way too much water and power for the sake of a little personal convenience.

Now a disclaimer. I own a dishwasher. I didn’t buy it. It came with the house. I only use it maybe twice a year when I have a lot of family over for one thing or another. Otherwise, it just sits there. The rest of the time I wash my dishes by hand, the old-fashioned way. The scrubbing is what gets the dishes clean though I’m not especially worried about that. In fact, I don’t think about it at all.

It should be noted that the detergent-makers didn’t exactly do this on their own initiative. Several states recently passed regulations to reduce the amount of phosphates, so they decided to do it across the board rather than selling one mix in one state and a different one in another. No matter. It seems to have done the trick.

One other thing caught my ear.

The lady who seemed to leading the charge against dirty dishes saw no reason to cut out phosphates, particularly if it meant spots on her good glassware. She was suspicious of the reason.

“I’m not convinced phosphorous causes algae.”

That was the last word. What can you say to that?

Just another example of how little credibility the scientific community has these days.

It points to another problem as well.

Asked if people want cleaner air, cleaner water, a better environment most everybody says yes. But if it causes the least bit of personal inconvenience, their attitude changes entirely.

How do we ovecome that?

An excellent article in today’s Burlington Free Press clearly describes the battle lines being drawn over the re-licensing of the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant.

The 39-year-old facility in Vernon, Ct., in the southwest corner of the state near New Hampshire and Massachusetts, has had a troubled history with one problem after another, most recently with a series of leaks of radioactive water. The plant’s operating license expires next year, and the owners, Entergy Corp, would like an extension.

In the face of all the problems, there’s not a lot of support for it. About the only supporters are the people who work there and a business organization, the Associated Industries of Vermont, repeating the usual mantra of lost jobs (650 people work there)and loss of power (it produces 605 megawatts of power – less than one per employee, and a fraction of what the state uses – and that’s on a good day.

The governor-elect is against it. The legislature voted not to relicense. And public opinion seems to be against it. But the plant’s supporters have a lot of money.

It’ll be interesting to see what happens.

The state of New Hampshire is currently working on a new management plan for the Pisgah Mountain State Forest in the southwest corner of the state.

There are several points that are causing concern – how many trails should be open to mountain bikes? Should a visitor center – built by volunteers – be closed, or used for something else?

I’m glad to read that people in the area are concerned enough to make their wishes and interests known – it’s pretty well outlined in today’s Brattleboro Reformer.

I am very concerned about proposed timber harvesting. Here in neighboring Massachusetts we’ve had a succession of bad experiences with logging on public lands.

Too often officials and logging interests introduce the idea under the guise of forest management, necessary for a “healthy” forest. They don’t give a hoot about a so-called “healthy” forest – what they want is the valuable timber. Over and over again, here in Massachusetts, we hear assurances that care will be taken. Only necessary thinning and culling will take place, etc. Then, when it’s done, it’s too late.

In Chesterfield, Mass., an ecologically sensitive and legally protected area was clear-cut – “by mistake.” Oops was about all they could say. The loggers got the trees and money they wanted, and that’s all that mattered.

Parts of the Quabbin were supposed to be selectively cut, instead acre upon acre were clear-cut, with stumps and debris strewn all over. This is “healthy?”

Let’s hope they take a long, careful look at this, and ask just who really wants this timber harvesting done.

An old stone bridge crosses Willard Brook in Ashby

This will probably sound hopelessly partisan, but one of the great things about walking around the New England woods, at least for me, is that I always seem to bump into something unexpected.

This morning was just that kind of walk. I was following an old dirt road along Willard Brook in Ashby, the kind of road that probably dates back to the stagecoach days, when the main highway to Keene, New Hampshire, and from there to Canada, passed through here.

I was walking along, thinking back.

It was two years ago today that the big ice storm hit this region. The woods were a mess. Downed trees and branches littered the ground. Trails were obliterated. At the time I wondered how the forests would ever recover. But they did.

Trail crews everywhere have done yeomen’s work, and trails have been cleared or re-routed. And the woods have begun to recover as well. Downed trees and broken treetops dot the landscape still, but the forests are growing back, and full of life.

Suddenly, there it was. A stone bridge. A small, but sturdy piece of work, built to last, now relegated to an obscure spot in the middle of pretty much nowhere.

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