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Looking east from the Quabbin Tower

It was more than 10 years ago when I first heard about the idea of establishing a continuous forest corridor between the Quabbin Reservoir and Mount Wachusett. Since that time, several public and private conservation agencies and organizations have been working quietly to bring this about, and the reality is now closer than ever.

Funding for the project – approximately $8 million – is included in the 2013 U.S. Forest Service budget request, and ranks second in priority in its Forest Legacy program. If it comes to fruition, it will be possible to make the 20-mile hike completely on conservation land through four communities.

Other similar plans may link up to this corridor. There are similar efforts under way to establish a hiking trail to run parallel to the Route 2 Mohawk Trail, and to establish a contiguous green corridor from Mount Wachusett to the Wachusett Reservoir.


The 2012 USDA planting zone map

Climate change skeptics be damned, the new Dept. of Agriculture plant hardiness map shows a distinct northward warming trend.

These are the brightly colored maps on seed packets familiar to gardeners all over the country, showing what plants can survive where. This is the first updated map since 1990, and is based on a broader set of weather and temperature data than earlier maps.

Where there were 10 zones before, now there are 12 – one hotter (Hawaii) and one colder (Alaska) have been added. Each zone represents a 10-degree range for the coldest average temperature, and comparing the older with the newer, it is clear there is a warming trend northward.

To help account for local variations, the USDA website now enables gardeners to enter their zip code and find the lowest average temperature for an area within a half-mile of their gardens.

They can be found at:

My backyard opens out to a field where a massive solar farm is being proposed

When I first heard that a local church was planning to build a solar farm in the field next to my house, I was fairly pleased. I envisioned a modest array of solar panels providing power to the houses in the neighborhood – a far better plan than some of the proposals for that former cow pasture that have come up over the years.

I support alternative energy, solar power included. I even have some modest investments in companies involved in the alternative energy industry.

Then I learned some of the details.

The church, along with a solar energy development company from Maryland, wants to put up 11,000 10’x3’ solar panels in a field about double the size of a football field. According to them, this will provide enough electricity for 400 homes – but not necessarily ours. The electricity will be sold on the grid. So far, anyway, I haven’t heard of any provisions to allow us to tap into it – for a fee, of course. I’m not looking for free power, just something less expensive than what I’m paying now.

This is a neighborhood of homes and old farmland. The largest structures are a handful of old barns. This solar farm would dwarf any structure in the neighborhood. The solar farm, as currently proposed, is simply a profit-making industrial plant. It has no business being inserted into the life of a neighborhood.

At various times over the past 50 years, this field has been a cow pasture, a cornfield, and most recently a hayfield that is still mown regularly. In summer it’s carpeted with wildflowers. Many of my neighbors have decks and closed in porches that look out over a view of fields and forests. They don’t like the idea of looking out over a field of gleaming solar panels.

There also hasn’t been much discussion of what measures they might take to mitigate the visual impact, but realistically, how is anyone going to hide 11,000 large solar panels? And what about lighting? Will there be security lights shining all night?

In order to access the field, a road will have to be cut from the church headquarters on Electric Avenue (half a mile away) through an extensive wetland, something that the town’s Conservation Commission has already expressed opposition to.

So does all this make me just another NIMBY (Not-in-my-Backyard)? I’m hoping not.

Nature Blog Network


RSS The Ecocryptic

  • Maine DEP update July 31, 2013
    Maine Department of Environmental Protection has reversed itself and will schedule a public hearing on proposed changes to the state's clean air standards. No date has been set.Environmental groups, legislators, and the general public were outraged when the Portland Press Herald reported yesterday that the state agency had tried to sneak through the cha […]
  • At Maine’s DEP, it’s the fox guarding the henhouse July 30, 2013
    What happens when you put an industry lobbyist in charge of environmental protection? Just take a look at what’s going on in Maine. According to an article in today’s Portland Press-Herald, the state’s Department of Environmental Protection wants to weaken the state’s clean-air regulations, and they don’t want anyone to know about it.No public hearings have […]
  • Northern Pass Rears Its Ugly Head (Again) July 15, 2013
    Despite massive public opposition, significantly over-budget, and three years behind schedule,  the CEO of the Northern Pass Project vows the controversial high voltage transmission line will be built.The project is a 180-mile power line that would bring power from Canada to New England. It first came to the attention of environmentalists and others when the […]
  • Stung by Criticism, Utilities Go on Tree-Cutting Rampage August 11, 2012
    Here in the northeast, we’ve been hit by a succession of “weather events” – ice storms, wind-storms, hurricanes, early snowfall, late snowfall. Each one offered the utility companies serving this area to demonstrate once again that they were completely unprepared. In each case, customers in the most advanced country in the world were left without power for w […]
  • Victory for the Blackstone: Court backs EPA, Worcester must stop dumping sewage into river August 7, 2012
    Score one for the Blackstone River, and all the people who care about it. The U.S. First Circuit Court of Appeals has lifted a stay of enforcement of an EPA order that will force upgrades at the Upper Blackstone Water Pollution Abatement district sewage treatment plant, according to an article in the Worcester Telegram & Gazette.The problem is a simple o […]
  • NH Senate Denies Eminent Domain for Northern Pass – Or Does It? January 30, 2012
    Under intense public scrutiny, the New Hampshire Senate last week approved a bill that supposedly sets limits on the use of eminent domain to seize property for public projects and excludes using it for privately-funded projects. That would seem to exclude the controversial Northern Pass project, a proposed 180-mile transmission line that would bring hydroel […]
  • Northern Pass Developers Pushing State To Take Land By Force January 24, 2012
    Ever since the controversy began over the construction of a new transmission line to bring power from Canada into New Hampshire slicing through some of that state’s most scenic landscape, the backers of the project have been quietly lobbying for eminent domain powers to force reluctant landowners along the proposed route to sell.The issue gets its first real […]
  • The Balsams Landscape Has Been Saved! January 15, 2012
    Every once in a while the good guys win one.The Society for the Preservation of New Hampshire Forests has reached its goal of raising $850,000 to buy a 5,800-acre parcel of land near the famous Balsams Grand Hotel in Dixville Notch, NH. They made the announcement in a statement yesterday on their website.The land was considered a key piece on the proposed ro […]
  • Worcester officials cite city parks to defend continued pollution of Blackstone River December 29, 2011
    I was trying to find a short, pithy way of describing the gist of an article that appeared in today’s Worcester (Mass.) Telegram & Gazette.Here’s the story.The Blackstone River has its source in Worcester and flows through Rhode Island into Narragansett Bay. Since colonial times, residents and businesses have regarded it as their personal sewage system. […]
  • Slick media campaign hides the dark side of Northern Pass October 23, 2011
    The campaign to approve the billion-dollar plan to bring hydroelectric power from Canada to New England is in full swing. The home page for the project features pictures of all the things we like about New Hampshire, things like pristine lakes and woods. What it doesn’t show are the 140 miles of transmission lines criss-crossing the White Mountains, with 135 […]

RSS Martin Laine – Digital Journal

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    What started out as an investigation into an alleged contract fraud scheme by a U.S. Navy directorate involving untraceable rifle silencers has raised questions about whether they were part of a secret mission or rogue operation.