Forest Society should be applauded for its work

The society is one of the most respected conservation organizations in the country

In the last issue of NHBR, former state representative Fran Wendelboe implied that fundraising has derailed the mission of the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests, an organization she calls “lost in the woods.” (“Forest Society’s priorities are blowin’ in the wind,” June 14-27 NHBR.)

All this because the Forest Society opposes the Northern Pass project – a proposed 180-mile transmission project designed to move electricity from Canada into New England – but elected to support Groton Wind – 24 wind turbines now operating just north of Newfound Lake. She lamented how the society failed to label Groton Wind as a “scar” on the landscape and then work to prevent its development beginning in 2009.

Ms. Wendelboe is plain wrong about the Forest Society’s mission, which guides management of woodlands, farms and wild lands in protecting more than 187,000 acres across New Hampshire through a small professional staff and more than 10,000 members. The society is one of the most respected conservation organizations in the country.

Today, facing relentless population, land use, climate change, energy security, water supply and biodiversity issues, the Forest Society and its colleague groups have no room for mission creep. But to take a lofty mission from parchment to practice, they have to be flexible and reasonable in achieving real conservation.

Ms. Wendelboe confuses fundraising with such collaboration, mixing an outdated form of activism that opposed practically everything new in the 1980s with more successful, sustainable policies today that encourage open minds, clean technologies, and collaboration between industry, government and conservationists.

Ms. Wendelboe scolded the “strange relationship” in which landowner Green Acres Woodlands, a Spanish wind farm developer, and the Forest Society worked together to put land in Groton, Hebron, Rumney, Dorchester, and Plymouth into a conservation easement under the federally funded Forest Legacy Program.

Imagine that – an international partnership that resulted in 6,500 magnificent acres of protected land for New Hampshire residents to enjoy forever, U.S.-made products generating U.S. jobs, and struggling local towns finding new tax revenues for their roles in environmental and energy innovation. Nothing strange about that. Imagine how the Legislature might have handled the same challenge.

I spend much of the year on Newfound Lake in full view of more than a dozen of these wind turbines. They’re quite beautiful – inspiring examples of sustainable community development, tangible conservation achievement and the future of technology. And contrary to Ms. Wendelboe’s odd characterization of “whooshing windmills … notorious for killing birds and bats,” they’re safe, quiet and efficient forms of clean energy.

More birds are killed each year by glass buildings, utility towers, cars and carnivores (including house cats) than by wind turbines. To see a true environmental scar (not to mention health risk), she might look a few miles north to Plymouth, where the gateway view to a 100-acre mountain vista is through the yellow arches of a new McDonald’s.

The Forest Society should be applauded for not allowing traditional politics and NIMBY-era mindsets to define the modern role of conservation advocates. Instead, the society worked to make real progress on issues that matter most to New Hampshire residents.

Kevin Stickney resides in Hebron and runs Calypso Communications, a Seacoast environmental issues management firm.

Categories: Opinion