Impact on bear population could affect wind project

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(Host) The impact of a proposed southern Vermont wind development on black bears promises to be a major issue in the project’s approval process.

The Deerfield Wind Project calls for seventeen, 400-foot turbines to be built on Green Mountain National Forest land in Searsburg and Readsboro. The project would be near a smaller wind farm operated by Green Mountain Power on private property in Searsburg.

The Forest Service has prepared a Draft Environmental Impact Statement on the proposal and is soliciting public comments.

The impact statement does not yet include a formal position on the development. It says the turbines would provide clean, much-needed power to the region. But they would also disturb and partially eliminate beech trees whose nuts serve as an important food source for bears.

At a public meeting in Readsboro, Forest supervisor Meg Mitchell said it’s clear the project would have some impact on the bears that regularly climb the trees for the beechnuts. But wildlife biologists differ on how much impact.

(Mitchell) Other experts say because the area is so large and there are a lot of other beech trees in there, you’re only affecting a small percentage of those. So there’s some disagreement on the science.  Potentially if we manage access   to maintain just what’s needed to maintain the site,  that  will help the bears move back into the area and keep using the habitat that is there because there’s a lot left.

(Host) The project must be approved both by the Forest Service and the Public Service Board. The Forest Service with hold another meeting on the proposal tonight in Rutland.


AP Photo/Toby Talbot

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