Sportsmen say wind projects threaten hunting

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(Host) A coalition of hunters and trappers are calling for a moratorium on new wind energy projects. The groups are particularly worried about wind projects that may be proposed for the former Champion paper company land in the Northeast Kingdom.

VPR’s John Dillon reports.

(Dillon) Will Staats is a wildlife biologist who lives in the tiny town of Victory in the Northeast Kingdom. Staats has worked for the state of Vermont and the Champion paper company, which once owned 130,000 acres of Essex County.

In his work and in his years hunting the north woods, Staats says he’s explored many miles of the remote Seneca Mountains north of Victory. He’s now worried that a wind energy developer wants to build up to forty six, 330-foot tall towers across the mountain ridges.

(Staats) “This is it. These are the last wild remote mountains we have. And if we put these things on them, we’ve lost a treasure; you know, a treasure that we can’t get back. It’s a finite resource.”

(Dillon) Staats is concerned that the wind projects are planned for the former Champion land. The property is now protected by conservation easements that would have to be changed for any development to occur.

(Staats) “Well, the ink is barely dry on the easement, and this developer is making overtures to put 46 towers on this land.”

(Dillon) Several organizations that represent hunters and sportsmen have called for a moratorium on wind projects.

Steve McLeod represents the Vermont Traditions Coalition and Hunters, Anglers and Trappers Association of Vermont. McLeod says the state restricted hunting camps and logging roads on portions of the Champion lands. He questions how tall wind turbines could be allowed on the same property.

(McLeod) “We’re certainly not against wind power per se, but it has to be properly sited. And right now there’s a proposal to build 100 wind towers on the various mountains in the exact same regions where tree cutting, hunting camps, and logging roads are prohibited in the valleys below. And that’s not conservation. That’s not ecology, that’s hypocrisy.”

(Dillon) But Matthew Rubin, a wind energy developer from Montpelier, says the Champion lands proposal is on hold. He’s focused instead on a smaller plan to build four wind turbines on private property in East Haven.

(Rubin) “We’d love to pursue it, but the fact is, there are easements. And we don’t control the easements. And the state of Vermont and the Vermont Land Trust have indicated they’re not willing to change those easements. End of story.”

(Dillon) Rubin says there’s enough wind blowing across the ridgelines to supply the Northeast Kingdom with half the electricity it needs. He says the wind can be harnessed in a way that protects wildlife and guarantees public access to the land.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon.

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