Public Comment: Clearcutting Forests For Solar Is Not Environmentally Sound

Photo: Wikimedia Commons (CC BY 2.0)



The following public comment was made before the Amherst Town Council on 11/8/21.

Thank you so much for the wisdom and courage in proposing this much needed moratorium to carefully consider our zoning bylaws. My name is Lenore Bryck, I live in Amherst and I’m not an abutter, because this is not just about our immediate surroundings or even just our town but how we need to do our part in Western Massachusetts for the planetary greater good. 

I’m asking us to please stop and think about how ludicrous it is to destroy what is actually green energy to create what we call green energy. 

It’s a false choice to think you have to put solar on forests and farmland, if the goal really is to combat climate change.  Sacrificing forests for solar installations is a misguided strategy, further confused by the profit incentive. State and federal subsidies would serve the cause better if they paid landowners to preserve and heal forested land and soils, but because of the lack of foresight in the state’s energy policy, small towns like ours are at risk. But even our small town can do its  small but actually huge part; in this case  pause, through the proposed moratorium, and thoroughly, intelligently look before we leap. 

How would it be if landowners responsible to steward the land could be heroes and sheroes for regeneration and climate healing. How unfortunate when government and industry leaders don’t understand systems thinking and forest ecology, so that regulations and subsidies are based on shortsighted, outdated misinformation. Whereas if we’ve kept up with the latest science, if we have a deep love of the earth, we understand that forests are not tree plantations, but rather complex ecosystems and biological and social communities. 

When we clear-cut, we are hurting an entire village of wildlife that impacts biodiversity, planetary health, and climate. Forests provide services such as regulating the water cycle, preventing soil erosion, mitigating floods and droughts, and cycling nutrients, which we depend on for our sustenance and far outvalue the commodities we see them as. Then you can see more clearly that even the carbon metrics defense, claiming solar displaces more carbon than trees, though it might seem logical, is flawed thinking leading to irreversible dangerous actions.

I don’t begrudge anyone making the money they need to live but it is the need to live that should be the focus.  

The perception that there is plenty of forested land left is also flawed since we are losing our forests at an astounding rate and there is no longer the abundance of old growth forests (the ones that sequester the most carbon, offer the most biodiversity, protect the richest soils, best manage pests and disease…) and what is left is largely disturbed and more fragile than ever, after years of business as usual and the impacts from climate derangement. 

So I believe it is our duty to be part of the greater solution. There’s a wealth of resources I’d like to offer you if you’d like to learn more, through our western MA Climate Action Now organization’s website, specifically the group on regenerative farming, forests and food systems

Lenore Bryck is a resident of Amherst and a member of Climate Action Now

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