There has been a lot of debate around the future of a property that is owned by the company I have worked for over the past 20 years, Meadowsend Timberlands (MTL). MTL owns the 5,000-acre tract of land, a small portion of which the Stiles Brook Wind Project would be sited on. MTL is a timber company that has been owned by the French Family for three generations. With plummeting long-term timber value trends and climate change beginning to fundamentally change the forest itself, we have looked at various ways to maintain this land and the other 30,000 acres owned by MTL in a sustainable manner. The best way we have found to do this is through renewable energy generation. Yet, as the debate around the Stiles Brook Wind Project has swirled, one important area that seems to have been completely lost is our rights as property owners. Now after 20 years of maintaining the Stiles Brook Forest in an environmentally conscious and sustainable manner, we see the development of the Stiles Brook Wind Project as the best path to continue that management and help fight climate change.
The Stiles Brook Forest has almost always been a working landscape. Nearly 100 years ago, not a tree would have been seen across this land, as it was grazing meadows for sheep. Over the past 100 years as the forest grew back it was cut for paper mill products and other investments. MTL has now owned this land for over 20 years, and takes forestry and environmental stewardship seriously. We have employed local loggers to maintain and forward our vision of environmentally conscious forest management. Our track record of principled forestry is recognized by the natural resource community throughout the Northeast.
MTL reached out to Iberdrola Renewables more than four years ago to see if the Stiles Brook Forest land would be appropriate for a wind farm. This outreach was made after several decades of experiencing competitive pressures from the foreign timber industry and the global economy, which necessitated the search for new revenue sources. MTL can no longer rely on timber sales alone to maintain our working landscape and keep it open to the public for hiking, hunting, fishing, snowmobiling and other outdoor pursuits. MTL also owns the land that hosts the Sheffield Wind Project in the Northeast Kingdom and has found that partnership to be a compatible one that allows the company to maintain our sustainable forestry practices, public access, and wind generation all at the same time.
Hosting a wind project not only offers a solution to a financial challenge; it allows us to participate in the fight against climate change. I am a forester and can tell you first hand that climate change has come to the Stiles Brook Forest. Trees and forest biota are experiencing multiple stress events on an ongoing basis. The greatest stress involves the peaks and valleys of extreme weather events, particularly the high temperature thaws. New England trees, like hibernating animals, require a stable dormancy. Further, new invasive-exotic diseases and insects have been introduced due to a higher average temperature throughout the year. Warmer temperatures have caused a rapid increase in the tick population that is decimating our once abundant moose population. Our forests are working forests that tell us that the climate is changing around us. As stewards of that land we are motivated to be part of the solution. Long-term land stewardship is something we are serious about and do not take lightly.
MTL owns the Stiles Brook Forest and we have determined that the best way to continue our principled stewardship of the land is through siting the Stiles Brook Wind Project on our property. As the residents of Windham and Grafton ponder whether to support this project we ask that you think of our rights as property owners to do what we have determined is best for our land and our planet.
Jeremy Turner is managing forester of Meadowsend Timberlands Ltd. in Grafton. The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of the Brattleboro Reformer.