Meadowsend: We don't need to use factoids, innuendo, or exaggeration to make a point

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The conversation continues about the potential of an industrial wind project on Meadowsend Timberland's Stiles Brook Forest, a privately owned 5,000 acre tract of land in Windham and Grafton.

As part of the Meadowsend Timberlands team for over 11 years, I have participated in meetings, workshops, presentations and read the many commentaries on the subject over the course of the wind project proposal. Several important things about this project have become lost in this discourse through the dissemination of factoids, innuendo, rumors, hearsay ... call it what you may.

Factoids, those assertions of fact that are not backed up by evidence, usually because they are not true to begin with, are presented in a way that they are widely accepted as true — they create a social reality. Factoids also serve as a way to justify and rationalize fears and worries. Factoids are an effective form of persuasion and have been used widely in the anti-wind discourse. I have read many factoids about the company I work for and believe in, about myself as part of the MTL team, about my husband Jeremy Turner the managing forester, and about the French family who own MTL. I am commenting today to set the record straight for those issues that I can personally vouch as untrue. Those of you that choose to call me a liar because it is coming from me, go right ahead. It's all been said before, and honestly if that's how you choose to present yourself you should be ashamed.

Anyone that knows us at MTL knows that our management philosophy takes seriously the land, the environment, communities, neighbors, wildlife, water quality, soil protection, recreation, traditional land uses — all the factors of sustainable forest management. Those that know us know it's who we are and what we do. It is our mission. It is our goal, and how we operate our business. There isn't enough room here to list all the outlandish untruths and innuendos about us that have been printed from people, most of whom have not even been on our land to look at and learn about our management.

Blatantly untrue statements are continually made about the condition and character of the Stiles Brook Forest. That it is a "pristine wilderness," that the wind project will destroy it and everything about it. I understand some people use exaggeration to help make a point, but this is so farfetched it is almost laughable. Except that it's not funny. It does, though, clearly illustrate how little some people know about working woodlands. About all the things that have been occurring throughout New England on supposed "pristine wilderness" over last several hundred years to produce material goods that we use every day. And maybe that's because most of it isn't seen or heard. Would it be better for the land to just leave it alone? In most cases, absolutely. But, that's not the reality we live in. Where does the wood come from for your kitchen cupboards? The material to build your house? Maybe you even own two houses? Where does your firewood come from? Wood pellets for your stove? Where do you hunt? Where do you hike? Do you want to rely on some "other" place to produce these goods?

The mission of our business is to produce these naturally renewable resources in a long-term sustainable way. We absolutely accept the fact that there are pros and cons to all forms of land use and resource management. All good land managers understand this. We've said from the beginning that we are continually learning and studying the effects, the pros and cons, of managing land whether it be for wood, recreation, wildlife, or wind. We all need to understand what these effects are —using science — and make a decision about how best to manage the land for the resources we use and consume every day.

Mindboggling and farfetched statements have been made that we operate solely in the name of greed. That we are corrupt, uncaring liars. That our business is failing. That we operate only to decimate land for financial gain. This is so irrational it is difficult to even comment on. But, may I remind you that Meadowsend Timberlands is a business. So yes, it's true; one of our goals is to make money. But, I challenge you to think about all businesses out there. Where does your money come from? Ours comes from a long-standing tradition of sustainably owning and managing a working landscape, for the long term, and for locally produced naturally renewable resources. I feel pretty darn good about that.

I also want to point out that I believe we all have more in common than otherwise. I believe we all care about the community, about environmental and human health, about being financially sound and independent. I've found it astonishing that the conversation has veered so far from being constructive to this mountain of innuendos, untruths, and factoids. And yes, I direct that primarily to the anti-wind group. I challenge anyone, anywhere, to find anything in print from us at MTL that is disrespectful, name-calling, or anything less than sticking to the moral high ground. We don't need to use factoids, innuendos, or exaggerations to make a point. We are not perfect, but we are proud of our record and have nothing to hide.

On that note, I also offer an open invitation to anyone to spend time with us in the woods. Let's get together and talk. Let's take a walk and look at the land. We care about the community and the environment. And at the same time we are trying to figure out a way to continue to produce naturally renewable resources in a sustainable and responsible way, on locally owned and managed working woodlands, and we've found the best way to have a conversation about that is to be in the woods.

Laura French is a forester of Meadowsend Timberlands. She can be contacted at ljfrench@mtlforests.com. The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of the Brattleboro Reformer.


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