State Pursues RINA Designation for Ira/Poultney

Mar 09, 2010 No Comments by

STATE PURSUES “RARE AND IRREPLACABLE” PROTECTION FOR IRA & POULTNEY’S TACONIC MOUNTAINS

DESIGNATION WOULD IMPACT PROPOSED WIND PROJECT

(Above: Herrick Mountain Range as seen from Bird Mountain)

MONTPELIER, VT – Public records recently obtained by Energize Vermont reveal that the State’s Agency of Natural Resources (ANR) is pursuing  “Rare and Irreplaceable Natural Areas” (RINA) designation for a specific area in Rutland County’s Taconic Mountains.

The ANR investigation of the area in Ira and Poultney found that, “this large unfragmented area of forested habitat (approximately 23,600 acres) and associated natural communities should be considered a Rare and Irreplaceable Natural Area under Criterion 8 of Act 248.”

This area is being considered for development by Vermont Community Wind Farm (VCWF) as part of their proposed project to place up to 45 wind turbines along ridgelines in Ira and Poultney.  A RINA designation will have to be taken into consideration by Vermont’s Public Service Board if VCWF files an application for a Certificate of Public Good.

ANR’s letter of Dec. 22, 2009 to Per White-Hansen of VCWF says, “the road-bounded area of relatively unfragmented habitat (23,600 acres) that includes Herrick Mountain, Spruce Knob, Ames Hollow, Bird Mountain, and the Train Brook ridgeline is the second largest area of unfragmented forested habitat in the Taconic Mountains, includes a diversity of temperate-climate oak and pine forest types that provide habitat for many species of wildlife, and is one of a series of large areas of unfragmented habitats that provide a north-south corridor for wildlife in the Taconic Mountains.  These factors combine to make this large area a Rare and Irreplaceable Natural Area.”

In the letter, Eric Sorenson, community ecologist at ANR, states that “a state significant site is one that includes two natural communities that are at or near state-significant level, that have a clear ecological connection to one another, and that are a good representation of a declining or rare landscape feature in the biophysical region.” ANR staff found that there are at least ten state significant natural community occurrences on Herrick Mountain, Spruce Knob, Ames Hollow, and Bird Mountain.

ANR’s letter to VCWF noted that, “the proposed development on Herrick Mountain, Spruce Knob, and Ames Hollow will have an undue adverse effect on this Rare and Irreplaceable Natural Area due to the location of proposed development along the ridgelines, the degree of habitat fragmentation, and impacts to natural communities and ecological processes.”

“I am relieved that ANR concludes that this area warrants a higher level of protection,” said Justin Lindholm, a Mendon resident who recently sold to the state the Bird Mountain area that includes the Peregrine falcon nesting sites.  “ANR is not exaggerating.  This area is rare and fragile, a point that Per White-Hansen and Jeff Wennberg fail to appreciate.  The exquisitely beautiful valley is special.  ANR’s staff is trained to spot the rare features, and thankfully, they are there to enlighten people.  ANR is asking all the right questions,” Lindholm concluded.

ANR staff specifically addressed the magnitude of the proposal, which would be the largest wind facility in the state.  “The proposed VCWF project, with 45 turbines, approximately 15 miles of ridgeline and access roads, and associated clearing for turbines, roads, transmission lines, and storm water facilities represents a large scale commercial development in one of the largest areas of unfragmented forested habitat (Herrick Mountain and adjacent hills) in the Vermont Taconic Mountain region,” staff concluded.

Energize Vermont was created to educate and advocate for establishing renewable energy solutions that are in harmony with the irreplaceable character of Vermont, and that contribute to the well-being of all her people. This mission is achieved by researching, collecting, and analyzing information from all sources; and disseminating it to the public, community leaders, legislators, media, and regulators for the purpose of ensuring informed decisions for long term stewardship of our communities.

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