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Slayton: Mountain Manifesto

Former state naturalist and author Charles Johnson, and Bruce Post, a longtime Congressional aide, now retired, have written and posted online a statement they call “The Mountain Manifesto” in which they declare: “We have created this Mountain Manifesto because we feel the mountains are now under siege… this time for the seemingly insatiable human craving for energy.”

The Manifesto website notes that Vermont’s mountains have undergone at least two prior waves of environmental damage - deforestation that stripped the mountainsides bare in the 19th century, and the widespread development in the 20th century that resulted in Act 250, the state’s signature development-control law.

The latest assault on the Green Mountains, they declare, is the push for mountaintop wind development.

“Perhaps the most damaged landscape in Vermont,” declares the Mountain Manifesto, is comprised of the immense piles of slag and tailings from the now abandoned Belvedere asbestos mine in northern Vermont and the huge wind towers implanted atop the nearby Lowell Mountains. The Manifesto goes on to call for an end to what it terms “this madness.”

However, two recent developments suggest there may be a breathing space in the ongoing push for high-altitude wind development in Vermont. One is the election last November of Phil Scott as governor. Scott campaigned as an opponent of industrial wind power and will presumably rein in the Public Service Board’s apparent inclination toward that power source. At the same time, the resounding electoral defeat of a massive wind installation in the towns of Grafton and Windham suggests a rising tide of public opposition.

In its opening sentence, The Mountain Manifesto reminds us that “The ecological integrity of the Green Mountains is essential to the health of Vermont’s lands, its air and its waters, and to all the life - human and otherwise - that dwells on and in them.”

There really aren’t many who would dispute that. So I might modestly propose that if there really is a pause in mountaintop wind development we take it as an opportunity to do some deep thinking about the value of our mountains and the various threats they face.

Perhaps Gov. Scott could follow the example of another Republican, the late Deane C. Davis, and appoint a special commission to study the problem and help us determine the future of our precious highlands.

Tom Slayton is a longtime journalist, editor and author who lives in Montpelier.
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