Belchertown is proudly rural-ish. We love our land, our trees, the space.
We live at a time when factors of climate change / chaos are really starting to change our relationship with the land.
Many in our country overall are starting to remember how much our relationship with the land matters to our well-being. Our lives are dependent on fresh, clean water to drink; on fresh, clean air to breath. We have the gift of living in a place with land, wildlife, water, fresh air. It is also a responsibility we have to protect it. Clearing a forest has direct repercussions on wildlife and human life. The water, the air. Everything is connected. Especially on a land as steep as that off of Gulf Road where the BWC/Cowls project is being proposed, clear cutting the forests will cause the water to run off the surface, heading quickly downhill, increasing the likelihood of floods on our roadways and driveways and contamination in the watershed.
W.D. Cowls Inc. is a private company and they are a private landowner. We respect that in our country the rights of citizens to their property are real and great. W.D. Cowls has been in the lumber business. They have managed that business with general respect for the forest which is also their livelihood. Their President, Cinda Jones, has said that this solar development is part of their companies investment in the future of energy - a renewable energy source. We support renewable energy, but we want it to be responsible, sustainable renewable energy. This is not such a project.
There have been other proposals in Belchertown - many, in fact - for solar arrays, because we have space. We celebrate that Belchertown could be a leader in renewable energy development. Many of the proposals are small scale and on already cleared land. We support this. We support solar on already cleared flat land, on rooftops and empty parking lots; on brownfields and lands that already have been put out of good use by our industrial contamination.
We care deeply for the well being of the generations to come and know that solar is not inherently a magic solution that will make it all better. We need to plan for how solar development can happen in our town in a way that respects the forests and water and how much we rely on them for our well being. We need to be very cautious of too-quick, too-big solar development. It will have impacts that we cannot undo.
As a town, we have already begun taking to heart our responsibility to protect and plan. We developed the Open Space and Recreation Plan in 2007, which was updated in 2013 and which carries through 2020. We have a Community Resiliency Planning Summary of Findings. We are actively thinking about how we can prepare as a town and community for the changing climate impacts. Each decision our town makes - through the Planning Board, through the Conservation Commission, through the Town Planner and more - they should all now take into account how we are protecting and planning for the preservation of clean water, clean air, land.