Thursday, July 12, 2012

NSTAR's "Scorched Earth" approach to vegetation management heads toward Needham

So there I was in Tokyo trying to document local efforts to save beloved neighborhood trees from destruction in the name of public safety. Little did I know that when I came home I would find Needham locked in a similar conflict.

Instead of destroying trees in order to save neighborhoods from putative floods, NSTAR will be destroying trees in order to save neighborhoods from putative power outages. But both projects worsen the general quality of life in a community in exchange for preventing highly unlikely but highly destructive-if-they-happen catastrophes.

Part of me wants to take a distanced scholarly approach, comparing the way communities in Futakotamagawa and Needham respond to these environmental dilemmas. But I must say right now that I'm feeling like advising Needhamites to wrap their trees in banners shaming NSTAR... [UPDATE: Here's a Framingham response]

More to come as I learn more. I'm deeply concerned how this will impact trees around the power-lines at the Charles River Peninsula (see the easement map below).

Trees are, of course, not necessarily the be-all-and-end-all of a "natural" environment. The Charles River Peninsula would not be the grassland environment it is without substantial tree removal. Easements do often provide oases of shrub-land in otherwise heavily wooded areas. As in Futakotamagawa, the problem seems to be one of proportion--surely proper management does not require clear-cutting all trees within the 100 ft buffer NSTAR invokes. Unfortunately, reports from towns that have already experienced NSTAR's vegetation management are pretty grim

No comments: