Wednesday, April 01, 2009

US EPA does not love and cherish Maine's plan to destroy Sears Island ...

Ronald Calvin Huber of Rockland, Maine informs me of the following news, courtesy of the very nice folks at Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).

The folks at PEER also heart my own Hockomock Swamp, which my brother Tim writes about here. I grew up in Easton, Massachusetts, the home of the Hockomock, and its presence is imprinted into my DNA. But at age 18, I left home and moved to Orono, Maine and confronted the massive and mighty Penobscot River, whose tributaries of tributaries of tributaries are bigger than the biggest brook in my home town.

During the past 27 years, the Penobscot has become my "second" home and I have drunk deeply from its waters and explored its fascinating and frequently disturbing history. The 1,000 acre Penobscot River island now called "Sears Island," a ways off the shore in Searsport, is the largest undeveloped island left in Maine.

For the last 40 years, the State of Maine has done everything in its power, including breaking federal and state laws, to develop Sears Island, and as they say, "make it pay its way," as if a spring peeper must do useful work besides peep (run on a treadmill?) to justify its creation to God.

The Penobscot's Sears Island and the Hockomock Swamp of southeastern Massachusetts are two peas in a pod in the sense that writer Henry Moore described more than 40 years ago. They are an "oasis of peace and quiet in a world gone mad with speed, noise and strife." The human soul desperately needs such places, just as we need a clear and dark sky to show our kids the Pleiades.

Without places like Sears Island and the Hockomock, life is like climbing into a wet sleeping bag.

When I was just a baby, the now-famous investigative journalist Ted Williams was a lowly "staff writer" at the Massachusetts Dept. of Fish and Game. Around 1967, Ted Williams organized and wrote much of a small book called, "Hockomock -- A Wonder Wetland." This small book helped stop the ten square mile Hockomock from being destroyed. In this booklet, which I read thousands of times as a boy, a young Ted Williams wrote:

"On March 23, 1649, Captain Myles Standish, Samuel Nash and Constant Southworth bought the Hockomock from Massasoit, King Philip's father. Negotiations took place at Sachem Rock, East Bridgewater, and the agreed price was seven coats, nine hatchets, eight hoes, 20 knives, four moose skins, and ten yards of cotton.

In our 322 years of tenure, the Hock has withstood efforts to destroy it. Corners have been nibbled away and its face has been scarred with roads and power lines, but miraculously most of the swamp still exists in its natural state, resisting mindless "progress" by its inaccessibility.

However, draining and filling techniques are constantly being perfected and with the pressure on the land mounting to the danger mark, the Hock's days are numbered unless Massachusetts citizens decide to preserve it.

Existing wetland legislation lacks the muscle needed for a quick and solid stance against environmental exploitation. If we rely on present regulations it will take years to place even a fraction of the Hockomock under the umbrella of the law. During that time the remainder of the swamp will have been drained and filled and Massachusetts will be a poorer place.

The future of the Hockomock depends upon YOU. A favorable public attitude is the only effective defense of any wetland or open space. If those who really care about the Hockomock convince others of its value the first step toward its safety in the future has been accomplished."

All of what Ted Williams wrote 45 years ago is true today for Sears Island. And the Hockomock.

So if you ever consider donating some money to a conservation group that does really important, hard-hitting stuff to actually protect places like the Hockomock and Sears Island from being destroyed by your own public officials, consider giving a few bucks to PEER. They do good work. Tell them Tispaquin sent you.



Anonymous said...

Hear, Hear!

Anonymous said...

Thank you.

Editor, Wild Maine Times said...

A passionate and eloquent essay, Doug. Reading this gives me a heartened sense there are many fellow souls out there who "get it" about what is truly important and about the madness of progress as defined and relentlessly reinforced in the public mind by runaway corporatism. Thanks.

Gov. John Baldacci's planning process for Sears Island was corrupt from the moment Transportation Commissioner David Cole assembled the usual collection of doormice and ratfinks in Searsport three years ago and suggested they form an official municipal-level planning group with the title "The Sears Island Alternative Uses Committee." (This was shortly after he did his best to sneak an LNG terminal onto the island.)

This past February, Town Manager James Gillway earnestly claimed to the Legislature's Transportation Committee that "everybody" in Searsport is forever coming up and asking him when is Sears Island finally going to be "used" for something.

I particularly liked your indignation at the idea everything in creation must be made to pay its way, that the lunatics infected with this madness should expect even the spring peeper "must do useful work besides peep."

"Consider the lilies how they grow: they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these."

(I wish some of the fundamentalist Christians read their Bible half as astutely as they go about organizing politically. They'd be great allies then in the struggle to save the planet from the bad monkeys!)

Anyway, the EPA's reaction to Port Baldacci is very welcome. There are some very good people over at that agency. We might remember with gratitude and admiration that it was PEER's New England director, Kyla Bennett, who as an EPA biologist in the early 1990s gave the lie to the state's claim there were scarcely any wetlands of consequence on the island.

The last time I contributed to an environmental group, it was to the Sierra Club. We've seen how the Maine chapter representative slept through the entire planning process and meekly allowed the club's good name to be used to advance the possibility of a port coming to be on the island.

You're right, Doug, PEER really does deserve our support. They do a terrific job of getting very important news out to the world, news the mainline media generally fails to notice. I know where my next donation to an environmental organization is going.

Peter Taber

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