Letter: Be mindful, as development comes with costs

Posted 9/16/22

On September 1, as I was driving my youngest son to the bus stop, we witnessed something so emblematic of our times. Passing a recently cleared lot on Lake Road, we observed a lone coyote standing in …

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Letter: Be mindful, as development comes with costs

Posted

On September 1, as I was driving my youngest son to the bus stop, we witnessed something so emblematic of our times. Passing a recently cleared lot on Lake Road, we observed a lone coyote standing in what undoubtedly had only a few days prior been part of its home. This lot had been a thicket of brush and trees, a dense habitat for all sorts of wildlife. We slowed to watch more closely: His head turning from left to right, he seemed to be taking stock of what had happened. I imagine thoughts of food, shelter, and survival likely passed through his mind.

 Our neck of the woods — the King/Brayton/Lake roads area — has seen a rash of development recently. From the new solar farm debacle* to the development of new sub-divisions, acres of habitat have been raised, drastically changing the landscape and creating even more pressures on wildlife. (*While renewable energy infrastructure is a critical part of mitigating the worse of what climate change is bringing to bear, it cannot come at the expense of habitat loss.)

When will communities figure out a way to incentivize landowners to not develop their “property”? When will we, as a society, begin to give our natural environment — the forests, the streams, the watersheds, the animals, the soil –—the inherent value and respect they deserve? When will we stop looking at the natural world as mere commodities to be exploited for economic gain?

Keeping eco-systems intact benefits all life – human and non-human – in many ways: Trees, plants, fungi and soil sequester carbon from the atmosphere, clean air, filter groundwater, and provide habitat to myriads of animal and insect species; Marshes, wetlands, and forests also help buffer our communities from storms, rising water levels, and flooding – all of which are forecasted to become more prevalent and damaging with climate change. Ponds, rivers, and other minor waterways provide critical marine habitats and nurture integrated systems of sustenance for all levels of creatures.

Further, on the municipal level, avoiding development and keeping eco-systems intact helps to limit strains on infrastructure and resources – from public works, to schools, to first responders. In our area, more homes mean more strains on our water table, putting wells at risk for entire neighborhoods. 

And while efforts of organizations such as the Tiverton Land Trust, Tiverton Open Space Commission, Tiverton Conservation Commission, and others have been – and will continue to be – necessary, we must do more, especially when it comes to smaller, more distributed parcels of land that sit in our neighborhoods and are ripe for “development”. Short-sightedness focused solely on generating more tax revenue does not properly account for the environmental costs that come with clearing acres of land.

In a world where the one-two punch of climate change and biodiversity loss are creating crises of unprecedented proportion, every action our society takes (or doesn’t) has an effect. Business as usual no longer works. We must do better. Our future depends on it. 

Bill Gerlach

Tiverton

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