Appalachian Trail Conservancy
Topic: Wind Energy in Maine
“The Appalachian Trail Conservancy’s (ATC) understands that the nation is faced with an energy crisis and appreciates the benefits of alternative energy that wind facilities provide, but it is also important to preserve places that offer, to every extent possible, unobscured views of the American landscape for both recreation and appreciation of our cultural and natural heritage, including the Appalachian Trail (A.T.).
The Appalachian Trail was designated by the Congress as one of the nation’s first National Scenic Trails with passage of the National Trails System Act in 1968 when the nation determined an overwhelming need for outdoor recreation opportunities. This legislation highlights the significant contribution of National Scenic Trails to provide maximum outdoor recreation potential and enjoyment of nationally significant scenic, historic, natural, and cultural areas. This law established a standard that the ATC strives to uphold.
According to the National Trails Act, the A.T. is a National Scenic Trail and is protected by law to provide maximum outdoor recreation potential and for the conservation and enjoyment of nationally significant scenic, historic, natural, or cultural qualities of the areas through which such trails may pass. It’s the ATC’s approach to ensuring that these laws are upheld.
In 2008 , Maine adopted the Maine Wind Energy Act that affectively limited the input of the ATC, and other trail partners, on major wind-development projects near the Trail. This law expedites the review procedures for wind proposals, requiring review of impact to national and state scenic resources up to only 8 miles from those resources. Unfortunately, that distance is insufficient in many cases to protect the A.T. experience from scenic destruction.
The First Wind project was outside of the 8-mile scenic-review threshold, and, although the project would be visible from the Trail on one exposed ridgeline, the ATC and our partners had no real standing to oppose the project under current state law.
The lack of significant legal standing under the current Maine Wind Energy Act, despite the federal laws to protect the A.T., is the primary reason that the ATC agreed to not oppose the First Wind project near Bingham, Maine, the largest wind project in the state to date. However, we do not support the project.
While we appreciate the proactive support offered by First Wind, we have deep concerns that we can’t protect lands quick enough to provide for adequate protection of the A.T. scenic resources against the large number of proposed wind projects.
For the sake of Trail resources and other scenic resources in Maine, we hope that the Maine legislators will seriously consider the long-term impact of the insufficient Maine Wind Energy Act.”