Statement of the Lowell 6 — Undeterred by Court’s Flawed Ruling

 

Standing On Nelson's Disputed Property

Standing On Nelson’s Disputed Property

Following is a statement from the six defendants in a Lowell Mountain trespassing case recently decided by the Vermont Supreme Court. They are Ron Holland of Irasburg, Anne Morse of Craftsbury, Suzanna Jones of Walden, Ryan Gillard of Plainfield, David Rodgers of East Craftsbury and Eric Wallace-Senft of West Woodbury:

For several hours on Dec. 5, 2011, six Vermonters blocked construction of Green Mountain Power’s 21-turbine wind project on the Lowell Mountains. With our banners and signs, we stood on land that we believed — and solid evidence shows — belongs to Don and Shirley Nelson.

Nonetheless, we were arrested and charged with trespassing on Green Mountain Power property. We were eventually found guilty by a jury that followed the instructions of the trial judge who, in effect, told the jurors that it didn’t matter who actually owned the land where we stood.

Nearly two years later, ownership of that strip of land is still in dispute and will remain so until the matter is resolved in a civil trial. Nonetheless, the Supreme Court of Vermont has now denied our appeal in the above case. We acknowledge the Supreme Court’s decision, and we believe it is profoundly flawed. In his dissent, Justice John Dooley provided a commonsense analysis of the issues involved:

“There is a disconnect in this case between the trial court’s charge to the jury and the defense allowed by the court and presented by the defendants. The parties at trial submitted conflicting evidence on whether defendants were arrested on land owned by the Nelsons — neighboring landowners who allegedly permitted defendants to be there — or by those who leased the property to Green Mountain Power (GMP). …

“Nevertheless, despite defendants’ specific request to do so, the trial court refused to address the question of ownership as part of the jury’s consideration of whether GMP had ‘lawful possession’ — an essential element of the criminal trespass charge — of the land upon which they were arrested. … The court’s failure to address ownership in its jury instructions undoubtedly confused the jury after it had just heard evidence focusing almost exclusively on who owned the land in question and whether defendants had permission to be on that land. The questions posed by the jury during its deliberations highlighted its confusion, but the court nonetheless refused to clarify or elaborate on its initial truncated instruction regarding the element of lawful possession.”

We wish to make it clear that the court’s decision will not sway us from our fundamental commitment: to help Vermont develop a cogent, effective energy policy that protects its landscape and citizens from corporate or governmental bullying.

We will focus our efforts on towns, communities and individuals whose peace, health, harmony, and ecosystems are currently threatened by industrial wind development.

Currently, that means Brighton, Ferdinand, Newark and nearby towns in the Northeast Kingdom, targets of Eolian/Seneca Wind. It also means Grafton and Windham in Windham County. It means Grandpa’s Knob in Rutland County, and the towns of Castleton, Hubbardton, Pittsford and West Rutland. And it means Georgia Mountain where neighbors are struggling with that new facility.

We will continue to be responsible advocates for effective climate change strategies. “Effective” means an approach that reduces the state’s carbon emissions, is affordable, assures a reliable supply of power, and protects residents and the Vermont landscape from the negative effects of energy development.

We will continue to question and oppose corporate-friendly policies that pretend to be “green” but in fact do nothing to advance effective responses to climate change.

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Mountaintop Open House – Sunday, November 17th, 10AM

This might be your last chance to hike the Lowells before the trails get buried in snow!  Join knowledgeable guides for a hike up the mountain and up-close views of the Lowell wind project and the old “occupation” camp site.  Catch up with friends and the latest developments, or learn about how things have changed on the Lowell Mountains.

The hike is one mile each way on very steep and muddy terrain.  Temperatures can be much colder at the top of the mountain, so warm layers are recommended.  Many hikers like to use a walking stick or hiking poles.
Directions to Base Camp:
From Route 14 in the village of Albany, turn onto New Street (turns into Larabee Hill Road after you leave the village) follow to Bailey Hazen Road on right. Continue on Bailey Hazen Road until you see the base camp (a camp fire ring and cars parked in a field) on your right. Bailey Hazen Road ends just past the base camp.
Please feel free to invite others!

A Moonlit Walk, December 2011

December 10, 2011, full moon

Hiking the Lowell Mountains in the moonlight, I realized that I had not been up there since 1975 on some Sterling Bounder trip – Grassroots Project Winter Expedition? The lighting was incredible with the full moon peeking out from the clouds at various intervals creating blue shadows on the snow in the forest. We hiked through the hardwoods and aptly named Hobblebush while I wished for boots with newer Vibram soles. But it didn’t really matter the slipping and sliding –  we were as excited as bad kids on a secret adventure.

When we reached the top we suddenly felt the sharp wind. It wasn’t really blowing that hard, but it was cold so it always feels like it is blowing a gale even when it isn’t, and besides now there were no trees to block it.

No trees. How strange to be on a mountaintop that I had known so well so long ago and to not have any trees. The devestation in the moonlight brought up so many emotions. They zipped through my mind with the speed of my heartbeat.

“Holy Cow they have done a lot since I was up here that day in September.”

“Look at the view – all those twinkling lights in the valley. Look at how much light pollution – there are a lot more lights than in 1975. 7 billion humans now.”

“Look at how wide the road is they have built. It really does feel like I am hiking up an unpaved northbound lane of some newly built interstate, including the rock faces along the side where they have blasted it to make the hill more level. I bet no Perigrine Falcons nest there, though.

“Wow, it sure is easier walking than it was when I was an assistant Sterling Short Course instructor. You weren’t allowed to suggest to the students that it might be easier to hike not in a straight compass line, but to get out of the thicket of spruce and chart a slightly different course along the side of the ridge.”

“Wow, that view is incredible. You could never see this much view before, and the moonlight is so beautiful. Oh, and there are the flashing lights of the Sheffield Wind Project.”

We walked the road north to the first tower sight. The land leveled and the huge equipment all tidily parked in a row below the blasted rock face. A bit further on we came to where they had stopped filling in the saddle with the blasted gravel and the road suddenly dropped more like a dirt road than an interstate – a car could drive it but not a semi with a tower or crane. In the distance on the next peak, you could see where the clearcutting had started for the continuance of the road. Three and a half miles never seemed so long. We pass rolls of that fiber with straw embedded in it that gets put over the raw earth like a bandaid. Like that would stop the bleeding erosion of the earth on a scale this big. I feel like crying, but with the moonlight, it all seems so surreal that my mind can’t quite register it the same way as if I was there in the broad daylight, and I just stare at it all in confusion.

We turned back to where we had started and headed south on the road towards the current blasting area over the filled part of the saddle – filled with crushed mountain to a level taller than my house. We peeked over the embankment and marveled at the moonlit woods beyond – treetops now at eye level.

Further up the road, more huge equipment. We walked over and stood next to the tires – taller than me – OK, that’s not that hard, I am only 5’3″- then climbed up the steel stairs to the little platform where you stand to open the door of the cab. “Hey, it’s open.” Like guilty school kids we go inside. One of us sits in the drivers seat and realizes the keys are right there. Instantly all sorts of scenarios race through our minds and we wrestle with our former teenage selves – especially the men – it is a giant teenage boy’s wetdream. But our adult selves know the assorted outcomes of each of the scenarios we are thinking and we leave the machine sleeping in the moonlight, laughing nervously. As much as we would have liked to monkey wrench the project, it probably would have just gotten that one operator in trouble, not shut down the whole grizzily project.

We continue hiking south which again starts to resemble less interstate and more dirt road as the south end of where they have gotten to approaches. First we leave the big road building rigs, they we come to the logging rigs, further on in the distance we can see the untouched peak magestically shining in the moonlight. I think to myself “What is this mountain thinking of these humans – to do this. Not since the glaciers has there been such destruction up here.

We head back under the tape and into the snowy magic of the forest. It folds itself around us like a warm embrace healing a hurt child – asking nothing. The wind is blocked by the ridge now and I start to warm up as we share some hot tea from the thermos and some cheese before heading down to the car. We are much more quiet during our descent, tired and lost in our private thoughts. It will be an evening we all remember for the rest of our lives – an evening out of the ordinary – a weird twilight zone. And again I have to ask – Why are they doing this? And will we just waste this electricity like it gets wasted now? How much electricity is enough and what are we willing to sacrifice in order to have it? Apparently a lot, and even when we are long gone as a species, those mountains will never be the same.

Chipmunk

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What are Mountain Occupiers Doing These Days?

What are Mountain Occupiers Doing These Days?
We’ve been busy plotting our next event, and it’s gonna be a big one!  After last summer spent fighting a single (albeit very important) issue, many folks were feeling like we needed to work for change on a bigger scale as well, looking at the larger picture and going for the roots of the problem.  Enter: 
 
The Rendezvous.  
This will be a free 2-day event, August 17-18 in Irasburg, VT.  There will be workshops, presenters, activism, camping, live music, a performance by Bread and Puppet — a place to learn more about the issues confronting us – and the solutions available- while networking with folks from activist and environmental groups from around the state.  We’re especially excited about our first keynote speaker, Peter Brown, author of the book Right Relationships: Building a Whole Earth Economy.  We’ll be announcing our second keynote speaker soon, so stay tuned!  You can learn more about what we have planned and keep up to date on developments by checking our website: http://therendezvousvt.wordpress.com.  You can also join our Facebook group –www.facebook.com/therendezvousvt  
 
We Need You!
Here’s how you can help:
First, spread the word about the event– forward the website to your friends, share the facebook page, or print out flyers from the website and pass ’em out
Second, we need workshop presenters!  If you or someone you know has knowledge to share, submit a workshop proposal to this e-mail by July 8!  You can find all the details on being a presenter by clicking on “Request for Presenters” on the website. 
Third, we need volunteers!  We need help with media outreach, the logistics of finding equipment and setting up for the event, and before, during, and after we need help with things like putting up tents, building a stage, cleaning up recycling and compost, parking, making signs, etc.  Send us an e-mail and we’ll find you a job! 

Green Mountain Power has applied for a permit to kill endangered bats. Now’s your chance to tell ANR what you think!

A public meeting is scheduled for June 20 in Lowell, or send in your comments-  all the details are below:

The Agency of Natural Resources has received Endangered Species Permit applications for the taking of state threatened and endangered bat species incidental to the operation of two different wind power facilities: Green Mountain Power Corporation (Lowell)

A draft permit has been issued for takings of state threatened and endangered bats at these wind facilities.  The permit applications, recommendations from the Endangered Species Committee and draft permit may be found at:

http://www.anr.state.vt.us/site/cfm/etstp/index.cfm

A public meeting has been scheduled for:

        June 20, 2013 at 7 pm. at Lowell Graded School, 52 Gelo Park Road, Lowell, VT 05847

Public comments are welcome and must be received on or before 4:30 p.m. on June 24, 2013.  Comments may be sent by email to ANR.EndangeredPermit@state.vt.us or regular mail to:

Comments c/o Catherine Gjessing, General Counsel

Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife

Commissioner’s Office

1 National Life Building, Davis 2

Montpelier, Vermont 05620-3702

 

Open House This Sunday, Father’s Day

Mountaintop Open House hikes to the top of the Lowell Mountains continue to take place on the third Sunday of each month throughout the summer.  The next one is this Sunday, June 16, which is Father’s Day and a great way to spend time with your father or son.

Guides will be available from 10AM-3PM to show you the way and provide information about the project and the mountains before and after turbines. Hikes leave from the end of the Bailey Hazen Road in Albany (just past the Nelson’s place). The hike is 1 mile each way on steep and muddy terrain.  E-mail mountainoccupiers@gmail.com or call 744-6122 to RSVP or for more information.

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CHICKEN BBQ SPONSORED BY THE LOWELL MOUNTAINS GROUP

JUNE 9  11:30-5:00 P.M.

RAIN OR SHINE

BBQ CHICKEN, BAKED BEANS, COLE SLAW, ROLLS, AND BEVERAGE

LIVE ENTERTAINMENT, HORSE SHOES, VOLLEY BALL, BADMINTON

DONATION:  $12 ADULTS   $6 FOR CHILDREN

LOCATION: HAZEN NOTCH CAMP GROUND

RSVP BY JUNE 2 IF POSSIBLE

DIRECTIONS: RT. 58 WEST FROM LOWELL VT 3 1/2 MILES RT ON GREEN HILL RD

CONTACT INFORMATION CALL 802-744-6612