Spring joy – for turtles, snakes

One could argue that logging on Milford’s Brox property will not be all that onerous for concerned conservationists or abutters because, after all, it will only go on for three to five days.

But those who would argue such a point, we think, are folks who don’t understand the importance of endangered species or who do not live near the proposed operation.

The fact is, small creatures that inhabit Brox, and the rest of our planet, are important to the ecosystem and should be treated with respect.

And the fact that this logging operation will produce a great deal of noise and dust that will disrupt neighbors is annoying, even if it is finite.

Thus, we were glad to see selectmen meet with abutters, members of the Conservation Commission and other concerned residents, notably members of the group Brox Environmental Citizens, to discuss the operation. Of course, the concerns of the state Department of Environmental Services undoubtedly played a role in getting the selectmen’s attention, but that’s fine.

What bothers us, and should bother anyone concerned with the disruption of any neighborhood, even for a short period, is the contention on the part of the chairman of Milford’s selectmen, Christopher Beer, that the town’s earth and gravel removal ordinance doesn’t apply to town projects, but only to commercial operations. Suzanne Fournier, of Brox Environmental Citizens, contends that it does.

We think it should.

Why should a town not have to follow its own rules? Why should a town be able to disrupt a neighborhood when a commercial operation can’t?

But we come at this from what we hope is a logical point of view, to wit: Noise and disruption are noise and disruption regardless of who makes them. That doesn’t necessarily work in government, however, where logic isn’t always the prime method of operation.

Fournier said Milford could end up in court over the issues of noise, exhaust fumes and dust. We hope that doesn’t happen, as should Milford taxpayers, but it could. Fournier is adamant about protecting the Brox environment.

We have with this operation a classic example of industry – yes, it isn’t commercial, but it’s still industrial – versus the environment, a battle that has been going on ever since the Industrial Revolution, and we have yet to find a happy medium. Perhaps there is none.

Certainly, we believe that the folks involved in this three- to five-day tree removal plan will, as they have promised, take every precaution to protect Brox species, but what can they say to creatures whose habitat is disturbed or that are driven out by noise? Perhaps they could quote selectmen’s Chairman Beer, who told abutter Steve Takacs:

“Realistically … it is going to be noisy.”

That will be reassuring to the hognosed snake that slithers around Brox.

And surely the Blanding’s turtle will be relieved to know about the 48-inch reinforced concrete culvert that will go under the Brox access road to funnel species away from the work zone and into a conservation area. What? If the turtle fails to use the culvert and gets squashed by a truck, it’s the turtle’s fault? Hey, next time use the culvert. Oops, too late?

And it’s great, too, that drivers of the trucks entering and leaving Brox will be trained to identify any rare, threatened or endangered creatures. Knowledge is good. But in this case, good for what? So a driver sees a rare reptile. What’s he supposed to do? Shut off his truck engine so it isn’t frightened away? Wave and keep driving?

This all seems like lip service designed to tamp down opposition, as is the promise that water will be applied to control dust during the gravel removal portion of the operation. Does anyone really think that works? Perhaps if the water application were constant, it would, but we aren’t even sure of that.

We don’t know how this will be solved in the end except we’re pretty sure, knowing how even local government operates, that this operation will be launched and that there’s a good chance the courts will be dragged into it.

In the meantime, all we can do is hope that turtles and snakes understand the concept of culverts and that neighbors can just accept the fact that, yes, it’s going to be noisy. And dusty.

Oh, the joys of spring.

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