Letter: Concerns over a new Mass Pike exit

To our Massachusetts legislators:

As you deliberate on the proposal for a Blandford exit on the turnpike, there are critical concerns beyond the conclusions that a new exit would not reduce commuter time or congestion at nearby exits to any extent and would prove a high cost for a small number served.

It is crucial to study the Massachusetts Biodiversity Map Project, which reflects 22 years of natural history data that identifies core habitats and supporting natural landscapes.

The project evolved from concerns of the Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs that the rapid pace of land development was destroying places and species sometimes even before the places and species’ populations were fully studied.

The report was created to help the state make land use and land protection decisions as well as to guide land planning.

This proposed exit would require improvements on Blandford and Chester road. It would irrevocably harm land that this report considers valuable to our state’s biodiversity at a compelling time for our world’s ecological future.

“We have to realize that we rely on our forests for clean air, clean water, recreation, wildlife habitat and wood. The nature of forest loss in the 21st century is different than anything we have seen in the past. Pavement is almost always permanent, ” Dr. David Foster, director of Harvard University’s Harvard Forest, was quoted in the report.

The population of Massachusetts has increased 20 percent in the past 50 years, but the area of developed land has increased nearly 200 percent, according to the project, and the Massachusetts Audubon Society estimates that 44 acres are developed per day in the state.

In Chester, the bio map highlights 11,547 acres on the proposed exit feeder road that is designated as a Critical Natural Landscape featuring Aquatic Core Buffer, Wetland Core Buffer and Landscape Block. These designations reflect crucial habitants and natural fixtures found on the land deemed essential to the state’s long range bio diversity and ecological strength.

Down the same road into Blandford, the bio map describes a 179,293?acre Critical Natural Landscape featuring Aquatic Core Buffer, Wetland Core Buffer and Landscape Block.

These largely forested Landscape Blocks provide invaluable wildlife habitat and other ecosystem values such as clean drinking water and absorbing carbon from the atmosphere.

And the Wetland Cores, according to the report, are “the least disturbed wetlands in the state within undeveloped landscapes—those with intact buffers and little fragmentation or other stressors associated with development. These wetlands are most likely to support critical wetland functions, like natural hydrologic conditions, diverse plant and animal habitats, and are most likely to maintain these functions into the future.”

Sadly, also notable in looking at the bio map, is the lack of ecological features on the turnpike corridor, underscoring the permanent ecological damage from the road work.

The goal of the BioMap Project was to “promote strategic land protection by producing a map showing areas that, if protected, would provide suitable habitat over the long term for the maximum number of Massachusetts’ terrestrial and wetland plant and animal species and natural communities.”

Please, weigh the long-term impact on your decision on this proposal that seems so simple yet promises long-lasting consequences.


Eileen FitzGerald,

Chester, Mass.


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