Pine Tree Watch speaks with Hunter about climate corridor

Pine Tree Watch spoke with Malcolm Hunter, a professor of wildlife ecology and Libra Professor of Conservation Biology at the University of Maine, for an article about the environmental effects of the proposed New England Clean Energy Connect transmission line that would run from Quebec to Massachusetts. The energy corridor would cut through a natural ecosystem band along the northern Appalachian Mountain region, which supports abundant wildlife in one of the world’s last intact temperate broadleaf forests, the article states. And the region has been recognized as one of the most resilient landscapes in the eastern United States, which partially depends on maintaining interconnected habitats. “Movement is the main way that individuals and ultimately entire populations respond to climate change,” Hunter said. “Forest fragmentation that impedes movement would likely make Maine’s native flora and fauna more vulnerable to climate change.” Hunter acknowledged the northern Appalachian region is not a “pristine wilderness,” but logging roads in the area are “temporary features” that still allow wildlife to move around. The transmission line would be permanent and impose a level of change that is unprecedented, the article states. According to Hunter, such clear-cuts create abrupt habitat transition with typically warmer, windier and drier conditions than the forest interior. The development could provide an opportunity for invasive species to flourish, and bring along with it herbicide applications, electromagnetic radiation and aircraft warning lights. Hunter estimated an “edge effect” of 330 feet surrounding the proposed corridor could expand into and affect at least 5,000 adjoining forested acres.