To the editor:
Recently, I was standing in one of my hayfields watching a pair of Northern Harriers skimming above the ground, searching for a meal in the grass. This made me contemplate the future of these magnificent birds as the farmland in our area continues to revert to brush and wasteland.
It seems that many people have come to expect that these scenic views are here for their enjoyment. In reality, those landscapes were created by the toil and continuing effort of the farmers who work that land. This comes at a very high cost to farmers in time, money, and effort. In today’s agricultural economy, it is getting more difficult to maintain these farm lands. First and foremost, farmers are simply no longer there. Without farmers, the land quickly reverts to wilderness. There is no economic value to fields of invasive brush and weeds.
The town of Coxsackie claims they want to see these landscapes preserved for the benefit of those who want to maintain the character of the area. Who will pay to maintain these open spaces? They do not want to allow for commercial-scale solar farms in the town, since that will change the character of Coxsackie. However, farming is leaving Coxsackie! The few farmers that are left are struggling to make a living. When they, too, quit, who will maintain these open spaces favored by the Northern Harrier and everyone who wants to see this view maintained?
The solar companies offer the option to help support the few farmers that are still left with added income and the ability to keep some agriculture viable. The land involved in the solar projects also offers opportunities for beginning farmers to utilize some of the areas for small-scale agricultural operations such as intensive vegetable production under solar panels and in hoop houses in peripheral areas, bee keeping, and grazing sheep under the panels for maintenance of grasses. This is possible because the cost of entry would be lowered to these farmers, since they would not be required to purchase land they cannot afford.
Additionally, the Town Council could reverse the new zoning regulations that they put into place to limit the potential of commercial scale solar farms, and allow the area to receive the benefits of those projects: much-needed revenue for the local economy and open space maintained for Harriers.
Even more than the Harriers, I am concerned about the future. What will be the conditions we leave to our grandchildren’s grandchildren? Will they be forced to inherit a world of worsening environment? There is much more at stake now than an admirable viewshed. Perhaps the Town Council of Coxsackie should show some true leadership and work to support the needs of the many. Their leadership could shape a new future that mitigates the rapidly changing environment. With more powerful storms and more extreme conditions, our environment is spiraling beyond hope of our control. Now is the time to take action before our actions are impotent.
With wise choices, and perhaps some adjusted expectations, Coxsackie could be known as a place where the future really belongs to our children; children who would be able to watch the magnificent Northern Harriers soaring above the open fields and have productive farmlands preserved for their future.