Loraine McCosker: A flawed argument

Published: Friday, April 12, 2013 at 3:23 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, April 12, 2013 at 3:23 p.m.

This column is in response to Jack Putz's suggestion to remove biomass to restore savannah ecosystems in public lands in order to provide fuel for Gainesville's electricity.

I was a long time resident of Gainesville, from 1977 to 2003, and currently maintain property in the Duckpond neighborhood.

Putz's argument is flawed for the following reasons. There are immense pressures by human development in Florida. It is not possible to return to a savannah ecosystem with the exception of limited areas for habitat restoration and biodiversity.

The island heat effect and climate warming demand that forests assist in cooling, uptake of CO2 and other pollutants that are critical in the hydrologic cycle. Will savannahs provide this? Our climate is very different than pre-industrial revolution savannahs of Florida.

Pressures to the water supply through agricultural drawdowns and human growth necessitate conservation and wise use of water as well as recycling. The suggestion of removal of trees for recharge is not addressing the true source of the problem, overuse by industry, agriculture and home owners. Documentation of the 25 percent recharge rates is critical. How was this determined?

Putz fails to explore the immense footprint of the biomass plant. Gainesville was at one time a Sierra Club Cool City with targets for decreasing energy use and CO2 levels.

A few points: What will the impacts be of the 40-plus truckloads of material per day on the infrastructure and air quality of the region before burning?

What is the sourcing of the material? What will the impacts be at a time when forests are valuable for their CO2 sequestration and ecosystem services?

Putz would like to remove trees and other critical woody biomass from public lands for burning? The importance of such environments on human health, ecosystems has been well documented. Does he suggest that this be regulated with specific oversight-not just industry? Are there economic benefits to the DEP to do so?

Trees provide cooling at a time when CO2 levels approach 400 ppm and temperatures are rising.

Putz fails to reference climate change. All land use and energy generation at this time must do so.

Loraine McCosker lives in Athens, Ohio.

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