Councilwoman Brandy Hall introduces the Stand4Forests Resolution to Build on Pine Lake’s History of Environmental Stewardship
Pine Lake, may be the smallest city in DeKalb County, but it boasts an environmental protection record many larger cities would envy. The City has a long history of protecting the local environment including a wetlands biofiltration initiative that filters stormwater both entering and leaving Pine Lake, the community’s pride and joy. They’ve also recently passed a Climate Action resolution, calling on city planners to identify options for renewable energy for the city in line with the goals of the Paris Accords.
In keeping with these goals, at the last meeting by a unanimous vote, the City Council passed a Stand 4 Forests resolution put on the agenda by Councilwoman Brandy Hall. The resolution recognizes that addressing the impacts of a changing climate will require major forest protection and restoration efforts and calls for improved incentives for forest owners and communities that keep their forests standing.
Noting the expansion of the wood pellet industry across the state and its potential impact on the the rate and severity of climate disruption and, therefore, the quality of life for Pine Lake residents, the resolution discourages industrial wood pellets production or incineration. It also calls for state legislation that would place a moratorium on state incentives for that industry and urges the state to promote expanded forest conservation, energy efficiency, and true clean energy technologies.
The wood pellet industry has been touted by the industry as a clean energy source. However, the resolution notes that not only is burning wood pellets on an industrial scale not carbon neutral, but it will result in increased harvesting of both natural forests and pine plantations, decreased ecosystem integrity, water quality and flood storage, wildlife habitats, and recreational resources.
The resolution also cites the public health risk posed by industrial scale wood pellet production and biomass incineration, noting that it can increase air pollution causing a sweeping array of health harms, from asthma attacks to cancer and heart attacks.
Councilwoman Hall in bringing the resolution forward said, “Passage of the Stand 4 Forests resolution is another indication of our continuing commitment to the city’s long history of responsible environmental stewardship. We will be revisiting our current Tree Ordinance to ensure that we have the best possible policies in place to support this resolution. Recognition of the value our standing forests provide is long overdue. This resolution begins our commitment to maintain and expand them.”
Pine Lake joins coastal Chatham County in moving to protect standing forests. Chatham County Commissioner James Holmes stated recently, “Forests are one of our best defenses against natural disasters. We saw the damage that hurricanes Matthew and Irma brought to our area. No matter what storm threatens our coast, allowing forests to remain standing is a cost-effective investment in resilience and protection. We certainly shouldn’t be using taxpayer dollars to encourage their destruction.”
Holmes and other regional and national leaders have urged the European Commission to recognize the crucial role of standing forests in reducing the impact of natural disasters. The European Union currently subsidizes the wood pellet industry as part of their renewable energy plan. The industry is dependent on foreign subsidies but European policies are currently being revised as more scientific evidence reveals the damaging climate impacts associated with the forest destruction by the wood pellet industry, and the intrinsic value of leaving forests standing.
Dogwood Alliance’s Georgia State Coordinator, Vicki Weeks, who has been building support for the resolution said, “This vote highlights the vision of Pine Lake’s leadership. With this vote they are recognizing the environmental and economic value of standing forests. The Stand4Forests movement calls for a new vision of forest protection here in Georgia, a vision that doesn’t include false solutions like industrial biomass. When left standing, forests provide billions in economic value to our state and local communities. We applaud the Pine Lake City Council for taking this important step.”