It's a good thing Claude Monet resided in Giv erny, and did not have to petition the philistines on the Becket Conservation Com mis sion and in the Depart ment of Conservation (ho-ho) and Recreation's Lakes and Ponds division to create his water lily pond that was the inspiration for his 260 paintings that hang in the great museums and private collections of the world. The DCR and BCC surely would have told Monet to take up painting by numbers and then saturate his pond with Diquat di Bromide, Fluridone or some other highly toxic cocktail and Impressionism would have gathered an entirely different meaning.
This is what happened up in Becket this summer on wild and idyllic Buckley Dunton Lake, the pond lilies (Nymph ae ceae), the symbol of enlightenment in the East, because their perfect form arises from the mud, now all lie dead in the shallow waters along with countless invertebrate species such as crayfish, mussels and clams and frogs, all nothing but collateral damage in a war against the natural world undertaken by the four seasonal, smug one percent homeowners whose million dollar McMansions abut the lake, who with their decadent sense of entitlement, had the cove sterilized because they "didn't like how it looks." They prefer the sterilized aesthetic of the gated Florida golf course communities they reside in most of the year.
Buckley Dunton was as pure and pristine an ecosystem as one finds in Berkshire County. Resembling the wilds of Maine, 99 percent of its 160-acre waters are enveloped by October Mountain State Forest and nourished with clean water from its 11 perennial streams that emanate from Becket and Walling Mountains. The Appalachian Trail runs along the ridge. The lake is a principal headwater for the Westfield and Farmington Rivers.
The entire gamut of Northeast woodlands fauna water or live on the lake including Moose and Black Bear. In late afternoon busy beavers patrol the waters like U-boats, dive and slap their tails when kayaks come too close. Blue herons end their long migration seasonally on our lake. I have grown old with them and I believe their offspring continues this ancient cycle. This idyll has attracted endangered loons and this year majestic and endangered American Bald Eagle made the lake their habitat.
The lake is plentiful with largemouth bass, large chain pickerel, challenging anglers in summer and winter. The shallow north cove softly transforms gently into marsh and tall grasses, Turtles sun themselves on stumps and lily pads float upon the still waters: the landscape is pure Monet. Prior to the deadly herbicide application, the south cove had a similar healthy ecosystem.
So why was the north cove left as is and the south cove treated? The DCR and BCC have yet to provide a consistent and coherent answer to this and other important questions and this is very troubling.
When the DCR filed its original Notice Of Intent on May 15 before the BCC, its primary justification was "enhanced recreational use." Present at that hearing was DEP Circuit Rider Mark Stinson who rebuked DCR's NOI because "enhanced recreational use" is not a consideration of the Wetlands Protection Act. Resubmitted on June 2 the same rationale was offered, in addition "eutrophication" was sited, which simply means filling in. No data was provided.
How this determination could be made in two weeks is beyond nature. In fact, if eutrophication is an issue than herbicide is the exact opposite of what needs to be done because the dead plants add to the organic matter in the lakebed exacerbating the condition. Eutrophication calls for hand pulling or mechanical harvesting, but that is much costlier.
Nonetheless the BCC rubber-stamped the application with the chair claiming, "They had no choice." When the DCR is questioned about the application it claims that the application was "approved by the BCC." Joseph Heller would have a field day with this Catch-22.
Residents of Becket, frustrated by the lack of transparency and due process, have turned to Rep. William "Smitty" Pignatelli and Sen. Benjamin Downing to pursue their own investigations.
DCR has mismanaged October Mountain State Forest for too long. Only a few years ago several thousand acres were illegally clear-cut in October Mountain and in state forests across the commonwealth. The state lost its green certification due to this illegal commercial logging. October Mountain State forest still has no management plan. It is time for new management and our legislators should explore having the entire state forest transferred to the Department of Fish and Wildlife or at minimum Buckley Dunton Lake and its entire watershed.
Herbicides and pesticides are no stranger to controversy. Rachel Carson sounded the warning a half century ago and today bee colonies are collapsing and the magical migration of Monarch butterflies is no more, both victims of herbicides and pesticides. The oversaturation of toxins into our biosphere is causing its rapid demise.
We are running out clean air, water and soil. We are running out of time.