Wednesday, December 26, 2012

What Makes This A Park?

The Adirondack Park is more than double the size of Yosemite and Yellowstone National Parks combined, but its greatness is not always apparent. Silver lakes and dark woods beckon from some roadsides, while lawns and driveways interrupt the wild scenery from others. With its mix of private and public land, the Adirondacks have always had something of an identity problem.

Four decades after the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) was created to oversee development on private lands, the Park is still in search of a coherent look. Brown road signs with yellow lettering suggest to visitors they are in a special place. But are signs enough?

“The Adirondacks mean nothing if you don’t know you’re in a park,” said George Davis, who led the state’s Commission on the Adirondacks in the Twenty-First Century in 1990. “Where else do you have six million acres of [largely] forested land? Not this side of Minnesota.”  The commission proposed a series of recommendations to make the Adirondacks more park-like, including establishing an Adirondack Park Administration to oversee planning of both private and public lands and an Adirondack Park Service that would manage the public lands. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, December 25, 2012

A Christmas Present For Nature

During this season of giving, it is only right to include the environment on your list of those that need a gift. While a tie, sweater, or a pair of socks is not appropriate for Mother Nature, the item that many individuals should consider bringing to our fields and forests is the ashes that are produced by wood stoves, fireplaces and outdoor wood boilers, as this material is one of the most precious commodities that our environment can use.

The off-white, powdery ash that is produced from the combustion of wood contains a variety of compounds that are beneficial to the soil, especially in the Adirondacks. Wood ash has been known for centuries to act as a fertilizing agent, and its importance in agriculture during the colonial era is well documented. The preparation of wood ash for commercial use was routinely conducted by treating the ash in large pots and creating a compound that was obviously labeled “potash”. (In 1790, Samuel Hopkins developed a more effective process for producing potash from wood ash and was granted the first patent. The U.S. Patent Office, a small government agency at the time, required final approval from both President George Washington and Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson for a patent.) » Continue Reading.


Thursday, December 20, 2012

New Issue of Adirondack Explorer:
What Makes The Park A Park?

They say we live in a park, but it’s a strange kind of park, one that’s home to more than 130,000 year-round residents.

So what makes it a park? Well, there’s all that public land, with thousands of miles of hiking trails. And then there’s the Adirondack Park Agency, which regulates development on private land, presumably to maintain the region’s park-like character.

The truth is, though, that people can drive through the Adirondacks without realizing that they’re in a park. Sure, they’ll see some pretty scenery, but they’ll also see the same kind of sign clutter, sprawl, and development they see outside the Park—not as much, perhaps, but it exists.
» Continue Reading.


Thursday, December 20, 2012

Outside Story: Downy or Hairy Woodpecker?

“That’s a downy. No wait, it’s a hairy – definitely a hairy. Well, hang on…maybe it is a downy.” I admit it: I’ve had this happen to me more than once.

With the onset of winter, downy and hairy woodpeckers become more apparent– knocking away in our woods and stopping by our birdfeeders. With strikingly similar feather patterns, the two can be hard to distinguish if one only catches a glimpse. Both have black wings with white markings; white bellies, sides, and backs; and distinctively white- and black-striped heads. Males of both species have red patches on the backs of their heads, which females lack.
» Continue Reading.


Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Finding Blessings, Resilience and Self-Worth in Nature

I just mailed a contribution to an organization which immerses their community’s children in learning about river basins and watersheds. I endorsed the check “in memory of the children of Sandy Hook Elementary.”

As countless naturalists and writers, from Richard Louv, to Rachel Carson, to John Burroughs and many Adirondack teachers have shown us, children who are led and encouraged to be themselves and to explore in the outdoors, with adults who participate in that exploration without dominating it, gain significantly in awareness, confidence and self-worth. We are born to love the world, including the more than human world, and our ready inclination to explore that world, and to find answers to our place within that world is intrinsically human.
» Continue Reading.


Saturday, December 15, 2012

Lost Brook Dispatches: Winter Perfection on Pitchoff

So far this season my home of Madison, Wisconsin has been bereft of any semblance of winter.  Last Monday it was 65 degrees and I got sweaty playing with my dog while dressed in a T-shirt.  Amy and I completed our circuit of holiday parades – we do maybe a dozen of them all over southern Wisconsin – without once seeing a snowflake or having stiff fingers from the cold as we prepped our equipment.  That kind of track record is without an analog in these parts.

Last week the NOAA announced that 2012 will finish as the warmest year in US history.  According to USA Today’s report, every state in the lower 48 was warmer than average and eighteen states set records for warmest year ever including New York and virtually the entire Northeast.  Many Midwestern cities will set records this week for longest stretch of consecutive days with no snow.  Climate change is upon us and both the accumulating data and trend models show that it is warming more rapidly and more severely than previously predicted. Yet most Americans still don’t seem to care all that much about it and plenty of ignoramuses still deny it, following an ugly and embarrassing American trend of belittling science and knowledge.  Even on the Almanack one suspects there are more than a few readers who are as likely to believe in Bigfoot as in human-made climate change.  In their case – in all our cases – ignorance will surely not be bliss. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, December 13, 2012

Remembering Italian-Adirondack Artist Silvia Provera

Surrounded by wilderness, woods, and waters, Adirondackers are often reminded how solitary the world can sometimes be.  Living in the Adirondack Park can sometimes feel like walking a long and lonely trail. Arriving at a remote pond the view may be ours alone on that day, but  it’s shared by millions across the world.  We feebly tend our six million-acre Adirondack garden for the world, with small hopes of inspiring others to build their own gardens of similar design.

Today we take an opportunity to remember Italian artist Silvia Provera, who passed away a year ago, as one of us – hoping to inspire Adirondack gardens in her own corner of the world. She was a well-known designer and an accomplished artisan carpenter in Europe who became fascinated with the Adirondack region after spotting Adirondack chairs in a garden by the Orbetello Lagoon, in Tuscany. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, December 13, 2012

Outside Story: Natural Christmas Tree Decorations

“What a horrifyingly garish sight,” I said to my friend as we surveyed my Christmas tree last year. We had just finished decorating it and my eyes were sending messages to my brain, like, “Hey, this is really tacky.”

Truth is, the décor I had accumulated after years of city dwelling in my sassy twenties looked awfully out of place in my humble Vermont cabin. What I once thought dazzling – glitter-coated icicles, a miniature disco ball, a purple-feathered bird with jeweled eyes, flocks of shiny gold and green balls – now looked as out of place as a pink flamingo at my bird feeder. Even the duck decoy my great uncle carved seemed to give the gaudy fiasco an alarmed stare. Such a tree no longer belonged in my world. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, December 8, 2012

Lost Brook Dispatches: The Tree of Magic

During our time at Lost Brook Tract one of our great pleasures has been discovering and measuring larger examples of the old growth trees that cover most of the land.   There are four canonical species of tree in our boreal wonderland: red spruce, balsam, white birch and yellow birch, plus an occasional mountain ash.  Both the red spruce and yellow birch impress in old-growth form, the latter in girth more than height.

Our catalog of giants includes a yellow birch with a diameter over three feet and multiple red spruces with heights over eighty feet and diameters in the two-foot range.  One red spruce, just a little bit down slope from our property, exceeds a hundred feet by a good margin. At our elevation trees like these are impressive and very rare in the Adirondacks. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, December 6, 2012

Council Proposes A Larger High Peaks Wilderness

Adirondack Council proposal for Boreas PondsThe Adirondack Council is proposing a huge expansion of the High Peaks Wilderness Area once the state acquires lands formerly owned by Finch, Pruyn & Company.

Under the council’s plan, the state would combine the High Peaks and Dix Mountain Wilderness Areas as well as twenty-three thousand acres of former Finch lands. If this were done, the High Peaks Wilderness—already the largest Wilderness Area in the Adirondack Park—would grow to 272,000 acres from 204,000 acres.

Council spokesman John Sheehan said enlarging the High Peaks Wilderness would simplify the state’s management and planning for the popular region.

The proposal also would require the state to close a long dirt road that leads to Boreas Ponds, which are among the former Finch holdings that the state intends purchase over the next five years. » Continue Reading.


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