Saturday, March 10, 2007

Adirondack Northway Cell Phone Controversy

When two men died on the Northway in late January and early February, right-wingers, downstaters, and anti-environmentalists offensively used their deaths to go on the attack. Never mind these unfortunate folks were traveling through isolated mountain passes in what was certainly the worst weather of the season, and in one case, the worst ice storm in at least several years – the wing-nuts raised their collective cane in disgust over those of us who they said cared more about the environment than people.

“But it should not have come to this. This could have been prevented,” our State Senator Betty Little (R-Queensbury) said. She failed to mention that she was one of those at the top of the list who could have prevented it. Little and our Assemblywoman Teresa Sayward (R-Willsboro) failed to act decisively to force cell-phone companies to provide adequate cell-coverage, and more importantly, they spent more than four years pretending that having a cell phone on the Northway was a substitute for common sense in considering driving conditions before you set out to cross the largest wilderness in the east.

“You mean we can talk to people on the moon, but we can’t talk to people on Interstate 87?” Abraham Isaac, a Jewish community activist said. His Voz Iz Neias blog has become a center for New York City / New Jersey folks who just can’t seem to understand that the world is not made of high-rises, strip-malls, and unlimited cell service. Maybe they’ve spent too much time talking to people on the moon.

Assemblyman an opportunist Roy McDonald met with people at, get this, the Wilton Mall food court to call the lack of cell service “geographic discrimination” and to say that “people’s live should come first” – “There’s a substantial part and areas throughout New York that don’t have service, and I don’t want the upstate area to turn into a third world country,” he said. Gee Mr. McDonald, ever meet any of the rural poor in our area? Ever consider that South Korea has better broadband penetration than the Untied States?

Senator Martin J. Golden (R-Brooklyn) said “Shame on those that would get in the way of human life, to lose a life for something as simple as not having a cell phone tower … is very telling about priorities.” Now that’s someone with priorities. Forget war, lack of health care or living wages, failure to fund education to such an extent that the courts had to force the state to act, a state legislature that is a laughing stock of the nation and about as un-democratic as it gets – no, the real priorities are cell service. Now that’s telling about priorities, namely Mr. Golden’s re-election prospects.

The Adirondack Daily Enterprise said we were being kept in a “dark ages” by “absolute lunacy.” Blog writer Shlomah Shamos exclaimed the following outright lie “The untimely deaths of two beloved family men are on the conscience of the Adirondack Park Agency, who has been ignoring this issue and blocking all efforts” and asked “how many people have to die due to the lack of cell service on the Northway?” We’ll guess that many more will die on the Northway with cell service or without and Shlomah probably won’t give a single sentence to their deaths.

A guy from Jersey calling himself ironically, Right, Wing Nut! made the following assumptions, apparently out of ignorance of the facts (surprise, surprise):

LET ’em die – just don’t mess with our perfect view. That’s the message from New York environmentalists who’ve prevented the construction of cell-phone towers along Interstate 87 in the Adirondacks.

They like to call themselves “progressives”, but the enviorn”mental”ists are hell-bent on sending society careening backwards. Cutting off humanity from help so that a view may be perfectly preserved? Perfectly logical to the Greenies; and the deaths that result from their actions are consequences that they feel are worth the cost. I wonder if anyone has asked the survivors of the deceased their opinions…

And in the meanwhile, the Killer Greens have their way in the Adirondacks, and while folks die all around them, they pat themselves on the back…can’t wait until they can foist their policies upon the rest of us!

Ahhhh… sure… we’re not sure how the quality of life in Old Bridge, NJ is treating the Jersey Wing Nut, but we’re pretty sure the vast majority of folks here in our region would laugh at the thought of living there and our environment is the reason, not their cell phone coverage.

Anyway, here are some things to consider:

The Adirondack Park Agency already approved 32 – count ’em – thirty-two towers along the Northway. Even though they make a mint on out-of-service-area calls, the cell phone companies couldn’t make ENOUGH profit to install the towers.

Economic disparity makes owning a cell phone in Adirondack counties a lot less likely, even if service was available. The cell tower solution leaves the working poor, the elderly, and others who likely don’t have cell phones out of luck. They rely on common sense and avoid making trips across mountain passes during blizzards and ice storms.

Complete cell-phone coverage in the Adirondacks is a pipe-dream, unless there are towers on nearly every mountain in the region. Anyone who lives in the mountains, or even in the hilly suburbs knows they lose service all the time, no matter how close the nearest tower is.

Dependence on cell-phones in the case of emergency is downright stupid. Survival in the wilderness in the depths of winter is not dependent on the battery in your cell-phone or the nearest tower, it depends on your emergency preparation and winter survival skills – a $2 emergency blanket in the glove box might have saved the life of the first stranded motorist. The second died of a heart-attack while tromping through three foot snows.

If lower income people in our region can’t afford their own cell-phone service why should they be required to subsidize the cell service of downstaters? In Saratoga County, there was the plan to spend $12 to $15 million to improve cell service. The first call from Little and Sayward was to demand the state step in and foot the bill. If they were concerned about saving lives (especially of locals), they would fund helicopter rescue services, signs for thin ice, free health screenings, additional health centers, and a thousand other things people in the mountains need. $10 million would save a lot more lives (lost to heart attacks and broken bones) if it were spent on shoveling old folks’ homes out during storms.

Lake George Fire Chief Bruce Kilburn got it right when he said, “Some good preparedness and some prevention can alleviate and prevent a lot.” He suggested:

Having an emergency kit in your car.
Wearing warm clothes in winter in case you break down.
Carrying extra clothes or extra blankets.
Keeping emergency flares in your car.
Carrying an air horn in car.

He forgot to add: don’t cross mountain passes in the depths of a blizzard or ice storm unless you are prepared for the worst.

If there is anyone to blame for these terrible tragedies it’s the cell companies who just couldn’t make enough money – the proof is in the fact that those companies, Verizon, Sprint-Nextel, AT&T and T-Mobil among them, have now (according to Sayward) “committed to engineering [a] plan for the Adirondacks for us.” Unfortunately, Sayward still doesn’t get it, she added “so if we can gather the information, [sic] see if we can get this done over time.”

You keep working on it Theresa, but the next time someone dies on I-87 – take a few minutes to think about why you didn’t demand the cell companies install those long-approved towers. In the meantime, we’ll accept the message of Saranac Lake resident Mark Wilson, who said this week, “Life within the blue line is not easy, and it’s not meant to be easy sometimes.”

True enough.


Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Commentary: Adirondack Winter Sports Under Threat

If it wasn’t painfully obvious before, weather for this early January week that stretched into the sunny 60’s at some Adirondack locations should serve as a reminder that global warming is going to have serious impacts on the Adirondack region. Unfortunately, few here in the mountains seem to understand the gravity of the situation for our local economies.

Our friends working at Gore Mountain Ski Resort have been hardly working at all and consequently spending a lot less on dinners out, winter gear, and even beer and other important winter supplies. The few trails open on Gore are so crowded (with even the small crowd that’s there) that the die-hards refuse to make runs for fear of being run-over. Whiteface in Lake Placid has been forced to cancel its annual World Cup Freestyle competition (now being held at Deer Valley, Utah) and has virtually no beginner trails open.

Meanwhile, two of the largest developments in Adirondack history are expected to be rammed through the Adirondack Park Agency by pro-development George Pataki appointees. The most bizarre part of these projects is that they, believe it or not, have relied on development of two area ski resorts to appease locals and persuade some that the good they’ll provide for the local economy by way of skiing will outweigh the damage to the park.

Fred LeBrun noted in his column today:

[Tupper Lake project] developer Michael Foxman’s mega-vision to create the high-end Adirondack Club and Resort, which would include 700 expensive units on 6,400 acres, much of it in back country, has been highly controversial since it was proposed three years ago. Part of the plan, a sop to the locals, is reopening Big Tupper Ski Center as an economic engine.

In North Creek (Warren County), local politicos and real estate agents are pushing (with the help of newly appointed APA member, Warren County Board of Supervisors Chair, and Johnsburg Town Supervisor Bill Thomas) a project called – get this – Ski Bowl Village at Gore Mountain that would include exclusive trailside housing, an equestrian facility, retail shops and restaurants, a major hotel, two smaller inns, a spa, a private ski lodge, and a 9-hole golf course, on 430 acres, some of which on what was a town-owned park and before that the historic North Creek Ski Bowl where downhill skiing an early start in New York State.

Folks – skiing in the Adirondacks in the future will be all but dead. If there hasn’t been a proper ski season for Adirondack resorts in at least four years, and the experts agree that the coming year will be the warmest on record (again), it’s time to see the forest for the trees – no project tied to the ski season has a hope of being successful on that basis in the long run.

A recent regional global warming meeting reported that:

In the Northeast, the climate may be changing even more rapidly, particularly in winter. Compared to 1970, there are now 15 to 30 fewer days of snow on the ground in the Northeast, one study found. Some regional models also show an increase in average temperatures of 1.4 degrees over 102 years, but a spike of 2 to 4 degrees over the past 30 years.

“Climate has always been changing, so we can’t talk about climate change as something new,” said Art DeGaetano, director of the Northeast Climate Data Center at Cornell University. “Clearly, the temperatures we’re seeing today … are much warmer than we’ve seen for the last 1,000 years. Clearly, there’s warming almost everywhere.

“Climate change is upon us,” he said. “Climate is going to warm, so we do have to act and we do have to prepare.”

If there are any segments of the Adirondack economy that you can count on to take a nose dive in the next 20 years it’s winter sports. It doesn’t take a genius to understand “15 to 30 fewer days of snow on the ground” means that investing hundreds of millions in Adirondack skiing and snowmobiling industries is not a good idea. Despite the ignorant claim by Mike Halpert, head of forecast operations at the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center that there is “No cause for alarm. Enjoy it while you have it,” you might also forget large investments in ice fishing shanties and winter carnival concessions in case you needed to be told.

So why – oh please tell us why – are state and local governments spending so much money on these debacles?

Let’s start with ballsy developers:

The [Tupper Lake] developer is calling for the Franklin County Industrial Development Agency to come up with $50 million to $60 million for infrastructure costs. In essence, that would require the county taxpayers to guarantee the bonds for his private venture. That is a stupefying request. Even more mind-boggling is that there are those in the town and county who are ready to go along with the developer.

And add a dose of misguided Republican cronyism:

Gov. George Pataki, down to his final weeks in office, announced plans Friday for a $7 million expansion of the state-run Gore Mountain Ski Center that will enable the Johnsburg attraction to boast having the eighth-largest vertical drop in the eastern United States.

The state will spend an additional $3 million to complete the railroad line connection between [Republican] Saratoga Springs and [Republican] North Creek.

Skiers from Saratoga Springs, as well as the Albany and New York City areas, will be able to take the train to North Creek and leave their personal vehicles at home, Pataki said.

“You’re not going to have the traffic; you’re not going to have the pollution, and you’re not going to have the congestion. But you are going to have the economic growth,” he said during a press conference at the North Creek train station.

Bill “Snow Is All We Have” Thomas:

When completed, skiers from New York City and elsewhere could take a train up to North Creek, delivered within a half-mile of the ski bowl area, Thomas said. “It’s very important to tourism in Johnsburg,” Thomas said of the resort plans. “I see it as a big catalyst for Main Street businesses.”

Betty “I’m Not Running For Congress” Little:

“Gore Mountain is a tremendous asset for the state and for our region. All of us here today share the desire and realize the importance of making an already great skiing experience at Gore Mountain even better. That requires sizable investments by New York State.”

Ahhh… Betty… New York State doesn’t make “sizable investments,” the people of New York State do.

Since 1995, the state has poured $70 million into the Olympic Regional Development Authority. If we assume about 100,000 year-round residents, that’s $700 per person! And that doesn’t count state and local tax discounts, increased costs of services for local communities serving ski resorts, the higher costs of goods and services priced for the tourist market, county funds (like the Tupper Lake 50 or 60 million), and who knows what else. According to NCPR, “This year, Lake Placid’s sports and tourism venues received more than $40 million in state subsidies. That’s roughly $15 thousand for every man, woman and child living inside the village limits.”

Developers, local politicians, ill-informing media – go outside! See, that there is no snow, and not likely to be regular snow at anything near historic levels in our lifetimes. Stop pushing fantasies that hide your real motive – unlimited development of the last great wilderness area east of the Rockies.

And while we’re at it – we received an e-mail from Bill McKibben today announcing a “a day of demonstrations for April 14” – a great idea (info at Stepitup2007.org).

It’s going to be an unusual day. People will be rallying in many of America’s most iconic places: on the levees in New Orleans, on top of the melting ice sheets on Mt. Hood and in Glacier National Park, even underwater on the endangered coral reefs off Key West and Hawaii. But we need hundreds of rallies outside churches, and in city parks, and in rural fields. It’s not a huge task — assemble as many folks as possible, hoist a banner, take a picture. We’ll link pictures of the protests together electronically via the web—before the day is out, we’ll have a cascade of images to show both local and national media that Americans don’t consider this a secondary issue. That instead they want serious action now.

If you are planning to organize an event, please let us know – we’ll list events as they’re organized – wouldn’t events at local closed ski resorts be something?

UPDATE: Pam Mandrel, over at BlogHer, has linked to this post and included some other posts about global warming’s impact on the American ski industry. Thanks Pam for a great follow-up.


Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Timing of Pataki’s APA Appoints Questioned

We just received this press release from the Adirondack Council and thought it was worth sharing, in light of our last post. Also, Adirondack Base camp has an interesting post on the APA and what needs to be done.

Timing of Pataki APA Appointments to Park Agency Could Boost Chances of 800-lot Tupper Lake Subdivision

Governor Pataki has appointed (and the Senate confirmed at 2:15 p.m. today) two Adirondack Town Supervisors to serve on the 11-member Adirondack Park Agency Board of Commissioners. The board has regulatory authority over all major development projects in the six-million-acre Adirondack Park.

The Adirondack Council is disappointed by these two appointments at this time, for two related reasons. First, both gentlemen are being asked to serve two masters. Both are the chief financial officers for their towns, as well as being representatives of their towns on their respective County Board of Supervisors. How, then, can they be impartial judges of development projects that might bring needed revenue into their communities, but would also harm the environment?

Worse, the two are from Warren and Hamilton counties, which together comprise more than one-third of the entire Adirondack Park, making a conflict of interest more likely. The Park Agency has no formal rules or guidelines to clarify what commissioners should do when faced with such conflicts. In some cases, commissioners have recused themselves, while in others they have not.

More curious is the timing of the appointments, one day before the Adirondack Park Agency is set to rule on whether it will accept as complete the application of failed savings & loan executive Michael Foxman for a sprawling 800-lot subdivision on the slopes around Big Tupper Ski Center. We are very much opposed to the project. However, the co-applicant for the project is the Town of Tupper Lake, causing us some worry that the appointments were made to grease the skids for the Tupper mega-development.

The appointees are Frank Mezzano, Supervisor of the Town of Lake Pleasant, Hamilton County, and Bill Thomas, Supervisor of the Town of Johnsburg (North Creek is the biggest community) in Warren County.

There are two more interesting twists here. One: We and many other environmental advocates think Bill Thomas will, over time, be a good commissioner. He’s a smart guy and a dedicated public servant. We had suggested his name to the next administration, but cautioned that they wait until his tenure as Town Supervisor had ended in January 2007 (to avoid pressure and conflicts as commissioner). His appointment fills the seat vacated by Deanne Rehm of Bolton, who resigned at the end of her term this summer. Thomas’s term will run until 2010.

Two: Frank Mezzano resigned from the APA Board of Commissioners in the summer of this year, stating he would not serve out his term. He said some bitter things about the APA and the way commissioners made decisions. Yet, here he is again. He has been appointed to fill the vacancy left by his own resignation. This appointment is good only until June.

Thus, our suspicion that the Pataki Administration is scrambling to pack the APA board of commissioners prior to the Thursday/Friday vote to determine the fate of the Tupper mega-development. If the APA says the application is complete and sets a date for the first public hearing, the entire project could be ready for a final decision on the permit before June.

Keep in mind that Governor-elect Spitzer will have the authority to appoint his own chairman of the APA board, but cannot remove a sitting commissioner without just cause (proof of malfeasance, misfeasance or nonfeasance). He will have to await new vacancies to appoint his own commissioners.

John F. Sheehan
Communications Director
The Adirondack Council


Sunday, November 19, 2006

Adirondack Council Releases "State of the Park" Report

From John Sheehan, Communications Director for The Adirondack Council, we recently recieved the Council’s 21st annual State of the Park Report. You can view and download a low-resolution version from their website at www.adirondackcouncil.org.

According to Sheehan:

State of the Park is a non-partisan report card on the political decisions and actions that had the greatest impact — good or bad — on the health and well-being of the six-million-acre Adirondack Park over the past 12 months. You will find that State of the Park is the most detailed and comprehensive annual environmental review produced for any park in the United States. However, it is written for a general audience, not scientists, making it a useful tool for environmentally minded voters.

The Adirondack Park comprises 20 percent of New York State’s total land area. It has only 130,000 permanent residents, but hosts nearly 10 million visitors a year. The park contains 90 percent of all roadless Wilderness from Maine to the Everglades.

In furtherance of the Adirondack Council’s goal of holding public officials accountable for their actions, the Council doesn’t accept public grants or taxpayer-funded donations of any kind.

We know the Council has had its absolutley crazy moments – like when it supported Bush’s “Clear Skies” b-shit early in his first term.

Remember this, from Bush’s visit to help clearcut Whiteface?

I also call for new clear skies legislation, to set new tough standards to reduce air pollution. For decades, New Yorkers have been fighting acid rain. The 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments helped reduce the problem. And now we should do more at the Federal level. Some of the biggest sources of air pollution are the powerplants, which send tons of emissions into our air. Therefore we have set a goal: With clear skies legislation, America will do more to reduce powerplant emissions than ever before in our Nation’s history.

Sure folks, clear [ahem] skies.

Anyway, while they certainly disappointed us then, the Adirondack Council actually spends time and energy trying to protect the Adirondacks – for that they deserve our thanks.


Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Adirondack Wal-Mart Moves On

An important regional blogger Adirondack Wal-Mart will be writing only occasionally until the retail giant returns for another attempt at turning the Adirondacks into a suburban strip mall. According to a recent post:

I’ve been lured over to The Writing on the Wal. Until Wal-Mart raises its ugly head in the area, I’ll probably be posting only occasionally. If you want to see how Wal-Mart pretends to sleep after a defeat, read this post. It’s a very persistent company.

The latest in Saranac Lake is the possibility of an Aldi Supermarket – but guess who won’t support it? That’s right, the big Wal-Mart supporters. Apparently it was more of a political issue for them as well and less of a matter of getting an affordable store in town. We still think a community co-op, something like Honest Weight down in Albany, is the best path for isolated communities to protect their economies and provide the goods we all need.

Thanks again Adirondack Wal-Mart for all the great posts and for keeping us informed in a far more in-depth way that any of our local newspapers could (or would).

Check out the Adirondack Almanack’s previous Wal-Mart posts.


Tuesday, October 31, 2006

The Battenkill, Fish, Food, and a Field and Stream Blog

One of the sites we keep tabs on here at the Adirondack Almanack is Dave Hurteau’s blog Field Notes. He’s often got his huntin’ and fishin’ blinders on, but Hurteau (an editor at Field & Stream) lives in Upstate New York and many of his posts are about our region – last month he looked at the fish stocking controversy over at the Battenkill in Washington County.

Vermont Fish and Wildlife announced a plan to stock the Battenkill with non-native rainbow trout, the Orvis Company threatened to take back a promised $100,000 grant for the stream’s habitat restoration. Guess who won that battle.

Why you’re there, check out these two recent posts:

According to the latest study, 43 percent of the fish consumed by humans now come from aquaculture, compared to just 9 percent in 1980. That’s 45.5 million tons of farmed fish, worth $63 billion, eaten each year, according to this press release from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. [Link]

and…

Malden Nesheim, a professor emeritus of nutrition at Cornell University and chairman of the Institute of Medicine committee, said the panel actually found slim evidence for many claims about the health benefits of fish as well as the dangers. “We were surprised at the lack of reliable data on the distribution of contaminants in our seafood supply or on how the benefits might counteract the risks,” he told reporters. [Link]


Suggested Reading

The Battenkill, by John Merwin

Mid-Atlantic Trout Streams and Their Hatches: Overlooked Angling in Pennsylvania, New York, and New Jersey


Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Global Warming Fantasies Revisited: Adirondack Edition

Our last post concerning the impacts of global warming in our region drew a lot of comments and discussion – including a comment by the Engineer for the Barton / Gore Mountain Wind Project Jim McAndrew about our opposition to his project which we’ll address in a future post on wind power in our region.

One thing is for sure – the experts are warning. Sadly, as is that case with over-development of the Adirondack Park, expanded roads and trails, and lots of other issues which pose dangers to America’s largest wilderness area east of the Mississippi – many of our local commentators, local media, and local cit zens don’t seem to get it.

Take this tidbit from Ed Shamy at the Burlington Free Press:

The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) warned last week that if we don’t take immediate steps to curb global warming, Vermont and the other Northeastern states could face dire consequences by the end of this century.

Our winters could warm by 8 to 12 degrees. The length of the winter snow season could be cut in half. Our growing season could be extended by up to four weeks. We could tack three new summer-like weeks onto May and another three onto September and October. And spring could arrive three weeks earlier than it does now.

Shamy claims he wants to be concerned about “our grotesque automobile and factory emissions,” but really he’s thinking more about himself:

But most of the “perils” seem awfully appealing. If we don’t change our ways, we in Vermont will have winters more like Virginia, you say?

Is that a threat or a promise?

Gee, Shamy, that’s a funny column, but the fact is the threat is a real promise and it’s time people with an “authorized” voice such as yourself started taking it a little more seriously.

Though come to think of it, we only had two 90-degree days this year, so multiply that by three and you have six, which doesn’t sound all that rugged. I could live without more summer heat, but I could live without being a better cribbage player, too. Life is a mixed bag that way.

What exactly is left in your mixed bag when the big lakes no longer freeze, the maple trees are dying, the ski areas are slowly being put out of business, and the tourists move on to more suitable climes?

Here’s a couple of other items:

Almanack Reader and Interim Director of the Center for Environmental Programs at Bowling Green State University Philip G. Terrie has pointed us to the UCS site on local Global Warming impacts – thank you Mr. Terrie.

Ever wonder why the Albany Times Union has such a poor record in elucidating our warmer future? Maybe it has something to do with the big-wigs there, like Associate Editor William M. Dowd, who harbors old right-wing fantasies about global warming. Here’s a gem from a guy who I would guess doesn’t hold a steady interest in, let alone an advanced degree in climatology or environmental science:

I am not a believer in the theory of global warming.

Not that it isn’t getting warmer in some parts of the globe. It is, despite record cold spells and hideous weather across Europe again this year. No, I speak here of the unfortunately widely-promulgated notion that we humans have something to do with climate changes and have the power to influence it to a large extent.

Unfortunately, he’ll probably be long gone when it comes time to eat those words.

And finally from the “just doesn’t get it department,” we have StrikeSlip busy attacking the minds in the country’s most environmentally conscious state for “grandstanding” on global warming.

We know how this ends for the folks who just can’t believe in progress – slavery ends, women get to vote, we stop turning our rivers into sewers, we ban stuff that causes cancer, and we start taking our impacts (personal and otherwise) seriously – at least that the way we hope it happens, old media loudmouths be damned.

Take the time to check out:

The Adirondack Almanack’s complete series of articles on the environment

Groovy Green a really great environmental blog from central new york


Thursday, October 5, 2006

How Much of the Earth’s Resources Do You Use?

Ever wonder how much productive land and water you need to support your lifestyle? The Earth Day Network offers 15 easy questions to compare your Ecological Footprint to what others use and how many planets we’d need if everyone lived the way we do. The results are amazing.


Tuesday, October 3, 2006

World Water Monitoring Day (October 4)

In honor of this week’s World Water Monitoring Day (October 4) take a look at Paul Smith College’s Adirondack Watershed Institute.

The AWI offers a range of services to the public, including invasive species management, water quality monitoring, public education, recreation use studies, fisheries management, ecological studies, forest management and educational publications. Additionally, the program hosts the annual Adirondack Water Quality Conference at Paul Smith’s College.

Water is one of our key Adirondack resources and it’s good news that students from the Earth and Environmental Science Department at SUNY Plattsburgh have recently finished a two year long baseline survey of the hydrology and invasive species in the the 280-square -mile Boquet River Watershed. This data will contribute immensely to our understanding of Adirondack waterways.

If you are interested in being involved in water monitoring day, you might ask the US Geological Survey scientists from the New York Water Science Center to take you along on their trip with students to visit a stream gauge station on Onondaga Creek in Syracuse where they will gather water samples and conduct water-quality tests. The event is sponsored by the Onondaga Environmental Institute and the Onondaga Lake Partnership, and scientists from the Upstate Freshwater Institute in Onondaga County. For more information contact William Kappela at (607) 266-0217, ext. 3013.


Sunday, September 17, 2006

Status of Climate Change in the Adirondacks?

Who knows – few, if any, are bothering to ask – is anyone conducting research in this area? If so we’d like to hear about it. In the meantime this week’s climate news may give us an indication of what we’re in for ecologically (if not economically) and it looks pretty bad:

Temperatures Still Increasing More Than Expected
For more than 25 years Arctic sea ice has slowly diminished in winter by about 1.5 percent per decade. But in the past two years the melting has occurred at rates 10 to 15 times faster. From 2004 to 2005, the amount of ice dropped 2.3 percent; and over the past year, it’s declined by another 1.9 percent, according to Comiso. (Link)

Fluctuations in Sun’s Output Likely Not The Cause
Known variations in the sun’s total energy output cannot explain recent global warming, say researchers who have reviewed the existing evidence. The judgment, which appears in the September 14 Nature, casts doubt on the claims of some global warming skeptics who have argued that long-term changes in solar output, or luminosity, might be driving the current climate pattern. (Link)

Storms Will Be More Powerful
Human production of greenhouse gases is largely responsible for increasing storm severity, scientists say. (Link)

Higher Temperatures and More Droughts Expected
Continental Europe’s extreme summers of recent years, characterized by heavy floods or killer heat waves, could be commonplace by the turn of the century, a climate study says. Its authors believe that changes in the complex relationship between air temperature and land moisture, driven by global warming, will cause European summers to suffer from chronic variability by 2100. (Link)

Plants and Trees at Risk
The Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew has issued a “position paper” saying that man-made global warming is changing the outlook for plants and trees worldwide. (Link)

Polar Bear Threatened
According to scientists from NASA and the Canadian Wildlife Service, increased Arctic polar bear sightings are related to retreating sea ice triggered by climate warming and not due to population increases as some may believe. (Link)

The English Garden Will Be a Thing of the Past
Britain‘s legion of gardening fanatics were warned Tuesday to get ready for global warming which threatens to spoil the traditional English country garden of legend. The immaculately mown lawns and flourishing flowers found in gardens across the country may become a thing of the past if stereotypically rainy Britain continues to struggle with drought and warmer weather. (Link)

So what does all this mean for us? Warmer temperatures? Less snow and ice? Fewer wetlands? More Hurricanes reaching us? Bigger winter storms? Damage to plant and animal populations?

And what are the financial factors for the Adirondacks, a region that depends on its natural environment for so much of its economic life?

And as important – why is our local media not bothering to ask these questions?

UPDATE 9/18/06: Almanack Reader and Lake Champlain Committee Staff Scientist Mike Winslow points us to his new article (response?) “The Heat is On” published today about the effects of global warming on the lake. Excerpt:

Physical changes mostly involve the temperature of the lake. Higher winter temperatures mean reductions in winter ice cover. Such reductions have already begun. Prior to the 1950’s it was very unusual for Lake Champlain not to freeze in a given year, but of late, an absence of ice cover has become a fairly regular event. Higher temperatures mean the lake will stratify earlier in the spring, setting up a warm layer of water over a colder deeper layer, and stay stratified longer. A 1979 study stated stratification in the Main Lake typically began in early June. Over the last four years however, stratification has begun in early to mid-May. Higher temperatures and a lake of ice cover means increased evaporation from the lake. As a result, there is a general agreement, at least in models of the Great Lakes, that average water levels will fall. However, changes in local precipitation patterns greatly influence any such predictions, and such changes may differ between the Great Lakes region and the Champlain Valley.

UPDATE 9/18/06: Almanack Reader and Interim Director of the Center for Environmental Programs at Bowling Green State University Philip G. Terrie suggests the following studies:

J. Curt Stager and Michael R. Martin, “Global Climate Change and the Adirondacks, AJES: Adirondack Journal of Environmental Studies 9 (Spring/Summer 2002), 6-13.

The New England Regional Assessment (NERA) is one of 16 regional assessments, conducted for the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP), as part of the National Assessment of climate change impacts on the United States. The National Assessment is directed by response to the Congressional Act of 1990

Jerry Jenkins, Adirondack Atlas, p. 244. (At a new lower price!)


Friday, September 15, 2006

1950s Adirondack Ads Online: Gaslight Village

The Almanack keeps and eye on eBay for unusual items related to our region. This week an extensive list of advertisements for various resorts, hotels, and more have provided interesting reading. One of the more unique is the classic ad for Gaslight Village in Lake George, shown here. We’re glad to see that the convention center proposal for the former amusement park site is all but dead and the Post Star is now reporting that:

The Warren County Finance Committee on Monday unanimously recommended the full Board of Supervisors authorize the county to contribute up to $1.3 million of the $4.1 million purchase price [for the Gaslight Village property], with the village and town of Lake George each contributing $950,000, with the rest paid by private entities.

One of the proposals is an environmental project designed to mitigate the now painfully obvious effects of siltation from the stream than runs near the property and into Lake George where an enormous sand bar has developed over the last 20 years – a project that’s long overdue for a site that’s been an abandoned eyesore for too long.

UPDATE: Democracy in Albany has a timely discussion of the situation in Albany where their last coporate convention center the Knickerbocker (or Pepsi, or whatever they’re calling it now), like the Glens Falls Civic Center, continues to cost more as local leaders push for another convention center.


Tuesday, September 5, 2006

Adirondack Winter Survival Quiz

Regular readers know the Almanack is obsessed with stories of danger, death, and survival in our region’s wilderness areas. Now Field and Stream offers an online quiz to see if you know how to survive in the woods during winter conditions. Good luck!


Saturday, September 2, 2006

Warren County: Eagle Point on Schroon Lake

The sandy beach landing at Eagle Point in Pottersville on Schroon Lake was probably used as a campsite for thousands of years. A short road along the point was already improved for at least 20 years before it was purchased by the State of New York in 1928. Over the next year the state built the Eagle Point Campground with 64 improved sites along a one mile stretch between Route 9 (the International Highway) and the lake – another eight sites were added later.

It now has hot showers, flush toilets, pay telephones, and a small quarters for the DEC caretaker. It’s also a favored spot for some of the folks over at Scream and Fly.


Friday, August 25, 2006

Warren County: Starbuckville Dam / Schroon River

The new Starbuckville Dam on the Schroon River was put into service this summer by the Schroon Lake Park District. The old deteriorated timber dam (a replacement for the dam someone dynamited in the 1890s) was replaced with a 158 foot long steel reinforced concrete overflow spillway (at the same elevation).

The old 16 foot gate was replaced with two 14 foot wide gates and a new a fish passage area was added along with a stepped spillway to reduce water turbulence below the dam. In the previous ten years five swimmers had been killed after being trapped in the backflow at the bottom of the dam. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Adirondack Region Marijuana Crop Will Be HUUUUUUUGGGGGGE

The Glens Falls Post Star is reporting that there will be a “bumper pot crop” in Washington County thanks to hot and humid weather this summer. “We’re hearing it’s a great crop,” said Saratoga County Undersheriff Michael Woodcock, “It was jungle-like weather, and it is a tropical plant.”

The PS reports: “With its prodigious farmland, Washington County has long been one of the biggest producers of marijuana in the Northeast, though the advent of indoor growing operations has led to a drop in seizures over the past decade or so. In the early 1990s, 10,000 to 15,000 plants were pulled up annually in the county.The agricultural areas of Saratoga County have also been significant pot-producers over the years. This summer, local police will be able to employ a new, old weapon in the search for illicit pot patches.”

It seems that the Iraq War has taken qualified helicopter pilots out of the local pot-busting action, but starting this year the old helicopters will be back thanks to the newly established Northern Branch of the Capital District Drug Task Force which covers Saratoga, Washington and Warren counties.

“We’re hearing it’s going to be a pretty good year,” said Cambridge-Greenwich Police Chief George Bell. Cambridge was the site of the biggest seizure so far this summer, when State Police pulled up 103 plants last month in the hamlet of Center Cambridge.

The question is – when will they start prosecuting all those poppy growers in our region? As Jim Hogshire pointed out a few years ago in an article in The Atlantic Monthly, poppies grown by millions of home gardeners are fully capable of producing opium. Here’s an excerpt from his book Opium for the Masses:

Very potent, low cost opium is available in virtually every town in the country. It is entirely possible that it is carried by your local grocer. It’s even possible that you could walk into a grocery store and come out with all the ingredients you need to make your own morphine and perhaps even heroin if you’re clever.

Look out grandma!


Suggested Reading

Poppies: A Guide to the Poppy Family in the Wild and in Cultivation

The Little Book of Opium

Opium: A History


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