Friday, April 23, 2010

This Week’s Top Adirondack News Stories


Thursday, April 22, 2010

Adirondack Music Scene:Zuckerman and Friedman, Orchestras and Open Mics

Tonight: 3 Open Mics to choose from!

Then on Saturday, I think the Natalia Zuckerman and Andy Friedman concert looks like a very good bet. They both have strong guitar and vocal styles. I’m also intrigued by Gordon Stone‘s banjo playing – having checked some of it out on line – his music is complex and can get really exciting. If one is feeling ambitious it should be possible to catch both of those shows, missing only an hour of one.

Another thing I’ve noticed while looking around the Park schedules this week, are the number of orchestras giving performances, surely an indication of the warmer weather to come.

Thursday, April 22nd:

In Saranac Lake, Open Minded Mic Night at BluSeed Studios. Sign up at 7 and starts at 7:30pm. There is a $3 cover. Fantastic audience and fantastic talent.

In Ellenburg Depot, the Burlington Taiko Drum Group will give a free concert at The Northern Adirondack Central School.
Concert starts at 7 pm.

In Canton, Open Mic at The Blackbird Cafe runs from 7 – 9 pm.

Friday, April 23rd:

In Canton, an Chapel Organ Recital will be held from 12:15 – 1:15 pm at the Gunnison Chapel at St. Lawrence University. Free admission.

In Potsdam, Ten Speed Taxi will rock La Casbah from 9 – 11:45 pm. For more information, call (315) 379 – 9713.

Saturday, April 24th:

In Long Lake, the 19th Annual Spring Blossom Fiddle Jam at the Town Hall. Workshops are at 2 and 3:15 pm, to register call (518) 624-3077 ext. 13. The open jam starts at 6 pm.

In Saranac Lake, Natalia Zuckerman with Andy Friedman at BluSeed Studios. The concert starts at 7:30 pm and the charge is $14/ $12 for members. For reservations call (518) 891 – 3799.

In Saranac Lake, “An Evening of Operetta and Broadway” will be presented by the High Peaks Opera Studio. This concert will be held at Saranac Village at Will Rogers at 7:30 pm. A donation of $5 is suggested. Call Debbie Kanze at (518) 901 – 7117 for more information.

In Saranac Lake, a new Chamber Musical “At Saranac” will be performed for the first time by Phil Greenland and Tyler Nye.
The show starts at 8 pm in the John Black Room of the Saranac Laboratory and a $5 donation is suggested. For more information, call (518) 891 – 4585.

In Saranac Lake, the Gordon Stone Band plays the Waterhole, starting at 9 pm.

In Lake Placid, a Open Mic will be held from 8 – 10 pm at the Cabin of The Northwoods Inn. Special guests are poets; Paul Pines and Theo Hummer. For more information call (518) 523 – 1312.

In Lake Placid, David Knopfler at LPCA. Concert starts at 8 pm and tickets are $16. Call (518) 891 – 2512 for reservations.

In Queensbury, Coffee House & Open Mic will be held at the UU’s Church on 21 Weeks Road. a $4 donation includes fruit, desserts, tea and coffee.

In Lowville, The Black River Valley Concert Series presents “Zen Is For Primates”. Doors open at 7:45 and the concert starts at 8 pm and will be held at the Lewis County Historical Society. For more information email; lewiscountyhistoricalsociety@hotmail.com .

Sunday, April 25th:

In Long Lake, the 19th Annual Spring Blossom Fiddle Jam starts back up at noon. The event is held at the Long Lake Town Hall.

In Lake George, a benefit “Spring Fling” will be held at the Adirondack Pub & Brewery. Tickets are $20, for more information call (518) 668 -2616.

In Canton, The Best of The Classics: String Orchestra will be held at the Gunnison Chapel from 2 – 3:30 pm. Free admission.

Tuesday, April 27th:

In Potsdam, The Crane Symphonic Band will perform at 7:30 pm at the Helen Hosmer Hall, SUNY Potsdam. It’s a free concert.

Wednesday, April 28th:

In Lake Placid, The Syracuse Symphony Orchestra will perform at 8 pm at LPCA. Tickets are $15 and less. For reservations call (518) 523-2512.

In North Creek, Vinnie Leddick plays barVino at 7 pm.

In Potsdam, the Potsdam High School Band & Orchesrta Concert will start at 7:30 pm. It will be held at the high school and admission is free.

Photo: Natalia Zuckerman


Thursday, April 22, 2010

Thinking Adirondack Birds On Earth Day

On this Earth Day of 2010 I find myself thinking. First, thinking of the abuses this planet has taken and is still taking. Then I think of some of the more positive things that we have witnessed, as we slowly bring about the changes this planet needs…”Be the change that you want to see in the world”-Gandhi

I recently “rediscovered ” a book I have entitled Important Bird Areas of New York
and as I paged though it I came to a map depicting all the Important Bird Areas(IBA) of northern New York. Looking closely at the map it shows all the IBA’s in small gray circles. Some bigger, some smaller. Each one designating a large IBA or a smaller IBA.

Then I got out my calculator and started adding up the number of acres each IBA contained. To my surprise, in an area that runs north of the NYS Thruway and bound by Lake Champlain on the east, Lake Ontario on the West, and the St Lawrence River to the north, I count over 902,000 acres designated as IBA.

Now this is just an estimate-it could be greater. But smack dab in the middle of all these gray circles of IBA’s sits our Adirondack Park. Some areas within the Blueline are IBA’s but looking at the big picture we can take a calming breath knowing that over 2 million acres are protected for birdlife (and other forms of wildlife of course) in our “park”.

This was truly an eye-opener when I recently looked at a map showing all the IBA’s in the United States. If you look at the upper right corner of the map you see a large green blob. That’s the protected Adirondack Park with all it’s avian inhabitants. Pretty cool when you consider the size of the blob in relation to all the other blobs on the map.

But what does this afford us? Well for one thing it gives recognition that we have something unique here in our own backyards. We have a Park that encompasses over 12 different critical habitats that wildlife need, ranging from endangered alpine summits to precious peatland bogs and wetlands that provide habitat to millions of organisms.

Birds have depended on these habitats of the Adirondacks for thousands of years. Bicknell’s thrush can safely raise young in the thickets of spruce-fir forest on our mountains; spruce grouse may get a second chance at survival in our carefully managed forests; olive-sided flycatchers can seek out protected wetlands as they return from a 2,000 mile spring journey from a tropical rainforest; and rusty blackbirds, though numbers severely depleted, can still find habitat in our acreage.

We may never see the day when all the “green blobs” on the IBA map will meld into one big blob, but it’s nice to know that we are trying.

Photo credit: Savannah Sparrow-Brian McAllister


Thursday, April 22, 2010

‘Hidden Room’ Highlight of Underground RR Site

Last week student volunteers from SUNY Plattsburgh and SUNY Potsdam took part in exploratory archaeological excavations at the former Stephen Keese Smith farm on Union Road, midway between Keeseville. The Smith farm (also known as “the old Stafford place”) is a historic Underground Railroad site where refugees from slavery were hidden in the 1850s and 1860s. Although several of the buildings on the farm are believed to have housed runaway slaves, one barn in particular that includes a “hidden room” was the target of the weekend’s excavations.

Archeologists and volunteers organized by the North Country Underground Railroad Historical Association (NCUGRHA) worked last weekend to conduct an archeological survey in advance of restoration work on the barn. The dig was organized by Andrew Black of Black Drake Consulting and SUNY Plattsburgh, assisted by members of the NCUGRHA, and with the permission and assistance of the of the property owners, Frank and Jackie Perusse.

Stephen Keese Smith was a Quaker, who shared his story of the smuggling former slaves through Clinton County to Canada in 1887:

I first became acquainted with the “Under Ground Rail Road” twenty years or more before the [Civil] War … Samuel Keese was the head of the [Underground RR] depot in Peru. His son, John Keese – myself, and Wendell Lansing at Keeseville [publisher of the Essex County Republican] were actors. I had large buildings and concealed the Negroes in them. I kept them, fed them, often gave them shoes and clothing. I presume I have spent a thousand dollars for them in one-way and another. There were stations at Albany, Troy, Glens Falls and then here in Peru. The Negroes would come through the woods and be nearly famished. We kept them and fed them for one or two days and then ran them along to Noadiah Moore’s in Champlain… He went with the Negroes to Canada and looked out places for them to work.

The archeological teams excavated three places along the exterior foundation walls of the barn in search for artifacts. Aside from some scattered 20th century trash and earlier barn construction debris (nails, hardware, window glass), they found nothing of significance, meaning that some restoration work can begin without harming historically significant remains.

The stone-walled room built into the barn’s lower level, believed to be one of the places Smith hid runaways, was too flooded to excavate. The team had hoped to establish the original floor level in the “hidden room” and see if there are deposits directly related to the room’s occupation by refugees. Unfortunately those investigations will have to wait until the groundwater level subsides, when archeologists will return to the barn to explore this hidden gem of North Country Underground Railroad History.

Photos: Above – Archaeologists and volunteers gather for a photo during the Smith barn excavation in Peru, Clinton County, NY (Courtesy Helen Allen Nerska). Below – The hidden room in the lower level of the Smith barn (Courtesy Don Papson).


Thursday, April 22, 2010

Adirondacks Forest Ranger Report (April 2010)

What follows is the Forest Ranger Activity Report for April 6 through April 18 for DEC Region 5, which includes most of the Adirondack region. These reports are issued periodically by the DEC and printed here at the Almanack in their entirety. They are organized by county, and date.

Clinton County

Town of Beekmantown, Private Lands

On Monday, April 5, 2010, at 6:40 AM, DEC Dispatch received a call from New York State Police Plattsburgh requesting assistance locating Kim McDonald, 56, of West Chazy, NY. The State Police had information that led them to believe that Mr. McDonald may have intended to harm himself. DEC Forest Rangers responded and along with NY State Troopers began a search of the area. At approximately 9:00 AM, the Mr. McDonald was located in a swamp behind his house. He was missing his shoes, suffering from exposure, and had superficial wounds to his face, feet and hands. He was carried out of the woods and transported to CVPH Medical Center. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Ellen Rathbone: Bee Watching

Anyone who has read my nature blog lately has probably noticed my current preoccupation with bees. This is likely due to several things, such as the fact that the most visible and approachable wildlife around my yard right now is the bees busily visiting my giant pussy willow shrub, which is blooming with great profusion thanks to the recent heatwave. A variety of insects are obsessed with this shrub, for it is one of the earliest flowering plants up here, and these newly awakened insects are in need of sustenance. QED. But my interest is in the bees, mostly, because native bees are generally given short shrift by people. If it isn’t a honey bee, then it’s not worth knowing. In some circles, this is considered “job security” for people the likes of me because it provides grease for the educational wheel. So, with this in mind, let’s take a look today at some of our native bees.

We will start with basics. Honey bees are not native. Honey bees were brought to this country over three hundred years ago as indentured servants: they made honey and we wanted it. Additionally, colonies of honey bees were established in (and later moved among) orchards and other crops, where their penchant for pollinating was exploited by the agriculture industry. This is all very well and good, but we also need to recognize that North America is home to several hundred species of native bees, most of which are solitary rather than colonial, and most of which are important pollinators in their own right, even if they are overlooked by the bulk of humanity.

The majority of native bees in New York State are solitary ground-nesters. In fact, these fuzzy little bundles of energy make up about 60% of all NY bees. That’s an impressive amount. I first became aware of these little bees just about a year ago when I stumbled upon a group nesting site in the dusty, sandy margin of the road while I was picking up trash. It was fascinating to watch as the bees flew in and out of their pencil-sized holes in the ground. Curious, I had to know more.

My investigations into the identity of those ground bees suggest two possibilities: mining bees (Adrena) or digger bees (Anthophora). The individual in the photo above (a visitor to my willow) has been identified as Adrena frigida. Nationally, there are something like 1200 species of Adrena; New York is home to 112 of these, which account for about 23% of all NY bee species.

Adrena are non-aggressive little bees, measuring a little over a centimeter in length, and are one of the first bees to emerge in the spring, foraging for pollen among early flowering plants like willows. As soon as there is pollen to be had, these bees head for the blooming larders, the females collecting pollen on the fuzzy hairs that cover their bodies. Later, they’ll remove the pollen and store this protein-rich food in the brood cells they build, one at a time, underground. Here they lay their eggs, one per cell, each cell stocked with enough food to see the larva through to adulthood. Unless…

Another early springtime bee I’ve seen around my shrub is a cleptoparasite from the genus Nomada. These little bees are hairless, making them look more like wasps than bees. While they may be gathering some pollen and nectar for food, they are not collecting it for their offspring. Nope, these little bees seek out the burrows of our friend Adrena and lay their eggs in Adrena’s nests, kind of like a cowbird laying her eggs in a robin’s nest. When the Nomada larvae hatch, they eat all the stored food, either starving the Adrena larvae or outright killing them. What emerges later in the season are not happy little Adrena bees, but new Nomada bees, and the cycle begins again.

It’s a bee eat bee world out there.

Although Adrena are solitary bees, they often nests in communal aggregations, like the one I saw last spring along the roadside. This is because good nesting ground is at a premium. Go outside and take a look around. How much bare ground do you see? Odds are that unless you live on a construction site it isn’t much. Most ground is covered with pavement, grassy lawns, fields or forest, depending on where you live. Therefore, when bare patches are found, these bees move in. Sandy slopes are likely to be peppered with many bee nests (upwards of 100 nests per square meter), each with a pencil-sized opening. If you sit and watch for a while, you’ll see the busy little females zipping in and out of the holes, bringing in pollen to fill the larder, laying eggs, or putting the final touches on a brood cell.

Why should the average New Yorker care about Adrena? Based on this article, you might think that all they do is pollinate willows. Well, willows only bloom in the spring; therefore, these bees visit other flowers as spring turns into summer and summer progresses towards fall. If you like apples, which are a major crop in New York State, then you must tip your hat to Adrena and our other native bees. Cherries are also popular with little Adrena and her solitary cousins.

Colony collapse had been in the news for a few years now – a mysterious disorder that had resulted in massive die-offs in honey bee populations. Scientists studying colony collapse are also interested on the effects it might have on populations of native bees. Native bees are also being looked at as possible replacements for honey bees in the agriculture pollination game. One of the big problems with using native bees is that they simply do not live in colonies composed of thousands of workers, like honey bees do. Bumble bees, our native social bee, may have a few hundred workers at most in a colony – not as conducive to industrial agriculture as the honey bee.

But native bees should not be discounted just because they are more individually oriented. In fact, many a home gardener should do everything possible to make his or her yard appealing to our native bees, many of whom are also facing a population decline. Native bees evolved with native vegetation. As people spread across the country, they brought non-native plants with them – from flowers to food crops. While native bees have adapted to many of these foreign foods, they still only thrive on the plants with which their species developed. So how can we help? By planting native plants and cutting down on non-native varieties.

So, head outside and take a seat in a nice sunny spot. Start watching for bees. See if you can make out more than one species. Are they patrolling the grass, maybe looking for a good nesting spot? Can you determine which plants are frequented by which bees? Are they visiting your flowers beds or your veg gardens? Perhaps they are enjoying a wee dram at your hummingbird feeder. Bee watching can be a lot of fun. Mark my word: bee watching will soon be the latest thing, right up there with butterfly and dragonfly watching.


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Tour of the Battenkill a North Country Success

The Tour of the Battenkill has come a long way.

Once it was just the dream of Dieter Drake, now 38, owner of a Cambridge-based air-conditioning business and an avid cyclist. Now in its 6th year, the race has become the biggest pro/amateur bicycle race in the country. And the professional race, which took place last Sunday, attracted thousands of spectators and world-class competitors, including Floyd Landis.

Fashioned after the 100 year old Paris- Roubaix cycling race in France, the race drew more than 1,400 racers in 2009. This year’s registrations topped 2,200.

The race begins and ends in Cambridge, and takes amateur riders over a 62-mile course, a quarter of which is on steep and dusty dirt roads. They also ride through a covered bridge and by many of Washington County’s rural farm towns. Professional riders get to do two laps.

Last year’s professional race was nothing less than thrilling (although it’s hard to follow a bicycle race on the ground — a quick blur of spinning wheels and colorful Lycra, and that’s about it until the finish line). Racer Scott Nydam broke away from the peloton early on during the race, and kept the lead for a leg-burning three hours to score a first-place finish.

This year wasn’t quite as exciting, plus it was a bit damper. Crowd favorite Floyd Landis — the winner of the 2006 Tour de France who later failed a post-race drug test — broke his way through the pack with 23-year-old rider Caleb Fairly of Colorado Springs, Colo. But in the end, it was Fairly who pulled ahead to win the 124-mile course at 4 hours, 57 minutes, 7.4 seconds, according to race coverage in the Post-Star. Landis came in two minutes, 24 seconds later, placing second.

While some local business people reportedly were unhappy the race did not bring in as much business as promised, according to one news story, the event is a fine addition for the region, especially at a time of year when there is little to attract visitors to the mountains.

With six years of success, you can add the Tour of the Battenkill to the ranks of such classic competitions unique to the region, such as the Black Fly Challenge mountain-bike race and the Ford Ironman Lake Placid.

While not technically in the Adirondacks, the Battenkill tour is rugged, challenging and beautiful. In other words, it has the true flavor of the North Country.

Photos by Dave Kraus of KrausGrafik, www.krausgrafik.com


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Tupper Lake to Hold Business Resource Expo

The Tupper Lake Revitalization Committee, a partnership of municipal officials, business owners, residents, and community groups dedicated to advancing the community’s economic goals, has been meeting regularly over the past months. The group has identified business retention and development as key priorities for 2010. As a first step, the Revitalization Committee will be sponsoring a Business Resource Expo at the Wild Center at 7:00 pm on Thursday, May 6.

The purpose of the gathering is to provide information about business assistance resources in the region to existing businesses and to individuals who may be considering starting a business. Regional economic development agencies, such as the Adirondack Economic Development Corporation, the Small Business Development Center, and the Franklin County IDA, along with the Tupper Lake Chamber of Commerce and representatives from local government, will discuss their programs and the help they can provide to current and potential businesses. Information will also be available on Tupper Lake’s microenterprise and Junction Main Street grant programs and other local programs that can benefit established and prospective businesses.

The event is free and all are welcome to attend. The evening will open with each business assistance agency providing a brief summary of their programs, followed by time in the Great Hall for individuals to consult directly with the agencies and ask specific questions.

Light refreshments will be served. In order to plan for numbers, the organizers would appreciate a call to the Town office if you are planning to attend. If you have any questions, or to RSVP, please contact Sandie Strader at the Town of Tupper Lake Office at 359-3981 or Mary Casagrain at the Village of Tupper Lake Office at 359-3341.


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Adirondack Family Activities: Earth Day

Earth Day isn’t about weaving a hair shirt, though it would enable me to recycle all my golden retriever fur. It’s not about singing Kumbaya around the campfire and filling the neighborhood with air and noise pollution. To our family it is a day to remember that we are only guests here. Most people, we hope, treat everyday like it’s Earth Day.

My family’s Earth Day tradition is cleaning the trailhead of one our favorite hikes. We have found some crazy things tucked along the edges of the parking lot of Ampersand Mountain. Some have been personal items that I had difficulty explaining to my son, which only reinforced the importance of wearing gloves. The deer carcass would have been easy to justify in nature, except its remains were still wrapped in a plastic bag. Beer cans and cigarette butts are sadly a normal sight.

Making changes in our lifestyle can be daunting. Sometimes all we need to do is make a small step. The Adirondack Green Circle is trying to help people take those steps so that every day can be about the earth. It can be as seemingly insignificant as bringing a canvas bag to the store to limit the production of plastic bags or as simple as learning where food comes from.

Where food comes from? If a product’s label takes a biochemist to decipher then we need to question what we are putting in our mouths.

For the second year, Adirondack Green Circle is holding its Wake Up Film Festival, showcasing documentaries directed at tracing our food and garbage.

Founder Gail Brill says, “We have lined up different movies that explain where our commercial food comes from. The first film will be appropriately shown on Earth Day, Thursday, at Pendragon. Food, Inc. demonstrates how broken our food system is. We will also have copies of Michael Pollan’s book Food Rules as well. Part of our mission is to promote local food so Jen Perry of Farm to Family Food Network will be there to talk about where to get local food.”

Brill explains a few common sense rules from Pollan’s book like, “If it comes from a plant, eat it; if it is made in a plant, don’t.” Some of the movies are not for the very young so check out the website for age recommendations. Brill has screened the films and found them age appropriate for high school and beyond.

Brill and some other members of Adirondack Green Circle are carrying their garbage around with them all this week to start a garbage conversation. w

“People say they throw their garbage away,” Brill continues. “Where is away? Away is in our ground water, away is in our ground, away is in our children.”

This experiment will culminate at the North Country Community College Junk to Funk Show. She encourages others to take the challenge and see what happens when “throwing garbage away” gets close and personal.

So there are some simple ways to help the environment, limit our trash and maybe leave a trailhead a bit cleaner for the next person.


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Long Lake Antique and Classic Boat Show Slated

Long Lake is gearing up to host its first Antique and Classic Boat Show on Saturday, July 10th, 2010 at the Long Lake Waterfront from 10am – 5pm. With so many antique and classic wooden boats hiding along the shorelines of Long Lake a group of wooden boat aficionados have decided to showcase these treasures of yesteryear.

Organizers have scoped out a diverse group of boats including: an original 1945 Garwood, having only graced the waters of Long Lake, a 1949 Chriscraft and a 1958 Speedster. These are just a sampling of the few boats slated to be on display. Other boats on the lake that will hopefully be on scene include Chris Craft’s from 1924, 1962, 1947 as well as original handcrafted guideboats.

The day’s festivities kick off at 10am and run until 5pm with a Boat Parade “at speed” leaving the town beach at 4pm. A cocktail reception and cash bar will be held at the Adirondack Hotel at 5pm and a trophy will be awarded to “Spectator’s Choice” by fans visiting and touring the boats.

Photo: The “Best Garwood” Winner at the 2007 Clayton Boat Show (Provided).


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Earth Day: A Revolution 40 Years In The Making

On Earth Day 1970, people around the country, mostly college students, demonstrated on behalf of environmental causes. Forty years later, the environmental movement has come into the mainstream and secured state and federal agency leadership positions. More importantly, the movement has significantly improved the quality of our rivers, lakes and forests and in doing so has provided for the proliferation of local wildlife. While there are certainly challenges that remain – invasive species, inappropriate development, toxic exposures, nitrate and storm water management, climate change, the plight of amphibians, migratory birds, and bats – the environmental successes of the last 40 years should not be underestimated.

By and large, the first Earth Day was much like those that have followed: politicians, celebrities, concerts, environmental fairs, and the like. But Earth Day 1970 was a radical proposition in a time before the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was founded, and before there were state sanctioned bodies like the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to protect the environment. At Boston’s Logan Airport, where a few hundred demonstrators had gathered in what a CBS reporter called a “thoroughly peaceful and non-disruptive demonstration”, police charged the crowd and arrested 13.

In the 40 years since that first Earth Day the Adirondack region has seen a revolution in the way we interact with our environment. Sure, we can point to the founding of DEC (1970), the establishment of the EPA (1971), the Clean Air Act (1970), and the Clean Water Act (1972), State Environmental Quality Review Act (1980), the Superfund Law (1980), and the Environmental Protection Fund (1993) but there has been a leadership revolution as well. Today, Pete Grannis, who was part of the first Earth Day demonstrations, is now the head of the DEC. Judith Enck, the state’s leading environmental activist in the 1980s, is now the Administrator of EPA’s Region 2.

Changes in the natural environment have been extraordinary. The Hudson River, once an open sewer where no one dared to boat, never-mind swim or fish, now bustles with recreation activities in summer. According to the DEC, the number of seriously polluted waters in the state has fallen by 85% and Sulfur Dioxide pollution is down by 90%, with a corresponding improvement in Acid Rain.

Successes we don’t typically consider include the closure of outdated and poorly located landfills (more than 100 in Adirondacks alone), the elimination of the tire dumps (including more than 27 million tires statewide), the cleaning up of Superfund and brownfield sites (1,800 statewide) and the thousands of water bodies large and small around the state that have been cleaned-up in the last 40 years through waste-water management.

We may not consider those victories as much as we should, but local wildlife certainly has. In 1970 there was just one occupied Bald Eagle nest in New York State, in 2010 there are 173. Eagles and other raptors we rarely saw in the 1970s and 1980s, birds like the peregrine falcon, are now fairly frequent sights; ravens and osprey have returned to the Adirondacks. Wild turkeys have exploded from about 25,000 in 2010 to 275,000 today, and so turkey hunting has returned to the Adirondacks. Native trout have been returned to more than 50 ponds according to the DEC, and the average number of fish species has increased by a third offering increased angling opportunities. Beaver, fisher, and otter have flourished in cleaner, more diverse waters and so trapping seasons have returned for those species. In 1970 there were no Moose in the Adirondacks, today there are 400 to 500 in the region.

Clean water, clean air, and open spaces were the demands at the first Earth Day in 1970. Those demands were met by legions of combative corporations, industry alliances, business groups, chambers of commerce and their attorneys. A look at a local paper on any given day shows that those battles continue, but 40 years has shown that the environmental movement has been an enormous success. Despite the attacks and “enviro-nazi” insults, the former hippies, political greens, organization environmentalists, and wildlife conservationists who have made up the environmental movement have much to be proud of.

Illustration: Earth Day 1970 Poster


Monday, April 19, 2010

‘Medieval Times’ 2011 Saranac Lake Winter Carnival Theme

Members of the Saranac Lake Winter Carnival Committee have picked “Medieval Times” as their theme for the 2011 Winter Carnival. The decision was based on results from a recent online poll posed to readers of the Adirondack Daily Enterprise Web site in which two of the four suggested themes rose to the top of the results: Celtic Carnival and Renaissance Faire/Middle Ages. The other themes were Circus/Under the Big Top and Space Alien Invasion. More than 700 votes were tallied during the week of March 15.

“There were a lot of great ideas suggested for the 2011 Saranac Lake Winter Carnival, but, in the end, we could only choose one,” said Committee Chairman Jeff Dickson. “And we believe that the community will rally behind our centerpiece, the Ice Palace, and make the ‘Medieval’ Carnival fit for royalty – our king, queen, prince, princess, court, and maybe a few jesters.”

Committee members thanked the dozens of people who suggested themes for 2011, the hundreds of people who voted, and the Adirondack Daily Enterprise for posting the question on its Web site.

The next meeting of the Saranac Lake Winter Carnival Committee will be in September. The 2011 Winter Carnival will be held February 4-13, 2011.

The Saranac Lake Winter Carnival Committee, Inc. is a not-for-profit group of volunteers dedicated to organizing an annual mid-winter festival during the first two weeks of February. This 10-day, communitywide event traces its roots to a one-day Carnival held in 1897 by the Pontiac Club. The Carnival honors its heritage every year by building an Ice Palace from blocks of ice harvested from Lake Flower’s Pontiac Bay, where Carnival events have been traditionally held for generations. For more information, visit the Saranac Lake Winter Carnival web site.

Photo: An early Saranac Lake Winter Carnival (Saranac Lake Free Library).


Monday, April 19, 2010

NYS Hunting, Trapping Education Courses Set

Cornell Cooperative Extension of Warren County will be hosting both the Trapper and Hunter Education Courses at the Cornell Cooperative Extension Education Center on 377 Schroon River Road in Warrensburg. All first-time hunters and trappers must pass these courses before they can get a license in New York State. Trained instructors certified by the Department of Environmental Conservation teach safe and responsible outdoors practices and the important role of hunters and trappers in conservation. The courses are free of charge, thanks to the Pittman-Robertson tax which is paid by trappers and hunters, but space is limited.

Trapper Education Course, to be held on Saturday, May 8th from 8am to 4pm, will include an overview of current trapping laws, ethics, techniques, and the common species harvested during the trapping season. Master Training Instructor Charles Lashway will be the main presenter for this training session. Additionally, a DEC Officer will join the program to review current laws and the role of the conservation officer. Youth MUST be 10 years or older. Class is limited to 25 participants. To register, please call Charles Lashway at .

The Hunter Education Class, to be held on Sunday, May 23, from 10am to 4pm, provides the necessary training needed to receive a Hunter Education Certificate for New York State. The program also fulfills the requirements for re-issuing a certificate for those who may have lost theirs and are not in the current system. Topics will include safe firearms handling, wildlife conservation, hunting ethics, outdoor safety/survival, and general laws of hunting in New York State.

Each Hunter Education Course student MUST complete the home study workbook, which takes between 2.5-5 hours, and present the completed workbook at the beginning of the classroom session. All materials must be picked up at the Cornell Cooperative Extension office (Hours: Monday-Thursday 8:30am-4:30pm) no later than 4:30pm on May 6th. Youth must be at least 11 years old before the class and have written parental permission. Class is limited to 30 students; pre-registration is required and can be done by calling 668-4881 or 623-3291.


Monday, April 19, 2010

Phil Brown: Facts of The Domtar-Nature Conservancy Deal

Attorney General Andrew Cuomo’s investigation into the state’s purchase of Lyon Mountain and nearby lands from the Adirondack Nature Conservancy stems from a perception—fostered by the New York Post—that the state overpaid for the property.

It’s easy to see how suspicions might arise. The Nature Conservancy paid $6.3 million for the twenty thousand acres in 2004 and sold it to the state four years later for $9.8 million.

A $3.5 million profit, right?

Well, not so fast. The conservancy says it spent $3.4 million in taxes, interest, and other “carrying costs.” If these are taken into account, the organization made only $100,000 on the deal.

Nevertheless, the conservancy says the state did not factor the carrying costs into the purchase price. Yet Fred Monroe, executive director of the Local Government Review Board, is not so sure. It was Monroe who tipped off the Post to the story.

In an interview with the Adirondack Explorer last week, Monroe suggested that the state could have inflated the price without the conservancy’s knowledge, out of a sense of obligation to its partner in land preservation.

Of course, this would require that one or more of the state’s appraisers were in on the fix. But perhaps it needn’t have been an outright conspiracy. Appraising is not an exact science. As Monroe notes, an appraiser can place an estimate on the low end or high end of a range in accord with his client’s interest. Thus, the appraiser for the homeowner is likely to come up with a higher appraisal for a house than the appraiser for the potential buyer.

The difference in the Nature Conservancy deal is that the buyer (the state) presumably wanted a high appraisal.

If we accept all this, there is still a problem with Monroe’s theory.

As it turns out, the conservancy says it hired Fountain Forestry to appraise the twenty thousand acres in 2004. Since the conservancy was buying the property, we can assume, following Monroe’s own logic, that the appraiser would low-ball the estimate.

Fountain’s appraisal: $9.1 million.

That’s $300,000 higher than LandVest, one of the appraisers hired by the state, valued the property in 2008, four years later. The state’s other appraiser, the Sewall Company, applied different criteria and came up with an estimate of $11 million—or $1.2 million more than the state ended up paying.

So we have three professional appraisals from private companies, ranging from $8.8 million to $11 million.

What’s more, an expert in the state Department of Environmental Conservation critiqued the LandVest and Sewall appraisals and came up with his own estimate of the land’s value: $9.5 million. Then a second DEC expert reviewed the two companies’ appraisals again and his colleague’s critique and came up with yet another estimate: $9.8 million. This is what the state paid.

That gives us five appraisals. The purchase price, though based on the fourth-highest appraisal, falls in the middle of the range.

The question remains: if the property was appraised at $9.1 million in 2004, why did the Nature Conservancy pay only $6.3 million?

There is a simple explanation. The appraisal looked at the property in isolation. In fact, the Nature Conservancy acquired the land as part of a three-way transaction involving 104,000 acres owned by Domtar Industries. The conservancy bought twenty thousand acres, and Lyme Timber bought the rest. Given the scale of the transaction, the conservancy was able to negotiate a lower price—a wholesale price, if you will.

Furthermore, Domtar and Lyme might have been willing to cut the conservancy a good deal as a reward for brokering the transaction.

The New York Post story
that prompted Cuomo’s inquiry didn’t delve into any of these details. It merely assumed, based on the difference between the two selling prices, that the conservancy pocketed a huge profit at taxpayer expense.

The Post‘s assumption seems overly simplistic. Nevertheless, we now have a state investigation. Of course, it will be the taxpayers who will be paying for that.

Photo from Lyon Mountain’s summit taken by Phil Brown.


Sunday, April 18, 2010

Adirondack Folk School Prepares to Open

Beginning in June, the much awaited Adirondack Folk School in Lake Luzerne will begin its first classes. Dubbed by its founders as “the only school of its kind in the country dedicated to teaching the arts, crafts and culture of this unique Adirondack region,” the Lake Luzerne school will be housed in the former Odd Fellows hall (and later an elementary school and Town Hall) which was constructed in the 1930s.

The school began with an idea by town resident Jim Mandle who was looking for ways to revitalize Lake Luzerne’s downtown. It came to fruition with the support of town leaders, Adirondack Community College, and the Adirondack Museum.

The school is expected to house classes in Fiber Arts, Basketry, Woodworking, Ceramics, Felting, Quilting, Fly Tying, Cooking, Gardening, Leather Craft, Photography, Outdoor Skills, Rustic Furniture, and Blacksmithing.


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