Thursday, May 19, 2011

Batten Kill Named A National ‘River to Watch’

The National Fish Habitat Action Plan has unveiled the 2011 list of 10 “Waters to Watch”, a collection of rivers, streams, estuaries, watershed systems and shores that will benefit from strategic conservation efforts to protect, restore or enhance their current condition. Included in the list is the Batten Kill in Washington County.

The 10 waters represent a snapshot of this year’s larger voluntary habitat conservation efforts in progress. These and other locally driven conservation projects are prioritized and implemented by regional Fish Habitat Partnerships that have formed throughout the country to implement the National Fish Habitat Action Plan. The objective of the Action Plan is to conserve freshwater, estuarine and marine habitats essential to the many fish and wildlife species that call these areas
home.

The 10 “Waters to Watch” are representative of freshwater to marine habitats across the country including rivers, lakes, reservoirs and estuaries that benefit through the conservation efforts of these Fish Habitat Partnerships formed under the Action Plan-a bold initiative implemented in 2006 to avoid and reverse persistent declines in our
nation’s aquatic habitats.

The initial Action Plan’s 10 “Waters to Watch” list was unveiled in 2007 and in 2011 will feature its 50th project. Since 2006, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has provided $12 million to support 257 on-the-ground Action Plan projects in 43 states, leveraging $30 million in partner match, to address the priorities of Action Plan Fish Habitat Partnerships. Additional funds have been provided by several other State
and Federal agencies and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and industry partners.

“Our approach-teaming local, state, tribal, and federal agencies with private partners and stakeholders-is helping to bring these waters back to life in most cases…in a faster more strategic way,” said Kelly Hepler, Chairman of the National Fish Habitat Board. “By watching these 10 models of our nation’s aquatic conservation efforts underway, we can see real progress, in both avoidance and treatment of causes of fish
habitat decline. Too often we have focused on treatment of symptoms with limited success. Through sound science and on-the-ground locally driven partnerships, these select Action Plan projects can be held high as a vision of what quality habitat should and can be, and how it benefits all people throughout the United States.”

BATTEN KILL RIVER – Eastern Brook Trout Joint Venture

The Batten Kill project is a high profile fisheries and watershed restoration project that has galvanized local, regional and national groups and partners. Once a famous, world-class recreational trout fishery, the river experienced a steady decline in its wild fish population over the past two decades. Since 2000, there has been widespread grassroots support and effort to restore the fishery to its former status.

Purpose of the project: In-stream and riparian habitat restoration for Eastern brook trout in the Batten Kill watershed, have been based on scientific assessments and
monitoring that have led to strategic on-the-ground implementation of
restoration practices.

The goals are to deliver as much short term habitat restoration work as possible through the installation of in-stream cover and shelter along with replanting the riparian zone, while making long term investments in quality habitat by improving river dynamics, conserving existing buffers, and planting buffer zones where vegetation is deficient.

There is also the essential component of fostering good stewardship by educating landowners in river-friendly practices and supporting easements or other conservation protection of riparian areas where appropriate.

Project Timeline: Projects to install cover and shelter structures combined with in-stream structures to improve river dynamics (according to established Natural Channel Design Techniques) began in 2005 and continue in earnest today.

There are two teams implementing assessments and restoration: one in Vermont, one in New York. Each team restores about a half a mile of stream each year. So far, the partnership has accomplished:

26 miles of fish habitat inventory and assessment.
27 projects totaling 10.5 miles of riparian and stream habitat restoration.
21 miles of stream geomorphology and bank erosion surveys.
15 scientific/biological investigations & assessments and fishery studies.
Multiple river stewardship and public outreach and education projects.

The project is considered a good example of cooperation between Federal, State,
and local agencies, organizations, communities and streamside landowners, in both states, to develop and implement a scientific-approach and community-driven restoration effort. Monitoring shows a 400% increase in the number of yearling trout in the affected pools and 100% increase in affected riffles.

Partners include:
Batten Kill Watershed Alliance of New York and Vermont
US Fish & Wildlife Service
Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program
Fisheries Program
US Forest Service, Green Mountain National Forest
Natural Resources Conservation Service
New York Department of Environmental Conservation
Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department
Washington County (NY) Soil and Water Conservation District
Bennington County (VT) Natural Resource Conservation District
Windsor County (VT) Natural Resource Conservation District
Clearwater Chapter of Trout Unlimited
Adirondack Chapter of Trout Unlimited
Southwestern Vermont Chapter of Trout Unlimited
The Orvis Company
National Wildlife Federation
University of Vermont
University of Massachusetts
Dartmouth College

The rest of the 10 “Waters to Watch” for 2011 include:

Alewife Brook/Scoy Pond, NY (National Fish Habitat Partnership – Atlantic Coastal Fish Habitat Partnership)

Au Sable River, Michigan – (National Fish Habitat Partnership – Great Lakes Basin Fish Habitat Partnership)

Barataria Bay, Louisiana – (National Fish Habitat Partnership – Southeast Aquatics Resources Partnership)

Cottonwood Creek, Alaska – (National Fish Habitat Partnership – Mat-Su Basin Salmon Habitat Partnership)

Duchesne River, Utah – (National Fish Habitat Partnership – Desert Fish Habitat
Partnership)

Llano River, Texas – (National Fish Habitat Partnership – Southeast Aquatic Resources
Partnership)

Manistee River, Michigan- (National Fish Habitat Partnership – Great Lakes Basin Fish Habitat Partnership)

St. Charles Creek, Idaho – (National Fish Habitat Partnership – Western Native Trout Initiative)

Waipa Stream, Hawaii – (National Fish Habitat Partnership – Hawaii Fish Habitat Partnership)

The Action Plan has met its objective of establishing at least 12 Fish Habitat Partnerships by 2010 to help identify the causes of habitat declines and implement corrective initiatives for aquatic conservation and restoration, with 17 Fish Habitat Partnership currently working on the ground in aquatic conservation.

Since its launch six years ago, the Action Plan has received wide public support. To date nearly 1,700 partners have pledged their support including a range of organizations and individuals interested in the health of the nation’s fisheries such as fishing clubs, international conservation organizations, federal agencies, angling industries and academia.

These ten habitat conservation efforts highlighted in 2011 are a small sample of the many habitat conservation projects implemented under the Action Plan. The 2011, as well as past 10 “Waters to Watch” lists can be viewed at www.fishabitat.org along with
complete information on the scope of the Action Plan.

Illustrations: The Batten Kill in Arlington, Vermont; below, the Batten Kill and its tributaries. Courtesy Wikipedia.


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

High Peaks Happy Hour: Stony Creek Inn

Our most frequently frequented bar since the start of our drinking careers, something about the Stony Creek Inn just keeps luring us back year after year. As winter surrenders to spring, we count down the days until reopening, marking our calendars to keep the date free of other conflicts, and reminding our friends to save the day. This year’s opening party featured Jeff Gonzales warming the gathering crowd with his country-blues, finger-pickin’ solo acoustic sets. The Stony Creek Band, an Adirondack music icon, is as grand a feature act as can be found in the Adirondack Park; Sunday’s Mexican menu a festive feast befitting the occasion.

Excellent food, always cooked to order at an amazingly low price, world-class musicians, a variety of friendly, happy patrons whose camaraderie and grinning faces are contagious, and a dance floor packed with uninhibited, twirling, foot-stomping glee. The scrumptious smells from the kitchen follow you inside and outside – there is no escape – you will have to eat something while you’re here. Drinks are straightforward. No fancy martinis or clever shots. A modest variety of bottled and draft beers, simple mixed drinks and an occasional margarita are the norm, priced a little on the high side. With only two bartenders on a busy night, expect to wait a little while to quench your thirst. Just relax. Listen to the music. Look around. Plying customers with excessive quantities of alcohol is not high on the proprietors’ list of goals.

And let’s not forget our outstanding hosts, Dot Bartell and John Fickel, owners and curators of this exhibit for over 31 years. Diminutive Dotty can be spotted darting throughout the dining area – meeting, greeting and seating diners. John is in the kitchen but makes frequent appearances, usually wearing a stained apron over shorts, a bandanna covering his head.

A visit with Dottie reveals a strong sense of pride in the history of the Stony Creek Inn. Built in 1905 with locally milled lumber, before electricity made its way to Stony Creek, the interior has changed little over the years. With characteristic Adirondack thrift and ingenuity, materials are often reused in new and creative ways. A door becomes a window, perhaps; siding serves as ceiling. The hardwood floor is mostly concealed by layers of wax that has blackened over the century; the only area of bare wood is the dance floor, worn too thin by countless shuffling, stomping feet to even sand one more time. A sense of community within the walls of the Stony Creek Inn is reflected in the collection of artwork, posters, photos and memorabilia hanging on the walls. An original poster, now framed and signed by local musicians was given in thanks for “Dot and Johnstock”, an annual fundraiser now in its fourth year, with proceeds to benefit Cindy’s Retreat and the Southern Adirondack Musicians Fund.

The local regulars typically occupy the barstools furthest from the action, where they have a wide-angle view of the activity taking place around them. The pool table is always occupied and clusters of people ebb and flow with the tide of more and more bodies. The dining room closest to the stage tends to hold those who are really there to hear the band and to dance. There’s a back room behind it, nicknamed the “Yuppie Room”, which accommodates up to 35 people who can still see and hear the band and dance floor. One table of folks brought to mind The Fockers at a rehearsal dinner.

Yuppies and hippies, young and old, bikers and beatniks, artists, musicians, professionals (buttoned-down and buttoned-up), intellectuals, locals, and vacationers populate the Inn throughout its season, which currently begins in mid-May and continues through the last Sunday of hunting season, this year falling on December 4. Hunters and outdoor sports enthusiasts often inhabit the upstairs rooms, rented nightly for $35.00. A step above camping, the accommodations offer no cell phone reception, no TV’s or even room keys, but clean sheets and plenty of hot water.

Slipping out to the spacious front porch, recently rebuilt with the help of volunteers, offers a place to escape the din, cool off after bumping bodies on the dance floor, have a conversation, or just hear yourself think. We met a group of gentlemen who, once they inquired about Kim’s camera, were eager to share a book called Nickel City Drafts: a Drinking History of Buffalo, NY. Odd they should carry it around with them.

What the Inn lacks in ambience is compensated in enthusiasm and diversity. It’s loud, crowded, and just a whole lot of fun. There is a common misconception that the Stony Creek Inn is in the middle of nowhere. In reality, the picturesque drive to Stony Creek is just 15 minutes from Warrensburg and the Hadley/Luzerne area, 20 minutes from Lake George, and 30 minutes from Queensbury. People drive a lot further for a lot less. Like the sign says, “The road to a friendly town is never long”.

Kim and Pam Ladd’s book, Happy Hour in the High Peaks, is currently in the research stage. Together they visit pubs, bars and taverns with the goal of selecting the top 46 bars in the Adirondack Park. They regularly report their findings here at the Almanack and at their own blog.


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Warren County Extension to Produce Farm Guide

Cornell University Cooperative Extension Warren County was awarded a New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets grant to develop a Warren County Farm Guide and encourages farmers to participate.

The Warren County Farm Guide is expected to allow for more information to be made available to the public in their search for locally grown products and educational farm tours. The guide will include a listing of farms along with potentially a listing of Warren County farmers’ markets, ongoing ag events and festivals, a harvest calendar, information on Why Buy local, and important agricultural facts. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

New Study: Most Larger Mammals Killed by Humans

Medium and large-sized wild mammals in North America are more likely to be killed by humans than by predation, starvation or disease, according to research conducted at the New York State Museum.

The study was conducted by Christopher Collins, a graduate student from the State University at Albany and Dr. Roland Kays, the State Museum’s curator of mammals and has been published online in the journal Animal Conservation. The research shows the extent to which humans are affecting the evolution of mammals today and will be used to predict the conservation threats that mammals face.

Although studies of mortality causes have been conducted for many mammal species, this is the first to gather this data together and examine trends across species. Collins and Kays reviewed data for 2209 individual animal deaths in 69 North American mammal populations across 27 species. They only considered studies that used radio tracking
collars to monitor animals because they are the least biased in finding recently deceased animals.

Of the 1874 deaths that had known causes, 51.8 percent were caused by humans. Hunters killed 35.3 percent of the animals studied — 29.9 percent legally and 5.4 percent illegally through poaching. Vehicle collisions caused 9.2 percent of the deaths and 7.2 percent resulted from other human causes. Predation by other animals caused 35.2 percent of the deaths, disease accounted for 3.8 percent, starvation for 3.2 percent and other natural causes for 6.1 percent.

Data included animals that lived in a variety of habitats throughout North America including urban, rural and wilderness areas. Animals in urban areas were more
likely to die from vehicle collisions, while animals in rural and wilderness areas were more likely to die from hunting. Animals living in protected areas had a 44 percent lower level of human-caused mortality.

Kays noted that “this shows that legal protection has a direct impact on the survival and evolutionary pressures faced by animals.” Larger species, especially carnivores, are more likely to be killed by humans, with smaller species, particularly herbivores, dying more from predator attacks.

Although the deaths attributable to hunting by humans were very high, none of these hunted populations were endangered. “These results may be more important when considering the forces driving modern evolution of species, than their conservation status,” said Collins.

The study suggests that animals with traits that allow them to escape these prominent mortality causes for longer will have a selective advantage. However, the scientists conclude in the study that the pace of “human activity may exceed species’ ability to adapt, particularly in the face of habitat loss and climate change.”

The research also noted a scarcity of knowledge about smaller species, and Collins and Kays have since initiated new field research on the cause of mortality in small mammals in New York State.

Photo: A fisher is shown wearing a tracking collar. Collars like these allow field biologists to track the movement and ultimate fate of an animal, finding them regardless of their ultimate cause of death, and providing the most accurate data on what actually kills wild animals. (Photo courtesy of NYS Museum).


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Adirondack Family Time: Adirondack Museum Opens May 27

By Diane Chase, Adirondack Family Activities
One of our favorite spots, rain or shine, is the Adirondack Museum. This summer there is plenty of new as well as the familiar when opening day comes on May 27.

According to Marketing Associate Kate Moore, the Adirondack Museum will once again have plenty to entertain family and friends. One activity my family will look forward to is the “Camp Out for Families: An Overnight at the Museum.” From July 7-8 children (with adult chaperone) will explore exhibits by lantern, have dinner, participate in songs and stories by the campfire and sleep in the Woods and Waters exhibit.

“We have two new exhibits this season, The Adirondack World of A.F. Tait and Night Vision: The Wildlife Photography of Hobart V. Roberts that really showcase the region,” says Moore. “The ‘Adirondack World’ shows the region’s beauty as it pertains to the sportsman and wildlife. The second exhibit showcases the work of Hobart Roberts and his use of technology and science in the early 20th century. These early photographs made him one of the premier amateur wildlife photographers during that time.”

Moore says, “Familypalooza is one way we hope to introduce the to families and get them excited. There will be all sorts of activities like a bounce house, music show with Radio Disney, kayaking demonstrations, costumed animal characters, food vendors, face painting, and lots of arts and crafts.”

Moore also wants people to know there will be a scavenger hunt throughout the museum. How does the bounce house tie into the Adirondacks? It is a nod to the theme parks of the Adirondacks as well as a place to let the kids blow off steam. Moore reminds people that the Adirondack Museum is not a passive experience at all.

“We will have an exhibit that will include looking at art with children as well as labels targeted to children. We will also have artists-in-residence doing demonstrations and anyone can contribute to our collaborative landscape canvas. Please check out the website and click on events.”

Regular children’s program like feeding the fish, gazebo games, the Adirondack playground will continue all season as well as rustic games and crafts and The Reising Schoolhouse.

For year-round residents the pot just gets sweeter as the Adirondack Museum is opening its doors for free each Sunday during the months of June, July and August as well as any open days in May and October. There are requirements like proof of residency (driver’s license, passport or voter registration) required.

The museum is open 10:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m., 7 days a week, including holidays, from May 27 through October 17, 2011. There will be an early closing on August 12, and adjusted hours on August 13; the museum will close for the day on September 9.

Adirondack Family Time tip: Don’t forget your ticket is good for a return trip if used within a week. Save your receipt and sign in at the admissions desk.

Wing Power” By Hobart V. Roberts, Courtesy of Adirondack Museum


Photo and content © Diane Chase, Adirondack Family Activities ™. Diane is the author of the Adirondack Family Activities Guidebook Series including the recent released Adirondack Family Time: Tri-Lakes and High Peaks Your Guide to Over 300 Activities for Lake Placid, Saranac Lake, Tupper Lake, Keene, Jay and Wilmington areas (with GPS coordinates) This is the first book of a four-book series of Adirondack Family Activities. The next three editions will cover Plattsburgh to Ticonderoga, Long Lake to Old Forge and Newcomb to Lake George. 


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

2009-2010 Fisheries Annual Report Released

The 2009-2010 Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Bureau of Fisheries Annual Report has been released [pdf].

The report features a compilation of highlights and accomplishments of activities and efforts carried out for the 2009-2010 fiscal year by DEC Bureau of Fisheries staff located in nine regional offices, two research stations, twelve fish hatcheries, one fish disease laboratory, as well as DEC’s Central Office in Albany.

The report provides summaries of fish culture and egg take outcomes, coldwater and warmwater fish research surveys, angler catch and effort reports, new public access site developments, habitat protection efforts, and more.


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

ADK Offers Backcountry Skills Programs

The Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK), a national leader in outdoor education for nearly 90 years, is offering a full plate of programs and workshops in 2011 to help outdoor lovers hone their backcountry skills.

ADK’s workshops are designed to help participants explore the wonders of wild lakes and waterways, high alpine ridges, rugged backcountry wilderness and pristine forests while learning skills and ethics.

Most ADK outdoor workshops are based at the club’s Heart Lake Program Center in the Adirondack High Peaks region. A sampling of some of this year’s offerings is below, but a complete listing of ADK outdoor programs and workshops is available online.

Wildflower Weekend (May 21-22) Designed for beginner wildflower enthusiasts, but a good refresher course as well. This two-day program will familiarize participants with Adirondack wildflowers. The workshop will cover identification, use of field guides, botanical structures, relationships between plants and various environmental factors. Cost is $69 for ADK members and $76 for nonmembers.

American Canoe Association Instructor Certification Workshop (June 20-23) In addition to its introductory, one-day canoeing and kayaking courses (scheduled for June 4 and 5, respectively), ADK is offering this four-day program designed for outfitters, outdoor educators and experienced paddling enthusiasts. Refine paddling mechanics, hone rescue skills and develop teaching techniques. Cost is $375 for ADK members and $415 for nonmembers.

Beginner Backpacking: High Peaks Wilderness (July 8-10) Learn the tips and tricks of backpacking and low-impact camping with a New York State Licensed Guide. Spend three days and two nights in the High Peaks Wilderness and learn about proper gear, food planning and preparation, safety considerations, map reading, camp set-up, low-impact techniques, water treatment and more. Cost is $160 for ADK members and $176 for nonmembers.

Dog Days (Aug. 8-11) This four-day exploration and discovery program is designed for kids 8-12. Each day will feature fun educational activities using the woods and waters around the Adirondak Loj. Cost is $125 for ADK members and $138 for nonmembers.

Wilderness First Aid (Oct. 22-23) This intense Wilderness Medical Associates course teaches students how to deal with medical emergencies when they are miles from help. Cost is $235 for instruction and materials. A package including meals and two nights lodging is available for $320.

The Adirondack Mountain Club, founded in 1922, is the oldest and largest organization dedicated to the protection of New York’s Forest Preserve. ADK is a nonprofit membership organization that helps protect the Forest Preserve, state parks and other wild lands and waters through conservation and advocacy, environmental education and responsible recreation.


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Adirondack Literary Awards Ceremony Announced

The Adirondack Center for Writing at Paul Smith’s College will present its annual Adirondack Literary Awards on June 12th at the Blue Mountain Center. Authors and poets from across the North Country submitted their work in March and will be honored by a panel of judges in the categories of fiction, poetry, children’s literature, memoir, nonfiction, and photography as well as a “People’s Choice Award.” The work of three regular contributors here at the Almanack are being considered this year. Adirondack Nature Notes: An Adirondack Almanac Sequel by Tom Kalinowski; Adirondack Ice: A Cultural and Natural History by Caperton Tissot; and History of Churubusco and the Town of Clinton, Clinton County, NY by Lawrence Gooley will be considered in the non-fiction category.

The Adirondack Center for Writing is a resource and educational organization that provides support to writers and enhances literary activity and communication throughout the Adirondacks. The event is FREE and open to the public, but space will be limited so reserve your seat through the ACW – 518.327.6278 or info@adirondackcenterforwriting.org.

Submissions for this year’s Awards include:

In Children’s Literature, Seth Baumgartner’s Love Manifesto, by Eric Luper; A Day at the Fair by Judyann Grant; The Rock Singer by Betsey Thomas Train; Sugar and Ice by Kate Messner; and The Adirondack Kids 10: The Final Daze of Summer by Justin and Gary VanRiper.

In Fiction, Rehabilitation by Timothy J. Brearton; Adirondack Detective The Years Pass by John H. Briant; Saying Goodbye to Port Davis High by Dave Donohue; Mission to Xan by C.W. Dingman; Tailings by Jeffrey G. Kelly; and Incidental Contact by Chuck Walley

In Memoir, submissions include The Dirty Life by Kristin Kimball; Green Fields by Bob Cowser; and Yabanci: An American Teacher in Turkey by Dave Donohue.

In Nonfiction, Why We Are Here edited by Bob Cowser; Adirondack Nature Notes: An Adirondack Almanac Sequel by Tom Kalinowski; Adirondack Ice: A Cultural and Natural History by Caperton Tissot; History of Churubusco and the Town of Clinton, Clinton County, NY by Lawrence Gooley; Haunted New York Volume 4 by Cheri Farnsworth; and See and Be Seen: Saratoga in the Victorian Era by Dr Hollis Palmer.

In Poetry, Winterberry Pine: Three Poets on Adirondack Winter by Elaine Handley, Marilyn McCabe, and Mary Sanders Shartle; Wanderings Through White Church by Mary Anne Johnson; Transfiguration by Pat Shannon Leonard; Set Theory by Georganna Millman; The One Good Bite in the Saw-Grass Plant; A poet in the Everglades by Roger Mitchell; and Lawless Adirondack Haiku by Sean Tierney and Karma in the High Peaks.


Monday, May 16, 2011

Potential Adirondack Wireless Locations Sought

Adirondack towns and villages have a unique opportunity to be included in a project that seeks to improve wireless cell and broadband availability in the Adirondack Park.

The goal of the Wireless Clearinghouse project is to create an inventory of existing structures in Adirondack Park towns that are suitable for housing a wireless antenna. The database will be a resource for private wireless companies, with the goal of encouraging them to expand wireless telecommunications across the region, a key to economic development. The inventory produced is expected to be a significant planning asset available through a secure website and featuring a GIS database with maps and images.

Right now, municipal officials are being asked to respond to an email sent by the Adirondack North Country Association (ANCA) that contains instructions for listing their community’s structures in the online inventory. All communities who provide feedback by May 31 will be publicly acknowledged when the final results of the project are published and will be entered in a drawing to win a free customized online mapping application.

Fountains Spatial Inc., a GIS consulting firm based in Schenectady, has been contracted by SUNY Plattsburgh and ANCA with project methodology, data collection, and development of an interactive web-map application to access the data collected in the project.

The data being collected this month will identify existing tall structures within Adirondack Park municipalities, such as churches, water towers, and other tall structures. To start, Fountains Spatial combed tax parcel data for information on property class codes such as churches, public services and government structures that could be considered suitable sites for a telecommunications antenna.

The project is due to be completed this summer. In the process, one of the goals is to inform community leaders of the opportunities provided by these technologies.

“DEC, SUNY Plattsburgh, Fountains Spatial and ANCA hope that the Wireless Clearinghouse database will encourage wireless carriers to provide service in additional Park communities. People today want to stay connected 24/7 using their mobile device or computer, and better wireless service will support municipal services, and benefit year round and seasonal residents, and visitors may stay longer,” said Howard Lowe, project manager.


Monday, May 16, 2011

Dave Gibson: Wild Forest Lands Do Need Our Help

Phil Terrie’s essay in the current Adirondack Explorer, “forests don’t need our help,” rebuts those who claim that no further land acquisition is justified because the state “can’t take care of what it already has.” Phil is absolutely correct to call the list of unmet recreational maintenance projects on a given unit of Forest Preserve, such as a trail or lean-to in rough shape, as a lame excuse for not adding additional strategic lands to the Preserve.

He is incorrect, however, in asserting that the “forever wild provision of the state constitution provides a perfect management plan. It costs nothing and provides the best guarantee possible for healthy, aesthetically appealing, functional ecosystems.”

Article 14, the forever wild clause of our Constitution, has never been self-executing. Its implementation requires both a vigilant defense to prevent bad amendments from being passed, as well as an offensive team of alert citizens and principled and funded state agencies to proactively carry out its mandate that the forest preserve is to be “forever kept as wild forest lands.” Call it field management, if you will. Over time, you can not preserve wilderness, or shall I say, Forest Preserve without actively managing ourselves, the recreational user. This prerequisite demands that we have management principles, plans and objectives in place, and that we oversee and measure the results.

I don’t mean a lean-to here, or a trail there that may be out of repair and needing maintenance, and not receiving it. What I mean is that the underlying philosophy, principles, plans and objectives for managing our uses of “forever wild” land are vitally important if you expect to still have wild, or natural conditions years hence. Remember that a part of the Wilderness definition in our State Land Master Plan (which echoes the national definition) is to “preserve, enhance and restore natural conditions.” Howard Zahniser, author of the National Wilderness Act, was inspired by New York’s Forever Wild history. He always maintained that our biggest challenge, once Wilderness was designated, was to keep wilderness wild, especially from all of us who could, and often do love wilderness to death. The same applies to the Forest Preserve. Of course, restoring “natural conditions” in a time of climate change is a significant challenge that wilderness managers are facing across the country.

Remember the way Marcy Dam used to look? Restoring that area from the impact of thousands of boot heels and lean-to campers took decades of effort. The High Peaks Wilderness Unit Management Plan established clear management objectives of, for example, restoring native vegetation at heavily used lean-to and trailhead sites, and redistributing and limiting the heavily concentrated camping pattern that once existed. It then took additional years to actively carry out those objectives, measure their progress, and achieve the desired results.

So did the efforts led by Edwin H. Ketchledge, ADK, DEC and Nature Conservancy to ecologically restore the High Peak alpine summits. In the Wilcox Lake Wild Forest, the UMP is seeking to restore wilder conditions in the central core area, and move some of the dense snowmobile traffic to the perimeter of that unit.

In the Siamese Ponds Wilderness and Jessup River Wild Forest, it will take years of well directed management effort to restore parts of the western shoreline and islands of Indian Lake to achieve “natural conditions” after decades of uncertain management and overly intensive day and overnight use. Without a Siamese Ponds Wilderness UMP, there would be no clear wild land objectives, and no timetable to achieve them. Yes, those timetables are often exceeded, but these UMPs hold our public officials feet to the fire, and accountable to the State Land Master Plan and to Article 14 of the Constitution.

Our Constitution’s assertion that lands constituting the forest preserve “shall be forever kept as wild forest lands” are, in these myriad and laborious ways, carried out for future generations. And yes, wild land management requires financial resources and devoted personnel. That is why it was so important a decade ago to establish a land stewardship account in the state’s Environmental Protection Fund. Yes, these funds are insufficient, so a stronger public-private partnership for Adirondack wild lands is needed.

Lost so far in the debate over whether and how to acquire some 65,000 acres of Finch, Pruyn lands for the Forest Preserve is the good thinking that should be underway about how to best manage these lands as wild lands, for their wild, ecological and recreational values. Assuming that some day these lands will be part of the Forest Preserve, time and effort needs to be devoted now to management planning that may help keep these lands as wild as possible, preserving their ecological integrity while planning for recreational uses that are compatible with the paramount need to care for these lands as part of the Forest Preserve.

For example, public access will need to be closely managed if wild land and natural conditions are to be preserved, enhanced or restored. During a visit sponsored by the Adirondack Nature Conservancy, I was impressed, for example, with the extensive logging road network leading to the Essex Chain of Lakes south of Newcomb. This beautiful chain of lakes offers a fine future canoeing and kayaking attraction in the central Adirondacks, as well as an ecologically interesting and important aquatic resource.

State and private natural resource managers are giving quite a bit of thought, as they should, to how and where the paddling public might access the chain of lakes. Closing off some of the roads to motorized traffic, turning these into narrower trails, and requiring paddlers to carry or wheel their boats longer distances to enter or leave the lakes would create or restore wilder and more natural conditions along these sensitive shorelines, conditions which would appeal to paddlers from across the Northern Forest and Canada. Special fishing regulations may also be required to preserve the fishery long treasured by the private leaseholders here. The same level of planning thought will be needed to assure or restore both wild and natural conditions at Boreas Ponds, the Upper Hudson River and other former Finch lands and waters that merit Forest Preserve status.

Photo: Paddling on the Essex Chain of Lakes, south of Newcomb, NY, as guests of The Nature Conservancy.


Monday, May 16, 2011

Adirondack Guides: The Missing NYC ‘Sport’

Adirondack guides from over a century ago are themselves part of the lore and history of the region. Their handling of city “sports,” coupled with their great abilities in the woods, provided the background for many a legendary tale. Guides were often strongly independent and shared a great affinity for the solitude of the deep woods. So what were nearly two dozen of these woodsmen doing in a New York City courtroom in the winter of 1893–1894?

They were present for the culmination of a terrific news story that had earned sustained coverage for more than two years. Dozens of American and Canadian newspapers followed the tale, which at times dominated the New York City media. A key component was its Adirondack connection.

The story centered on well-known businessman John C. “Jack” Austin, 38, of Brooklyn. Fit, trim, and very athletic, he participated regularly in team and individual sports. In industry, he was known to have enjoyed success, providing a comfortable, if not wealthy, existence for his family. Austin’s wife died in February, 1891, leaving him with three young children to raise, which he was doing with the aid of their very attentive housekeeper.

The afternoon of July 4, 1891, was like any other holiday in Austin’s life, with plans to attend the horse races or go swimming at Manhattan Beach. He kissed the children good-bye and went on his way, promising to take them that evening to the Independence Day fireworks.

Nearly nine hours later, the clerk at Manhattan Beach was performing the nightly check of the safe’s contents when he encountered an envelope bearing the name and street address of John Austin. For bathers visiting the beach, it was normal procedure to hire a bath room for changing clothes, and to deposit any valuables (wallet, cash, rings, watches) in envelopes provided by the facility. The owner received a numbered ticket which was later used to recover those goods.

After finding the envelope with Austin’s name on it, the clerk searched Room #391, where he found a coat, vest, shirt, hat, trousers, and underwear. In the pockets of the clothing were a case of business cards, a penknife, some keys, and some pencils.

Since it was nighttime and Austin’s personal belongings were still present, there was only one logical explanation: the owner likely had drowned. The clerk called for help, and in the presence of the bathing pavilion superintendent, the Manhattan Beach chief of police, and a fireman, the security envelope was opened.

Inside were items of varying value: a pocketbook containing a few dollars and some change; a ring with the letter S on it; and a lady’s gold watch and chain, studded with pearls.

The family was contacted and apprised of the situation. Joseph Austin (John’s brother), and Thomas Carruthers (John’s brother-in-law) positively identified the belongings as John’s, and a search was initiated. For two days, police and volunteers patrolled the water and the beaches, covering not only Manhattan Beach, but the nearby shores of Jamaica Bay, Plum Island, Rockaway, and Sheepshead Bay.

Veteran lawmen and experienced searchers knew what to do and where to look. Drownings were not uncommon off the shores of Coney Island, where tides and the prevailing winds routinely sent victim’s bodies to the shore sooner or later. Austin was presumed drowned, and alerts were issued to authorities on Staten Island as well as the New Jersey shore on the outside chance the body might surface there.

Over the course of ten days, nothing was found, which in itself stirred suspicions. Some suggested that a northwest wind had driven the body out to sea, but police and beach veterans knew better. Austin’s room, #391, had been rented at about 4:00 pm, and for several hours following, a strong flood tide had pushed inland. To a man, they recognized it as an unusual circumstance that Austin’s body had not washed ashore—if he had, in fact, drowned.

The family filed a claim with two insurance companies, where Austin’s coverage totaled $25,000 (equal to about $620,000 today). However, since no body had been recovered, one of the companies had already begun an investigation, despite the stellar public image of Austin as a respected, honest, hard-working family man. They wouldn’t be paying on the claim just yet.

A number of peculiarities, both large and small, were noted in the situation surrounding John Austin’s disappearance. He was known to be wearing a very valuable diamond ring, but only an inexpensive ring was found in the envelope.

The same was true of the lady’s watch that was found. Austin always wore his own watch, described as “a magnificent chronometer.” Friends and relatives said the valued watch was being repaired at a jeweler, but the insurance company discovered that the watch had been picked up on July 3, the day before he vanished. The jeweler’s shop was very near Austin’s office, but for some unknown reason, he sent a messenger boy with a check to pick up the watch.

It was also learned that John Austin patronized Manhattan Beach regularly and was well known to many of the workers—yet no one recalled seeing him on July 4. Further, on that day it was chilly and windy, reducing attendance to about 600 on a beach that often held many thousands of bathers. Despite the sparseness of the crowd, no employees could be found who had seen Austin.

Co-workers and partners confirmed that the missing man always carried plenty of cash, almost never less than $100. And yet the envelope of his belongings held just a few dollars.

He was also known to many as a very prolific and strong swimmer, often covering extreme distances. Drowning seemed an unlikely end for such a fit and able swimmer.

Another possibility was floated: perhaps Austin had been hiding out while an imposter went to the beach on his behalf, used the changing room, and deposited the valuables (which had since been deemed not so valuable after all). That would explain why (in an unusually sparse crowd) no attendants had seen Austin. Maybe he hadn’t been there at all.

Many more suspicious developments spurred further investigation, expanding far from the confines of New York City. Austin’s three orphaned children were now living with his sister, who was a resident of Montreal, Quebec.

It was learned that their missing father was one of a great many city dwellers who frequented the Adirondacks for hunting and fishing expeditions. Since the Adirondacks were little more than an hour south of Montreal, investigators kept digging.

It was then ascertained that John C. Austin was no stranger to the North Country. To be more specific, a number of those stalwarts of the north woods, the Adirondack guides, claimed to have not only seen Austin since his supposed drowning, but had guided him in several areas, including the Saranac Lake region.

New developments caused further consternation. Of the two insurance policies which together were equal to well over $600,000 (in 2011), one had been secured by Austin on July 1, just three days before he vanished. And, after procuring the new policy, he had asked a secretary in the insurance office if it took effect at that very moment. It did seem an unusual query. With confirmation, he requested that the policy be sent to him ASAP. It was mailed that afternoon.

A few witnesses eventually came forth, claiming they had seen a man disappear while swimming well offshore on July 4. Skeptical detectives suggested another scenario. Since Austin was widely known as a powerful swimmer, they believed he swam a few miles out, where he was picked up by a boat and secreted for a time at the home of his good friend, Henry LaMarche, south of Sandy Hook, New Jersey, not much more than ten miles from Manhattan Beach.

LaMarche denied it, but his gardener and other employees stated emphatically that they had seen Austin with LaMarche in the days following the supposed drowning.

Following up on Jack Austin’s great love of the north woods, detectives found many Adirondack guides who had known him over the years and claimed to have recently seen him and/or worked for him. One of them provided a photograph, said to have been taken recently. It showed Austin in full hunting gear.

Confident now that this was a scam, the insurance companies denied the family’s claims, which were made on behalf of the children. Both sides had taken a firm stand, and the matter of whether or not John C. Austin was alive or dead would be decided by the courts.

Thus, in December, 1893, about twenty Adirondack woodsmen found themselves en route to New York City for an extended stay, courtesy of the insurance companies. They were to testify about their interactions with Austin and the range of his movements.

Next week: From the big woods to the big city.

Photo Top: Manhattan Beach, circa 1900.

Photo Bottom: Headline from the Austin case.

Lawrence Gooley has authored nine books and many articles on the North Country’s past. He and his partner, Jill McKee, founded Bloated Toe Enterprises in 2004. He took over in 2010 and began expanding the company’s publishing services. For information on book publishing, visit Bloated Toe Publishing.


Monday, May 16, 2011

Adirondack Wildlife: The Hardy Bumble Bee

Shortly before apple blossoms open and honeysuckle flowers emerge from their buds, queen bumble bees awaken from their winter dormancy and begin the chore of establishing the small colony over which they will reign throughout the coming growing season.

In autumn, as asters begin to fade, the queen bumble bee abandons her colony and prepares for the coming winter. After mating with one or several male bees, she then begins to work her way through the layer of dead, leafy matter covering the ground and down into the soil. Like most other bugs, the queen lapses into a period of deep dormancy that often lasts seven months in this northern climate. Both the worker and male bumble bees in the colony eventually perish as the cold becomes more intense and sources of nectar completely disappear.

As the ground thaws in mid April and her surroundings warm, the queen makes her way to the surface and starts to search for a site in which to locate her nest. In the Adirondacks, the bumble bee often places her colony in or near the ground. A small hole that leads underground, such as the entrance to a vacant chipmunk burrow or the opening to an abandoned vole tunnel is occasionally selected for the nest’s location. A tiny grotto among a pile of rocks or a hollow log lying on the forest floor is another site that the queen may use to house her colony.
After creating several waxy containers to hold her initial few eggs, the queen then begins the month long process of caring for her developing offspring. Since only the queen is present at this initial stage of the colony’s development, only a handful of eggs are produced in mid spring.

As early blooming plants open their flowers at the end of April or the first week or two of May, it is common for the queen bumble bee to regularly visit any plants that is yielding pollen and nectar. Unlike the honey bee which visits only a single type of flower each day when it becomes active in collecting floral material, the bumble bee is far less selective. This hefty, yellow and black insect is known to stop at a variety of sources of nectar and pollen during its daily search for nourishment, especially when flowers are still few and far between.

The bumble bee is well adapted for a life in our cold climate, and is not as adversely impacted by the unseasonably cool weather that may settle over the Park in May as are other species of bees and wasps. The larger size of this flying insect, along with its rounded body shape helps create a body mass to surface area ratio that limits heat loss better than any other social or stinging insect. The especially dense layer of “hair-like” bristles that cover the bumble bee’s body functions like a coat of fur to help retain heat. Additionally, when exposed to the cold, the bumble bee is reported to be able to vibrate certain muscles within its body much as a person shivers in order to elevate its internal temperature. Finally, when collecting food, the bumble bee never wastes energy in attempting to attack a larger intruder, like a human that may have wandered too close to the tree or shrub in which it is foraging.
The bumble bee is the most docile stinging insect in the North Country and uses its primary defensive weapon only when something actually grabs it, or disturbs its nest. While the bumble bee occasionally flies close to people in order to investigate colorful articles of clothing they may be wearing, it inevitably realizes it cannot collect food from that object, and always leaves without incident.

Killing a bumble bee, especially at this time of the year, when its colony is just starting to function, is never an environmentally good action. Because of the very limited presence of the honey bee in the Adirondacks, the bumble bee assumes the role of a primary pollinator of many flowering plants across the region. (However, I never have a problem destroying a wasp, especially a bald-faced hornet, as I am convinced that they are insect vermin, but the bumble is NOT!) If the insect you see flying around is large, rounded and fuzzy, it is a bumble bee, which should always be left alone as it is an important component of the environment here in the Adirondacks.

Photo courtesy Wikipedia.

Tom Kalinowski has written several books on nature in the Adirondacks.


Friday, May 13, 2011

This Week’s Adirondack Web Highlights

On Friday afternoons Adirondack Almanack compiles for our readers a collection of the week’s top weblinks. You can find all our weekly web round-ups here.

Subscribe! More than 6,000 people get Adirondack Almanack each day via RSS, E-Mail, or Twitter or Facebook updates. It’s a convenient way to get the latest news and information about the Adirondacks.


Friday, May 13, 2011

This Week’s Top Adirondack News Stories

Each Friday morning Adirondack Almanack compiles for our readers the previous week’s top stories. You can find all our weekly news round-ups here.

Subscribe! More than 6,000 people get Adirondack Almanack each day via RSS, E-Mail, or Twitter or Facebook updates. It’s a convenient way to get the latest news and information about the Adirondacks.


Thursday, May 12, 2011

Current Conditions in the Adirondack Park (May 12)

The Almanack’s web platform went down this week on Thursday and this week’s conditions report was lost. You can still hear this week’s report (which aired Friday morning) online at WNBZ (AM 920 & 1240, FM 105 & 102.1) and North Country Public Radio.

What follows is a transcript of this week’s radio report.

While waters have receded in the central Adirondacks some areas downstream of the region’s major rivers and along Lake Champlain are still experiencing flooding and more rain is expected this weekend.

Most waters are still above normal and impassable river, stream and brook crossings, and flooded trails and campsites are still a problem in many areas of the backcountry.

Many docks, boat launches, water access points, and low-lying waterfront properties also remain affected by high waters.

Boaters and paddlers should be aware that waters are cold and swift and may contain logs, limbs and other debris. High waters also conceal navigation hazards that are normally easily seen and avoided. Rivers running above normal include the Hudson, Sacanadaga, Beaver, Raquette, Saranac, AuSable, and Bouquet.

Expect higher than normal traffic on the Grasse River which is playing host to the 50th Annual Canton Canoe Weekend from Friday through Sunday. Races start and finish at Canton’s Taylor Park.

In the backcountry, trails and campsites may be flooded or covered and blocked by fallen trees and other blowdown due to saturated soils.

This is a good time to stay off wet trails in the High Peaks, and to stick to the lower elevation mountains along the Southern Adirondacks, including in the Lake George basin.

Snow is present at elevations above 3000 feet on north facing slopes and snowshoes will be needed at elevations above 3500 feet.

Lower and mid-elevation trails are wet and muddy. Be prepared by wearing waterproof footwear and gaiters, and remember to walk through – not around – mud and water to avoid widening the trails.

The gates are shut on roads typically closed during mud season, including those in the Lake George and Moose River Plains Wild Forests, the Perkins Clearing and Elk Lake easement lands, the unpaved section of the Corey’s Road in the Western High Peaks, and the Lake Lila Road in the Whitney Wilderness.

Looking at some local conditions, in the High Peaks the first bridge on the East River Trail has been washed away and high waters make crossing there risky, the first bridge west of Henderson Lake on the trail to Preston Ponds and Duck Hole is now impassible, as is the Opalescent Cable Bridge on the East River/Hanging Spear Falls trail. The high water crossing bridge at Bushnell Falls has been removed.

On the Northville Placid Trail in West Canada Lake Wilderness the bridge over West Canada Creek has gone out during the recent floods.

The Wakely Dam Area remains closed due to significant damage from flooding

Finally this week a reminder that all rock climbing routes on Moss Cliff in Wilmington Notch, the Upper and Lower Washbowl Cliffs at Chapel Pond, and 54 routes on Nose of Poke-o-Moonshine Mountain between and including Garter and Mogster remain closed through the nesting season.


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