Monday, April 1, 2024

Connecting wild spaces

Elk in Alberta, Canada

The Adirondack Park is home to a universe of animals and plants. From fire-colored efts to shy black bears, abundant waters and forested lands support a dense network of Northeastern biodiversity.

So, you may be wondering why a photo of an animal that hasn’t existed in the park for centuries is featured at the top of this newsletter.

It’s possible that elk could slowly move back to the Adirondacks in the future. Scientists see evidence for animals and plants inching northward and to higher elevations as Earth warms from accelerated climate change. The park has an outsized role in ensuring their survival, scientists say.

But there’s more work to be done in and outside of the park to foster the climate migration. I spoke with a researcher who coined the term “climate connectivity,” as well as Adirondack scientists, an artist, and an official from the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe to get to the bottom of the issue. Click here to read the story.

Herbicide and native plants

In Albany, appellate judges pressed an attorney for the state on what standard the Adirondack Park Agency uses to determine whether to hold special hearings on permits, Zach Matson reports. It was part of ongoing concerns from the Lake George Association over the APA’s approval of herbicide use in two Eurasian watermilfoil-infested bays.

An attorney representing the association highlighted fears that the herbicide would spread beyond the intended areas and that the herbicide would kill protected native plants.

Read the story here.

Earth Day in Glens Falls

“Sustainable Futures,” a presentation by Blue Zones, will take place on April 20 in Glens Falls. The speaker, Tony Buettner, was featured in the Netflix documentary, “Live to 100.”

The event is focused on sustainability in local communities. It’s set to take place in Glens Falls City Park from 11 am to 2 pm.

Here are some stories I’m following:

The Guardian: ‘Everybody has a breaking point’: how the climate crisis affects our brains

“…prolonged exposure to heat in its own right – including an increase of a single degree centigrade – can activate a multitude of biochemical pathways associated with neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.”

Audubon: Conservation Groups Retool Their Missions to Address the Affordable Housing Crisis

“Some of the country’s nearly 1,300 land trusts are rethinking their missions, asking not only what they are preserving but for whose benefit.”

Grist: IPLC: The acronym that is keeping Indigenous advocates up at night

“Indigenous people have spent decades fighting for their rights and recognition.”

“…lumping them in with the very broad, amorphous term “local communities” threatens to roll back the progress that they have made.”

Floodlight, NPR: Chevron owns this city’s news site. Many stories aren’t told

“Chevron’s bid to control the public discourse comes as efforts to combat climate change threaten the fossil fuel industry, especially in California.”

The Washington Post: Climate change is altering Earth’s rotation enough to mess with our clocks

“In just a few years it may be necessary to insert a “negative leap second” into the calendar to get the planet’s rotation in sync with Coordinated Universal Time.”

Photo at top: Elk in Alberta, Canada. Source: Wikipedia.

This first appeared in Chloe’s weekly “Climate Matters” newsletter. Click here to sign up.

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Chloe Bennett is a climate change reporter based in Lake Placid, NY. Originally from North Texas, Chloe has always been drawn to the natural world. In 2022, she graduated from the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY where she focused on environmental reporting and audio production. She grew a deep appreciation for the Adirondack Park while interning for the Explorer in the summer of 2022.

6 Responses

  1. I enjoyed reading this piece. Still awaiting my 1st wild moose sighting. Wouldn’t it be something to spot an elk!

  2. Alan says:

    With the lack of diverse forest habitat on state lands they might support a herd of 10 to 15 elk in the Park. Rocky Mountain Elk foundation did a study years ago about re introducing Elk in the Park and came to the conclusion that there was not enough suitable habitat for a reintroduction.

    • Boreas says:

      I haven’t heard anything seriously discussing an elk re-introduction program to the Adirondacks. But just as with moose and wolves, if you give them a chance, they may well wander in on their own. Or perhaps not – who knows? This illustrates the importance of keeping wildways viable.

      Forests and ecosystems are going to change, but creating or encouraging sterile islands of biodiversity encourages lack of true biodiversity. Assuming a particular species is incompatible with the current ecosystem in the Park has little to do with future changes. For instance, getting deer populations down to healthy and sustainable numbers with natural predation will go a long way toward opening the door for re-balancing the biodiversity in the Park. But with today’s politics in Albany and across the US, this is unlikely.

      • Paul says:

        Boreas, I don’t see “natural predation” getting deer populations down in the place where they need that. These are mostly suburban, or often rural agricultural type lands. Not places where large predators like wolves (what you would need to control deer) are compatible. Very few people want wolves in the suburbs, nor do farmers want them running around their land mixing it up with the cows and sheep etc. Now it’s like everyone has a flock of chickens in their yard!

  3. Zachary Denton says:

    I agree a lot with what you said. But I would counter the opinion of an overabundance of deer in the park. They are actually quite low compared to historical numbers, at least in wilderness areas, mostly due in part to low biodiversity of vegetation and new feed. There are tons of un-productive beech stands over-taking historically mixed forest stands of oak, Maple, beech and poplars. You mention using natural predation, but hunting in the northern zone is extremely restricted compared to other parts of the state due to these low populations. So I’m not sure more predation in the park helps future biodiversity.

    I absolutely love your point though on keeping wildways open. Migration and travel corridors for wildlife is perhaps one of today’s greatest ecological concerns. Too much shrinking habitat.

    • Boreas says:

      “Historical numbers” is a meaningless term if you don’t specify a time frame or specific area. Deer were never plentiful in wilderness areas before 1800 because that is simply not their habitat. They are instead a forest edge species. Deer increased in numbers with the destruction of the old-growth timber and attempted agriculture in the region. Then as they moved in, the war on predators commenced throwing things further out of balance. Necessity helped drive hunting pressure a century ago, but is no longer a major driving force for hunting.

      I agree that deer overpopulation is not as acute in wilderness areas of rebounding forests (many heavy in beech concentration as you mention), but it is quite obvious in areas near population centers where hunting pressure is light or nonexistent along with predator populations. Pressure from predators forces deer to keep moving from areas of high concentrations to less-comfortable lodgings. Large predators also keep the fear level up and keep the herd healthier and wilder – albeit perhaps fewer individuals overall. We can no longer depend on hunting and winterkill to combat overpopulation.

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