Almanack Contributor Gwendolyn Craig

Gwendolyn Craig

Gwen is the environmental policy reporter for Adirondack Explorer.


Monday, December 5, 2022

An APA chairman’s legacy

john ernst

John Ernst has been chair of the Adirondack Park Agency for over a year now. I sat down with him and his wife Margot over the summer to see how his new role was going. We also talked about his deep family connection to the Adirondacks, which is how I learned that Ernst’s grandfather, a magician and the attorney for escape artist Harry Houdini, started the multi-generation treks to Elk Lake from New York City.

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Saturday, November 26, 2022

Questioning APA transparency

roads in wild forest

The Adirondack Park Agency has received criticism for what some say is its lack of transparency regarding the release of old memos about questions staff have posed to commissioners that would interpret a cap on roads in wild forest areas. Commissioners made no determinations at the APA meeting last week, but staff hinted they could be looking for decisions, soon.

Here’s a reminder, quoted from APA Deputy Director of Planning Megan Phillips’s presentation, on the questions:

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Tuesday, November 15, 2022

APA case spurs free speech question

On July 28, 2022, Gov. Kathy Hochul visited Lake Placid ahead of the 2023 FISU World University Games. Photo by Darren McGee/Office of Governor Kathy Hochul

Last week, voters approved a $4.2 billion environmental bond act and kept Democrat Gov. Kathy Hochul in office. We took a look at how voters within the Blue Line cast their ballots. Adirondack Park residents heavily favored Hochul’s competition, Republican Lee Zeldin. They also had mixed voting on the bond act.

You can read our story here.

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Thursday, November 10, 2022

Bug battle on Lake George

A hemlock branch covered in the white masses of invasive hemlock woolly adelgid seen on Oct. 27, 2022 at Paradise Bay on Lake George. Photo by Gwendolyn Craig

We are getting to that time of year where you can more easily check hemlock trees for invasive woolly adelgids. The insects sprout white wool to keep them warm in the winter, which is easier to see than the black specks they tend to look like in the spring. Remember to flip the branches over to look.

It’s strange talking about aphids bundling up for the cold weather, though, when it has been such a warm start to November. Some of our local lilac bushes have budded, and my small vegetable garden rebounded with a few grape tomatoes–a tasty surprise, but unsettling. But back to the bugs.

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Friday, November 4, 2022

Election Day is coming, and here’s a bond act breakdown

Funding left from the 1996 environmental bond act may build a new fish ladder on the Imperial Mills Dam so salmon may spawn upriver of the structure. Anglers would like to see the dam removed. Photo by Benjamin Chambers

Environmental Advocates Action released its scorecard of 2022 last week, ranking lawmakers on their environmental voting records.

State Sen. Dan Stec, R-Queensbury, received a score of 47/100 and state Sen. Jim Tedisco, R-Glenville, received 59/100. In the state Assembly, Plattsburgh Democrat Billy Jones received a 63/100 while Horicon Republican Matt Simpson received a 34/100. You can view the full scorecard here.

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Sunday, October 30, 2022

Trees under threat

blue mountain lake

There were very few pops of bright color on Blue Mountain Lake last week now that we are past peak leaf season. Zach Matson and I were out there last Wednesday listening to the Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program’s speakers on invasive species. We are working on stories in our next issue of the magazine about some of the different forest pests and what is being done about them.

In case you missed it, Mike Lynch had a story up online today about beech leaf disease, another kind of threat to trees that was spotted this summer in the southwestern Adirondacks. Read that story here.

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Monday, October 24, 2022

Report: NY has more work to do to be more inclusive, accessible

accessibility

The New York Outdoor Recreation Coalition and the Open Space Institute released a report on how the state needs to do more when it comes to making open spaces and parks more inclusive, equitable and accessible. This issue was part of our solutions reporting on how to make sure the Adirondack Park is welcoming for all people. You can see our series on solutions to visitor management here: https://www.adirondackexplorer.org/solutions.

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Thursday, October 13, 2022

APA transparency updates and autumn blazes

autumn blaze

Owl Head Lookout. Photo by Gwendolyn Craig

The Adirondack Park Agency will not be meeting this week, “due to no agenda items that require board action,” according to its website. I do have some update to share with you about how the APA is running its public comments and hearings page.

Upon glancing at the APA’s website this morning, I do see that the agency will be holding a virtual training for commissioners on shoreline setbacks, which the public is invited to watch on WebEx. Got to the APA’s homepage for more info: https://apa.ny.gov/.

» Continue Reading.


Monday, October 10, 2022

Agriculture and solar

shaw pond

The leaves are changing color quickly in the Adirondacks and were quite beautiful on Friday when the Explorer team met in Long Lake for a birding walk. Larry Master, one of our board members and a talented wildlife photographer, helped us spot wood ducks, great blue herons, song sparrows and belted kingfishers on our trip to Shaw Pond.

In case you missed it, last week state and local agricultural leaders attended a conference in Saratoga Springs. I stopped by and asked New York State Agricultural Commissioner Richard Ball and U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack some questions including what their thoughts were about solar development on farmland. Read the story here.

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Tuesday, October 4, 2022

Where’s the 30-by-30 bill?

On July 28, 2022, Gov. Kathy Hochul visited Lake Placid ahead of the 2023 FISU World University Games. Photo by Darren McGee/Office of Governor Kathy Hochul

Last week was Climate Week, which meant an influx of daily announcements from state government about clean energy, the environment and climate change. For instance, the village of Lake Placid earned the “Climate Smart Community” designation, as part of a joint state agency program encouraging municipalities to take climate change mitigation actions. We noticed, however, that the state Assembly has yet to deliver a climate-related bill to Gov. Kathy Hochul’s desk.

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Tuesday, September 27, 2022

APA approved Clifton solar project, and a fall hike

hadley mountain fire tower

Last week the Adirondack Park Agency approved a 20-megawatt solar project on the former Benson Mines’s tailings pile in the Town of Clifton. It is the state’s first “build ready” solar project. There are still a handful of other permits the state needs to acquire before it can hold an auction and turn the project over to a solar developer. But, it looks like the Adirondacks is one step closer to hosting a large renewable energy project.

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Monday, September 19, 2022

The Adirondacks’ largest solar project to date

benson mine solar

In April of last year, former Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the state’s first “build-ready” solar project to be hosted on the old tailings pile of Benson Mines in the Town of Clifton. Well, we’re seeing this 20-megawatt facility again, with plans for more than 62,000 panels, this time with confirmation that the Adirondack Park Agency must weigh in on its approval. The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority has applied for permits including for a large, public utility, and APA commissioners will decide whether to sign off at their board meeting on Thursday. (Editor’s note: The project was approved. See story here.)

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Sunday, September 11, 2022

Bond Act deep dive

pataki and bond act

November is around the corner. That means voters will be deciding on an unprecedented level of state debt–$4.2 billion–to fund water-quality projects, climate change mitigation, open space protection and more.

As I was teasing a couple of newsletters back, we dug into records from 26 years ago to see what New Yorkers got for their borrowing the last time around. It was remarkable to compare the detailed responses I got from some state agencies to how little I got from others. Some even said they’d purged records from that far back. You can read about the record hunt here.

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Tuesday, September 6, 2022

Military ballistics testing proposed

military ballistics plan

I neglected to share this with you in my last newsletter. In case you didn’t see this story online, Adirondack Park Agency staff are in the review process of an application for a military ballistics testing range. Michael Hopmeier, owner of the former Atlas F missile silo site in Lewis, has already been conducting small firearms testing indoors. Now, he’s applying for an APA permit to test the ballistics of military cannons manufactured in Watervliet.

Neighbors are mostly against the proposal, though the town supervisor and one neighbor are supporting it. The APA said Hopmeier’s application is incomplete so we won’t see any decisions yet. You can read our story about the proposal here, as well as Adirondack Council’s reaction to it here.

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Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Digging into the 1996 Bond Act

bond act boat launch

Our September/ October issue will be hitting mailboxes soon (click here to subscribe to our print and/or digital edition). In it is a story I’ve been working on since the beginning of the year, a look-back at the last environmental bond act New Yorkers passed, the Clean Air/Clean Water 1996 Bond Act.

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