Almanack Contributor Guest Contributor

Guest Essayist

The Adirondack Almanack publishes occasional guest essays from Adirondack residents, visitors, and those with a biding interest in the Adirondack Park.

Submissions should be directed to Almanack editor John Warren at adkalmanack@gmail.com.


Sunday, November 4, 2012

The Outside Story: The Clinker Polypore Fungus

If you’ve seen a well-developed clinker polypore (inonotus obliquus) protruding from a tree, there’s a good chance that you remember it. This fungus causes large, black, cinder-like growths, sometimes neatly conical, but often rough and ragged. Also called the birch polypore, you can find these conks on all species of birch, as well as on hophornbeam and occasionally on other hardwoods. By the time the fungal tissue is visible on the outside, the inside of the tree is likely to be rotten to the core.

Much is yet to be learned about this organism, but it seems that infection often occurs after another fungus, called Nectria, has invaded a tree. Injuries, too, allow the clinker polypore to get a foothold, and once it has settled in, death – though sometimes a slow death – seems to be inevitable. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, October 28, 2012

Outside Story: Smart Birds Stash Stores, Thwart Thieves

We know that squirrels make the most of fall’s plenty by hoarding nuts for the winter, but the fact that birds also store, or cache, food goes largely unappreciated. Through clever observation and experiments, biologists have found that food caching (from the French cacher, “to hide”) has developed to a high art in some birds.

Take the chickadee, for instance. Chickadees put tens of thousands of food items a year into short-term storage. They usually retrieve and eat the food in the space of several days. Each food item is cached in a different place to make it difficult for thieves to steal all the food at once. When hiding a new item, they remember their previous storage sites and avoid placing caches too close together.
» Continue Reading.


Thursday, October 11, 2012

Outside Story: Decline of American Kestrels

One autumn day, 15 years ago, I found myself perched on a ladder that was leaning against a highway sign on Interstate 89 somewhere in Vermont. There was a wooden box clamped to one of the sign poles at least 15 feet off the ground, although fear may have exaggerated that memory. I was providing a little autumn house-keeping for one of those nest boxes so it’d be ready when the kestrels returned to breed the next spring.

The box was one of 10 kestrel nest boxes then deployed along the interstate by the Vermont Agency of Transportation, or VTrans. It’s a feel-good project started in 1995 with $40, some scrap wood, and plenty of volunteer hours from VTrans employees, who built the boxes on their own time. Since then, about 90 kestrels have fledged and four orphaned young were fostered in the boxes. That’s a lot of bang for the buck, or rather, a lot of birds for the box.
» Continue Reading.


Thursday, October 4, 2012

Outside Story: Peregrine Falcons

When asked to name the fastest animal on earth, many people will respond “cheetah.” But it is the peregrine falcon – a cliff-dwelling raptor –that holds that title with the ability to reach speeds of 200+ MPH as they stoop (dive) in flight. (The cheetah tops out at a mere 70 MPH).

Equally remarkable is the fact that this speed demon of the skies was nearly wiped out 50 years ago; its recovery ranks among the great success stories of conservation biology and endangered species management.

Historically, the eastern peregrine falcon population was centered in New England and the Adirondack Mountains, ranging south along the spine of the Appalachians to western Georgia. In 1940,the population was estimated at 350 pairs; by the mid-1960s, the species was completely gone from the region, a victim of the devastating pesticide DDT. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Stacy McNulty: Beech Nuts, Mice and Bears

What follows is a guest essay by Stacy McNulty, Associate Director of SUNY Environmental Science and Forestry’s Adirondack Ecological Center in Newcomb.  McNulty and her colleagues recently conducted a study of how the availability of forest mast affects small mammals.

Have you noticed a mouse explosion in your camp or garage this summer? Are black bears making mincemeat of your garbage cans?

This summer, reports of stories of Adirondack bears breaking into in candy stores and making off with campers’ food abound. The dry spring has contributed to the scarcity of food in the woods. Yet there is another reason why we’re sometimes overrun with these animals. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Adirondack Futures: The Park’s Next 25 Years

What follows is a guest essay by Dave Mason and Jim Herman of Keene, leaders of the ADK Futures Project. Over the past year they have been conducting workshops, interviews, and discussion sessions with a variety of Adirondackers about what the future of the Adirondack Park should be. Dave and Jim are retired management consultants who ran a small consulting firm during the 80’s and 90’s that helped very large organizations create strategies for growth and success.

The ADK Futures Project was kicked off at the July 2011, Common Ground Alliance (CGA) annual event in Long Lake. A year later, after 120 interviews and 14 workshops involving 500+ people all over the Park and in NY City, the results were presented at the 2012 CGA event. It is a pro bono project, using scenario planning, a methodology from our consulting careers. We are not members of any of the usual ADK organizations but Keene, NY is our home. The initial goal of the effort was to broaden the conversation about the Park, involving more people and weaving together the full breath of issues facing the Park. But along the way surprising alignment emerged around a particular future vision for the area. » Continue Reading.


Friday, July 20, 2012

PROTECT Responds to Tupper Resort Lawsuit Critics

What follows is an essay sent to the media today by Protect the Adirondacks! regarding recent criticism over a lawsuit filed by the group and the Sierra Club against the Adirondack Park Agency over its approval of the 700-unit Adirondack Club & Resort project in Tupper Lake.  

For several months boosters of the Adirondack Club & Resort (ACR) project have criticized and even ridiculed the lawsuit brought by Protect the Adirondacks! and others to challenge the Adirondack Park Agency’s (APA) approval of the largest subdivision/development ever authorized in the Adirondack Park. They have criticized the lawsuit as frivolous in numerous public statements, lobbied the Cuomo Administration against the lawsuit, and even held a press conference in Albany with Senator Betty Little. The news media have provided ample coverage of these activities, while giving relatively little information about the substantive issues raised in the litigation (somewhat understandable, given the lengthy and complicated documents now before the court). » Continue Reading.


Thursday, July 19, 2012

Hunting With Lead or Copper?
An Alternative Ammunition Comparison

What follows is a guest essay by Shawn Ferdinand of the New York State Department of Conservation (DEC). Traditionally, hunters have actively contributed to the conservation of wildlife. With new advancements in ammunition technology, they can now use state-of-the-art bullets and slugs for big game hunting that reduce the potential of harmful lead contamination and pollution.  » Continue Reading.


Thursday, June 28, 2012

Philosophy: Rethinking Land Use and Ethics in Newcomb

What follows is a guest essay by Ian Werkheiser, a PhD student in the Department of Philosophy at Michigan State University whose primary research interests are in the environment, communities, social justice, and epistemology. Werkheiser attended the recent symposium in Newcomb on Land Use and Ethics organized by Adirondack philosopher and regular Adirondack Almanack contributor Marianne Patinelli-Dubay. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Hilary Smith: Invasive Swallow-Wort Vine Expanding Range

What follows is a guest essay by Hilary Smith Director of the  Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program in Keene Valley.  Swallow-wort is an invasive plant on the move on the periphery of the park. 

The field season is here and the hunt for invasive plants is underway.  Crews, volunteers and concerned citizens have eyes open for new infestations. The best time to detect invasive plants is when they are in flower. Detecting plants early is critical. The sooner an infestation is found, the more likely it is that it can be successfully eliminated.

Swallow-wort vine is in bloom now. It is relatively widespread throughout central and western New York but just starting to make in-roads into the Adirondack region. Time is of the essence to find new locations of this swiftly spreading plant. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Environment: Living Machines and Water Resources

What follows is a guest essay by Layne Darfler, a junior at Paul Smith’s College majoring in Environmental Studies. She is from Hudson Falls, NY. This is part of our series of essays by young people from Paul Smith’s College.

What if there were a way to become more sustainable and recycle more than the everyday paper, plastic, or cans? What if we could recycle nature? It seems almost impossible since the guy on TV just told us the Earth is dying, but in reality there is a lot we can still do to help our planet. How about recycling the rain? » Continue Reading.


Monday, April 30, 2012

Slush Pile: Whiteface Skiing and Climate Change

What follows is a guest essay by Kirsten L. Goranowski, a 2012 graduate of Paul Smith’s College with a Bachelor’s Degree in Environmental Studies. This is part of our series of essays by young people from Paul Smith’s College.

It was a rainy wait for the Face Lift chairlift at the base of Whiteface Mountain on March 9th. I overheard a woman complain to her husband about the unpleasant weather. There was mention of an alternative plan for the day. I myself contemplated an alternative, yet I had bought a season pass and still had to get my money’s worth. Winter of 2010-2011 was the first time I picked up the sport of snowboarding, and I’m now questioning whether any of it was a worthwhile investment. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, April 28, 2012

The Adirondack Regiment in the Civil War:
“The Home Voices Speak Louder than the Drums”

What follows is a guest essay by Wanda Burch has spent 42 years in historic preservation. She recently retired as site manager of Johnson Hall State Historic Site and now serves as Vice-President of Friends of Johnson Hall. She is a regular contributor to the online news magazine New York History.

On August 7, 1862, Henry Graves, physically exhausted from walking, fighting, and from four days detail digging trenches under a Petersburg, Virginia, sun and not “a breath of air stirring,” sat down and wrote to his wife, describing the importance of the imagination to survival. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Analysis: Rail or Trail on the Adirondack Railroad?

What follows is a guest analysis by Billy Martin, a senior at Paul Smith’s College in the Natural Resource Management and Policy program who is interested in the economic and environmental sustainability of the Adirondack Park.

Adirondack history has been shaped by contention over how to manage the region’s resources. Maintaining this historical trend, contention over the use of a state-owned rail corridor between Lake Placid and Tupper Lake has led to another divide among residents. The Adirondack Recreational Trails Advocacy (ARTA) and the Adirondack North Country Association (ANCA) represent opposing poles on the issue, each with seemingly equal support from residents of the Tri-Lakes Region.
» Continue Reading.


Monday, January 9, 2012

Peter Brinkley: The Adirondack Brand

What follows is a guest essay by Peter Brinkley who lives in Jay and is Senior Partner of Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve. This essay was prompted in part by new Almanack contributor Kimberly Rielly’s piece “Understanding the Adirondack Brand“.

We hear of the need for businesses in the Adirondacks to develop a universal brand to attract tourists.

This impulse indeed is strange. The Adirondacks has enjoyed a brand since the second half of the 1800s, one which has broadened and deepened its appeal. » Continue Reading.