John Warren has been exploring the woods and waters of the Adirondacks for almost 50 years. After a career as a print journalist and documentary television producer he founded Adirondack Almanack in 2005 and co-founded the geolocation services company Adirondack Atlas in 2015.
John remains active in traditional media. His Adirondack Outdoors Conditions Report can be heard Friday mornings across the region on the stations of North Country Public Radio and on 93.3 / 102.1 The Mix. Since 2008, John has been a media specialist on the staff of the New York State Writers Institute.
John is also a professional researcher and historian with a M.A. in Public History. He edits The New York History Blog and is the author of two books of regional history. As a Grant Consultant for the William G. Pomeroy Foundation, he has reviewed hundreds of historic roadside marker grant applications from around New York State for historical accuracy.
A long awaited report sponsored by the Adirondack Association of Towns and Villages (AATV) that profiles all the 103 municipalities that comprise the Adirondack Park was released on June 3rd. My copy was provided by Fred Monroe (Town of Chester Supervisor, Chair of the Warren County Board of Supervisors, Executive Director for the Adirondack Park Local Government Review Board, and an Executive Board Member of the Adirondack Association of Towns & Villages).
This month marks the 100th anniversary of the destruction by fire of the Fort William Henry Hotel in Lake George. On June 24, 1909, the day before the hotel set to open for the season, it was destroyed in a blaze that started in the early morning hours.
Given the Grannis Decision‘s potential to open Old Mountain Road between North Elba and Keene to automobile, ATV, and snowmobile traffic, here is a look at the old road’s history.
Originally the only road between Keene and North Elba, Old Mountain Road was built in the early in 1800s and travels behind Pitchoff Mountain. The road is part of the a route that was authorized by the NYS Legislature in 1810 and completed around 1816. The longer road went from Westport on Lake Champlain to Hopkinton in St. Lawrence County by way of the Keene Valley, Saranac Lake and Paul Smith’s – parts of the original road are still in use today. » Continue Reading.
Summer is the time for great history events in our region, and I love local history. So here are three events that I won’t miss this season:
Fort Ticonderoga French and Indian War and American Revolution encampments – 2009 marks the 250th Anniversary of the British victory over the French at Fort Ticonderoga (known then as Fort Carillon). To mark the occasion the Fort is planning the Grand Encampment of the French & Indian War (June 27 & 28). Recreated battles and military life are just one aspect of the event, which includes a large period encampment, the smell of black powder, the roar of cannon, and period music. The American Revolutionary War encampment (September 12 and 13th) includes American and British units and a contingent of Native American interpreters. The 2d New York, the Lexington Training Band, three British Regiments of Foot, the King’s Rangers, the Royal Irish Artillery, and more will all be there. These are the area’s premiere history events for all ages. A tip: the best parking is in the back by the King’s Garden.
Fort William Henry Lecture Series – Serious students of local history will want to attend this series of lectures offered each year at Fort William Henry. This year features noted historian Laurence Hauptman on the Munsee and Mahican (Mohican) at the time of Henry Hudson (August 6). Glenn Williams of the National Museum of the U.S. Army will give a talk on “Irregular Warfare on the Revolutionary Frontier” (August 13). There will also be lectures on the Iroquois (Haudenosaunee) influence on Women’s Rights and the Hudson-Champlain Quadricentennial. Most of the lectures (which are free and start at 7 pm) are held at the Fort William Henry Conference Center (behind the fort) on Canada Street in Lake George.
Gokey’s Auctions in North Hudson (occasional Saturday nights) – Yes, it belongs on a list of great Adirondack summertime history opportunities. Gokey’s Auctions are staple good clean Saturday night fun in our part of the park. Located in North Hudson (check the Frontier Town ruins while you are there), John Gokey’s Trading Post offers food and a well-run auction staffed and attended mostly by locals. The previews start at 2 pm and the auctions at 5 pm, but check the complete schedule for dates and announcements of their on-site auctions around the North Country. Don’t bid against me.
Master Forest Owner volunteer training is now over, and I can say that if there is one thing I learned, it’s that forest owners need to be familiar with the resources available to them. A free visit from one of Cornell Cooperative Extension’s Master Forest Owner (MFO) volunteers is a great place to start [a pdf list]. An MFO can sit down with landowners and help them consider the issues land owners face that might include agro-forestry, maple syrup production, logging and timber sales, pest and invasive species management, understanding wetlands, soil and water quality, developing a management plan, or just understanding a little more about the land they own. Those with a keener interest in their forested property should consider becoming a volunteer themselves. The next training will be held at the Arnot Teaching and Research Forest, September 9-13, 2009. Here is a list of the stories I wrote while taking part in the training. We covered a lot more, but these stories provide some information, and more importantly, links to resources:
An Introduction to SUNY-ESF’s Adirondack Ecological Center at the Huntington Forest.
At the MFO training we heard from Mike Farrell of Cornell’s maple program at the Uihlein Forest. It turns out that New York is not what it should be in maple production, it’s second in the nation. The US imports four times more syrup from Canada than it produces. New York City alone consumes more syrup that all of New York State produces.
Here is a little more of what we learned: All maple produces syrup, but sugar maple produces the most and the sweetest sap. However, a very large well-established and healthy red maple can produce nearly as much as a smaller less-healthy sugar maple.
You can tell sugar maple from red maple because the bark peels from the side; red maple bark peels from the top and bottom.
Trees less then 10 inches in diameter should not be tapped; the recommendation is one tap per tree, two on very large trees. Taps should be moved around the tree (about an inch and a half a year) and up and down a few inches. Spouts should be 5/16, instead of the older 7/16.
An average sugar bush has 50-60 taps per acre (about 30% of the basal area is maple), easy access, and a gentle slope with water and power at the bottom. Roads should be as few and as straight as possible with grades 3-10%; try to keep keep water off your roads.
Tapped maples don’t die sooner, but they do grow considerably slower. Regeneration of the sugar bush should be considered – that requires protection of seedlings from browsers (like deer!), freedom from species competition, and adequate sunlight. Conifers attract squirrels, which can be a problem – they love to chew on taps and tubing.
Tubing is more environmentally friendly, produces a greater yield, and is less work than taps and buckets. It should be run tight, straight, and downhill. Vacuum systems add up to two to three times the yield to gravity systems. They can be left in place, but they still have to be maintained and annually flushed (use a power washer and plain water – chlorine can build up salts in the line and encourage pests). Tubing costs about $8 per tap to install.
Options for landowners include leasing to a producer, collecting and selling sap to a producer, or producing your own (most work, and profit). Setting up your sugar bush may make you eligible for an New York property tax agricultural assessment.
What about saw timber? There is a nice market for tapped maple butt logs (previously not usually accepted by local mills for saw timber and generally only used for firewood) because the wood is stained and has a natural look (the more tap holes, the more money a board can be worth). Butt log boards can fetch $3 a board foot by marketing it as a specialized wood product.
Check out www.mapletrader.com for used equipment and the New York State Maple Producers Association for information on setting up a maple syrup operation.
There are 54 species of mammals in the Adirondacks, and the Adirondack Ecological Center’s Charlotte Demers offers a “whirlwind tour.” Here are the highlights:
Marsupials – the possum. The Adirondacks is in the upper range of the possum, so you often find them with signs of frostbite, particularly their ears. Amazingly they give birth just 12 1/2 days after mating. Shrews and Moles – There are six different species of what are called “red tooth shrews”. They have an average life span of just a year and eat almost continuously. Our shrews have a toxin in their saliva which paralyzes it’s prey. The pygmy shrew weighs less then a dime making it (arguably) the smallest mammal in the world. The water shrew dives (mostly in streams) for its prey, including frogs and fish. They are often caught in minnow traps. We have two moles – hairy tail (the most common) and the star nose (uglier and aquatic). » Continue Reading.
In his new book, The Wilderness Warrior: Theodore Roosevelt and the Crusade for America, Douglas Brinkley (Professor of History and Baker Institute Fellow, Rice University) looks at the pioneering environmental policies of President Theodore Roosevelt, an avid bird-watcher and naturalist with Adirondack ties. Brinkley will talk about Roosevelt at the American Museum of Natural History’s Linder Theater in New York City tomorrow, Tuesday, April 28, 6:30 pm. Admission will be $15 ($13.50 members, students, senior citizens). Roosevelt was a pioneer of the conservation movement and was involved with the American Museum of Natural History from childhood. As a matter of fact, the original charter creating the Museum was signed in his family home in 1869, and the Museum has a permanent hall in tribute to Theodore Roosevelt and the contributions he made to city, state, and nation throughout his life. A book signing will follow this program.
Douglas Brinkley, Professor of History and Baker Institute Fellow, Rice University, is the author of several books, including The Unfinished Presidency, The Boys of Pointe du Hoc, and The Great Deluge (which won him the 2007 Robert F. Kennedy Book Award); he is also a contributing editor at Vanity Fair and an in-house historian for CBS News. He has earned several honorary doctorates for his contributions to American letters and was once called the “the best of the new generation of American historians” by the late historian Stephen E. Ambrose.
For questions regarding this event, please contact Antonia Santangelo at 212-769-5310 or [email protected]
We got a great laugh around the house here a couple weeks ago when my neighbor Mike — a guy who’s full of Adirondack lore — began extolling the virtues of eating Adirondack beaver. A quick search turned up actual beaver recipes. It turns out, unlike deer which are hung in woodsheds, barns and garages all over the North Country during hunting season, beaver needs to be soaked overnight in salt water to remove the blood from the meat — trapped beaver don’t bleed out.
So much discussion of beaver got me thinking about the history of Castor canadensis — North America’s largest rodent and the second largest in the world — which was driven to near extinction in the Adirondacks around the turn of the last century, but whose reintroduction was astoundingly successful. » Continue Reading.
The election for the 20th Congressional District is about 40 days away. Three candidates have announced. Our local news is ignoring one of them – it’s as simple as that – and now they’ve been so brazen as to tell us why.
My job is to reflect reality in my stories. So I will be covering Mr. Sundwall, though I’ll generally treat him as an “issue” or a “protest” candidate. How much coverage he receives will depend on a) how interesting, thoughtful and compelling he turns out to be; and b) the degree to which his ideas influence the campaign debate. » Continue Reading.
Lows Lake (about 3,100 acres) is located in St. Lawrence and Hamilton counties, part of the St. Lawrence Drainage basin (Raquette Sub-Basin). It’s a ponded water on the Bog River Flow, one of 21 over a square mile in size held back by dams in the St. Lawrence Basin. The largest dammed lake in the basin is Cranberry Lake (just north of Lows Lake), which has regulated the flow of the Oswegatchie River since 1867.
The northeast shore of Lows Lake is privately held, but the rest (except a few small parcels) is mostly surrounded by Forest Preserve. Sabattis Scout Reservation owns a portion of the lake, three islands, and a Boy Scout camp on the north side. The western end of Lows Lake lies deep within the proposed Bob Marshall Wilderness. » Continue Reading.
There is a crisis brewing in the Adirondacks, one that shows David Paterson to be what many of our neighbors feared he would be – another downstate politician with little concern for the people of the Adirondacks. Paterson’s budget plans would not only slash local opportunities for an education (Tupper Lake, teachers, college), health care services, and other important programs (STAR tax rebate), it will also force some Adirondackers to lose their homes, and will make protection of the Adirondacks exceedingly difficult. One of the most dangerous parts of Paterson’s proposal is to cap the amount the state pays for property tax on land it owns (that’s a map at left) – an outrageous affront to all New Yorkers who are burdened with high property taxes and high unemployment that make home ownership a year 2000 phenomenon. » Continue Reading.
The Domtar land purchase – now known as Sable Highlands and located in Franklin and Clinton Counties near Lyon Mountain – has been finalized with the protection of 104,000 acres, an area seven times the size of Manhattan. New York State purchased a conservation easement from the Lyme Timber Company on December 24, 2008 and that transaction ended four years of efforts to preserve the acreage once owned by Domtar Industries in the northeastern corner of the Adirondacks. In addition to the continuation of sustainable forestry, the conservation easement also includes access to nearly 30,000 acres that have been off-limits to the public for decades, including Sugarloaf Mountain, the Norton and Plumadore Ranges, and Barnes, Grass, Figure Eight, and Fish Hole Ponds. Combined with the 20,000 acres of new state lands, the public now has access to about 50,000 acres in a part of the park that has had limited opportunities for public recreation in the past. The Sable Highlands includes 220 miles of permanent and seasonal streams, 2,600 acres of wetlands, and 20 lakes and ponds in the St. Lawrence and Lake Champlain drainages. Among the lands protected in the Domtar deal are Lyon Mountain (14,400-acre habitat for Bicknell’s thrush), Ellenburg Mountain (1,700-acre tract of roadless forest that adjoining 7,100 acres of Forest Preserve lands), Whistle Pond / Keniston Meadows (920-acre tract adjoining existing state Forest Preserve), and East Chazy Lake.
In December of 2004, Domtar sold all of its Adirondack holdings in Clinton and Franklin Counties to the Lyme Timber Company and The Nature Conservancy. Working in partnership with Lyme, the Conservancy, and local community leaders, New York State has now fulfilled an agreement to secure the permanent protection of those properties.
A few months ago, the state made an outright purchase of 20,000 acres as new public lands from The Nature Conservancy. The purchases help foster the Adirondack Park’s role as a conservation model for the world and is another important investment in the local forest products industry. Last week, the state purchased a conservation easement to protect 84,000 acres owned by Lyme Timber. This “working forest” easement promotes sustainable forest management and timber harvesting, restricts residential development and subdivision, and creates a balance of public recreational access and continued private recreational leasing on the property.
The recent state expenditures were previously budgeted to the Environmental Protection Fund from money provided primarily from a real estate transfer tax. Private contribution to The Nature Conservancy’s Sable Highlands Campaign since 2004 totaled some $4 million and also helped to offset the overall costs of conservation.
Mary Thill has a story in the new Adirondack Life magazine about blogs and blogging in the Adirondacks. Adirondack Almanack gets high honors:
The blog often cited as a “must-check” by well-read Adirondackers is adirondackalmanack.com The site’s author scans regional news outlets and other blogs, posting new links and comments regularly. The host is an able historian who digs up context to breaking stories that daily news reporters can’t or just don’t. Adirondackalmanack’s postings occasionally have a progressive voice but the emphasis is on timely and entertaining information. Other blogs featured include Adirondack Base Camp, “a place to escape the distractions of 24-hour information and get back to nature” Adirondack Naturalist, along with City Mouse / Country House (“an engrossing blog”), and the “guileless and inspiringly nice” Lake Placid Skater. The story includes several more sites worth checking out – all of which can be found in the blog roll at right.
Unfortunately “Blog Cabin: Online in the Blue Line” won’t be online until after the New Year [Update: it’s now located here]. In the meantime, you have to suffice with the mentions of Adirondack Almanack in the old media, including the Adk Life story from 2006 about thin ice, drawn from the Almanack archives.
Conference leaders from The American Response to Climate Change released their detailed plans today [pdf] that include specific recommendations designed to harness market forces to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emission in the United States. The plan says that fast action in energy efficiency alone would result in $140 billion in economic benefit in the next 20 years. Drafting this report was a principle focus of a national gathering of leaders from industry, finance, academia and non-governmental organizations held at The Wild Center this past June according to conference leaders The report was quickly emailed to key figures advising the next administration, according to Kate Fish, the conference director. “They’re asking to get copies of the report because many of the leaders who participated in the conference are being consulted on strategy.”
“The whole conference was timed so that we could produce this document in time for this planning stage for whichever new administration was going to decide the American response,” said Ross Whaley, former President of SUNY ESF and conference co chair.
In its opening pages the report’s authors, Carter F. Bales, who was conference co chair and Richard Duke, who heads the Center for Market Innovation at the Natural Resources Defense Council, call on the United States to take a world-leading position. “The time has come for the United States to lead the fight against global warming at home and abroad. We are the world’s leading innovator, and many U.S. businesses are beginning to recognize the profit potential of clean-energy alternatives. With forceful federal legislation and global negotiations, our nation can transition to real investment in a new energy economy that restores economic growth by building a world-class domestic energy infrastructure while protecting the planet and improving energy security.”
The report details four main action areas, and warns about the high costs of a failure to act quickly and decisively, including a predicted 5 to 20 percent collapse of global GDP from climate-related disruptions. The report also stresses that the four planks are designed to support each other, and that all four are needed to deliver an effective action plan. The report says that three criteria drove the decision about where to focus the plan, that it was market-driven and not driven by regulation, that it was fair so that it did not impact one group more advantageously or negatively than another, and that it could be rapidly enacted and implemented.
The first part of the plan is a declining cap on the total carbon emissions produced in the Unites States. The cap would encourage investment in low-or zero carbon energy solutions by setting a firm and predictably increasing price for carbon pollution. Companies that needed to continue to pollute, a power plant for example, would buy the rights to do so from organizations that were cutting their emissions and didn’t need their rights. Companies would earn money buy cutting their carbon pollution, and the more they could cut, the more they could earn. The money from selling those rights would be used to invest in more low carbon solutions. This cap-and-trade process would use market forces of supply and demand to move energy production from carbon to non-carbon sources according to the report.
The second action area outlines a series of strategies to promote energy efficiency that would in many cases have a zero cost. Setting energy efficiency standards on appliances that would save consumers money is one example. Using the new appliance would cut energy costs by more than the cost of the appliance, resulting in lower costs and lower emissions. The third plank recommends a major federal effort to encourage new energy technology investment and create an energy innovation explosion similar to the technology revolution that transformed the economy in the 1990s. The final plank is a plan to maximize the amount or carbon taken back by forests and agricultural lands to help buy time for the plan’s other steps to cut into the rate of emissions. According to the report, an improved plan for managing these lands could absorb 500 million tons of carbon per year. A report by the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, a conference participant, states that the 500 million tons represents a third of all U.S. emissions.
The full report calls for a reduction in U.S. emissions of at least 80 percent by 2050, and says the solution is affordable and would rely for almost 60 percent of its funding on redirecting investments away from low efficiency into high efficiency areas. The report says that even using conservative numbers the total cost for the plan would be 1 percent of national GDP by 2030. “We have a really good idea of what the cost will be if we don’t act,” said Bales. “We don’t need to get more scared, what we need is the political will to turn this crisis into an opportunity. We believe that the work represented by this “Message to the Nation” can help define that opportunity.”