Almanack Contributor John Warren

John Warren

John Warren has been exploring the woods and waters of the Adirondacks for more than 45 years. After a career as a print journalist and documentary television producer he founded Adirondack Almanack in 2005 and co-founded Adirondack Atlas in 2015.

John's Adirondack Outdoors Conditions Report can be heard Friday mornings across the region on North Country Public Radio and on WSLP Lake Placid.

He is also on the staff of the New York State Writers Institute and edits The New York History Blog. He is the author of two books of regional history.


Thursday, May 14, 2009

Adirondack Mammals; The Whirlwind Tour

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.


Monday, April 27, 2009

NYC: Douglas Brinkley on Roosevelt, ‘Wilderness Warrior’

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 asantangelo@amnh.org.


Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Extinction: A Short History of Adirondack Beaver

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.


Monday, February 23, 2009

Opinion: Our Local Media is Killing Our Democracy

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.

NCPR’s political reporter Brian Mann ran a story entitled “Lightning-fast 20th race pits experienced Republican against a fresh-faced Democrat” – no mention of the other candidate, or links to his website, although the other two are linked. Then he told us on his blog:

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.


Tuesday, February 10, 2009

A Short History of Lows Lake on The Bog River

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.


Monday, February 9, 2009

Opinion: State Needs to Pay Its Fair Share

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.


Monday, December 29, 2008

Nature Conservancy, State Finalize Domtar Lands

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.


Monday, December 15, 2008

Adirondack Life Reports on Adirondack Blogs

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.


Thursday, December 11, 2008

Adk Climate Conference Final Message to Nation

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.”


Friday, December 5, 2008

‘I Have 18,000 acres in the Adirondacks;I’ll fly some of these cats up there in my private jet’

“I have 18,000 acres in the Adirondacks,” she said. “I’ll fly some of these cats up there in my private jet.”  That was the quote that lead me to an interesting post over at the Huffington Post by Laurence Leamer. At first I though the quote was about people – you know, like “hey, look at those hep cats – let’s fly them up to the Adirondacks on my private jet.” I was wrong – the cats were not hipsters, they were cats, feline.

The whole post is worth a read because it discusses the outrageous beliefs the wealthiest among us often have or condone. It’s not that they are the only ones – I hear the same kinds of idiocy from some of my neighbors – but it’s startling how public it is in the circles of the supposedly educated and cultured rich. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Discussion: An Adirondack Green New Deal

At the end of last month’s global warming conference a few participants were standing around talking philosophically about how to position the Adirondacks as a leader in the future green economy.

One local planner saw abandoned DOT lots along the Northway becoming park n’ rides, linked to local communities by bike and hiking paths, others envisioned them as green centers that connected mass transport, local information centers, and charging stations for locally produced energy. Someone else suggested painting a green stripe across every roadway that enters the Adirondacks – an unambiguous sign that you are entering a region where economics and the environment live hand and hand. Redraw the Blue Line as a Green Line.

SUNY Albany History Professor Lawrence S. Wittner, in a recent article at the History News Network, suggested that cuts in programs for education and healthcare proposed by Governor Patterson is the wrong way to climb out of our current economic recession. He pointed to the the inequities Adirondackers, and all New Yorkers, face:

The major reason the New York State budget is out of balance today—and has been intermittently for decades now—is that, for the last thirty years, the state has been cutting the tax rate for the top income New Yorkers. Specifically, driven by the desire to create a “business-friendly environment” in New York State, successive governors have succeeded in gradually lowering the tax rate for people in the top income bracket from 15.38 percent to 6.85 percent.

Thus, today, despite its liberal image, New York has a rather flat income tax rate, ranging from a low of 4 percent to a high of 6.85 percent… One of the state’s highly-respected think tanks, the Fiscal Policy Institute, estimates that a very small, temporary increase in the tax rates on the highest-income New Yorkers could yield as much as $7 billion per year—more than enough to cover the state’s projected fiscal woes.

Witner argues nothing less then that “government spending—and particularly spending that is funded by taxes on the wealthy—can also help to jump start the economy.” Witner connects his plan with the New Deal plans of FDR, which began with New York:

During the first years of the Great Depression, when Franklin Roosevelt served as governor, New York was one of the incubators of the New Deal’s Keynesian approach. A staunch backer of unemployment insurance, Roosevelt became the first governor in the nation to demand state aid for relief. Moreover, New York’s Temporary Emergency Relief Administration served as the first state relief agency in the country. Governor Roosevelt was also a keen advocate of expanding New York State’s investment in public power programs and of having the state buy up abandoned farms for the purpose of reforestation. In New York City, too, the municipal government reacted to the Great Depression by investing heavily in upgrading the city’s infrastructure. It established new (and free) city colleges like Brooklyn College (in 1930) and Queens College (in 1937), and opened its first city-owned subway line (in 1932).

So folks, if we need a New Deal, and we want it to be a Green New Deal led by our region – what proposals do you have?

What projects, small and large, can we do locally and regionally to advance a Green New Deal?


Monday, December 1, 2008

John Sheehan Responds to Attacks by Todd Shimkus

If you missed last week’s debate at the economic development symposium on the Northern Forest region at the Rockefeller Institute in Albany, you can see it the way it happened on YouTube here. The discussion featured Adirondack Council Executive Director Brian L. Houseal; Todd Shimkus of the Adirondack Regional Chamber of Commerce and Joe Short of the Northern Forest Center in New Hampshire.

The Northern Forest is a 70-million-acre swath of very big forests and very small towns ranging from Tug Hill, eastward through the Adirondack Park, northern Vermont, northern New Hampshire and to the coast of Maine. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, November 26, 2008

New Adirondack Photo Archive

Google and LIFE Magazine have teamed up to present the magazines photo archive online. Strangely, a search for Adirondack turned up next to nothing; a search for Adirondacks turns up a few more, including this shot of Albert Einstein on his sailboat at Saranac Lake 1936.  Additional search for specific places turned up a number of interesting photos like these from the Trudeau Sanatorium and these photos of the Governors Conference held at Lake George in 1954, 

The search problems and so far small number of local images aside, the archive does include iconic images taken by famous photographers like Margaret Bourke-White, Gordon Parks, and Dorothea Lange. The project is similar to “The Commons” launched by Flickr which now includes photos from the Library of Congress. LIFE has said that as many as 97 percent of the photographs have never been seen by the public before.


Monday, November 24, 2008

5 Questions: Ecology Minister Katharine Preston

I asked Katharine Preston of Essex five questions about her Ecology Ministry. Katharine came to the North Country almost four years ago from the Boston area but she has been coming to her family’s camp in the High Peaks for almost 60 years. You can reach her at katharine.preston@gmail.com.

AA: What is an “ecology ministry”?

KP: An Ecology Ministry is a lay ecumenical ministry of creation awareness and care with particular concern for the social justice ramifications of climate change. I am particularly influenced by reputable science, a more inclusive understanding of God’s love for all of creation (not just humans) and the compassion for justice modeled by Jesus. I seek to help others sort through the prophetic and pastoral implications of this.

AA: What is your background?

KP: I received a Master of Divinity degree in May, 2000 from Andover Newton Theological School, in Newton, MA, where I studied and explored the integration of ecological concepts with theology, ethics, biblical studies and pastoral counseling. I also hold a Master of Forest Science from Yale’s School of Forestry and Environmental Studies and spent 20 years working for government, non-profits and academia in the environmental field.

AA: What denomination is your ministry?

KP: I like to think of it as non-denominational, as we are all in this together and such divisions seem superfluous to me, given the peril of the planet.

AA: What does your ministry look like (congregation, building)?

No congregation or building. The ministry is my work: guest preaching, workshops and writing.

AA: What are most pressing issues facing faith based communities with regards to ecology?

The same as the rest of the human community and the planet: climate change. For the record – this is intimately tied up with the economic crisis. The two “ecos” are interrelated. An integrated response, such as a “Green New Deal” will be the most successful on all fronts.

The warnings from scientists and environmentalists seem to have had little effect toward transforming the consciousness of humans as to the changes needed. As communities of faith, we bring an indispensable and strong moral authority to the table. Although there are differences in theology and worship, all major religions agree on certain moral tenants such as the sacredness of the earth and concern for the less fortunate. We need to work together to help.

There is a lot to be done, and not much time before the planet as we know it is radically changed. In the north country, there are things we will be very sad to see go, like snow cover for half the winter or maples trees. But for others, it is already a matter of life or death.


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Bringing In Our Climate Change Friends

One of the interesting things to come out of this morning’s presentations was the idea that we need to involve all residents. In particular for municipalities that means fire, ambulance, police, and highway departments. After all, they, along with the local library and town hall, are often one of the single biggest energy users in many small towns. I’m afraid that aside from planning departments and some local government types, these folks have been absent from our discussions over the last day and half – that’s a testament to the need for better local education.

One of the things that really struck me came from Rhett Lamb, the Planning Director of the City of Keene, NH when he said “historic preservation people are our best friend.” It makes perfect sense. The carbon footprint of an old building must be better then starting from scratch, even with the cost of efficiency retrofits. The last thing we want to do is tear down old buildings and send them to the landfill, when we could reuse them and refit them with new technologies.

Check out the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s blog post “Combining Sustainability with Historic Conservation: the English Experience.” Here is quite a sentence:

Decades of neglect and little investment leads to slum clearance and wholesale redevelopment, while whole life costing tied to embodied carbon modeling has been using carbon calculations (15-20 years) assigned by bankers and investors that are likely less than the true value of our material culture. In terms of ecological sustainability, models suggest that melting ice caps will cause a breach of the Thames and catastrophic flooding of London.

Now that’s something historic preservationists need to be concerned with. The National Trust has been evaluating their properties with regards to climate for a number of years. Here’s more:

In England, they are specifically identifying impacts to their properties from warmer temperatures, drought, coastal erosion, storms, flash floods and heavy rainfall. At Stourhead in Wiltshire, for example, a very wet summer followed by a crisp, frosty winter led to a “soup of green algae” in their bucolic lake. It should be noted though that it wasn’t climate change alone that caused this algal bloom. The nitrogen run-off from synthetic fertilizers used in the region combined with the unusual rainfall have presented the perfect conditions for the algae growth – a sort of one/two whammy from human impact. One of the most arresting images, was the slide of historic cottages dropping off the side of cliffs in Cornwall as coastal erosion overwhelms the coastline. Again and again, Sarah showed devastation at their properties which may have been caused by increased rainfall but was often exacerbated by irresponsible land use.

The National Trust is taking direct action to mitigate these impacts, wherever it is reasonably possible. These efforts include:

1. Reduce emissions of greenhouse gases: Changing to low energy lightbulbs including the ubiquitous CFLs. But they’ve gone one step further by working directly with light bulb manufacturers to develop new low energy bulbs for their historic fixtures.

2. Improve energy efficiency of their buildings: Here, because of their massive landholdings, they are actually able to use their own sheep to produce thermafleece for insulation, for example.

3. Reduce carbon footprint: They are evaluating their fuel sources, changing to more efficient boilers (often developed by German companies) and avoiding the use of electricity from non-renewable resources.

4. Generate energy on site: They have begun using thermal and photovoltaics at many of their sites including directly on the roofs of some of the Grade 2 listed buildings. And on support buildings of lesser importance at some of their sites, they have begun installing the PV slates.

5. Reduce embodied energy: In an effort that Sarah calls “slow conservation” (which she compared to the “slow” food movement) they are looking to building new construction in ways more sympathetic to the environment.

In order to adapt to these climate induced changes, the National Trust is looking at short, medium and long term adaptations such as installing larger gutters, going back to traditional practices (these were often done for good reason) and most importantly, managing properties better with cyclical maintenance programs.

There is a lot more. Check it out before you give Adirondack Architectural Heritage a call.

More this afternoon.


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