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.
The Plattsburgh Press Republican is reporting today that this weekend meeting of top military brass included chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen, Sir Graham Stirrup of Britain’s Royal Air Force, German Army Gen. Wolfgang Schneiderhan, French Army General Jean-Louis Georgelin and Italian Air Force General Vincenzo Camporini. According to the paper:
Defense Department officials wouldn’t comment this weekend, but the day after the planes had left, Capt. John Kirby, a special assistant to Mullen, confirmed that the top military leaders from five countries met in Lake Placid to discuss mutual security issues, including Afghanistan.
“I’m not at liberty to go into the details that was discussed, but they went through a wide range of security issues that are common to all five nations,” Kirby said.
“They discussed, in broad terms, progress in Afghanistan and where we’re heading with regard to Afghanistan, particularly the NATO mission there. And they discussed other mutual issues of security concerns.”
Security was tight at the Whiteface Lodge and Resort [and Spa] — the site where the military leaders were rumored to have stayed, though the resort would not confirm that. He said the meeting is an annual event that is rotated amongst the countries.
The U.S. military picked Lake Placid because while it’s relatively close to Washington, D.C., it’s still fairly tranquil, Kirby said.
“They try to choose sites that are relatively quiet that allow these leaders to focus on the issues and not be distracted by other things.”
There you have it, apparently no hunting, just a meeting, held in a “relatively close to Washington” luxury resort and spa – sounds like a junket to me.
Among the passengers of a large Boeing 757 airplane with “United States of America” printed on its fuselage were top members of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff and their counterparts from France, Germany and another country, possibly Great Britain, according to Barry DeFuria, a town of Harrietstown councilman and Airport Committee member who was there when the plane landed. A top military delegation from Italy flew in on a separate Falcon airplane, DeFuria said.
One commenter on the story had this to say:
I had a wild crazy daydream, that Bush will finally play his trump card and pull Bin Laden off that plane parked here in Lake Clear. Maybe a week before the election to save the McCain campaign, once all the Iraq and Afghan coalition brass are assembled for the photo op.
Why are they here in the Adirondacks? An all expenses paid – by our tax dollars – hunting junket? An October surprise?
The DEC is requesting information from individuals who may have been hiking in the Indian Lake, Hamilton County, region of the Adirondacks earlier last week. A 71-year-old man named Frederick Gillingham from Camarillo, California, has been missing since approximately Sunday, October 12. He is 5’9″ and 165 pounds with thinning white hair, a white beard, glasses and is possibly wearing a pair of old, brown hiking boots in size 9. That’s a picture provided by the family at left. Since first being notified of the missing man’s disappearance on Wednesday, October 15, DEC Forest Rangers have been conducting search efforts with the assistance of New York State Police helicopters, search and rescue volunteers and search dogs. An incident command post has been created at the Indian Lake DEC facility and an 8,600-acre primary search area has been established.
Mr. Gillingham’s car was found at the Rock River trailhead on Route 30 in Indian Lake at DEC’s Blue Mountain Wild Forest on Wednesday. Evidence found at the man’s seasonal camp located nearby, as well as discussions with family members, indicates he may have been missing since last Sunday. Other than Mr. Gillingham’s car at the trailhead, no other evidence of Mr. Gillingham has been discovered to date.
DEC asks that any hiker, hunter or other visitor to the Indian Lake region in the past week who may have encountered Mr. Gillingham or have information on his whereabouts to please contact the DEC command post at 518-648-0108 or the DEC Ray Brook dispatch at 518-897-1300.
The Adirondack Council reserved its highest praise for Attorney General Andrew Cuomo and the Department of Environmental Conservation, while offering criticism to the federal government and State Senate in its 23rd Annual “State of the Park” report. The publication tracks the actions of local, state and federal officials who helped or hurt the ecological health or wild beauty of the Adirondack Park over the past 12 months.
A non-partisan environmental research, education and advocacy organization based in the Adirondack Park, the Adirondack Council is funded solely through private donations. It doesn’t accept government grants or taxpayer-funded contributions of any kind. The Council does not endorse candidates for public office. » Continue Reading.
The Adirondack Park Agency has rejected a proposal by the state Department of Environmental Conservation that would have allowed commercial floatplanes to continue to use Lows Lake for up to 10 years under a permit system. Agency commissioners rejected the plan 6-5. Neil Woodworth, executive director of the Adirondack Mountain Club, said the decision is not just a win for canoeists and kayakers who use Lows Lake, which straddles the Hamilton-St. Lawrence county border in the western Adirondacks. It is also a victory for anyone who cares about the future management of the Adirondack Forest Preserve, he said.
“There is much more at stake here than whether commercial floatplanes should be allowed on a particular Adirondack lake,” Woodworth said. “The real issue is whether DEC is bound by the provisions of the Adirondack Master Plan. APA said today that they are.”
In rejecting DEC’s proposal, APA commissioners followed the recommendations of APA counsel and staff, who concluded that the proposal was “inconsistent with the guidelines and criteria of the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan.” According to the Master Plan, which is part of state Executive Law, the “preservation of the wild character of this canoe route without motorboat or airplane usage … is the primary management goal for this primitive area.”
At 3,100 acres, Lows Lake is one of the larger lakes in the Adirondack Park. The lake stretches about 10 miles east to west and is the centerpiece of two wilderness canoe routes. Floatplanes were rare on Lows Lake until the mid-1990s. Sometime before 1990, non-native bass were illegally introduced into the lake, and as public awareness of the bass fishery grew, floatplanes and motorboat use increased.
In January 2003, when it signed the Bog River Unit Management Plan, DEC agreed to phase out commercial floatplane use of Lows Lake within five years, but the agency never developed the regulation to implement the ban. In May, ADK, the Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks, the Sierra Club and the Residents’ Committee to Protect the Adirondacks sued DEC. The lawsuit was adjourned while APA considered DEC’s proposed amendment to the Bog River UMP, which would have established a permit system for floatplane operators and limited flights into the lake.
APA’s decision to reject the amendment was supported by state law and regulation, including DEC’s 2005 regulation to ban motorboats on Lows Lake. DEC rejected a proposal to zone the lake to provide designated areas for motorboat use, noting that “it would not satisfy the legislative intent to manage the waterway ‘without motorboat or airplane use’ as set forth in the Master Plan.” DEC’s Regulatory Impact Statement for the regulation also refers to the Master Plan as a “legal mandate.”
APA also considered the 1994 UMP for the Five Ponds Wilderness Area that designated the lake as part of a wilderness canoe route. An Oct. 1 APA staff memo noted that that the canoe route was designated “for use by those primarily seeking a wilderness experience.”
DEC has argued that banning floatplanes from Lows Lake would cause financial hardship for the two floatplane businesses in the Adirondacks, but APA staff pointed out that economic considerations were irrelevant to compliance with the Master Plan. Steve Erman, APA’s economic adviser, said in a memo that DEC had provided “little information to indicate that either of these floatplane operations is truly at risk if flight operations to Lows Lake were halted.”
On the other hand, Erman noted that DEC failed to look at the potential economic benefits of paddling on outfitters, lodging, restautants and other businesses in the Adirondacks. “The economy of the Boundary Waters Area of northern Minnesota has been heavily promoted for paddling for years and it has become a significant economic generator,” he said.
Removing commercial floatplanes from Lows Lake will go a long way in bringing to fruition DEC’s goal of expanding “quiet waters” opportunities in the Adirondacks. Roughly 90 percent of the lake and pond surface in the Adirondack Park is open to motorized vessels.
“In light of the law and the recommendations of APA staff, the agency really had no choice but to reject DEC’s proposed amendment,” Woodworth said. “Now it is incumbent upon DEC to move forward on a regulation that will enhance the wilderness character of this important canoe route and prohibit floatplanes on Lows Lake before the 2009 season.”
In court papers, DEC agreed to promulgate regulations to ban floatplanes if its proposal were rejected by the APA. “If the agency (APA) determines that the proposed amendment does not conform to the Master Plan, this proceeding will likely become moot because DEC will then begin to promulgate regulations eliminating public floatplane access to Lows Lake,” according to a motion by Lawrence Rappoport of the state Attorney General’s Office.
Mining in the Adirondacks was labor-intensive, dangerous work. More than 250 mines and ore processing sites have operated over time in the region, extracting eleven different minerals. Ores from the Adirondacks fed a national hunger for iron as the country expanded in the late 1800s. Mining is a major Adirondack story, which has been covered in part here at the Adirondack Almanack (and then picked up by NCPR). This week the Adirondack Museum (which closes for the year Sunday FYI) announced that it will re-install its exhibit on Mining in the Adirondacks (expected to open in 2011). According to the Museum, “the extensive new interactive exhibition will tell powerful stories of people and the communities that grew around mines and forges.” As plans for the exhibit progress, the museum has formed a regional advisory committee to serve as a sounding board for curators and museum educators – unfortunately the advisory committee contains no experts on immigration or labor history and it should.
Various immigrant groups, African Americans, and Native Americans have a long history of laboring in Adirondack mines and related industries, and they should be represented in the Adirondack Museum’s planning. Often their stories have been left untold, just as they often went unnamed in local news reports.
In 1907, five unnamed miners – “Polanders, and it was impossible to learn their names” – where injured when the roof of a mine at Lyon Mountain caved in. Two men broke their legs and the other three were less seriously wounded.
“An Italian who was blown up at Tongue Mountain died Thursday,” one report noted. “He accidentally struck a stick of dynamite with a crowbar. The man’s left arm was blown off at the shoulder, there is a compound fracture of his right arm just above the hand, both eyes were blown out of his head, a stone was jammed against his heart and his head was bruised.” It was a remarkable that he wasn’t killed instantly.
The Adirondack Museum has a perfect opportunity to tell the stories of immigrant labor and others who labored in the mines, but they cannot do that properly without including historian of labor and immigration in the process. The museum claims it will convey the “the ebb and flow of a transient population of immigrant workers, work shifts, and company-sponsored social activities set the rhythm of life in mining towns.” The museum’s advisory committee includes a retired GE engineer, a retired mining executive, a retired mining engineer, a mining reclamation specialist, and lots of other bigwigs – but not a single miner; and that’s wrong.
Members of the Mining Advisory Committee include: Dick Merrill, retired General Electric engineer, historian and author from Queensbury, N.Y.; Scott Bombard, Graymont, Plattsburgh, N.Y.; Conrad Sharrow, retired college administrator and Dorothy Sharrow, retired elementary school teacher, Clifton Park, N.Y.; Vincent McLean, retired mining executive, Lake Placid, N.Y.; Gordon Pollard, professor SUNY Plattsburgh, and industrial archeologist; Carol Burke, professor, CAL-Irvine, oral historian, folklorist, and former Tahawus resident, Irvine, Ca.; Bob Meldrum, Slate Valley Museum, Granville, N.Y.; Don Grout, retired mining engineer, Lake Placid, N.Y.; Betsy Lowe, Director, DEC Region 5 and mining reclamation specialist, Lake Placid, N.Y.; and Adirondack Museum Board of Trustee members Rhonda Brunner, AuSable Forks, N.Y.; Gilda Wray, Keene Valley, N.Y.; and Glenn Pearsall, Johnsburgh, N.Y.
Mark Frauenfelder over at BoingBoing has a review of James Howard Kunstler’s new, World Made by Hand. A futuristic novel set in an an upstate New York town (somewhere in the Washington or Saratoga counties?), Kunstler’s book looks at what the world could be like in a future laid low by energy shortages and global warming. According to Frauenfelder’s review:
The story is told by Robert Earle, who used to be a software executive. Now he’s a hand-tool using carpenter living in a town in upstate New York without Internet, TV, or newspapers. The electricity comes on every couple of weeks for a few minutes at a time. When that happens, nothing’s on the radio but hysterical religious talk. Rumors of goings-on in the rest of the world are vague…
The story kicks off when Earle (who lost his wife and daughter in the plague and hasn’t seen his 19-year-old son since the boy took off a couple of years earlier to find out what’s happened in the rest of the country) is elected mayor and joins a search party to look for a freight boat and its crew, which disappeared on its way to Albany. Their horse-mounted odyssey takes them on a tour through a post-apocalyptic world of insanity, greed, kindness, corruption, and ingenuity.
While life in Kunstler’s world is lawless and harsh and populated with opportunistic characters that make Boss Tweed look like Glinda the Good, it’s not without charms. Local communities are active and productive. Neighbors all know each other and look after one another. People grow and trade their own produce and livestock, and meals are tasty — lots of buttery corn bread, eggs, chicken, vegetables, streaks, fish. They get together and play music a lot, and because people aren’t stuck in their living rooms watching TV, they actually attend live performances.
Kunstler has been a frequently discussed here at the Almanack; at Amazon you can buy World Made by Hand.
Next month, The Wild Center will be taking another important step with a another significant conference – American Response to Climate Change Conference: The Adirondack Model. This latest event follows-up on the national leadership meeting held this past June that addressed greenhouse gas abatement policies for the United States. This conference, however, will have a regional approach, with a focus on the Adirondacks. The work of the Adirondack Conference will, in part, be shaped by the research, findings and recommendations from the national conference. According to the website:
The primary conference objective will be to develop a Climate Action Plan for the Adirondacks. This will include specific action recommendations for individuals, communities, and enterprises; detailing climate change driven economic opportunities and benefits for region; concrete time-bound goals for efficiency improvements in buildings and transportation; alternative fuels and small scale power generation options; the role of Adirondack forests and natural systems mitigating greenhouse gas emissions; adaptation measures for local government and economics in changing climate; the role of local governments; policy recommendations for region and state; identification of priority messages and strategies for broad communication efforts; and the creation of an ongoing structure to forward action after the conference.
More than 150 leaders from businesses, local and state government, academia, Adirondack non-profits, and experts in climate mitigation in the areas of building efficiency, alternative fuel sources, small scale power generation technologies, transportation, natural systems and resources, rural areas and local economies.
The conference will take place on November 18th and 19th, 2008; Conservationist of the Year Bill McKibben will be a featured speaker.
BTW, on October 22nd, The Wild Center will announce, with its research partner the Wildlife Conservation Society and Jerry Jenkins, author of The Adirondack Atlas, a major research effort concerning impacts of climate change in the Adirondacks.
Congratulations Wild Center, for showing the way in making our region a leader in the discussions over local impacts to global warming.
I asked John Hammond, Executive Director of the Northern New York Library Network (NNYLN), five questions about the library consortium’s efforts to digitize northern New York newspapers. The NNYLN added its millionth page earlier this year. AA: What is the North New York Library Network?
JH: The Northern New York Library Network is a consortium of public, academic, school, and specialized libraries chartered in 1965 to improve library and research service to the people of the North Country. Our service area consists of Clinton, Essex, Franklin, St. Lawrence, Lewis, Jefferson, and Oswego counties. In addition to the Northern New York Historical Newspapers project, we support several other initiatives such as an online catalog of all the materials held in all the libraries in the region (ICEPAC) and a regional digital history project (North Country Digital History). All of our projects can be accessed from our main site: www.nnyln.org
AA: How many newspapers / pages do you currently have online?
JH: We currently have thirty-four newspaper titles online, totaling 1.2 million pages. The site has proven to be quite popular – for instance, there were 24,356,486 individual searches conducted on the site in the last twelve months. From the feedback we receive, it appears that researchers from all over the country find the site to be very useful.
AA: What’s the process you use to get the newspapers online?
JH: We use a Mekel automated scanner to scan previously microfilmed newspapers, and then run those results through Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software. When you enter a search term, you are actually searching the results of the OCRing, but then get to read the digital image of the actual newspaper article you’re interested in….with your search term highlighted on that page. We load both the images of the actual newspapers and the OCR results on servers here in the NNYLN office in Potsdam, NY.
AA: Who pays for the NNYLN Newspaper Project?
JH: Paying for a project of this magnitude is an ongoing challenge. The NNYLN paid the start-up costs from special projects funds, and we have been very fortunate to receive support from many sources, including the Lake Placid Education Fund, the New York State Library, the Friends of the Potsdam Public Museum, the St. Regis Falls Historians Association, the St. Lawrence County Genealogical Society, and many individual researchers who contribute using our online form.
AA: You must see a lot of newspapers – is there a favorite? Which one?
JH: Each newspaper has its own story to tell….they all did a wonderful job reporting local news over the years. Of course, since we are processing so many materials – some in better shape than others- we like those that are the most legible so that our efforts result in a product of greatest research value.
On Friday, the Appellate Division of State Supreme Court, 4th Department, ruled in the Dillenburg Case that the state may continue to make tax payments on state-owned land. The ruling will ultimately protect the Forest Preserve, local schools and governments, and the local economy.
In December of last year New York State Supreme Court Judge Timothy Walker issued an order throwing out payments in lieu of taxes for state lands. The move threatened to have a huge impact on towns, schools, and taxpayers in the region. Town of Inlet Supervisor J.R. Risley, said his town has about 400 year-round residents, 10,000 summer residents, and that 93 percent of the land is state-owned. The ruling was expected to double the town’s tax rate. Twenty-two percent of the Saranac Lake Central School District tax levy comes from taxes on state land – the number is fourteen percent in Tupper Lake. The ruling had been stayed while awaiting appeal – it was #2 on Adirondack Almanack’s Top Stories of 2007. » Continue Reading.
This marathon political season is coming to a close, so I thought I would survey the local Adirondack political scene online. By the way, Friday is the last day to register to vote.
Thanks to outrageous gerrymandering, the Adirondacks is split into a number of districts: 20th House – Kirsten Gillibrand (Blue Dog Dem) vs. Sandy Treadwell (Right Wing Repub)
23th House – John McHugh (Moderate Republican) vs. Mike Oot (Moderate Democrat)
24th House – Michael Arcuri (Conservative Dem) vs. Richard Hanna (Conservative Repub)
45th Senate – Betty Little (Conservative Republican) UNOPPOSED 47th Senate – Joseph Griffo (Cons. R) vs. Michael Boncella (Working Fam) 48th Senate – Darrel Aubertine (Mod. D) vs. David Renzi (Cons. R) 51st Senate – James Seward (Cons. R) vs. Don Barber (Mod. Dem)
112th Assembly – Ian McGaughey (D) vs. Tony Jordan (R) 113th Assembly – Teresa Sayward (Cons. R) UNOPPOSED 114th Assembly – Janet Duprey (R) UNOPPOSED 115th Assembly – David Townsend (Mod. R) vs. Daniel LeClair (Cons. R) 117th Assembly – Marc Butler (R) vs. Daniel Carter (D) 118th Assembly – Addie Jenne Russell (D) vs. Robert W. Cantwell III (R) 122nd Assembly – DeeDee Scozzafava (R) UNOPPOSED
Adirondack Almanack has several ways to follow the local political scene. You can read all the political blog posts here. You can also get our complete elections RSS feed here. Last year’s election round-up is here.
Here are the districts I tend to cover (I will endeavor to improve this list by the next election):
Connie Prickett is Director of Communications, for the The Nature Conservancy’s Adirondack Chapter & Adirondack Land Trust in Keene. I sent her five questions about the impending sale of more then 90,000 of the 161,000 acres of Finch Pruyn lands the Conservancy recently purchased; here are her responses. AA: Does this sale mean that all 90,500 acres will be logged off?
CP: The lands are being offered for sale subject to a conservation easement that specifies the land will be managed on a sustainable basis for forest products; restricts both private and commercial development; and will provide for some public access in the future. The objective is to keep these lands as commercial working forests. The property is currently managed under two “green” certifications: Forest Stewardship Council and Sustainable Forestry Initiative. Maximum annual harvest levels are determined by things like soil, slope, species composition, and growing conditions. There is a fiber supply agreement in place that requires pulp wood from this property to go to the Finch Paper mill in Glens Falls, New York. » Continue Reading.
There is news this week that two corporate giants – Verizon and Wal-Mart – are suing their local host communities to reduce their taxes.
That’s Verizon, the second-largest US telecom firm, who reported profits of 1.9 billion dollars in July, 2008. And Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer, who reported profits of nearly 3.5 billion in August.
“The margin of profit is very high here,” Ticonderoga Town Supervisor Bob Dedrick told NCPR’s David Sommerstein. But that doesn’t matter to Wal-Mart, which has already been skipping out on their taxes in a “payment in lieu of taxes” agreement for the past ten years. They’re seeking an assessment that’s less then half of what it is now (about $30,000 less in town taxes). Ticonderoga has a population of about 5,500 – countless others shop in the store from the eastern Adirondacks. By the way, Dedrick has been an outspoken supporter of the big box stores that have helped ruin local business in Ticonderoga – he once took a busload of local citizens to APA headquarters in Ray Brook to support the Ticonderoga Lowe’s. “We have had extreme support on this. APA, here we come,” he told local media at the time. Those will be famous last words – now he says “as far as corporate Wal-Mart; I’m pretty disgusted.” How about an apology to your neighbors Mr. Dedrick?
Over in Hebron, Washington County, Verizon’s four parcels are worth about $593,848 in fair market value, according to the town assessor. The company, however, wants that figure lowered by $246,000. That’s about $87,000 per parcel – quite a real estate bargain. “It doesn’t add up to a whole lot of money, but it’s a lot for a small town,” Hebron Supervisor Brian Campbell told the Post Star, ” “It’s just amazing. What an easy way out of paying taxes, if they can do it.”
We all know that these two companies have a virtual monopoly in their sectors in our region. Their profits are not limited to their hosts communities, but their costs do range far and wide: county services for underpaid employees, local emergency services, road and highway maintenance, and more. These are the costs we all pay.
Then consider last month’s U.S. Government Accountability Office’s study that found that the majority of U.S. corporations don’t pay federal income taxes: “The GAO’s study found that over 60 percent of U.S. corporations—with revenue totals of more than US $2.5 trillion—did not pay federal income taxes.” Of course the study didn’t mention which companies, and one wonders where Verizon and Wal-Mart stand on that account. According to media reports, “The GAO found that 25 percent of all large corporations did not owe federal taxes in 2005. A large corporation is defined as a company with more than $250 million in assets.”
Add to those costs the $700 Billion of the CURRENT round of corporate bailouts (roughly $4,000 per individual income tax filer) – and who knows what corporate gifts lie ahead.
So much for that $600 so called “stimulus check” that went out this year.
In April a friend of the Almanack, Jim Muller over at WinterCampers.com, entered a national contest sponsored by Timex called Return to the Outdoors. Jim entered the Winter Campers poem “I Am Not Going To Lie to You” and it has advanced to the final round.
There are two days left to vote (today and tomorrow) for this final round. In this final round the Winter Campers poem is competing for an adventure trip for two to San Juan Islands/WA, Moab/UT, or Aspen/CO.
North Country Public Radiois reporting that Fort Ticonderoga’s longtime executive director Nick Westbrook will step down (Post Star says next year). According to the report board president Peter Paine says Westbrook will remain “affiliated with the historic site in a scholarly and advisory capacity” and described the move as “part of a planned transition.”
Ongoing controversy over the loss of the Fort’s most important benefactor has been covered at length on the New York History Blog before. This weekend the New York Timescovered the story:
This summer, the national historic landmark — called Fort Ti for short — began its 100th season as an attraction open to the public with two causes for celebration: the unveiling of a splashy new education center, and an increase in visitors, reversing a long decline.
But instead of celebrating, its caretakers issued an S.O.S., warning that the fort, one of the state’s most important historic sites, was struggling for survival, largely because of a breach between the fort’s greatest benefactor — an heir of the Mars candy fortune — and its executive director.
The problem is money: The fort had a shortfall of $2.5 million for the education center. The president of the board that governs the fort, which is owned by a nonprofit organization, said in an internal memo this summer that the site would be “essentially broke” by the end of the year. The memo proposed a half-dozen solutions, including the sale of artwork from the group’s collection.