Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Commentary: Land-Banking is Poor Public Policy

It is purposefully difficult to change our Constitution. In thinking about Article XIV of the New York State Constitution, the “Forever Wild” clause, amendments have to undergo tests in two separately elected legislatures. Ill or hastily considered measures to weaken or dilute its legal mandate to ensure a wilderness forever in the Catskills and Adirondacks are weeded out. Overly complex measures are tied up in committee.

Ultimately, the voting public decides whether an amendment constitutes a significant shift away from the mandate of 1894, which is to make the Forest Preserve safe from exploitation as an enduring wilderness for people and wild nature, and a haven for the ultimate expression of our human partnership with nature. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, June 26, 2010

APA Extends Comment Period For Jessup River UMP

The Adirondack Park Agency (APA) has extended the public comment period for the Jessup River Wild Forest Unit Management Plan (UMP) amendment. The APA will continue to accept public comments on Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan (APSLMP) compliance for the Jessup River Wild Forest unit management plan (UMP) amendment until August 2, 2010. A proposed final UMP amendment was completed by the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). It was subject to a series of public meetings and public input. The Agency will accept public comments on the proposals contained in the UMP amendment until 12:00 PM on August 2, 2010.

This amendment addresses changes to the Jessup River Wild Forest snowmobile trail system. Proposals are in accordance with DEC and APA adopted snowmobile trail guidance and the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan. Jointly adopted guidance established a “community connector” snowmobile trail class. Community connector trails can be 9-feet in width which is one foot wider than previously allowed under DEC snowmobile trail maintenance policy. The new guidance also calls for the elimination of trails that lead onto ice-covered water bodies and dead-end trails while promoting snowmobile trails near the periphery of Wild Forest units.

The Jessup River Wild Forest lies in the south-central Adirondack Park. It sits entirely within Hamilton County in the Towns of Arietta, Wells, Indian Lake, Lake Pleasant and the Village of Speculator. The DEC estimates the size of the planning area at 47,350 acres. The area includes Snowy Mountain, the highest peak in the southern Adirondacks – elevation 3,899 feet, more than 24 ponds and lakes – the largest being Fawn Lake and approximately 73 miles of rivers including parts of the Cedar, Indian, Jessup, Miami and Sacandaga rivers.

The UMP amendment is available for viewing or downloading from the Adirondack Park Agency website.

All written comments pertaining to State Land Master Plan compliance should be addressed to:

Richard Weber, Assistant Director, Planning
Planning Division, Adirondack Park Agency
P.O. Box 99
Ray Brook, NY 12977

Or e-mail: [email protected]

The Adirondack Park Agency Board is currently scheduled to consider a compliance determination on the Jessup River Wild Forest UMP amendment at the August 12 and 13 Agency meeting. Any written comments received by 12:00 PM on August 2, 2010 will become part of the public record. Written comments received after 12:00 PM on August 2, 2010, will be provided to Agency Board members on meeting day but will not be part of the Agency meeting materials mailed to the members or posted on the APA website.


Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Dave Gibson: Remembering Paul Schaefer

I was privileged to know Paul Schaefer for nearly a decade at the close of his life. He was my early mentor in all things Adirondack. In 1987 I was fortunate to have been selected executive director of the Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks, the organization Paul served as a Vice-President. Each Friday I would try to stop by his house to learn more about his and Adirondack history. John Warren’s piece about the Moose River Plains suggests the great influence Paul had in preventing the Plains from being flooded by the proposed Higley and Panther Mountain dams.

Among the highlights in my career was seeing Paul presented with the Governor’s Environmental Achievement Award in 1994 – just one of many recognitions he received in 65 years of tireless, leading work for wilderness conditions in the Adirondacks.

For those who don’t know, Paul Schaefer’s coalitions not only preserved the Moose River Plains, but 30 other valleys from inundation by dams in the 1940s and 50s; saved the Upper Hudson River from four large dams in the 1960s, the largest of which would have flooded the valley all the way to Newcomb; and fought and achieved designated Wilderness and Wild, Scenic and Recreational River legislation in the 1970s, among many other achievements.

Paul Schaefer hunted white-tailed deer every fall in the Siamese Ponds Wilderness Area near his Adirondack cabin, a hunting club which he founded in 1931. He always credited the sportsmen and women of New York State, and their organized clubs united within the NYS Conservation Council, for providing legions of people who would stand up to save wild Adirondack habitat threatened by the dam builders, and to support wilderness preservation.

Joe Martens, Gov. Mario M. Cuomo’s Secretary for Energy and the Environment, called me one day in 1994 to give me advance notice that Paul Schaefer, then 85, would be receiving the Governor’s award, and asking for background. Joe knew Paul pretty well himself. It was decided to present the award as part of a well-attended conference we were sponsoring in honor of the Centennial of Article XIV of the NYS Constitution (known as the Forever Wild clause). The conference was to be held at the YMCA Silver Bay Conference Center on Lake George.

On the big day in early October, the conference was going full-tilt with speakers and panelists. Bob Bendick, then a DEC Deputy Commissioner, was in the middle of a presentation when we all heard the whop-whop-whop of a helicopter over by the lake. Everybody knew the Governor was arriving, and Bob understood it was pointless for him to continue. “I feel like the warm-up band to the Rolling Stones,” he told us, and everybody made for the doors. Out on the great lawn above Lake George stood the State chopper, blades still rotating. The Governor emerged with his small entourage and, surrounded, slowly made his way to Morse Hall where the award presentation would take place.

All were in their seats, chaos had given way to order, and introductions made. The mood was electric, the applause for the Governor resounding. His speech was pure Mario. Joe Martens had prepared him well. Departing frequently from his prepared remarks, the Governor humorously and eloquently painted a picture of Paul Schaefer and all he had contributed to the Adirondacks, to the wilderness of the great Empire State. The Governor also humorously reminded us that even those Republicans in the North Country who might be inclined to vote for him that fall would suffer a “palsy” when they reached for the Democratic lever.

When he was done, Cuomo asked Paul to join him on the podium to accept the award. All his life, Paul instinctively knew when to make a stand, and when to speak. A year earlier, in 1993, Paul rose to speak after Governor Cuomo during a bill signing ceremony on Lake Champlain. The audience had held its collective breath at this breach of protocol, but to Paul this was simply getting in critical points at the right moment – when they would be remembered.

Now, Paul took the stage to present Governor Cuomo with, of all things, a beaver gavel! Paul’s friend Ken Rimany had fashioned this for Paul, taking a beaver chew as the gavel’s head and fashioning it tightly onto a stick from a beaver dam, and then writing the words of Article 14 on the gavel’s head. Paul told the Governor how all his life he had admired the beaver, the state’s finest and sole wilderness engineer, and that only the beavers, meeting in secret, could have engineered this gavel for the Governor. Cuomo smiled but, not to be outdone, he responded “any beaver can make a beaver gavel, Paul, but only a Governor can present a Governor’s award.”

The exchange made, the Governor departed, leaving us to wonder about his political fate, and leaving Paul time to gather with some friends to tell tales and, as Paul was inclined to say, “add it all up.” It was Paul’s final award. He died on July 14, 1996 following surgery on a knee he had damaged decades earlier while investigating caves along the shores of the Upper Hudson River during his successful efforts to preserve the Hudson Gorge from flooding. He and his wife Carolyn are buried in the Keene Cemetery. His spirit has inspired all of us who knew him to continue his work and extend his legacy on behalf of the New York State Forest Preserve in the Adirondack and Catskill Mountains.

Photo: New York Governor Mario Cuomo presents the Governor’s Environmental Achievement Award to Paul Schaefer in 1994.


Friday, June 11, 2010

Lobbyists Gut Phosphorus Fertilizer Legislation

A bill that would have limited the sale of phosphorus-based fertilizers linked to algae blooms has been gutted by lobbyists’ pressures on legislators.

Among other things, the new version of the bill would prohibit municipalities from enacting stronger regulations without the authorization of the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).

“This was a compromise; the industry did not want local governments passing more restrictive laws once a statewide law was enacted,” said a source within the DEC. “The agriculture community is freaking out about the bill as it stands now,” the source added.

Dan Macentee, a spokesman for Betty Little, Lake George’s representative in the State Senate, confirmed that additional amendments were being drafted to address the concerns of the New York State Farm Bureau. Those amendments are likely to weaken the bill even further, a Senate source said. “The bill’s sponsor, Senator Antoine Thompson, is amenable to amending even his own bills,” said the Senate source. A spokesman for the New York Farm Bureau did not return calls seeking comment before press time.

The current version of the bill restricts the use of fertilizers containing phosphorus within twenty feet of a water body, rather than prohibiting the sale of fertilizers with phosphorus throughout the state, as last year’s version of the bill did.

Prohibiting the use of fertilizers with phosphorus is a crucial step in protecting Lake George’s water quality, said Peter Bauer, executive director of the Fund for Lake George. “Legislation to control phosphorus pollution from household cleaning products and lawn fertilizers is critical to help manage and reduce water pollution. Lake George is enormously important to the local economy. Lake George’s high property values, robust tourism season, sport fishing and boating industries, all require clean water,” said Bauer. If the current version of the bill is enacted, New York State’s regulation of phosphorus would be far weaker than a town-wide ban proposed by Lake George Supervisor Frank McCoy, said Bauer.

The Town of Lake George will consider the proposal as early as June 14, when it is scheduled to conduct a public hearing on the proposed ban. If the ordinance is adopted, Lake George will not only be the first town within the watershed to limit phosphorus, but the first community within the Adirondack Park to take that step.

Lake George Town officials officials have posted a survey on the Town’s website to solicit comments about the proposal. The survey will be found on the left side of the site under the heading “Give us your opinion,” along with a conceptual description of the proposal. Opinions submitted through the website will be presented at the public hearing, said McCoy.

Illustration courtesy Lawn to Lake, a program of the Lake Champlain Basin Program.

For more news from Lake George, subscribe to the Lake George Mirror


Tuesday, May 25, 2010

APA Seeks Public Comment on General Tower Permitting

The Adirondack Park Agency (APA) is proposing a new general permit entitled “Installation of New or Replacement Telecommunications Towers at Existing Agency Approved Sites.” According to APA press materials, this will be a General Permit which “will allow for an expedited review of certain types of telecommunications projects at sites where the Agency has previously issued telecommunications permits and where the Agency has reviewed visual analyses prepared for the approved projects.”

The general permit would cover the following types of proposed projects park wide:

1) the installation of one new telecommunications tower in the immediate proximity of an existing telecommunications structure approved by the Agency and where the existing access drive and utility infrastructure are used to the greatest extent practicable; and

2) the replacement of a pre-existing telecommunications tower or a telecommunications tower previously approved by the Agency to address structural deficiencies of the existing tower in order to accommodate co-location of an additional telecommunications provider on said structure; with potential for some de-minimus increase in height.

According to APA staff, the concept for this general permit came about after consultations with cellular companies, elected officials and agency staff. Projects eligible under this General Permit would not result in significant adverse changes in the overall visibility of the tower site as seen from public viewing points, according to the APA.

This action is a SEQRA, Type 1 action. A negative declaration and Full Environmental Assessment Form has been prepared by the Agency and is on file at its offices in Ray Brook, New York. The proposed General Permit, application and certificate forms are available for review on the Agency’s website at www.apa.state.ny.us/.

All persons and agencies are invited to comment on this proposed project in writing or by phone no later than June 28, 2010.

Please address written comments to:

Holly Kneeshaw, Acting Deputy Director Regulatory Programs

NYS Adirondack Park Agency
P.O. Box 99
1133 NYS Route 86
Ray Brook, NY 12977

Photo: A Mass of communication towers atop Prospect Mountain overlooking Lake George. Photo by John Warren.


Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Adirondack Family Activities: Paddle on Osgood Pond

My husband and I are alone. My daughter is worried as she goes off to a play date that we will be lonely. We are soon in the middle of a pond, completely alone. There are no young voices yelling to see a cobweb, bug, rock, or floating stick. There are never long moments of silence. The dynamic children bring to any activity can fill the air and allow one to see things differently. The enthusiasm for the simplest of things is refreshing.

That said, they also have the ability to vacuum the positive energy right out of a given situation with life altering decisions like they no longer like bread while dramatically claiming starvation at the same time they wave a sandwich overhead. Another way is when they have to go to the bathroom only after being life-jacketed and paddling in the middle of a lake no matter how many times they are asked beforehand to take care of business. It happens and we survive but during all the drama I am not always tuned into the hermit thrush’s call.

One easy place to relax is a leisure paddle on Osgood Pond though be warned if fishing is on your agenda that the pond is still under advisory for mercury. The Department of Environmental Conservation publishes a fish advisory regarding the consumption of fish caught in the Adirondacks.

There are three different advisories: The statewide advisory, advisories for children less than 15 years old and for women that are pregnant or might become pregnant and specific advisories for the Adirondack Park. For children and those expecting mothers please heed the warning and do not consume any fish from the list of lakes and ponds under advisory for mercury. According to a 2005 PBS report one in six children born each year are exposed to mercury which, when exposed in high doses, may cause learning disabilities, short-term memory loss and impaired motor skills. So if the warnings apply to you please practice “catch and release” or just enjoy the quiet.

An easy entry to Osgood Pond is the Osgood Pond Waterway Access on White Pines Rd. on Route 86. This pond does not allow personal watercrafts which only adds to our quest for quiet. We put in the canoe and hit an easy pace that is unmatched with children. We glide through the shallow weedy water startling a mother merganser. She attempts to lure us away from the shore. We are happy to oblige.

I don’t want to get philosophical on the joys of parenting. It is a pleasure and a joy. Still, there is a part of me that wistfully listens to the wanderings of my childfree friends. So for today I enjoy a few hours of quiet while my children are invited elsewhere. Today the only constant stream of chatter is that going on is inside my head.

It is a unique situation for us to be surrounded by still. Even the wind is taking a reprieve. Later we will describe the snapping turtles, calm water and gentle call of the hermit thrush to the kids. It will be some time before my daughter understands the difference between being lonely and being alone.


Monday, May 17, 2010

A Final Design for West Brook, Gaslight Village Project

Three Lake George environmental conservation groups have released a final design for the West Brook Gaslight Village Project, a stormwater treatment system that will be located on the parcel on the south side of West Brook. Dubbed the “West Brook Conservation Initiative,” the Lake George Association, the FUND for Lake George and the Lake George Land Conservancy, have been working together to develop the project under the terms of a conservation easement they jointly hold with three municipal partners: the town and the village of Lake George, and Warren County.

The final plan includes restored wetlands and an environmental park that will be built on 4.9 acres south of West Brook Road where the Charley’s Saloon building stands south of the former Gaslight Village. The entire 12-acre project represents one of the most important conservation efforts in Lake George’s history, according to advocates. Designed by the Chazen Companies, the plan for the south parcel of the property will restore wetlands to naturally slow stormwater generated from the Route 9 corridor and adjoining properties, capture sediment and filter pollutants which currently make there way to a growing delta at the mouth of West Brook.

Due to the filling of historic wetlands, channeling of the stream, and development in the stream’s watershed, West Brook today is the single largest source of contaminant — pollution, nutrients and sediment — entering the south basin of Lake George. The delta at the mouth of the brook has grown to over 7,000 square meters. The land was once part of the Delaware & Hudson Railroad Yards, and later a string of attractions related to the property next door which housed Gaslight Village from 1959 to 1989.

The project will feature a settling pond to trap and retain sediment, a shallow marsh where wetland plantings will store and treat run-off, and a gravel wetland where dense root mats, crushed stone and a microbe rich environment will improve the water quality before it is conveyed to West Brook. Environmental engineers believe that the best way to treat stormwater is through natural processes of wetlands, where water is captured and retained for a period of time and allowing sediment and nutrients to be dropped out as the water is cleansed.

Project engineers estimate that 90% of the sediment will be successfully treated by this system and over one-half of the nutrients will be removed. The wetland systems are designed to also provide an open environmental park, with interpretative signage, nature trails, elevated walkways, a pavilion, an outdoor classroom, gazebo, overlooks and picnic areas for the general public.

”This project will capture and treat millions of gallons of stormwater that annually flow into the lake untreated,” Peter Bauer, executive director of the FUND for Lake George, said. The project has been carefully designed to require minimal or no maintenance according to Bauer including the use of drought resistant meadow-like grasses will require no mowing, watering or fertilizing. Minimal mowing is expected to be necessary in selected areas close to West Brook Road for aesthetic purposes, although the grass seed to be used there is a mix of fescues that will produce a low-growing and drought tolerant grass. New native plants, shrubs and trees will require little or no weeding, pruning or fertilizing. Periodically – after a few years of maturity – the wetland plantings will need to be thinned and excess plant materials removed.

Some $200,000 in state and federal funding will be used to complete the construction of the project, but money is still needed to repay for the land. In addition to the $2.1 million loan on the Gaslight Village purchase by the LGA and the FUND, the Lake George Land Conservancy is carrying a $2.7 million loan on the 1,400-acre Berry Pond tract, which protects the upland watershed for West Brook.

Demolition of Charley’s Saloon is expected to begin in mid-June, following the conclusion of Americade; construction of the storm water management complex will begin after the Adirondack Nationals Car Show in early September.


Friday, May 14, 2010

Tracing Scouting’s Origins to Silver Bay on Lake George

The Boy Scouts of America has been called the largest environmental organization in the country, and its handbook a conservation best seller.

That both were launched one hundred years ago on Lake George, at Silver Bay, might have remained forgotten were it not for the work of a fifteen year old film maker from Latham.

Blake Cortright’s “First Encampment,” a documentary about the Scouts’ first camp at Silver Bay, will be shown on the Capital District’s WMHT on May 29 and on other public television stations later this year.

In 1910, representatives of boys’ groups from across the country gathered at Silver Bay to create an experimental camp devoted to the teaching of outdoor and leadership skills.

Among them were Dan Beard and Ernest Thompson Seton, both writers, editors and illustrators who were friends of the vigor-worshiping Theodore Roosevelt.

At the end of a trail through the woods, the groups set up camp and built an amphitheater they called the Council Ring, where the Boy Scouts of America came into being around the blazing fires.

(Seton, who wrote the Boy Scout Handbook, designed the Scouts’ uniform at the site.)

“I would not have known about the First Encampment had our troop not made a pilgrimage to Silver Bay in 2008 to trace the roots of scouting,” said Cortright, an Eagle Scout himself.

At the very same Council Ring, Silver Bay volunteer and historian Robert James regaled the scouts with the tale of the organization’s birth.

“For forty five minutes, the kids listened with rapt attention,” said Cortright.

That presentation was the germ of the documentary, which relies upon James’ research and features interviews with him at his home in Slingerlands.

Silver Bay’s archives provided many of the early 20th century photos illustrating the narrative, much of it delivered by John Kearny.

Kearny, a Lake George steamboat captain, actor and voice-over artist, was recruited by his son Kyle, a scouting friend of Cortright’s.

Once the documentary was completed, Cortright’s mother Connie made certain that it was seen.

“I made a cold call to WMHT and persuaded the staff to watch it,” said Connie. “They called back a month later and said they were prepared to put it on the air. I didn’t realize at the time how difficult it is to get something broadcast.”

“First Encampment” is Cortright’s first documentary, but unlikely to be his last. He hopes to go film school.

“I learned everything by doing it backwards, but it was a wonderful experience,” said Cortright.

The “First Encampment” DVD may be purchased online at http://www.thefirstencampment.com and at local bookstores.

For more news from Lake George, subscribe to the Lake George Mirror


Monday, May 3, 2010

APA Offers Sustainable Forestry Programs

Nearly six billion people inhabit our planet and depend on trees for materials to build houses, produce paper, assemble furniture and to simply stay warm. This results in tremendous pressure on the world’s forests and has necessitated the establishment of sustainable forestry management practices.

Sustainable forestry management refers to the attempt to achieve balance between society’s increasing demands for forest products and benefits with the preservation of forest health and diversity. Sustainable forestry management is defined as the stewardship and use of forests and forest lands in a way, and at a rate, that maintains their biodiversity, productivity, regeneration capacity, vitality and their potential to fulfill, now and in the future, relevant ecological, economic and social functions, at local, national, and global levels, and that do not cause damage to other ecosystems.

Growing environmental awareness and consumer demand for more socially responsible businesses helped third-party forest certification emerge in the 1990s as a credible tool for communicating the environmental and social performance of forest operations. These independent organizations develop standards of good forest management, and through independent auditors issue certificates to forest operations that comply with standards. Certification verifies that forests are well-managed and ensures that certain wood and paper products come from responsibly managed forests.

Today more than 45 certification systems exist worldwide with the American Tree Farm System, Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) and the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) most active in New York State and the Adirondack Park. All three of these organizations require compliance with all applicable Federal, State and Local laws in order to receive certification.

The first step to complying with applicable laws is identification of those laws. While forest management activities are not generally regulated by the Adirondack Park Agency, certain forestry uses may trigger Park Agency jurisdiction. To assist forestry professionals and landowners identify applicable laws in their certification efforts, agency staff developed an educational program titled “Promoting Systematic Forest Management Environmental Compliance.”

This program reviews applicable Agency laws and regulations for jurisdictional activities such as: clear cutting, shoreline restrictions, wetlands and Forestry Uses on lands classified as Resource Management. It covers the Adirondack Park Agency Act, NYS Wild, Scenic and Recreational Rivers Act and the NYS Freshwater Wetlands Act.

The program is designed for a wide range of forestry professionals and landowners including loggers, foresters, private non-industrial and industrial forest landowners, auditing entities and raw material consumers. It contains valuable information not only for those seeking certification, but also anyone who may be undertaking forest management activities within the Adirondack Park.

To schedule a program presentation, please contact the Adirondack Park Agency at 518.891.4050.


Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Conference on Winter Road Maintenance Set for May 17th

AdkAction.org and the Adirondack Council will sponsor an inter-organizational meeting at Paul Smith’s College at 10 a.m. on May 17th to discuss ways to solve the growing problem of winter road salt damage in the Adirondack Park.

Two recent studies, Review of Effects and Costs of Road De-icing with Recommendations for Winter Road Management in the Adirondack Park [more], and Low Sodium Diet, Curbing New York’s Appetite for Damaging Road Salt [more], that were underwritten by the conference sponsors document the damage done by our current winter road maintenance procedures.

The latest study by the Adirondack Watershed Institute under sponsorship of AdkAction.org compares peer-reviewed literature from around the world and reports specific cost and damage assessments, along with recommended changes in practices that could dramatically reduce the environmental impact of winter road treatment without increasing costs or reducing safety. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, April 25, 2010

Lake George Association Annouces 2010 Events

The Lake George Association (LGA), now celebrating its 125th anniversary, has announced its 2010 summer schedule of ecology educational programs for the public. The LGA is the oldest lake association in the United States, and one of the oldest non-profit conservation organizations in New York.

Families, schools, businesses and individuals interested in preserving the Lake George region for future generations are invited to join the LGA for one or more of many educational offerings this summer; most are free of charge.

Free family hands-on water ecology programs will take place on Thursday mornings from 10-11 am; topics include Lake Invaders, Creek Critters and Fish Food.

Lake lovers of all ages are invited to participate in on-lake learning adventures aboard the LGA’s Floating Classroom. Trips for the public will take place on Thursday mornings in July and August at 11 am, leaving the dock at Shepard Park in Lake George.
Additional times are available for groups.

Four free workshops, entitled Landscaping with Native Plants, Aquatic Invasive Plants – Do’s and Don’ts, Water Conservation, and Lawn Care and Pest Management will be offered on four Saturday mornings this summer.

The public is also invited to participate in two clean-ups – one at West Brook and the other on Log Bay, and in LGA’s annual loon census count on July 17.

The organization’s 125th annual meeting, open and free to all, will take place on Friday, August 20 at 11 am at the Lake George Club. Reservations are required for the annual meeting and for the floating classroom trips.

A complete schedule of events can be found here.


Thursday, April 22, 2010

Thinking Adirondack Birds On Earth Day

On this Earth Day of 2010 I find myself thinking. First, thinking of the abuses this planet has taken and is still taking. Then I think of some of the more positive things that we have witnessed, as we slowly bring about the changes this planet needs…”Be the change that you want to see in the world”-Gandhi

I recently “rediscovered ” a book I have entitled Important Bird Areas of New York
and as I paged though it I came to a map depicting all the Important Bird Areas(IBA) of northern New York. Looking closely at the map it shows all the IBA’s in small gray circles. Some bigger, some smaller. Each one designating a large IBA or a smaller IBA.

Then I got out my calculator and started adding up the number of acres each IBA contained. To my surprise, in an area that runs north of the NYS Thruway and bound by Lake Champlain on the east, Lake Ontario on the West, and the St Lawrence River to the north, I count over 902,000 acres designated as IBA.

Now this is just an estimate-it could be greater. But smack dab in the middle of all these gray circles of IBA’s sits our Adirondack Park. Some areas within the Blueline are IBA’s but looking at the big picture we can take a calming breath knowing that over 2 million acres are protected for birdlife (and other forms of wildlife of course) in our “park”.

This was truly an eye-opener when I recently looked at a map showing all the IBA’s in the United States. If you look at the upper right corner of the map you see a large green blob. That’s the protected Adirondack Park with all it’s avian inhabitants. Pretty cool when you consider the size of the blob in relation to all the other blobs on the map.

But what does this afford us? Well for one thing it gives recognition that we have something unique here in our own backyards. We have a Park that encompasses over 12 different critical habitats that wildlife need, ranging from endangered alpine summits to precious peatland bogs and wetlands that provide habitat to millions of organisms.

Birds have depended on these habitats of the Adirondacks for thousands of years. Bicknell’s thrush can safely raise young in the thickets of spruce-fir forest on our mountains; spruce grouse may get a second chance at survival in our carefully managed forests; olive-sided flycatchers can seek out protected wetlands as they return from a 2,000 mile spring journey from a tropical rainforest; and rusty blackbirds, though numbers severely depleted, can still find habitat in our acreage.

We may never see the day when all the “green blobs” on the IBA map will meld into one big blob, but it’s nice to know that we are trying.

Photo credit: Savannah Sparrow-Brian McAllister


Monday, April 5, 2010

League of Conservation Voters’ 2009 Environmental Scorecard

New York’s congressional delegation ranks sixth in the nation for its votes on key clean energy and environmental legislation according to the the national League of Conservations Voters’ 2009 National Environmental Scorecard. For 30 years, the National Environmental Scorecard has been used to rate members of Congress on environmental, public health and energy issues.

The 2009 Scorecard includes 11 Senate and 13 House votes dominated by clean energy and climate but also encompassing other environmental issues such as public lands, water and wildlife conservation. In New York, 20 House members and both senators earned a perfect 100 percent score in 2009 – more than two thirds of the delegation. U.S. Rep. Chris Lee, representing the 26th District in Western New York, had the lowest score in the state, at 14 percent. New York’s average House score was 88 percent, up from 81 percent last year. New York’s average House score ranked sixth in the U.S. Scott Murphy of the 20th Congressional District earned a score of 88; John McHugh (previously of the 23rd CD) scored 67 with his congressional replacement Bill Owens garnering 100 percent so far.

The New York delegation scores are as follows. The full 2009 National Environmental Scorecard can be found at www.lcv.org/scorecard.

Bishop, T. (D ) — 100
Israel (D ) — 100
King, P. (R ) — 36
McCarthy, C. (D ) — 93
Ackerman (D )– 100
Meeks, G. (D ) — 100
Crowley (D ) — 100
Nadler (D ) — 100
Weiner (D ) — 86
Towns (D ) — 100
Clarke (D ) — 100
Velazquez (D ) — 93
McMahon (D ) — 100
Maloney (D ) — 100
Rangel (D ) — 100
Serrano (D ) — 100
Engel (D ) — 93
Lowey (D ) — 100
Hall, J. (D ) — 100
Murphy, S. (D ) — 88
Tonko (D ) — 100
Hinchey (D ) — 100
McHugh (R ) — 67
Owens (D ) — 100
Arcuri (D ) — 86
Maffei (D ) — 100
Lee, C. (R ) — 14
Higgins (D ) — 100
Slaughter (D ) — 100
Massa (D ) — 86


Monday, March 29, 2010

NYS Comptroller Reports on Economic Benefits of Open Space Conservation

NYS Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli released a report late last week that argues for the economic benefits of open space conservation [pdf]. According to John Sheehan of the Adirondack Council, “this is the first attempt ever by the state’s top elected financial officer to quantify the value of undeveloped forests and open farm lands.”

The report comes at a time when the Legislature is negotiating the 2010-11 state budget, including the Environmental Protection Fund and its Open Space Account. This year’s budget contains $212 million for the EPF and $59 million for open space protection — land acquisition and conservation easements (purchase of development and recreational rights on private lands).

The Senate has proposed a $222-million EPF for the fiscal year that begins April 1, with little detail yet available on specific categories. The Assembly yesterday proposed an EPF of $168 million, with $44.3 million for land. The Governor — whose proposal came out first, back January, had proposed a $143-million EPF, with zero for land.

“Open space can provide a variety of public benefits, including storm water drainage and water management,” DiNapoli said. “Open spaces also provide a more direct economic benefit through tourism, agriculture and the forestry industry. All these benefits should be a factor in land use decisions from Montauk to Massena.” Here is an excerpt from Dinapoli’s press release on the report:

Agriculture is among New York’s largest and most vital industries, encompassing 25 percent of the state’s land and generating more than $4.5 billion for the state’s economy each year. In 2007, the income generated directly by farms, combined with income generated by agricultural support industries and by industries that process agricultural products, totaled $31.2 billion.

The study noted that open space contributes to the state’s economy by providing opportunities for outdoor recreational activities. DiNapoli also noted that open space often requires fewer municipal services than lands in other use and tend to generate more in municipal tax revenue.

Open space helps control storm water runoff, preserves surface water quality and stream flows, and aids in the infiltration of surface water to replenish aquifers. When lands are converted to other uses, the natural benefits provided by open space often must be replaced through the construction of water treatment facilities and infrastructure to control storm water, all paid for through local tax revenue. A series of studies have found the preservation of open space to be a more economical way to address storm water requirements.

DiNapoli’s report recommends that New York State consider:

* Allowing municipalities to establish community preservation funds
* Evaluating the adequacy of protections for lands providing benefits for municipalities
* Improving state-level planning for open space to address long-term funding needs
* Improving the administration of funds for open space programs
* Encouraging private land conservation

Map: 2009 APA Land Use Map


Sunday, March 21, 2010

Wild Center to Host Solar Thermal Collection Systems Workshop

The Wild Center, in partnership with the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) and the US Green Building Council – NY Upstate Chapter, is hosting a Solar Thermal Collection Systems Workshop on April 15th and 16th, 2010.

The educational event will include a full day of classroom instruction on solar thermal collection system principles, design considerations and system installations for residential and commercial applications and a second day of hands-on installation training involving flat plate and evacuated tube solar collectors, storage vessels, pumps, piping and controls. Participants in the two day event will experience what it takes to install state-of-the-art solar thermal collection system components as part of a larger NYSERDA supported renewable energy demonstration project. The workshop is expected to draw a wide-ranging audience of building industry professionals, business owners and homeowners from throughout upstate NY.

The instructor will be Peter Skinner P.E., a solar thermal installer, designer, researcher and educator. He has designed and installed many residential and commercial solar thermal systems, two of which were supported by NYSERDA and are fully performance monitored. Mr. Skinner has served on the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) Solar Thermal Test committee and currently serves as co-chair of the NYS Solar Thermal Roadmap work force development and education committee. He has designed and guides manufacture of the SunDog Solar Rover, a portable solar thermal demonstration unit, and chairs a group of professionals preparing educator and student manuals for a comprehensive solar thermal education program.

One day registration for the April 15th classroom instruction is $65 and two day registration (April 15 and 16) for classroom instruction and hands-on training is $95. Registration for the program is limited and includes continental breakfast and lunch both days. Eligible building professionals can earn educational benefits for attending the event. For more information and to register visit www.wildcenter.org/solar or call Chris Rdzanek, Director of Facilities, (518) 359-7800, ext. 117.



Wait, before you go,

sign up for news updates from the Adirondack Almanack!