Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Public Hearing: Rezoning 2,000 Acres in Inlet, Hamilton County

The Adirondack Park Agency (APA) will hold a public hearing on Wednesday, August 12, 2009 at 7:30pm in the Inlet Town Hall to discuss the Town’s proposed amendments to the Official Adirondack Park Land Use and Development Plan Map and provide opportunity for the public to comment on these proposals. The town’s proposals could result in a net increase of more than 1,000 buildings according to the APA. The hearing will be preceded at 6:30pm with an informal information session.

The four proposals would reclassify lands into a less restrictive classification which could potentially result in increased development in the areas under consideration. Here is the description from the APA:

On June 22, 2009 the Adirondack Park Agency received a completed application from the Town of Inlet, Hamilton County to reclassify approximately 1,913 acres of land on the Official Park Map in four separate areas within the Town of Inlet. The Official Map is the document identified in Section 805 (2) (a) of the Adirondack Park Agency Act (Executive Law, Article 27), and is the primary component of the Adirondack Park Land Use and Development Plan, which guides land use planning and development of private land in the Park.

Area A involves 203.4+/- acres of land along Uncas Road, between the Pigeon Lake Wilderness on the north and the Fulton Chain Wild Forest on the south. The Town proposes to reclassify the area from Low Intensity to Moderate Intensity.

Area B involves 23.6 +/- acres of land along State Highway 28 which serves as the southwest boundary for this area. This area is adjacent to the hamlet of Inlet and positioned between County Highway 1 and Limekiln Road. The Town proposes to reclassify the area from Low Intensity to Moderate Intensity Use.

Area C involves 1,043.7 +/- acres located along Limekiln Road which intersects with NYS Route 28, to the north, and runs south to Limekiln Lake. The Town proposes to reclassify the area from Rural Use to Moderate Intensity Use.

Area D involves 642.6 +/- acres of land south of State Highway 28, which serves as the northern boundary. The area is bordered on the east by the Moose River Plains Wild Forest. The Town proposes to reclassify the area from Low Intensity Use to Moderate Intensity Use.

Detailed information and maps related to this proposal may be viewed at the Agency’s website at:
www.apa.state.ny.us/_assets/mapamendments/MA200804_DSEIS.pdf

When considering proposed map amendments the Agency must prepare a Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (DSEIS), hold a combined public hearing on both the proposed map amendment and the DSEIS, and incorporate all comments into a Final Supplemental Impact Environmental Statement (FSEIS). The FSEIS includes the hearing summary, public comments, and Agency staff written analysis, as finalized after the public hearing and comments are reviewed. The Agency then decides (a) whether to accept the FSEIS and (b) whether to approve the map amendment request, deny the request or approve an alternative. The Agency’s decision on a map amendment request is a legislative decision based upon the application, public comment, the DSEIS and FSEIS, and staff analysis. The public hearing is for informational purposes and is not conducted in an adversarial or quasi-judicial format.

In addition to the public hearing on August 12 at the Inlet Town Hall the Agency is accepting written comment on these proposals until September 4, 2009.

Written comments may be sent to: Matthew S. Kendall Adirondack Park Agency P.O. Box 99 Ray Brook, NY 12977


Sunday, August 2, 2009

Climate Change Talk at Adirondack Museum

“Fifty years from now we may have Adirondack winters without snow and ice and forests that are the biological analogues of the dying coral reefs seen in the tropics today: stressed, structurally altered, not reproducing, and unable to support the birds and animals that once lived in them” Jerry Jenkins wrote in the Adirondack Atlas (2004). On Monday, August 3, 2009, Jenkins, co-author of The Adirondack Atlas: A Geographic Portrait of the Adirondack Park, will offer a program entitled “Climate Change and the Adirondacks” at the Adirondack Museum at Blue Mountain Lake. Part of the museum’s Monday Evening Lecture series, the presentation will be held in the Auditorium at 7:30 p.m. There is no charge for museum members. Admission is $5.00 for non-members.

Jenkins, a researcher for the Wildlife Conservation Society, will discuss
the impacts of global climate change on the region. He is trained in philosophy and mathematics, and works as a botanist and geographer. He has thirty years of field experience in the North Country, working as a naturalist and natural resources geographer for government agencies and non-profit groups including the Nature Conservancy, the State of Vermont, and the Wildlife Conservation Society.

Together with Andy Keal, Jenkins co-authored The Adirondack Atlas a Geographic Portrait of the Adirondack Park, perhaps the most significant Adirondack book in a generation. Bill McKibben describes the atlas as a “great gift…that marks a coming of age.” Jenkins recently contributed to an anthology Acid Rain in the Adirondacks an Environmental History, which one reviewer called the “definitive work on the topic.”


Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Linking Forests Across the Champlain Valley

The Adirondack Chapter of the Nature Conservancy gets a lot of attention when it completes a landscape-scale protection deal like the 161,000-acre Finch Pruyn purchase, or when it buys a place with a hallowed name like Follensby Pond.

But for decades it has also been working among the little farms and forests of the Champlain Valley with a larger picture in mind.

“The goal is to provide safe passage for species—a way for a moose, say, to go from the Adirondacks to Vermont with little risk of being struck by a car, or a salmon to make it far enough upstream to spawn without being blocked by a dry culvert,” Michael Carr, executive director of the Adirondack Chapter of the Nature Conservancy, said in a press release Monday. “Where are the most important habitat linkages and how do we work do we protect them? To date, we’ve raised several hundred thousand dollars in grants for this initiative in the Champlain Valley, which is a critical piece of a larger effort.” » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Emerald Ash Borers and the Purple Triangles

Emerald Ash Borer Trap Hanging in Chestertown in June 2017 (photo courtesy Greg Dower)The purple triangles seen hanging on trees along Adirondack roads are traps designed to lure and capture emerald ash borers (Agrilus planipennis). Emerald ash borers are small (half-inch long) metallic green insects that are coming to us from Asia via Michigan and wreaking havoc on the ash trees of North America.

Recently I wrote a piece on the American elm and its decline thanks to an insect and a fungus. The same thing is happening today with the American beech. But the emerald ash borer (EAB) acts alone. This insect overwinters under the bark of the ash tree (black, green and white ash are all susceptible) and emerges as an adult in the spring. After mating, the female lays her eggs in the crevices of the bark and about ten days later they hatch. The larvae now begin their devastating work, tunneling under the bark, eating as they go. When winter comes, the larvae become dormant, waiting for spring to arrive, at which point they emerge as adults and the cycle begins again. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, July 21, 2009

What’s On Your Adirondack Stimulus Money Wish List?

The Herkimer County Progressive blog’s post A Local Stimulus Wish List got me wondering what folks in the Adirondacks would want to do with stimulus money. It’s a question our politicians didn’t bother to really ask – so here’s your opportunity to sound off.

New or improved trails?
Light rail?
Sewer system installations or upgrades?
Educational upgrades?
Rooftop highway?
Invasive eradication?
Property tax relief?
Additions to the Forest Preserve?
Energy projects?

The question is basically if you had unlimited money, but had to prioritize, where would you put it?


Monday, July 20, 2009

DEC’s New Greenhouse Gas Review Policy

The State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has announced that Greenhouse gas emissions will be included in New York’s environmental review of large-scale projects under a new policy that becomes effective August 17th. The new policy will apply where DEC is the lead agency under the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA). SEQRA requires that a “lead agency” identify and assess actions for their potential adverse environmental impacts, and in certain cases, develop an environmental impact statement and propose mitigation strategies.

“This initiative builds on Governor Paterson’s commitment to continuing New York’s fight against climate change,” DEC Commissioner Pete Grannis said in a press release. “DEC anticipates that, more and more, the public will raise the issue of climate change in the SEQRA process, and this policy will ensure that climate change impacts are considered in a consistent and fair manner. It includes a menu of design measures that can mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, such as energy-efficient construction, use of renewable energy technology and waste reduction. While helping guide DEC staff, the policy also will help raise awareness of all the actions that can be taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

The policy, proposed in March, is available at www.dec.ny.gov/regulations/56552.html.

DEC has also started a process to redesign the environmental assessment forms which used in SEQRA reviews. The update of this form will include the addition of questions related to energy use and greenhouse gas emissions, among other issues according to Grannis.


Thursday, July 16, 2009

Comments Sought on Route 28 Widening, Maintenance

The Adirondack Park Agency (APA) will hold a legislative hearing on Tuesday, July 28, 2009 at the Forestport Town Hall on a proposed widening and improvement of a ten mile stretch of Route 28 from Route 12 (in Forestport, Oneida County) to the Moose River in the Town of Webb (Herkimer County). The project sponsors, NYSDOT and National Grid, will also be there to answer questions or address concerns about the design of the project. APA staff will be available to discuss the permitting process. The legislative hearing will start at 6:15pm.

Here is a description of the project and other details on the meeting which were supplied by the APA:

The project begins approximately 6 miles north of the intersection of Routes 12 and 28 in Alder Creek and terminates at the Moose River in McKeever for a total project length of approximately 10.3 miles. The project consists of resurfacing a section from the southerly limit of the project for a length of approximately 2 miles; a reconstruction section for approximately 2.5 miles through Woodgate and a portion of White Lake; resurfacing a section with minor widening for a length of approximately 1.5 miles through a portion of White Lake; and resurfacing a section for the remainder of the project for a length of approximately 4.5 miles through Otter Lake to the Moose River in the Town of Webb. There will be utility relocations throughout the reconstruction section to provide a minimum offset from the edge of travel lane of 16 feet. There will be additional isolated utility pole relocations within the resurfacing sections to provide the same 16 foot offset.

PURPOSE OF MEETING: This is an informal legislative hearing conducted by the Adirondack Park Agency pursuant to APA Act section 804(6) to receive public comment on the proposed project. The hearing will include introductory presentations on the project design by the NYS Department of Transportation and National Grid. Agency staff will take notes on the public comment. Comments may be submitted by verbal statements during the hearing or by submitting a written statement. Agency Board Members and Designees may be present to hear the public comments. The Agency Board will make its decision on the project at one of its monthly meetings at some time in the near future.

GOAL OF THE MEETING: To allow the public to express concerns regarding this proposed project and how it may positively or negatively impact individual properties or the community.

MEETING FORMAT: NYSDOT, National Grid and APA personnel will be available from 5:30 to 6:15, prior to the formal presentation, to address any questions or concerns that individuals may have about the design of the project or the APA permitting process. At 6:15 APA Deputy Director Mark Sengenberger will commence the formal portion of the hearing. He will introduce NYSDOT and National Grid personnel who will make brief presentations concerning the project objectives, scope, schedule and cost. During the presentations, the public can ask questions for clarification purposes only. Following the presentations, members of the public will have the opportunity to make brief verbal statements about the project. There will be a sign up sheet for any persons wishing to make public comment. In order to allow everyone to speak who wants to, comments will be limited to no more than 3 minutes in length and speakers will go in the order that they signed up. Members of the public can provide additional written comments to the Agency at or after the meeting. Town of Forestport and Town of Webb officials will be present and introduced at the meeting.

APA Project No. 2008-0216

NYSDOT PIN: 2018.60


Thursday, July 16, 2009

ADKCAP Reports On Local Energy, Jobs And The Green Economy

The Adirondack region’s local energy bill is more than $600 million a year. Add in gasoline and the number soars past $1.5 billion a year. A new initiative seeks to cut that cost, and use the savings to help the region’s economy. The details of the region’s energy use are included in a new report, entitled the Adirondack Energy & Greenhouse Gas Inventory, that breaks down energy production and consumption. It details how money spent on energy flows out of the Adirondacks, draining resources from the local economy. The report, documenting the entire Adirondack region, is one of the largest regional energy and carbon audits ever produced in the United States.

“We’re interested in getting our hands on these numbers because we want to see how we could use the projected major changes in national and state energy policies to help build our regional economy,” said Ross Whaley former President of SUNY ESF. “If we could save just 10 percent of what we spend importing the energy we use locally we’d have $60 million more dollars a year that we could invest in the Adirondacks.”

The report was supported in part by The Wild Center and ADKCAP, a new initiative that says its goals are to channel federal and state efforts into the region to improve energy efficiency, support regional programs formed to help cut energy costs and waste, and create or save higher-value jobs that could have a lasting impact on the Adirondack economy. A year in the making, the final report that its backers say could lead to tackling energy waste and carbon pollution in the Adirondacks, is now available online http://www.adkcap.org/?q=audit.

Highlights? The report shows some big collective numbers. Almost 490 million gallons of gasoline are used to power vehicles in the region, more than 35 million gallons of fuel oil and kerosene and over 10 million gallons of LPG are used to heat area homes and hot water. Residential users inside the Adirondacks spend more than $25 million a year on electricity to heat their homes and $135 million a year on electricity for things other than heat, like running refrigerators and lights.

“When you become cognizant of the energy dollars being spent in the Adirondacks each year, one quickly realizes that we need to find an approach to keep some of those dollars here,” said Brian Towers of the Adirondack Association of Towns and Villages. “Obviously community leaders from around the region need to investigate every avenue from small hydroelectric, solar and wind projects to looking at ways of reducing municipal energy costs with bio-fuels. Any way that we can cut public energy costs has a correlating effect on property taxes.”

The report was prepared by leading research firm Ecology and Environment, Inc. of Lancaster, NY. It was commissioned to create a baseline for looking at energy consumption in the area and dovetailed with the strong interest of a number of area groups who were looking at the Adirondacks as a potential large-scale example of how a region could address carbon dependence and grow its economy. “The national conference held here was about how the United States needs to transition away from carbon as our main energy source. With this transition comes opportunity if we act fast,” said Stephanie Ratcliffe of The Wild Center. “It started people talking about putting the idea of aggressively implementing energy efficiency and developing new renewable energy sources here in the Adirondacks. This is one of the few times that environmental concerns and economic opportunities share the same goals from the outset.”

The Adirondacks as an Example for the Nation

“We think we have a chance to set an example for the nation,” said Kate Fish of ADKCAP. “If we can show that you can cut energy costs in a big way, and use the money to grow your economy, others can learn from what we do. We are a region of 103 living, breathing and working towns and villages with challenges a lot of other places can relate to. Making this happen here could mean a lot for people all over the U.S. who are wrestling with high costs of energy, and the need to rebuild their economies.”

Fish and others say the Adirondacks’ New York location and high visitation make it an attractive place for other organizations, including power companies, who are looking to test efficiency and renewable ideas. “We can be the first place to take on energy independence across a large area. If we can show that 103 regular towns and villages can break the grip of energy dependence and build our local economies in a sustainable way we could demonstrate something important to others,” said Fish.

ADKCAP

ADKCAP, an umbrella group, formed after the ‘American Response to Climate Change Conference -The Adirondack Model’ held in November of 2008 at The Wild Center, is working with partner organizations and individuals to build on a variety of plans to turn energy savings into local benefits. Based on data in the report that shows that one third of all the energy used locally in the Adirondacks comes from home heating, a number of partners are focusing on getting effective region-wide access to programs designed to cut home heating and utility costs, including training a skilled energy audit and retrofit workforce. The initial actions being considered would also include logical uses of renewable sources including testing of new low emissions wood gasification systems that could use sustainably harvested local forest products. The development of a forest products-based energy system could also mean local jobs. Other local energy sources could include sun, wind and hydro, including small-scale hydro that could take advantage of standing local dams.

Groups involved with ADKCAP say that new job creation could encourage younger families to stay in the area, reversing the aging-population trend in upstate New York. “It has been demonstrated conclusively that one of the greatest home energy savers is preventing air infiltration. This can be a low-cost, high yield effort. Next, is improving the efficiency of the furnaces and boilers. Green home energy saving really is possible for everyone,” said Alan Hipps, Executive Director of Housing Assistance Program of Essex County. “Those are simple examples of how we can cut energy costs and create jobs at the same time.”

The renewable energy industry generated about 500,000 jobs and $43 billion revenue in the U.S. in 2007. The much broader energy-efficiency industry generated 8.6 million jobs and $1 trillion in revenue, according to a report issued in January by the American Solar Energy Society. The national study projected that the renewable and energy efficiency businesses could employ 16 million to 37 million people by 2030, depending on government policy.

“We need new jobs here, good jobs, and jobs that let us keep our natural character,” said Ann Heidenreich of Community Energy Services of Canton, NY. “We’re going to need to solve energy challenges one way or another, and this report gives us some of the basic tools to do the smartest thing, and be more in control of our future.”

Mike DeWein, an expert on regional energy issues and a member of the ADKCAP and Energy $mart Park Initiative (E$PI) steering committees, says the Adirondacks could do well by getting out ahead on energy efficiency issues. “We know the energy world is going to change in significant ways in the next 20 years, particularly because of national trends and policies going into effect in current state and Federal legislation. Places that get ahead of the curve will benefit, and the report sets the groundwork for the Adirondacks by moving initiatives and programs and being ready to benefit from those policies, as well as be ready for funding opportunities.” DeWein cited the internet revolution as an example. “Often when something big is happening it pays to “start the train down the track” to be ready for the opportunities rather than sit on the rail siding waiting for the train.”

The report was prepared for The Wild Center and ADKCAP, in consultation with The Adirondack Energy $mart Initiative (E$PI), by Ecology and Environment, Inc and with key contributions from Dr. Colin Beier of SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry. The report was funded by the Adirondack Community Trust – Master Family Fund.

NOTE: This post is a reprint of the ADKCAP and Wild Center’s press release.


Tuesday, July 14, 2009

A Major Renewable Energy Project For Wild Center

The Wild Center in Tupper Lake is planning to install a large-scale wood gasification heat system that will combine sustainably sourced wood biomass with a solar collector system to heat the 54,000 square-foot Center. The project is being touted as “one of the most efficient and modern gasification/solar systems in the United States.”

According to press release issued today: “The system has potential application for large buildings, including schools throughout the region, and the technology has the potential to boost the economy of the Adirondacks by creating demand for a sustainably produced local fuel source.”

Leading representatives from the Forest Products industry, system manufacturers, Clarkson University (which will help monitor the test system), and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), which is co-funding the project, will make presentations to the press on Thursday, July 23rd.

The Wild Center project includes programs to monitor system performance and measurements of emissions as well as a full exhibit on the system for the public, including a see-through series of tubes that will let visitors see the fuel being delivered to the system.

Take a look at the Wall Street Journal slide show on the new technology.


Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Builders and Realtors: Learn About Home Energy Efficiency

Many Adirondack homes have been languishing on the market, For Sale signs weathering on the lawn. Yes, a lot of real estate is overpriced and a lot of people are nervous about buying, but maybe some of these places would be snapped up if they weren’t under-insulated oil-sucking money pits.

If you’re thinking of selling, or are in the business of selling homes, or are just interested in learning more about how you can reduce fossil-fuel use in your own household, there’s a daylong program in Saranac Lake Thursday, September 24 you might want to sign up for.

Local can-do person Gloria Volz has arranged to bring the Green Build Science (GBS) training program to the Adirondacks. The course is designed mostly for Realtors and building trades professionals, including contractors, interior designers and home stagers. However anyone, including home and business owners, are welcome to learn more about sustainable building practices, energy efficiency and energy-saving tax credits.

An greenhouse gas inventory of the Adirondack Park commissioned last year found that out of 45,965 year-round homes here, 18,000 are “badly in need of insulation.” About 60% of the energy in every home is wasted through inefficiencies, according to Community Energy Services (CES), based in Canton. A few nationwide numbers: the USA Green Build Council says 92% of people surveyed said green features are important when buying property, and 40% of new homes are being built with green features. That last percentage is depressingly low, actually.

The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) offers a Chinese menu of cash incentives for all kinds of ways to improve home efficiency, from insulating to replacing appliances, to tapping in to clean sources of energy like sun, wind and geothermal, or carbon-neutral local sources like wood and pellets. Sometimes it’s daunting to figure out how to take advantage of these programs, so the September 24 seminar might help with that. If you’d like to start right away, CES is set up to help Adirondack homeowners navigate their way to better home finances and Earth stewardship.

For more information or to register for the course, visit greenbuildscience.net or Volz’s site.


Thursday, July 9, 2009

Annual Adirondack Loon Census Seeks Volunteers

Loons are the quintessential symbol of wilderness. Just watch any TV show or movie that has a “wilderness” scene and you will hear loon calls in the soundtrack (even if it is in the desert). A stroll through any gift shop in the Adirondacks, Canada or Maine proves that they are probably the number one animal associated with the outdoors (competing only with moose and bears). There is nothing quite like the mournful wail of a loon floating through the night air as you lie in the dark trying to sleep. It is easy to see how people might once have associated them with unhappy or restless spirits. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Biomimicry, Nature’s Solutions Focus at Wild Center

A new exhibition at The Wild Center looks at how humans are tackling problems by uncoding natural solutions to problems in the wild. From MIT to the University of Tokyo scientists equipped with new tools that let them look into the nano structure of nature are discovering the secrets to some of the most elusive tricks in the world. Their sights are aimed at everything from making energy from sunlight to replicating the way spiders forge a material stronger than steel at room temperature.

David Gross, head curator at The Wild Center, which will showcase some of the breakthroughs this summer, has spent more than a year researching where the new science is headed. Gross is a biologist, and his lifetime of observing animal behavior turned him on to the bio-based discoveries. “Most of these new breakthroughs are happening because people saw something in nature, and were curious about how it happened. How do spiders make silk? How does a burr stick to a dog’s fur? In the last decade we have developed the tools to see and work at tiny scales, where nature works, so we can start to build things in a revolutionary new way.”

This relatively new science, coined biomimicry, (from bios, meaning life, and mimesis, meaning to imitate) studies nature’s best ideas and then imitates these designs and processes to solve human problems. The core idea is that nature, imaginative by necessity, has already solved many of the problems we are grappling with. Basically, after 3.8 billion years of research and development, failures are fossils, and what surrounds us are the secrets to survival.

Biomimicry is gaining in recognition throughout the world. A recent article in the United Kingdom’s Daily Telegraph highlighted this truly international movement. A fast, ultra-broadband, low-power radio chip, modeled on the human inner ear that could enable wireless devices capable of receiving cell phone, internet, radio and television signals has recently been developed by scientists at MIT. A National Geographic article highlighted biomimetics in April 2008.

Here are some examples of how looking at nature can help solve some of the problems of humanity.

Locusts Don’t Crash
Locusts fly in swarms but never crash. How do they avoid having multi-locust pile-ups? Car manufacturers like Volvo and Nissan are studying locusts, and other insects like bees, to discover their crash-avoidance systems to see how they can be incorporated into our vehicles, making our roads safer.

Frozen Frog Hearts
Organs used for transplants can last as little as five hours. Keeping hearts and other organs on ice can significantly damage the tissue making the organs not viable. So how does the wood frog manage to freeze in the winter and thaw itself in the spring with no damage to its internal organs? Scientists are working on ways to mimic their non-toxic antifreeze to prolong the life of transplant organs.

Shine a Light on Moths and Butterflies
Moths, unlike cats, have very non-reflective eyes, a trait that protects them against nocturnal predators and helps them see at night. Their eyes have a series of bumps that help keep the light from reflecting. Using a silicon coating on solar panels that resembles the texture of moths’ eyes improves the solar collecting efficiency of solar panels by as much as 40 percent, bringing the price of solar down.

Scientists recently discovered that butterflies harvest the warmth of the sun through small solar collectors on their wings. Their wings are covered with an intricate array of scales, arranged in such a way that the light reflects off of other scales rather than bouncing off the wing where the warmth would be lost. Chinese and Japanese researchers designed a solar cell based on the butterfly’s intricate design and converted more light to energy than any existing solar cell at a lower fabrication cost.

The Whale’s a Fan of the Owl
Plane’s wings have streamlined edges so they can cut through air more efficiently, right? One of the biggest animals in the world, the humpback whale has extremely unstreamlined edges and can still fly through the water. Scientists have determined that the tubercles, or bumps, on the edge of the flippers produce more lift and less drag than sleek flippers. This discovery has implications for wind power and ceiling fans. Owls fly silently through the night, stealthily approaching their prey before capturing their next meal. Would mimicking the design of owl’s wings silence the noise of the fan in your computer? Engineers are studying the tips and curvature of owl’s wings and have created a quieter and more efficient fan blade design.

Gross says the promise of this kind of science is huge. “I’ll use the spider example. They can make seven different kinds of thread, do it all at room temperature, and it’s not just stronger than steel, it’s stronger than anything we have invented. And at the end of the day the spider can eat its own web and recycle the material. Imagine if we could make buildings out of tiny beams that required no mining, no smelting, and minimal energy, and could be entirely recycled again at room temperature? Or if we could figure out how plants photosynthesize, we could solve all of our energy needs.”

Why the Adirondacks? “One thing about these inventions is that you need to be able to watch nature to see what it’s up to, and it makes the Adirondacks a living lab. You can see the wood frogs that freeze solid and thaw, right here at The Wild Center. If you pay attention at The Wild Center you can begin to look at things differently when you’re outside and learn from them.” Gross says the inventions are everywhere. “The real breakthrough is that we can start to see the molecular structure and even the chemistry lab inside a spider, that’s what is fueling the breakthroughs.”

On a walk at The Wild Center Gross points out subjects under study. A bee buzzes by. “We know they vote. They can come into a hive and present a case for a new hive location, and elect which option to choose, and the bees all head to the new location. Computer companies are trying to figure out how so much information is shared and acted on so accurately and quickly.”

The Wild Center’s exhibit, throughout the 31 acre campus, is the first of its kind in the world. It will feature 51 stories of how humans are studying nature and discovering a better way to do things. How does nature make colors without using toxins? How do loons desalinate salt water? How can dogs detect cancer cells just from sniffing a person? A trained sniffing dog, a robot that can scurry over almost any object based on a cockroach and a silent fan modeled on an owl’s quiet flight will be on display. From the moment visitors enter the parking lot, until they leave, they will discover amazing ways that nature has solved its own challenges without using high heats, harmful chemicals or overusing its own resources.


Sunday, July 5, 2009

DEC, APA Remind Shoreline Owners About Regulations

Shoreline property owners and contractors who plan to construct, replace or expand structures located within shoreline setback areas or repair or install seawalls, riprap, docks, cribs and/or boathouses on waters within the Adirondack Park, are advised to contact the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) before undertaking any work according to the following press release from the state agencies, published here for your information:

Among the most valuable resources in the Park is the land along its thousands of streams, rivers, ponds and lakes. The shoreline is an important ecological feature that defines the transition zone between land and water. All levels of the food chain – from forage fish to large mouth bass, shorebirds to waterfowl, and amphibians to mammals – benefit from a “healthy” shoreline.

DEC and APA staff can determine if permits or variances are required and provide information on ways to minimize environmental damage associated with construction in and around protected waterways. The laws the APA and DEC administers protect wildlife habitat, water quality and the scenic appeal of Adirondack shorelines by establishing setbacks, lot widths and cutting restrictions.

“Shorelines are a valuable natural feature of the Adirondacks. The application of appropriate standards for shoreline structures protects the aesthetic character of our landscape as well as associated habitats for a variety of wildlife.” said Betsy Lowe, Regional Director for DEC Region 5

“Every year, our law enforcement officers encounter project sites along the water where work is underway without proper permits,” said Judy Drabicki, Regional Director for DEC Region 6

“Due to the 2008 APA rule changes pertaining to shoreline structures within the Adirondack Park, the public is strongly encouraged to also contact APA staff for regulatory advice before constructing, replacing or expanding shoreline structures,” said Curt Stiles, Chairman of the APA.

DEC has recently identified “Preferred Methods” for shoreline stabilization. These include preserving as much natural shoreline as possible; use of vegetation plantings, where feasible, to stabilize the shoreline, create habitat and reduce pollution from stormwater; and bioengineering which utilizes a combination of natural materials (sticks, logs, root wads, etc.) and applied engineering to correct shoreline problems.

More information on shoreline stabilization, including preferred and traditional methods, is available on the DEC website at http://www.dec.ny.gov/permits/42519.html.

Contacts for shoreline projects in the Adirondack Park:

• All locations within the Adirondack Park – Adirondack Park Agency, in Ray Brook at (518) 891-4050

• Clinton, Essex, Franklin and Hamilton Counties – DEC Region 5 Environmental Permits Office in Ray Brook at (518)897-1234

• Fulton, Saratoga, Warren and Washington Counties – DEC Region 5 Environmental Permits Office in Warrensburg at (518)623-1281

• Lewis, Jefferson and St. Lawrence Counties – DEC Region 6 Environmental Permits Office in Watertown at (315)785-2245

• Herkimer and Oneida counties – DEC Region 6 Environmental Permits Office in Utica at (315)793-2555


Tuesday, June 23, 2009

FUND for Lake George Marks 30th Year of Continuous Study

The FUND for Lake George has begun its annual water quality monitoring program on Lake George. One of the most successful long-term monitoring studies in the country, the comprehensive water quality monitoring program includes a variety of leading parameters to evaluate and track the water quality of Lake George. 2009 marks the 30th straight year that the FUND for Lake George and the Darrin Fresh Water Institute have partnered to study the water quality of Lake George. The long-term database created by the study has charted the ecological health of Lake George for three decades.

The scientific studies have focused attention on critical public issues facing the lake, including chronic septic system or municipal treatment failures, increasing salt levels, the growth of an annual dead zone in the south basin, and impacts from inadequate stormwater management and poor land use practices. The FUND and DFWI have committed to publishing a report on the state of Lake George based upon the past 30 years of lake study.

“The monitoring on Lake George is our most significant research program. Long-term datasets are extremely valuable to fully grasp how we are subtly and significantly altering our environment. Without this kind of information we are subject supposition, accusation and hearsay as to why water quality is changing, which greatly limits communities acting deliberately to protect water quality” said Dr. Charles Boylen, Associate Director of the RPI Darrin Fresh Water Institute. “This partnership is unique in the U.S. where we have a private group that has raised the awareness about the importance of water quality monitoring as well as provided the financial support for a scientific institute to perform sampling, monitoring, analysis and interpretation.”

The monitoring program covers 12 locations, four littoral zone areas (shallow) and eight deep water locations, from south to north on Lake George, from the Lake George Village to Heart Bay. This study includes the five major sub-basins of Lake George. Specific locations include Tea Island, Warner Bay, Basin Bay, Dome Island, Northwest Bay, French Point, Huletts Landing, Sabbath Day Point, Smith Bay, and Rogers Rock. The analytes sampled include: pH, Specific Conductance, Total Nitrogen, Total Phosphorus, Total Soluble Phosphorus, Soluble Reactive Phosphorus, Nitrate, Ammonia, Silica, Sodium, Calcium, Chloride, Sulfate, Dissolved Oxygen, Chlorophyll-a, Magnesium, Alkalinity, and Transparency, among others.

Over the past 30 years, the FUND for Lake George has raised over $1.5 million to support this long-term monitoring program and other associated research efforts with the DFWI. Support for lake science in 2009 is $98,000.

Additionally in 2009, the FUND and DFWI will monitor coliform levels at public beaches around Lake George, maintain an atmospheric research facility at the south end of Lake George in partnership with the Department of Environmental Conservation and Lake George Park Commission, and study stormwater impacts on West Brook.


Wednesday, June 17, 2009

What is an Adirondack Wetland?

We have a new school program here at the Visitor Interpretive Centers: What is a Wetland? Since I am in the process of putting the finishing touches on this program, I thought it would make a good topic for the Almanack.

Put very simply, wetlands are lands that are, well, wet. That is to say, they are wet for part or all of the year. Some wetlands are obvious, like swamps, bogs and marshes that have sodden ground or standing water that you can see (or feel) every time you are there. Other wetlands, however, are seasonal, appearing when water levels are high, and disappearing in the heat of summer.

One of the Adirondack Park Agency’s responsibilities is protecting the integrity of wetlands within the Blue Line. They have staff who go into the field to conduct “wetland deliniations,” which are essentially determinations of the borders of wetlands. In order to do this, their staff look at three determining criteria: plant species, soil type(s) and hydrology.

The plant part is easy. There are species of plants that are either totally dependent on water (like pickerel weed and sphagnum moss), some that are in water two-thirds of the time you find them (like Joe-Pye-weed and black spruce), and others that are nowhere near water (like sugar maple and eastern white pine). If the area in question has a majority of plants in the first two categories, it is a wetland.

Soil types are kind of fun to determine. A core sample is taken within the test area. The soil from the sample is then compared to a soil chart, looking for evidence of oxidation. Oxidation indicates the presence of air in the soil. If there is no sign of oxidation, the soil is considered gleyed and is classified as a wetland soil. If oxidation has occurred, the soil will look rusty. If the amount of oxidation is minimal, the area is likely a seasonal wetland. On the other hand, if the soil is totally oxidized, then air gets through the layers year round and it is not a wetland.

Finally, we come to hydrology: is there water present? If there is visual evidence of innundation or saturation, you have a wetland. Do you see water? Does it squish underfoot? Is there a line of debris along the shoreline, below which the shore is scoured of vegetation? Are there areas of dead trees, where the trees essentially drowned from flooding? These are all indicators of wetland habitats.

Why is the APA so concerned about wetlands? Wetlands are extremely important habitats. Far too many people are unaware of just how important they are. Over the course of my career in environmental education, I’ve come to conclusion that many people think that those of us who promote the protection of wetlands are merely looking at them as animal homes, but the truth is that while indeed they are imporant for all kinds of wildlife, they are also so very important for people.

For one thing, wetlands clean and filter all sorts of pollutants from our water. These pollutants range from toxic chemicals to seemingly harmless fertilizers, like nitrogen and phosphorous. We know that nitrogen and phosphorous are essential for healthy soil and plants, but when large amounts enter lakes, ponds or streams, the result is potentially harmful algal blooms and excessive growth of water weeds, which can choke waterways and reduce oxygen levels in the water, resulting in the death of fish and aquatic invertebrates.

Wetlands also act as giant sponges. Every time it rains, wetlands soak up the water and release it slowly. This helps protect areas downstream from severe flooding. Look at places around the globe that suffer from massive floods today. Chances are that over the last century or two the associated wetlands have been changed or entirely removed. Without the mediating effects of these “sponges,” the water now rushes downstream, gathering speed and volume, with nothing to slow its progress as it rushes to the sea. This leads to the next benefit we get from wetlands.

Wetlands reduce soil erosion by slowing down the flow. With slower moving water, shorelines are not eaten away, and silt can fall out of the water, leaving cleaner, clearer water to continue downstream.

And, of course, wetlands are vital habitats for fish, birds, reptiles, amphibians, insects and mammals.

Did you know that one of the deciding factors for the establishment of the Adirondack Park over one hundred years ago was protection of our waters? The Adirondack region is the source of much of the drinking water for downstate New York. With all the unregulated logging that was done in the 1800s, vast areas of land were left denuded of trees, and as a result, streams and rivers were severely impacted. Some had reduced flow, others were no longer clean as a result of runoff. You can listen to a reenactment of the 1894 New York State Constitutional Convention at the Newcomb VIC that lays out these very concerns.

So, yes, wetlands are important and we need to protect them. After all, there is only a limited amount of freshwater on this planet, and all environmental reports these days suggest that freshwater will soon become more valuable than gold. We need to protect our freshwater so that it will always be there when we need it, and this means protecting our wetlands.



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