Monday, May 11, 2009

ADK Club Pushes Environmental Access to Justice Act

The Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK) is asking the state Senate to pass the Environmental Access to Justice Act (S.1635, A.3423), which would allow individuals and organizations to bring environmental lawsuits without having to prove they have suffered an injury different from the harm to the general public. According to the ADK the Environmental Access to Justice Act would restore the original legislative intent of the state Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA). Passed in 1975, SEQRA was supposed to provide the public with a voice during the environmental review process for projects throughout New York State, but as denizens of town planning boards across the state know, SEQRA review of projects has become watered down by the influence of corporate and pro-development interests.

Under SEQRA, the public was supposed to have the right to petition the courts to review a state agency’s or local government’s compliance with the law’s environmental review requirements. According to “The Treatise on New York Environmental Law,” because no government agency is charged with ensuring compliance with the provisions of SEQRA, that responsibility “has fallen on the shoulders of individual members of the public, civic and environmental organizations and governmental bodies aggrieved or injured by an agency’s failure to comply with the requirements of the statute.” They have traditionally fought that battle in the courts.

But in 1991, in case known as Society of the Plastics Industry vs. Suffolk County, the New York Court of Appeals greatly curtailed the right to bring an environmental claim under SEQRA. The high court ruled that in order to have standing, or the right to bring a lawsuit, the plaintiff had to suffer a unique injury or damage that was different than the harmful impact suffered by all members of the public. That decision turned the intent of the legislation on its head.

“Without the ability of the public to seek a court review of the SEQRA process, there is no way to ensure that government has followed the law and properly reviewed the potential environmental consequences of a project,” according to Adirondack Mountain Club executive director Neil Woodworth. “If citizens have no right to sue when SEQRA provisions are ignored or compromised, there is nothing to stop development-obsessed government officials from ramming through ill-advised projects regardless of the cultural, social and environmental costs.”

Of the 16 states with environmental review statutes, New York has the most stringent standing requirements, and this continues to affect environmental cases according to the ADK which provided these examples:

In 2002, a state court ruled that the Long Island Pine Barrens Society and several of its members lacked standing to seek review of a development project in the Long Island Pine Barrens. The society claimed that the project would impact the water supply aquifer beneath the Pine Barrens, but the court ruled that the potential harm to the plaintiffs was no different than the potential injury to any member of the public. The society was shut out of court before it could prove an open and shut case of environmental harm to the eastern Long Island aquifer.

In 2002, a citizens group was denied standing in an attempt to block destruction of a row of 19th century buildings in the village of Catskill, Greene County. The historic buildings were demolished.

In 2007, the Basha Kill Area Association was denied standing to challenge approval of a 200,000-square-foot mushroom plant atop the Shawangunk Ridge in Sullivan County.

In 2008, members of Save the Pine Bush were denied standing to challenge an industrial development project in Clifton Park, Saratoga County, that threatens habitat of the endangered Karner blue butterfly.

The bill has passed in the Assembly and has been approved by the Senate Environmental Conservation and Codes committees. It awaits action by the full state Senate. The bill is sponsored by Sen. Antoine Thompson, D-Buffalo, and Assemblyman Adam Bradley, D-White Plains.


Sunday, May 3, 2009

Adk Invasive Program Wins EPA Environmental Quality Award

The Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program (APIPP) was one of 26 projects across New York State to receive the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s highest honor: the Environmental Quality Award. The award ceremony was held last week in Manhattan in conjunction with Earth Day. Founded in 1998 and housed by The Nature Conservancy in Keene Valley, APIPP is leading the charge to protect Adirondack natural resources from the damaging effects of invasive species by engaging partners and finding solutions through a coordinated, strategic, and integrated regional approach. Unlike many places, the opportunity exists in the Adirondacks to hold the line against invasive species and prevent them from wreaking havoc on natural resources and economic vitality. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, April 30, 2009

Adirondack Conference to Focus on Alpine Zones

Researchers, summit stewards and others interested in protecting northeast alpine zones will gather in the Adirondacks May 29 and 30 to explore the impact of climate change on these fragile ecosystems. The Northeastern Alpine Stewardship Gathering is held every two years to allow researchers, planners, managers, stewards and others to share information and improve the understanding of the alpine areas of the Northeast. The 2009 conference, the first to be held in the Adirondacks, will feature presentations by environmentalist and author Bill McKibben and award-winning photographer Carl Heilman.

Alpine zones are areas above the treeline that are home to rare and endangered species more commonly found in arctic regions. In the Adirondacks, alpine zones cover about 170 acres atop more than a dozen High Peaks, including Marcy, Algonquin and Wright. Because these summits experience heavy recreational use, New York’s alpine habitat is one of the most imperiled ecosystems in the state. Alpine vegetation is also highly susceptible to climate change and acts as a biological monitor of changing climate conditions.

The conference, which will be held at the Crowne Plaza Resort in Lake Placid, kicks off Thursday evening with a reception and Carl Heilman’s multimedia presentation. Friday will feature a full day of sessions on such subjects as “The Effects of a Changing Climate on the Alpine Zone” and “Visitor Use and Management of Alpine Areas.”

On Saturday, conference attendees will have an opportunity to participate in a variety of field trips, such as guided hikes to a High Peak summit, a morning bird walk or a visit to the Wild Center.

The $40 conference fee includes Thursday mixer, Friday lunch, Friday dinner and Saturday bag lunch.

The 2009 Gathering is hosted by the Adirondack High Peaks Summit Steward Program, a partnership of the Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK), the Adirondack Chapter of The Nature Conservancy and the New York state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). The Gathering is sponsored by the Adirondack Mountain Club, the Adirondack Forty-Sixers and the Waterman Alpine Stewardship Fund. Conference partners include the Adirondack Chapter of the Nature Conservancy, the Adirondack Park Agency Visitor’s Interpretive Center, the Crowne Plaza Resort, New York Natural Heritage Program, DEC, Paul Smith’s College and the Wild Center.

Rooms are available at the Crowne Plaza. For reservations, call (800) 874-1980 or (518) 523-2556. Camping and lodging are available at the Adirondak Loj, six miles south of the village of Lake Placid. For reservations, call (518) 523-3441. Additional lodging options may be found at www.lakeplacid.com.

For more information, call Julia Goren at (518) 523-3480 Ext. 18 or visit ADK’s Web site at www.adk.org.


Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A Sweeping New Book About Lake Champlain

To coincide with the Lake Champlain Quadricentennial, Adirondack Life has published Lake Champlain: An Illustrated History, a big beautiful book about a singular expanse of water and the lands that surround it.

Every page of the large-format hardcover tome is rich with maps, illustrations and/or color photographs. The book gives due attention to the glaciers and natural and human history that pre-date the July 1609 arrival of explorer Samuel de Champlain, who fired the starting gun for two centuries of European warfare and upheaval.

The volume is divided into chapters about New York, Vermont and Quebec towns along the shoreline; the lake’s geology and biology; native inhabitants and their displacement; the waterway’s importance in colonial power struggles; its era as a highway for commercial transport; and finally Lake Champlain as a place of recreation.

The 220-page book is $44.95, available at adirondacklife.com and in regional bookstores.


Wednesday, April 29, 2009

King Philip’s Revenge: DEC Closes Spring

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has closed King Philip’s spring, apparently for good. DEC removed a pipe that connected the fenced-off spring to a popular pull-off on Route 73/9 in the town of North Hudson near Exit 30 of the Northway (I-87), citing high levels of coliform bacteria as the reason. (Wish I’d known before I filled a water bottle there a week ago. I wound up pouring most of it on a plant anyway.)

Coliform indicates human or animal waste has gotten into the water. It’s unlikely DEC tested for giardia or E coli (such tests are hit or miss), but the chronic presence of feces brings risk of these and other disease-causing organisms. Following is DEC’s press release:

DEC removed the pipe to the spring after periodic waters samples taken by DEC over the past six months indicated high levels of coliform bacteria exceeding Department of Health water quality standards.

“The Department understands that obtaining water from the spring is very popular with visitors and residents,” said DEC Regional Director Betsy Lowe. “The decision to close the spring was made after considerable deliberation, however, it reflects our responsibility to ensure the safety of the public.”

Coliform bacteria are found in the digestive tracts of animals, including humans, and their wastes. While not necessarily a pathogen themselves, the presence of these bacteria in drinking water, however, generally is a result of a problem with water treatment or the pipes which distribute the water, and indicates that the water may be contaminated with organisms that can cause disease. Disease symptoms may include diarrhea, cramps, nausea and possibly jaundice and any associated headaches and fatigue.

DEC weighed a number of factors before making the decision to close the spring, such as NYS Department of Health (DOH) regulation and disinfection.

DOH regulations require that public drinking water supplies be treated or taken from underground wells— the spring is essentially a surface water supply.

Measures to disinfect the pipe and spring are only temporary. Due to the location and accessibility of the spring, it can be easily contaminated by humans or animals at any time — even shortly after the system has been disinfected.

Constructing and maintaining a permanent structure and with equipment to disinfect the water would not comply with the Article XIV of the State Constitution and the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan. It most likely would be costly, ruin the experience of obtaining water from the spring and change the taste of the spring water, as well.

DEC regrets the inconvenience caused by the closure of the spring, but can not ignore its responsibility to protect the public. DEC continues to recommend that users of the Adirondack Forest Preserve treat any water obtained from surface waters, including springs, before drinking or cooking with it. Questions from the public may be directed to the DEC Region 5 Lands & Forests Office at (518) 897-1291 or [email protected]

Galen Crane wrote an enlightening article about water quality at popular Adirondack springs in the 2001 Collectors Issue of Adirondack Life. At that time DEC did not test springwater, and the magazine did an independent test. Crane found that coliform was present — though in insignificant amounts — at six of seven springs sampled, including King Philip’s. Some people advocate drinking even untreated, unfiltered surface water in the Adirondack backcountry, arguing that worries about giardia are overblown. But where coliform is confirmed, doctors say it’s prudent not to gamble with that water source.

King Philip’s spring is reputed to have been named after a Wampanoag Native American chief who waged war on New England colonists in the late 17th century and was beheaded in 1676. If anyone knows why this spring bears his name, please tell.


Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Proposed: New York Wood Products Development Council

We’ve received the following press release from the John F. Sheehan, Director of Communications at The Adirondack Council:

NYS Darrel Aubertine, D-Watertown, and Assemblywoman Roann Destito, D-Rome, introduced legislation creating the New York Wood Products Development Council to help steer attention and federal dollars into programs and investments that will spur the development of new products and markets.

The legislation was introduced [yesterday] at a 12:15 p.m. press conference hosted by the Northern Forest Center and the Empire State Forest Products Association. Also on hand for the press conference were Assemblyman David Koon, Brian Houseal, Executive Director of the Adirondack Council; John Bartow, Executive Director of the Tug Hill Commission, Jeff Williams of the New York Farm Bureau and others. » Continue Reading.


Monday, April 27, 2009

NYC: Douglas Brinkley on Roosevelt, ‘Wilderness Warrior’

In his new book, The Wilderness Warrior: Theodore Roosevelt and the Crusade for America, Douglas Brinkley (Professor of History and Baker Institute Fellow, Rice University) looks at the pioneering environmental policies of President Theodore Roosevelt, an avid bird-watcher and naturalist with Adirondack ties. Brinkley will talk about Roosevelt at the American Museum of Natural History’s Linder Theater in New York City tomorrow, Tuesday, April 28, 6:30 pm. Admission will be $15 ($13.50 members, students, senior citizens).

Roosevelt was a pioneer of the conservation movement and was involved with the American Museum of Natural History from childhood. As a matter of fact, the original charter creating the Museum was signed in his family home in 1869, and the Museum has a permanent hall in tribute to Theodore Roosevelt and the contributions he made to city, state, and nation throughout his life. A book signing will follow this program.

Douglas Brinkley, Professor of History and Baker Institute Fellow, Rice University, is the author of several books, including The Unfinished Presidency, The Boys of Pointe du Hoc, and The Great Deluge (which won him the 2007 Robert F. Kennedy Book Award); he is also a contributing editor at Vanity Fair and an in-house historian for CBS News. He has earned several honorary doctorates for his contributions to American letters and was once called the “the best of the new generation of American historians” by the late historian Stephen E. Ambrose.

For questions regarding this event, please contact Antonia Santangelo at 212-769-5310 or [email protected]


Monday, April 27, 2009

Adirondack Park Agency Releases 2009 Land Use Plan Map

The Adirondack Park Agency has announced the release of its 2009 Adirondack Park Official Map. The Map shows the state and private land use plans for the Adirondack Park. This update, the first since 2003, includes recent State land acquisitions and the overall framework for protection of the Adirondack Park’s public and private land resources.

The 2009 edition of the Adirondack Park Land Use and Development Plan Map is available online in a new flash viewer at the APA website at http://www.apa.state.ny.us/gis/index.html. For more information about the Land Use Plan Map contact the APA at 518-891-4050.

Under the State Land Master Plan all state land is classified as one of the following categories: Wilderness, Primitive, Canoe, Wild Forest, Intensive Use, Historic and State Administrative. This plan was developed in cooperation with the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and approved by the Governor. The actual management of the Forest Preserve is carried out by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Salmonella Found in Warren County Siskins

In late March and early April, cultures from three pine siskins from Warren County yielded Salmonella typhimurium. Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) wildlife pathologists also detected salmonella in a house sparrow found in Putnam County.

The bacteria may be spread via bird feeding. Following is a synopsis from Kevin Hynes, a biologist in DEC’s Wildlife Pathology Unit, with advice for bird feeders:

“The pine siskins that died from Salmonellosis were from two separate areas in the Town of Queensbury. I am not sure where the Salmonella in these cases originated, perhaps from bird seed that was contaminated during the manufacturing or distribution process or, more likely, from seed and areas around birdfeeders becoming contaminated by the feces of infected resident birds.

“Typically in the late winter and early spring we see the pine siskins and common redpolls dying from Salmonellosis. These birds are winter visitors to New York from Canada, and they appear to be unusually sensitive to Salmonella poisoning. The siskins and redpolls may also be stressed as they travel south in search of food. Occasionally we see our year-round resident birds like house sparrows succumbing to Salmonellosis, but not as commonly as the siskins and redpolls, which leads me to believe that the resident birds have a higher tolerance for Salmonella and can act as carriers, infecting feeders, and areas around feeders, with feces containing Salmonella bacteria.

“Try to keep your feed dry because Salmonella grows better in moist environments. It is a good practice to take your feeders down once a week and sanitize them with a 10% bleach solution (1 part chlorine bleach to 9 parts water), and shovel or sweep up the spilled seed under your feeders and discard it in the trash where birds will not have access to it. In addition, if you notice birds acting sick (sitting alone all “puffed up” or acting weak) you should take your feeders down for a week or two to allow the birds to disperse, clean up any spilled seed from the ground and sanitize the feeders by soaking them in a 10% bleach solution for at least 10 minutes before drying them and resuming feeding.  Wear gloves when cleaning bird feeders and wash your hands afterwards.

“If you find dead birds, caution must be exercised when disposing of the carcasses, because humans and pets are susceptible to Salmonella infection. Birds sick with Salmonellosis are easy prey for cats and dogs which can then become infected with Salmonella, which can result in sickness and death. The NYSDEC Wildlife Pathology Unit may be interested in examining birds found dead at feeders (especially if there are four or more at one time) please contact your Regional NYSDEC Wildlife office for guidance or visit the NYSDEC website.”


Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Bats Flying and Dying in Broad Daylight

The disturbing die-off of the Northeast’s bats has been mostly something we’ve heard about on the news.

Reporters have accompanied biologists into abandoned mines to witness bats dying or dead, piled on the floor of their winter hibernacula. » Continue Reading.


Monday, April 20, 2009

A Dry White(water) Season

Low snowpack and scarce April showers have led to burn bans around the Adirondack Park. The drought also has river paddlers wandering, searching for streams pushy enough to float their colorful little boats.

“Whitewater kayakers are being forced into summer habits of traveling downstream, unfortunately by car, to seek water levels suitable enough to sink their paddles in,” writes Jason Smith, on Adirondack Lakes and Trails Outfitters blog. “The Hudson River along with the Moose River, in the central Adirondacks, offer reliable spring flow and are popular spring runs. But even these mighty rivers are running lower than usual. . . . [D]on’t be alarmed if you see a vehicle loaded with short, plastic kayaks driving aimlessly around your neighborhood.”

Other Adirondack critters known to crave a good spring rain are amphibians. In Paul Smiths, in the high-elevation north-central Adirondacks where ice was still on ponds as of Thursday, wood frogs and spotted salamanders began to move on a warm rainy night about two weeks ago, observes Curt Stager, professor of biology at Paul Smith’s College. The cold-blooded creatures live buried in the forest floor most of the year, braving exposure to predators and car tires on rainy April nights to travel to the ephemeral ponds where they breed. Peepers, American toads and other frogs and salamanders also congregate at waterholes this time of year.

Showers Saturday gave creeks and rivers a noticeable boost. The last two weeks had brought snow and then unrelenting sun. “They [herps] have been dribbling around. It was an early start and then it got cut off by the dry weather,” says Stager, who studies local phenology. “Every year is a little different in the Adirondacks. You’ve got to watch it for decades to notice a real pattern.”

High/dry kayaker sketch courtesy of Jason Smith


Thursday, April 16, 2009

Adirondack Events for Mid-April

Rick Moody — author of Garden State, The Ice Storm, The Diviners and the memoir The Black Veil — will read from his most recent novel at 7 p.m. tonight at the Joan Weill Student Center of Paul Smith’s College. The event is free, sponsored by the Adirondack Center for Writing.

Kayaks are on roof racks and the Northern Forest Paddle Film Festival returns to the Lake Placid Center for the Arts at 7 p.m. Friday. There’ll be five shorts about canoeing, kayaking, waterways and the paddling life. Proceeds support the Northern Forest Canoe Trail. $8-12.

April brings the spring whomp. Old-time fiddle and harmonica duo the Whompers are back in town, 7:30 Friday at BluSeed Studios, in Saranac Lake ($10). Musicians are invited to bring instruments for a second-set jam. On Saturday night, Whompers and friends play at the Red Tavern, in Duane. The place is off the grid and off the map, and the dancing goes late into the night.

In the pastoral hill country east of Glens Falls and west of Vermont, 10,000 spectators are expected to turn out Saturday and Sunday for the Tour of the Battenkill, the largest bike race in the country. Two thousand riders will blow through downtown Greenwich, Salem and Cambridge, but the real character of the race comes from remote dirt roads that have earned the event the nickname Battenkill-Roubaix, after the Paris Roubaix of France.

In Bolton Landing, Up Yonda Farm offers a guided Cabin Fever Hike at 1 p.m. Saturday. The walk winds through the farm’s trails to a vista overlooking Lake George. On Sunday the farm will offer Earth Day activities all day. $3; members free.

Monday through Thursday next week, days start warming at the greatest rate of the year. Impatient? At the Adirondack Museum at 1:30 Sunday, naturalist Ed Kanze presents “Eventually . . . the Adirondack Spring.” Free for members and kids; $5 everybody else.

On Monday the Lake Placid Center for the Arts begins a six-session life drawing course, 6-8:30 every Monday evening through May. $55. Call (518) 523-2512 to sign up. Gabriels artist Diane Leifheit runs the course. She will also offer pastel plein air evening classes beginning May 20 (sign up by May 11). The first session introduces pastels and materials, setting up to paint outdoors and mixing colors. The following four sessions will go on location around Lake Placid (weather permitting), capturing the early evening colors. $95. 6-8:30 p.m. Wednesdays, through June 17.


Thursday, April 9, 2009

Leave No Child Inside Program at Adk Wild Center

The recipient of the 2008 Audubon Medal, Richard Louv identified a phenomenon many suspected existed but couldn’t quite put their finger on: nature-deficit disorder. Louv is a journalist and author of the New York Times bestseller Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder, is coming to the Adirondacks on Saturday, May 2nd to discuss the future relationship between nature and children. Since its initial publication, Last Child in the Woods has created a national conversation about the disconnection between children and nature, and his message has galvanized an international movement. Now, three years later, we have reached a tipping point, with the book inspiring Leave No Child Inside initiatives throughout the country.

According to Last Child in the Woods two out of ten of America’s children are clinically obese — four times the percentage of childhood obesity reported in the late 1960s. Children today spend less time playing outdoors than any previous generation. They are missing the opportunity to experience ‘free play’ outside in an unstructured environment that allows for exploration and expansion of their horizons through the use of their imaginations. In Sweden, Australia, Canada and the United States, studies of children in schoolyards with both green areas and manufactured play areas found that children engaged in more creative forms of play in the green areas.

Nature not only benefits children and ensures their participation and stewardship of nature as they grow into adults, nature helps entire families. Louv proposes, “Nature is an antidote. Stress reduction, greater physical health, a deeper sense of spirit, more creativity, a sense of play, even a safer life — these are the rewards that await a family when it invites more nature into children’s lives.”

In addition to Louv speaking about nature deficit disorder, more than twenty-five organizations from throughout the region will be present at the Wild Center to offer information, resources and inspiration for families. Through increasing confidence and knowledge in the outdoors, families can learn how easy it is to become reconnected with nature. Activities scheduled throughout the day on the 31-acre Tupper Lake campus will range from fly fishing and nature scavenger hunts to building a fort or just laying back and watching the clouds as they pass in the sky above.

Louv will also officially open The Pines nature play area at the Wild Center. The Pines is a new type of play area designed entirely with nature in mind. Kids are encouraged to explore the play area on their own terms and in their own time. The event will run from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.


Wednesday, April 8, 2009

NY Master Forest Owner Program Announced

Cornell Cooperative Extension is looking for small-forest owners to volunteer to meet and work with their neighbors through the New York Master Forest Owner (MFO) Volunteer Program. The MFO program is entering its 19th year and a new volunteer training is scheduled May 13-17 at SUNY College of Environmental Science & Forestry, Adirondack Ecological Center in Newcomb. Volunteers who complete the four-day workshop will join the corps of 175 certified volunteers across the state [pdf of current volunteers].

Participants can commute daily, or accommodations are available at the AEC. A $50 registration fee (upon acceptance into the program) helps defray lodging, publications, food, and equipment costs. The workshop combines classroom and outdoor field experiences on a wide variety of subjects, including tree identification, finding boundaries, forest ecology, wildlife and sawtimber management, water quality best management practices, communication techniques, timber harvesting, and invasive species identification and management.

The goal of the program is to provide private forest owners with the information and encouragement necessary to manage their forests to enhance ownership satisfaction. MFOs do not perform management activities nor give professional advice. Rather, they meet with forest owners to listen to their concerns and questions, and offer advice as to sources of assistance based on their training and personal experience.

If you are interested in obtaining an information packet and application form, send your name and address to:

CCE Warren County
377 Schroon River Road
Warrensburg, NY 12885
518-623-3291 or email: [email protected]


Saturday, April 4, 2009

Conservation Easements And The Adirondack Forest

I received this week from John Sheehan, Director of Communications for The Adirondack Council, the following interesting history and analysis of the recent Nature Conservancy sale and what it means to the history of logging in the backcountry. I’m reprinting it here in its entirety for the information of Adirondack Almanack readers:

When the ATP Group, a private investment company that handles pension funds for the Danish government, made its first major investment in the United States Monday, its purchase of 92,000 acres of commercial forestlands from The Nature Conservancy brought to an end the era of the industrial ownership of the Adirondack Park’s vast, private backcountry. » Continue Reading.



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