Monday, November 3, 2008

Adirondack Climate Change Conference Details

The Wild Center has unveiled final plans for the Adirondack Climate gathering, describing the economic focus of the event. The conference, open to the public, will take place November 18 and 19 at The Wild Center in Tupper Lake. Officially titled ‘The American Response to Climate Change – The Adirondack Model: Using Climate Change Solutions to Restore a Rural American Economy,’ the event has been in the planning stages for more than a year. The Conference will include the release of a major study by the Wildlife Conservation Society compiling information on the current impacts of climate change on the Adirondacks and showing detailed projections for the region in the near future.

The goal of the Conference according to organizers is to develop a local plan to boost the region’s economy in a world changed by climate related economics. Mickey Desmarais, who is the Mayor of Tupper Lake, is part of the Conference planning team. “We are all in agreement that new type of green power production is exciting,” he said, “but the biggest and most effective thing we can all do is to conserve what we have. It has to be done at every level, town, village, and in each and every home. We have never had this cost incentive before–-now we do and we are paying attention. We need to keep educating ourselves and the discussion at the conference will help us do that. We know our winter weather is more severe than other parts of the state so that is all the more reason to be smarter about energy. ”

The Adirondack Conference will include groups focused on energy-efficient buildings that will reduce area energy bills and create new jobs through retrofits of existing buildings and new construction, alternative fuels including cellulosic biofuels and forest by-products, small scale power generation technologies and how they could be developed in the region, the development of new local businesses that will benefit from the expected new cap on national carbon emissions, and the role of natural resources, such as clean water and forests. With water shortages predicted by many climate models, the Adirondack supply may have special future value. There is more information about the conference at its official website, www.usclimateaction.org.

“Many of us think this is the best place in the world to live and raise families,” said Ann Heidenreich, Executive Director of Community Energy Services and another of the Conference organizers. “The people here know how to do things. We like to be independent, we get things done ourselves. I don’t see any reason in the world that we can’t get together as Adirondackers and take this opportunity to have the rest of the country say, ‘wow, those guys figured it out.’ I think we can figure out how to put energy money back into our own neighborhoods instead of sending it to Canada or Saudi Arabia for oil.”

Kate Fish, a Lake Placid resident who is Conference Director for both the National and Adirondack Conferences, said that the Adirondack gathering could have immediate impact, and said that many grassroots organizations were already helping to boost the region. “There is something big already happening here. People are looking into the future and seeing that the age of cheap energy is over – that means a possible new day for local food, for locally-generated electricity, for local materials that used to be priced out of the market because it was cheaper to truck something from Mexico than to buy it from a local maker, and when all that changes, a place like the Adirondacks could actually come out ahead.” She cited a study that says that every dollar spent locally circulates between 5 and 14 times in the local community. Fish said that last year Essex County residents alone spent $15 million on fuel oil to heat their homes, 70 percent of it imported. “That’s a lot of money to send away, and a lot that could be invested it in local power generation or savings.”

Stephanie Ratcliffe is executive director of The Wild Center where the idea for the national climate conference held last June and the regional conference was created. Ratcliffe says the conferences were custom-made for the new Museum. “We’re here in part so people can come together to dig into ideas that are important for how the Adirondacks work. We do need a better economy here, and we don’t need a snowless winter. The Adirondack idea of people living with nature works when our kids don’t have to move away to find jobs, and when we can still swim in clean lakes, this Conference gets at both those issues.”

The Adirondack Conference will take place after the election. “Washington won’t start to move until 2009,” said Lake Placid Mayor Jamie Rogers, one of the Conference co-chairs. “The more you look at this the more you see two things. We actually can do this. We can become more independent, and then you see that we’re in great shape to be out in front in the Adirondacks. We don’t have billions of dollars of skyscrapers that all have to be redone. I think of someone in New York City trying to get local food, or a local hydro dam or cutting the waste in their water system, boy it would be tough. We’ve already cut our electric use in Lake Placid by enlisting the scouts to sell energy efficient light bulbs instead of candy.”

The Adirondack Conference will be attended by members of the following businesses, academic institutions, and organizations: New York State Tug Hill Commission, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Wildlife Conservations Society, The Nature Conservancy, Adirondack Park Agency, New York State Department of State, Workforce Development Institute, Adirondack Community Housing Trust, Adirondack Council, Union of Concerned Scientists, SUNY – ESF, St. Lawrence University, Houghton College, Hamilton College, Paul Smith’s College, Community Power Network, Residents’ Committee to Protect the Adirondacks, Adirondack Mountain Club, Energy $mart Park Initiative, and the Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks.

The Conference is open to the public. To register, please visit www.usclimateaction.org


Monday, October 27, 2008

ADK Vows to Fight Bush’s Latest Attack on Clean Air

The Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK) has vowed to vigorously oppose the Bush administration’s efforts to reinstate a federal regulation that would expose the environment to mercury contamination.

In February, a federal appeals court ruled that U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Air Mercury Rule (CAMR) conflicted with the clear language of the federal Clean Air Act, which requires power plants to install the best technology available to reduce mercury emissions. Now, the administration is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse that decision.

CAMR, a cap-and-trade program, allowed polluters to buy pollution credits and emit mercury without pollution controls, which in turn resulted in regional mercury “hot spots.” Two recent studies have linked coal-fired power plants to mercury hot spots in the Adirondacks and Catskills.

ADK has joined with more than a dozen states, leading medical, health care and public health groups, and several prominent national environmental advocacy groups to challenge CAMR. In January 2007, ADK filed a brief with the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia asserting that CAMR was an illegal attempt to weaken the strict mercury emission controls in the Clean Air Act.

Last Friday, acting Solicitor General Greg Garre filed a petition asking the high court to restore the EPA mercury rule. The power industry is also seeking a Supreme Court review of the case.

In enacting the Clean Air Act, Congress provided for strict limits on mercury emissions through the installation of maximum achievable control technology, which Congress made applicable to all coal-burning power plants. By contrast, the EPA administrative rule would have delayed for two decades the elimination of airborne mercury emissions as a source of mercury toxins in the Northeast.

Furthermore, the contested rule would have allowed many of the worst polluters to buy “pollution rights,” continue to release mercury up their smokestacks and perpetuate mercury hot spots in New York and the Northeast.

The Adirondacks and Catskills are downwind of numerous coal-burning power plants, whose mercury emissions contribute significantly to mercury pollution in these regions. A 2007 independent study by Charles Driscoll and the Hubbard Brook Research Foundation estimated that mercury emissions from U.S. coal-fired power plants are responsible for 40 percent to 65 percent of mercury deposition in the Northeast.

Current levels of mercury deposition in the Northeast are four to six times higher than the levels recorded in 1900. Ninety-six percent of the lakes in the Adirondack region and 40 percent of the lakes in New Hampshire and Vermont exceed the recommended EPA action level for methyl mercury in fish. Because of high mercury levels in fish from six reservoirs in the Catskills, state health officials have warned that infants, children under 15 and women of childbearing age should not eat any fish from these reservoirs.

A long-term study by the Wildlife Conservation Society, released earlier this year, confirmed that human-generated mercury emissions are degrading the health and reproductive success of loons in the Northeast. High mercury levels have also been recorded in eagles, songbirds, otters and other animals in the Northeast.


Wednesday, October 15, 2008

‘State of the Park’ Report Released by Adirondack Council

The Adirondack Council reserved its highest praise for Attorney General Andrew Cuomo and the Department of Environmental Conservation, while offering criticism to the federal government and State Senate in its 23rd Annual “State of the Park” report. The publication tracks the actions of local, state and federal officials who helped or hurt the ecological health or wild beauty of the Adirondack Park over the past 12 months.

A non-partisan environmental research, education and advocacy organization based in the Adirondack Park, the Adirondack Council is funded solely through private donations. It doesn’t accept government grants or taxpayer-funded contributions of any kind. The Council does not endorse candidates for public office. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

ADK: Lows Lake Commericial Floatplane Victory

The Adirondack Park Agency has rejected a proposal by the state Department of Environmental Conservation that would have allowed commercial floatplanes to continue to use Lows Lake for up to 10 years under a permit system. Agency commissioners rejected the plan 6-5.

Neil Woodworth, executive director of the Adirondack Mountain Club, said the decision is not just a win for canoeists and kayakers who use Lows Lake, which straddles the Hamilton-St. Lawrence county border in the western Adirondacks. It is also a victory for anyone who cares about the future management of the Adirondack Forest Preserve, he said.

“There is much more at stake here than whether commercial floatplanes should be allowed on a particular Adirondack lake,” Woodworth said. “The real issue is whether DEC is bound by the provisions of the Adirondack Master Plan. APA said today that they are.”

In rejecting DEC’s proposal, APA commissioners followed the recommendations of APA counsel and staff, who concluded that the proposal was “inconsistent with the guidelines and criteria of the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan.” According to the Master Plan, which is part of state Executive Law, the “preservation of the wild character of this canoe route without motorboat or airplane usage … is the primary management goal for this primitive area.”

At 3,100 acres, Lows Lake is one of the larger lakes in the Adirondack Park. The lake stretches about 10 miles east to west and is the centerpiece of two wilderness canoe routes. Floatplanes were rare on Lows Lake until the mid-1990s. Sometime before 1990, non-native bass were illegally introduced into the lake, and as public awareness of the bass fishery grew, floatplanes and motorboat use increased.

In January 2003, when it signed the Bog River Unit Management Plan, DEC agreed to phase out commercial floatplane use of Lows Lake within five years, but the agency never developed the regulation to implement the ban. In May, ADK, the Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks, the Sierra Club and the Residents’ Committee to Protect the Adirondacks sued DEC. The lawsuit was adjourned while APA considered DEC’s proposed amendment to the Bog River UMP, which would have established a permit system for floatplane operators and limited flights into the lake.

APA’s decision to reject the amendment was supported by state law and regulation, including DEC’s 2005 regulation to ban motorboats on Lows Lake. DEC rejected a proposal to zone the lake to provide designated areas for motorboat use, noting that “it would not satisfy the legislative intent to manage the waterway ‘without motorboat or airplane use’ as set forth in the Master Plan.” DEC’s Regulatory Impact Statement for the regulation also refers to the Master Plan as a “legal mandate.”

APA also considered the 1994 UMP for the Five Ponds Wilderness Area that designated the lake as part of a wilderness canoe route. An Oct. 1 APA staff memo noted that that the canoe route was designated “for use by those primarily seeking a wilderness experience.”

DEC has argued that banning floatplanes from Lows Lake would cause financial hardship for the two floatplane businesses in the Adirondacks, but APA staff pointed out that economic considerations were irrelevant to compliance with the Master Plan. Steve Erman, APA’s economic adviser, said in a memo that DEC had provided “little information to indicate that either of these floatplane operations is truly at risk if flight operations to Lows Lake were halted.”

On the other hand, Erman noted that DEC failed to look at the potential economic benefits of paddling on outfitters, lodging, restautants and other businesses in the Adirondacks. “The economy of the Boundary Waters Area of northern Minnesota has been heavily promoted for paddling for years and it has become a significant economic generator,” he said.

Removing commercial floatplanes from Lows Lake will go a long way in bringing to fruition DEC’s goal of expanding “quiet waters” opportunities in the Adirondacks. Roughly 90 percent of the lake and pond surface in the Adirondack Park is open to motorized vessels.

“In light of the law and the recommendations of APA staff, the agency really had no choice but to reject DEC’s proposed amendment,” Woodworth said. “Now it is incumbent upon DEC to move forward on a regulation that will enhance the wilderness character of this important canoe route and prohibit floatplanes on Lows Lake before the 2009 season.”

In court papers, DEC agreed to promulgate regulations to ban floatplanes if its proposal were rejected by the APA. “If the agency (APA) determines that the proposed amendment does not conform to the Master Plan, this proceeding will likely become moot because DEC will then begin to promulgate regulations eliminating public floatplane access to Lows Lake,” according to a motion by Lawrence Rappoport of the state Attorney General’s Office.


Thursday, October 9, 2008

Wild Center: Local Leader on Adirondack Climate Change

Two years ago I was lamenting that no local public leaders were stepping up to the plate on trying to understand what global climate change would mean for the Adirondacks (and it’s ski-tourism industry) – thankfully, that has changed. The Wild Center in Tupper Lake has taken on the lead role of informing their neighbors about the potential impacts of global warming (such as the impact on amphibians), showing local builders what they can do to mitigate those affects, and organizing scientific meetings to discuss and asses the progress of climate change in the Adirondacks.

Next month, The Wild Center will be taking another important step with a another significant conference – American Response to Climate Change Conference: The Adirondack Model. This latest event follows-up on the national leadership meeting held this past June that addressed greenhouse gas abatement policies for the United States. This conference, however, will have a regional approach, with a focus on the Adirondacks. The work of the Adirondack Conference will, in part, be shaped by the research, findings and recommendations from the national conference. According to the website:

The primary conference objective will be to develop a Climate Action Plan for the Adirondacks. This will include specific action recommendations for individuals, communities, and enterprises; detailing climate change driven economic opportunities and benefits for region; concrete time-bound goals for efficiency improvements in buildings and transportation; alternative fuels and small scale power generation options; the role of Adirondack forests and natural systems mitigating greenhouse gas emissions; adaptation measures for local government and economics in changing climate; the role of local governments; policy recommendations for region and state; identification of priority messages and strategies for broad communication efforts; and the creation of an ongoing structure to forward action after the conference.

More than 150 leaders from businesses, local and state government, academia, Adirondack non-profits, and experts in climate mitigation in the areas of building efficiency, alternative fuel sources, small scale power generation technologies, transportation, natural systems and resources, rural areas and local economies.

The conference will take place on November 18th and 19th, 2008; Conservationist of the Year Bill McKibben will be a featured speaker.

BTW, on October 22nd, The Wild Center will announce, with its research partner the Wildlife Conservation Society and Jerry Jenkins, author of The Adirondack Atlas, a major research effort concerning impacts of climate change in the Adirondacks.

Congratulations Wild Center, for showing the way in making our region a leader in the discussions over local impacts to global warming.


Saturday, September 27, 2008

DEC Grants Available for Invasive Species

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Pete Grannis announced today that grant applications are now being accepted for projects proposing to eradicate terrestrial invasive species. Terrestrial invasive species is defined as a plant or animal that lives or grows predominately on land. Applications will be accepted until October 31, 2008

DEC is making up to $1 million in state grants available to municipalities and not-for-profit organizations for projects to eradicate and/or permanently remove infestations of terrestrial invasive species throughout the state. The funding for these grants was secured in the 2008-09 enacted state budget, through the Environmental Protection Fund. State funds can be used to pay for up to one-half of the cost of selected projects. Individual grants for terrestrial eradication proposals will be awarded for projects that range from $2,500, up to $100,000. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, September 25, 2008

Take a Child Outside Week at Adirondack Museum

The Adirondack Museum at Blue Mountain Lake, New York is inviting families visiting the museum from September 24 through September 30 to participate in the “Young Naturalists Program” — a series of self-guided activities that explore gardens, grounds, and wooded areas while learning about the natural history of the Adirondacks.

The Adirondack Museum is one of many participants nationwide in “Take a Child Outside Week.” The program is designed to help break down obstacles that keep children from discovering the natural world. By arming parents, teachers, and other caregivers with resources about outdoor activities, the goal is to help children across the country develop a better understanding and appreciation of the environment in which they live, and a burgeoning enthusiasm for its exploration.

“Take a Child Outside Week” has been initiated by the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences and is held in cooperation with partner organizations such as the Adirondack Museum, across the United States and Canada.

The museum is offering a number of special activities to guide families in exploration of the outdoors. Find the beauty in leaves, trees, and rocks with the Nature’s Art Scavenger Hunt. Use a tree guide to identify and learn about the trees on museum campus. Learn about the tracks and signs animals leave behind at the Animal Signs Station and visit sites on grounds where you can see signs of nighttime animal visitors. Make a pinecone mobile or leaf rubbing at our Nature Crafts Center. Explore mystery boxes at the Senses Station and look at pictures and pelts of Adirondack animals. Learn how animal coloring helps them survive. Watch fish in the pond, learn how to identify rainbow and brook trout, and help feed them lunch at 12:30 p.m. daily.

Families should not leave the museum without a “Young Naturalists” booklet filled with activity suggestions to do at home, in parks, and on trails.

According to the organizers of the weeklong program, “Going Outside” connects children to the natural world, helps kids focus in school, and reduces chances of childhood obesity.


Thursday, September 25, 2008

5 Questions: Nature Conservancy’s Connie Prickett

Connie Prickett is Director of Communications, for the The Nature Conservancy’s Adirondack Chapter & Adirondack Land Trust in Keene. I sent her five questions about the impending sale of more then 90,000 of the 161,000 acres of Finch Pruyn lands the Conservancy recently purchased; here are her responses.

AA: Does this sale mean that all 90,500 acres will be logged off?

CP: The lands are being offered for sale subject to a conservation easement that specifies the land will be managed on a sustainable basis for forest products; restricts both private and commercial development; and will provide for some public access in the future. The objective is to keep these lands as commercial working forests. The property is currently managed under two “green” certifications: Forest Stewardship Council and Sustainable Forestry Initiative. Maximum annual harvest levels are determined by things like soil, slope, species composition, and growing conditions. There is a fiber supply agreement in place that requires pulp wood from this property to go to the Finch Paper mill in Glens Falls, New York. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Nature Conservancy Purchases Follensby Pond

Some of the biggest news this summer has come out of the Nature Conservancy. First there was the announcement at the end of August that it will list for sale — under conservation easement — about 90,000 acres of the 161,000 acres of former Finch, Pruyn lands it acquired in June 2007.

Now comes the news that the Conservancy has purchased Follensby Pond for $16 million. The pond was the location of the Philosopher’s Camp where Ralph Waldo Emerson, William James Stillman, Louis Agassiz, and others helped birth the Transcendentalist movement, often cited as a important precedent for the modern environmental movement. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, September 9, 2008

APA to Host Online Energy Conservation Workshop

From the Adirondack Park Agency:

On Wednesday, September 10, 2008 at the Agency’s offices, there will be an energy conservation workshop beginning at 1:00 (and ending no later than 4:00) focused on technical assistance for the design, construction and financing of energy efficient residential dwellings. The session will be web-cast.

Presenters will include:

James Hotaling, Architect-Planner, AIA, AICP, will discuss the overall energy aspects approach of the regional plan, site assessment, including solar and other potentials, and his experience for the possible energy-related futures for large and small scaled homes, with ‘old’ and ‘new’ examples.

Michael DeWein, Technical Director, BCAP/Alliance to Save Energy, will discuss simple, cost-effective things people can do to save money and energy in the home. This will cover simple home air sealing and insulation treatments, to getting a proper energy audit, to installing a variety of energy conservation measures themselves.

David Trudeau, Program Coordinator for Honeywell, will discuss 3 NYSERDA residential programs for existing homes: i) EmPower NY, ii) Assisted Home Performance with Energy Star, and iii) Home Performance with Energy Star. David will also discuss various types of heating fuels (electric, propane, fuel oil, Kerosene, wood pellets, and cord wood) and the cost comparisons between them.


Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Green Path, Green Builder Event at The Wild Center

The Wild Center is the only LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified museum in New York State. LEED is a green building rating system, developed by the U.S. Green Building Council to provide standards for environmentally sustainable construction. The certification is considered the international benchmark for green building design. The Wild Center is going farther then just the certification, however, and will host a special day in October for builders and regional leaders to learn about the newest techniques and technologies of green building. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, August 21, 2008

Blogging Adirondack Bald Eagles

Blogger, and part time Adirondack resident, Tigerhawk (who knew he was the cousin of another great semi-local blogger Walking the Berkshires) has posted photos of a pair of nesting Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus, with little ones) above his camp. He is expecting “periodic showers of whitewash, partially eaten small mouth bass, and the bones of small mammals” on his deck from the feeding birds of prey.

Experts note that “the bald eagle is a long-lived bird, with a life span in the wild of more than 30 years. Bald eagles mate for life, returning to nest in the general area (within 250 miles) from which they fledged. Once a pair selects a nesting territory, they use it for the rest of their lives.”

The Bald Eagle was officially reclassified from “Endangered” to “Threatened” in 1995 by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, and was delisted as “Endangered and Threatened Wildlife” in June 2007.

The Adirondacks was once home to plenty of bald Eagles, which can stand three feet tall and weigh up to 14 pounds, with a wingspan of four feet. Estimates of Eagle populations in the lower-48 during the 1700s ranged from 300 to 500 thousand, but by the 1950s there were just 412 nesting pairs.

According to the great wiki:

The species was first protected in the U.S. and Canada by the 1918 Migratory Bird Treaty, later extended to all of North America. The 1940 Bald Eagle Protection Act in the U.S., which protected the Bald Eagle and the Golden Eagle, prohibited commercial trapping and killing of the birds. The Bald Eagle was declared an endangered species in the U.S. in 1967, and amendments to the 1940 act between 1962 and 1972 further restricted commercial uses and increased penalties for violators. Also in 1972, DDT was banned in the United States. DDT was completely banned in Canada in 1989, though its use had been highly restricted since the late 1970s.

With regulations in place and DDT banned, the eagle population rebounded. The Bald Eagle can be found in growing concentrations throughout the United States and Canada, particularly near large bodies of water. In the early 1980s, the estimated total population was 100,000 birds, with 110,000–115,000 by 1992; the U.S. state with the largest resident population is Alaska, with about 40,000–50,000 birds, with the next highest population being the Canadian province of British Columbia with 20,000–30,000 birds in 1992.

According the DEC, they are still listed as Threatened in New York State:

The New York State Bald Eagle Restoration Project began in 1976 in an attempt to reestablish a breeding population through hacking (hand rearing to independence). Over a 13 year period, 198 nestling bald eagles were collected (most from Alaska), transported and released in New York.

The hacking project ended in 1989, when it accomplished its goal of establishing ten breeding pairs. The bald eagle program’s focus has now shifted to finding and protecting nesting pairs in New York, and monitoring their productivity. Bald eagles continue to do well; in 2005 New York had 92 breeding pairs, which fledged 112 young. Each year, New York’s bald eagles fledge about 10 percent more young eagles than the year before.

Here is a (rather unlikely) story which you can take for what it’s worth. In 1912, Milton Stelves of Glens Falls reported that he was “nearly killed in a fight with a bald eagle” near a North Creek lumber camp. Stelves was walking into camp when he spotted two eagles on the carcass of a calf. He drew up his gun and killed one of the birds but the other came straight for him. Before he could reload it was on him and he was hollering for help and trying to beat it away with the butt of his rifle. A man coming to the rescue beat the bird to death with a club. According to Lowville Journal Republican it measured nine feet from wing tip to wing tip and weighed in at 72 pounds.


Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Wild Center’s New Film An Apparent Success

Mammoths roam the valleys, giant sloths clamber up trees and whales swim in from Lake Champlain. It’s all part of the Wild Center‘s new movie that is earning rave reviews for its new take on a rarely seen story.

The Wild Center was designed with a showpiece theater. The screen is so wide it requires three projectors working together to create the panoramic effect. This summer the Center raised the curtain on its first full-motion movie, filmed expressly for the special wide-screen theater. The movie, called A Matter of Degrees, was filmed on location in Greenland and the Adirondacks over the course of two years by the award-winning film company Chedd-Angier-Lewis.

“It’s amazing to see that the glacier that wiped this place out is basically still around, and still making news up in Greenland,” said Susan Arnold, the Museum’s membership manager who has seen the movie numerous times with all kinds of audiences. “People are really responding to the movie, everything from tears to waiting in line to see it again.”

The movie has writing credits from former Adirondack Life publisher Howard Fish, features music by sometime Saranac Lake resident Martin Sexton and is narrated by Sigourney Weaver, another of the long list of participants with strong Adirondack ties.

A Matter of Degrees takes viewers back to an Adirondacks that was home to mammoths, California condors, ground sloths, ice and floods. “We wanted to look at what made the Adirondacks,” said Stephanie Ratcliffe, Executive Director of The Wild Center and one of the film’s producers. “It was fascinating to know how much has happened in this one place, and that it’s never been explored on film before.” Ratcliffe was on the team that flew to inspect Greenland as a location. “It really felt like time travel. There were places in Greenland that looked similar to the Adirondacks, without the forest cover. We stood at the edge of a glacier, and it did feel as if we were standing on an Adirondack peak 12,000 years ago.”

Rick Godin, who led the local camera crew, flew over the Adirondacks with a state-of-the-art camera that could zoom down on details from a mile above the tree tops. “It was the same technology used in filming Planet Earth for the BBC. It was great to be up there, knowing that we were making a real movie about the Adirondacks and telling what we think is a really important story.”

The movie is 24 minutes long, and received rave reviews when it was screened for preview audiences at The Wild Center’s national climate conference in June.


Friday, August 15, 2008

Advocates Endorse DOT’s Adirondack Guidelines

The Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks believes the adoption of the new state Department of Transportation (DOT) Guidelines for the Adirondack Park – also called the “Green Book” – is a significant step for the protection and sound environmental maintenance of the park’s highways and greenways.

Completion of the Green Book and its revisions was one of the primary stipulations of a legal “Consent Order” that followed the unconstitutional cutting of several thousands of trees on Forest Preserve lands along the Route 3 scenic highway corridor between Saranac Lake and Tupper Lake in 2005. The Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks filed a civil violation of the Forest Preserve complaint against the cutting with the NYS-DEC at the time and then worked extensively to see the provisions of a strong “Consent Order” against DOT be brought to fruition.

Association Comments on the Draft “Green Book” include:

The Association commends the Department in the tremendous amount of work undertaken in compiling the Draft NYS-DOT Guidelines for the Adirondack Park. The document in and of itself represents a comprehensive compendium of state policy, regulations, design criteria and case studies regarding roadway and highway engineering, design and environmental controls.

The Department is making progress on the requirements of the 2006 “Order on Consent” between the DEC, DOT and APA which required inclusion of policies directing the DOT with regard to addressing hazard tree management within the Adirondack Park, verifying the specific requirements for the application of needed temporary revocable permits (TRPs) and designating accountable Department staff expertise needed to guide and monitor parkwide program implementation. The DOT parkwide engineer position held by Ed Franze was one of AFPA’s recommendations.

The Association is also pleased that the Department has produced the Appendix Q outlining the “Environmental Commitments and Obligations for Maintenance (ECOM) that includes the environmental checklist for NYSDOT maintenance activities in the Adirondack Park and the outline for the needed Adirondack Park Baseline Maintenance Training program.

However, the Association felt these sections require further consensus between the State departments and agencies and public stakeholders in order to fully protect Park resources and to prevent reoccurrences of the 2005 Route 3 tree-cutting which led to the Order on Consent.

Dan Plumley, the Association’s Director of Park Protection, also called on all three state agencies (DOT, DEC and APA) to develop unite around a joint mission to create a planning process for all highway and greenway corridors in the Park. Plumley outlined strategies the agencies should take for enhancing the Park’s scenic, natural character; support walkable communities; advance mass transit opportunities; and mitigate negative effects of roadways and traffic.

A summary of the Associations’ major comments on the Green Book are available online.


Thursday, August 14, 2008

I-87 Adirondack Northway Cell Towers Update

The Glens Falls Post Star is reporting on recent permits approved for cell towers along the Northway (I-87):

The applications recently approved include several Verizon permits in Warrensburg, Chestertown, North Hudson and Schroon Lake. Verizon plans eventually to operate 18 towers near the Northway, from Lake George all the way to Peru, just south of Plattsburgh.

Earlier this month, the Park Agency approved a permit to construct a 100-foot tower on Route 9 in Lewis that is expected to cover three miles north and south of the site along the Northway, near Exit 32.

In September, the Park Agency will decide on another Verizon application for a permit in Chesterfield, near Keeseville at Northway Exit 34.

One of the biggest issues with the towers has always been the destruction of the Adirondack viewshed, which is crucial to the tourism industry. The APA’s towers policy is being credited by John Sheehan of the Adirondack Council for the swift and appropriate placement of new towers:

The Lewis tower will not interrupt the park scenery for passersby, as it will be hidden from view by a hill and trees, [Adirondack Park Agency Spokesman Keith McKeever] said.

Advocates for environmental preservation, who previously expressed concern over the development of cell phone towers in the region, are pleased with the recent wave of applications and approvals, including the one in Lewis.

“They carefully picked a site that was going to be away from public view and made it large enough to carry more than one company,” said The Adirondack Council’s director of communications, John Sheehan. “That’s exactly the way we were hoping they would carry out the communication expansion in the park.”

Sheehan credited the Park Agency for making its requirements for tower development clear to phone companies. The agency requires that towers be built on sites that aren’t highly visible from roadways and other public areas.

If it’s true, it will be another example of private-public cooperation in protecting the park’s natural resources, but as Adirodnack Almanack predicted over a year ago, there will still be plenty of areas that will not be reached by cell service:

Some gaps in reception, or dead zones, will still exist, [APA Spokesman McKeever] said. “There’s going to be some dead zones when you’re going through a mountainous region like this.”

McKeever recommended people use emergency boxes located every two miles on the Northway if they have an emergency in a dead zone.

Neither of the two people killed on the Northway during severe weather last year would have been helped by a call box, and it’s yet to be seen if the new towers are going to cover the areas where they died.

The cell phone issue was named #1 on Adirondack Almanack’s Top Stories of 2007.



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