Sunday, February 28, 2010

Adirondack Day at the Wild Center, Tupper Lake

Ten years after the Adirondack Curriculum Project (ACP) began, hundreds of teachers and students have been touched by their work and better understand the unique landscape of their home, the Adirondacks. They will share their knowledge with each other during Adirondack Day on March 4th at The Wild Center in Tupper Lake.

Approximately 140 students and teachers from six schools will share their projects through storytelling, a puppet show, a game show, interactive displays and presentations, on Adirondack topics from biodiversity and trout to nocturnal animals and history. Schools attending include – Tupper Lake, Potsdam, Indian Lake, Newcomb, Lake Placid, and Ausable Valley.

Often times in the Adirondacks, because of time and distance, small schools don’t have the opportunity to interact. Adirondack Day provides the opportunity for these students to meet and ‘teach’ each other. Certainly by the end of the day, there will be over 100 young people more knowledgeable about the uniqueness of their home.

Sandy Bureau, science teacher at Indian Lake Central School and one of the day’s organizers says, “Research shows that having to ‘teach’ others is one of the best ways to learn. We hope to provide that opportunity and to help students feel the value of their voices and learning about this special place we live in.”

The ACP’s mission is to foster better public understanding, appreciation and stewardship of the Adirondack region’s natural and cultural resources, by providing educational resources and training opportunities for teachers in the region. The ACP hosts workshops for teachers showing them how to develop an ‘Adirondack Challenge’ – a student-centered, project-based, lesson plan aligned with NYS Learning Standards.

Teachers leave the workshops with a project ready to use in their own classrooms. They later submit their completed projects to the ACP, where other teachers can access and utilize those resources. Adirondack Day is the first opportunity for students who participated in those projects to share their experiences.

For additional information on the Adirondack Curriculum Project, visit www.adkcurriculumproject.org.

Adirondack Day has been funded by The Glenn and Carol Pearsall Adirondack Foundation, which is dedicated to improving the quality of life for year-round residents of the Adirondack Park.


Thursday, February 25, 2010

Commentary: Betty Little’s McCarthyism

Olmstedville (that’s in Minerva, Essex County) boat builder and businessman Peter Hornbeck has made it through the NYS Senate’s Environmental Conservation Committee, the first hoop in his nomination by Governor David Paterson to serve on the Adirondack Park Agency board of commissioners (APA). The vote was a smack-down of sorts for local Republican Senator Betty Little who sits on the committee and has opposed Hornbeck’s nomination from the start. What Little doesn’t like about Hornbeck, she told North County Radio, was “his association as chairman of the Residents Committee to Protect the Adirondacks.”

Little’s spokesman Dan Mac Entee, claiming to represent “dozens” of local officials, told the Plattsburgh Press Republican: “They feel his affiliation with environmental groups suggests he is going to bring an environmental agenda to APA, not an economic-development agenda, which we feel is critically important now.” Little wants Lake Placid resort owner Arthur Lussi, whose term is expiring, to remain in his seat. “We feel he has a balanced approach to economic development in the park,” Mac Entee said. [BTW, the Minerva Town Board disagrees; it voted to send a letter in support of the Hornbeck nomination to both the Governor and the Environmental Conservation Committee.]

What Little says she really wants is to require all five of the in-park APA Commissioners to be chosen by her pet group, the Adirondack Association of Towns and Villages, who is supported by a gaggle of attorneys, engineers, and development interests. NCPR’s Brian Mann asked the Senator: “Wouldn’t that kind of a measure basically preclude anyone with an environmentalist background being chosen?”

“Not necessarily,” Little responded. “I think that they understand that there is a balance and most likely would know that they would have to have some people on that list who were maybe active environmentalists.” She kind of mumbled that “maybe” so I don’t fault Brian Mann for not following-up with the question, “Maybe Yes or Maybe No?”

Anyone who looks at Betty Little’s record of opposing the APA and the concept of a Forest Preserve can see what she’s really after: a purge of those she labels “environmentalists” from all decision-making related to the Adirondacks. Pete Hornbeck, who employs five people in good-paying manufacturing jobs at Hornbeck Boats, has made a crucial error in Little’s mind, in that he has associated with the wrong people.

“I have here in my hand a list of two hundred and five [people] that were known . . . as being environmentalists and who nevertheless are still working and shaping the policy of the APA,” Little said.

Just kidding – that was a quote from Joseph McCarthy; just replace environmentalists with Communist Party, and APA with State Department.

McCarthy saw enemies everywhere, including really evil places like the National Lawyers Guild and the American Civil Liberties Union. Little has her own enemies list that includes not just local conservation organizations, but apparently their supporters and members as well.

I’d like to ask her that famous question from the McCarthy hearings: “At long last, have you left no sense of decency?” But I already know the answer, Little showed her sense of decency when she opposed the rights of gay people to be married, when she said that the Republican coup attempt that brought the state legislature to a standstill last year was a good idea, when she toyed with closing North Country Community College, and when she got a little too close to the criminal conspiracy of her leader Joe Bruno.

For background, the APA Board includes five representatives of local interests from inside the Park, three representing the rest of the state, and the state’s Commissioner of the Department of Economic Development, the Secretary of State, and the Commissioner of Environmental Conservation (Pete Grannis). These last three appoint others to represent the interests of their agencies. Regional Director for DEC Region 5 Betsey Lowe (former Executive Director of Wild Center) is Grannis’s substitute on the board; Region 5 includes three-quarters of the Adirondack Park. Lowe recently joined local members in opposing a wilderness classification for Low’s Lake. Fred Monroe of the Local Government Review Board has a non-voting seat on the APA Board.

Six of the eleven voting members (plus Monroe) of the current APA Board are full-time residents of the Adirondack Park. Three members of the APA Board—Curt Stiles, Cecil Wray, and Dick Booth—previously served on the board of the Adirondack Council. How many APA Commissioners are members of a Chamber of Commerce is anyone’s guess. The status of their connections to the Communist Party are also unknown.

Hornbeck’s appointment will need to pass the Senate Finance Committee before a full Senate vote.

Photo: Peter Hornbeck from the Hornbeck Boats website.


Monday, February 22, 2010

Road Salt Study Raises Concerns, Offers Suggestions

A new study on roadway de-icing in the Adirondacks describes an antiquated, ineffective, expensive, and environmentally damaging system in need of revision. Commissioned by the non-partisan political action committee AdkAction.org, the science was compiled by Daniel L. Kelting, Executive Director of the Adirondack Watershed Institute (AWI) at Paul Smith’s College, and Corey L. Laxson, Research Associate. The findings are available online [pdf] and are being distributed to the New York State Department of Transportation and local governments responsible for salting Adirondack roadways. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, February 18, 2010

Adirondack Park Agency Releases 2009 Annual Report

The Adirondack Park Agency (APA) 2009 Annual Report documents efforts toward what the agency calls “balancing natural resource protection with the needs of communities.” It is available as a PDF and includes links to key documents and policies.

This year the APA introduced legislation to address the community housing issues, the establishment of a local government planning fund, and efforts to streamline the agency’s administrative process. None of these bills made it through both legislative houses.

The APA also took action over the past year on affordable housing, snowmobile trail guidelines, regulatory matters, and the classification and reclassification of State lands. A Community Spotlight series was initiated this past year and seven town supervisors were special guests at the monthly agency meetings. The local elected officials discussed their communities issues and informed the agency about the uniqueness of their communities.

The Park Agency also welcomed new leadership in 2009. In August, Terry Martino was appointed APA Executive Director. Throughout 2009, the Administration Division continued implementing energy efficiency measures in accordance with Governor Paterson’s Green Procurement and Agency Sustainability Program. This year’s actions resulted in significant decreases in energy consumption and a fiscal savings of $35,363, according to the Agency, who said that staff also met all budget mandates totaling an overall agency budget reduction of 11 percent.

Here are some additional details from the APA Annual Report announcement:

The Economic Services Division participated in the review and approval of 69 economic development projects, including 32 projects to retain or create jobs in the region. In addition to job creation projects, staff assisted in the approval of 37 infrastructure projects critical to stimulating new economic activity in the future.

Regulatory Programs staff issued 375 permits including 31 cellular project and two residential wind project approvals. Staff responded effectively to address the disruptions caused by the sudden closure of the Lake Champlain Bridge. The expedited approval for the Port Henry ferry project established a crucial temporary transportation route across Lake Champlain while construction of a new bridge is planned.

Planning staff worked closely with local government to address community needs through the map amendment process. In the Town of Fine approximately 60 acres were reclassified to accommodate future expansion of the Clifton-Fine hospital. Staff held public hearings for locally proposed amendments from the Towns of Minerva, Johnsburg and Inlet.

Local Government Services staff responded to 680 inquiries from local officials on land use issues and participated in twenty-four meetings with town officials providing information on agency jurisdiction and land use law. In addition, staff developed two computer programs to improve retrieval abilities for local zoning information and enhance mapping abilities for local government officials.

State land staff worked with DEC on management guidance for the siting, construction and maintenance of snowmobile trails on state lands classified Wild Forest. Staff also provided advice on the development of ten draft unit management plans and prepared three state land classification packages.

Resource Analysis and Scientific Services staff completed 347 wetland delineations, advised on 272 wetland jurisdictional determinations, evaluated 246 deep hole test pits, reviewed 155 stormwater management plans and 265 septic system plans. Staff also developed a guidance document for Forestry Use Involving Wetlands to streamline the permitting process.

Regulatory revision continued to be a significant focus for Legal staff. During the year, staff implemented regulatory revisions related to subdivisions involving wetlands and expansion of structures within shoreline setback areas. Other major litigation resulted in a determination that farm worker housing is not subject to agency jurisdiction when associated with an agricultural use, and validation of the agency’s enforcement program in a Federal Court challenge alleging discrimination in the administration of the program.

The Jurisdictional Inquiry Office wrote 954 jurisdictional determinations, handled 920 referrals from other agencies and answered nearly 5,030 general inquiry phone calls. In addition, staff processed 231 Freedom of Information requests.

Enforcement staff closed 104 more cases (548) than it opened (444), reversing the historic trend of an ever-increasing backlog of open enforcement cases. Of the 351 violations resolved in 2009, enforcement staff negotiated 317 settlements – a total of 99 more cases resolved by settlement agreement in 2009 than 2008. Landowners undertook remediation based on informal agreements with enforcement staff for an additional 29 minor violations.

At the Agency’s Visitor Interpretive Centers at Paul Smiths and Newcomb, staff continued to deliver quality programs and experiences. More than 80,000 people visited the Visitor Interpretive Centers in 2009: 21,753 at Newcomb and 59,841 at Paul Smiths.


Saturday, February 6, 2010

APA Has Approved 188 Telecomm Permits

If there was any doubt about where the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) stands on cell towers, the following press release, presented here in it’s entirety, should clear it up:

On January 29, 2010 the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) hosted a meeting on telecommunication projects which was attended by Senator Betty Little, Assemblywoman Janet Duprey, Franklin County officials, Local Government Review Board Executive Director, Verizon, T-Mobile and AT&T representatives. Agency staff were in attendance and provided an overview of the Agency’s Towers Policy and the 31 telecommunication projects approved in 2009 resulting in a total of 116 telecommunication structures in the Adirondack Park through a total of 188 permits. The meeting focused on ways to refine the permitting process, reduce cost, extend coverage and promote coordination between the cellular carriers.

During the meeting participants expressed strong support for continued improvement in overall cellular coverage throughout the Adirondack Park to benefit local residents, businesses and tourists. There was discussion about the need for the agency to consider fewer taller towers to promote co-location. Officials emphasized co-location potential is minimized when permitted towers just peek above the tree line. Discussion also focused on considering different conditions where not readily discernible and sometimes visible could build more flexibility into the agency’s review process.

There was encouragement for cellular carriers to coordinate planning efforts and submit joint applications. Industry representatives indicated they must abide by FCC regulations which limit the extent they can collaborate when planning their networks. Carriers said they do not submit joint applications or design their overall network based on the possibility of co-location but can design individual towers to accommodate future co-locations. They also stated system development is driven by customer base and while co-location is advantageous it is not currently a major part of their business model or revenue sources.

The carriers did acknowledge they realized significant benefits from information provided by agency staff and local officials in reference to the availability of tall structures located throughout the park. Carrier representatives proposed the agency itself consider slightly taller towers to accommodate co-location.

Tower height was also discussed by local government officials regarding differences in coverage areas for the Verizon Paul Smith’s College site. During the initial proposal, Verizon s propagation analysis for a 90 foot tower projected a coverage range of approximately 1.5 to 2 miles and analysis further indicated little change in range for the approved 65 foot tower. However, with the site built and operational, the public is experiencing coverage within approximately a three mile radius of the campus. Verizon officials indicated that a higher customer user volume could occasionally cause a decrease in the coverage area which was noted by local town officials. Agency staff presented a Verizon Wireless coverage map of NYS Route 30 which identified the potential need for three additional towers between Paul Smith s and Duane to ensure coverage along the corridor. It was also noted that topography and specific locations are two important factors in terms of serving population centers and travel corridors.

The meeting included dialogue on possible approval process refinements. Agency staff suggested pre-application meetings earlier in the process to avoid extra costs associated with visual analysis and site engineering details. Staff also suggested carriers utilize the agency’s tall structure GIS database to help design networks. In addition, an interesting approach to siting multiple towers on sites where taller towers would not be appropriate was suggested. There was discussion about the potential to amend the co-location General Permit to review the proposal for a new tower on an existing site as a horizontal co-location. This could result in significant time and cost savings.

The discussion addressed how telecommunications services provide a safety network for visitors, residents and businesses. It was acknowledged that additional tower development throughout the park will build services that result in decreased gaps in coverage. Chairman Stiles stated that the agency’s administration of the Towers Policy has matured and the agency will consider the various recommendations shared. How do we refine the process to serve the public good? he asked.

APA APPROVED 31 CELLULAR PROJECTS IN 2009

Staff provided an overview detailing the continued improvement in cellular coverage inside the park. In 2009, the APA approved 31 permits/amendments for cellular projects. This included 14 new towers, 14 co-location projects, 1 replacement and 2 replacement/co-location permits. Presently there are 11 cellular tower applications under review. To date the agency has issued 188 telecommunication permits resulting in the construction of 116 structures.

2009 Cellular Permit Activity By Cellular Carrier

8 Verizon Wireless Permits:

5 New Towers
2 Co-locations
1 Replacement

18 T-Mobile Permits:

6 New Towers
11 Co-locations
1 Replacement & Co-location

1 AT&T Permit:

1 Co-location

Additionally, park-wide coverage was reviewed in relation to the following eleven applications that are pending approval:

11 Cellular Applications Pending Approval:

1 in Town of Dresden (behind Hulett’s Landing fire station)
1 in Town of Keene (near Neighborhood House)
1 in Town of Fine (NYS Route 3)
1 in Town of Minerva (NYS Route 28 & Morse Memorial Hwy)
1 in Town of Chesterfield (Virginia Drive)
1 in Town of Clifton (NYS Route 3, Cranberry Lake)
1 in Town of Chester (NYS Route 9, Word of Life)
1 in Town of Wilmington (NY Route 86)
1 in Town of Queensbury (West Mountain Road)
1 in Town of Duane (Co. Rt. 26, fire department)
1 in Town of Westport (Boyle Road)

Coverage along travel corridors and communities continues to improve as cellular companies build approved projects.

Staff also noted policy implementation through the permit process has withstood legal challenges which ensures approved projects move forward in a timely fashion for telecommunication carriers. The Agency’s Towers Policy, revised in February of 2002, discourages mountaintop towers and promotes the co-location of facilities on existing structures. The policy is intended to protect the Adirondack Park’s aesthetic and open space resources by describing how telecommunication tower sites achieve substantial invisibility. The natural scenic character of the Adirondack Park is the foundation of the quality of life and economy of the region, long recognized as a uniquely special and valuable State and National treasure.

The policy also recognizes the importance for telecommunications and other technologies to support the needs of local residents, the visiting public and the Park’s economic sector. The policy includes guidance for telecommunication companies to ensure successful implementation of projects.

Guidance includes: avoiding locating facilities on mountaintops and ridge lines; concealing any structure by careful siting, using a topographic or vegetative foreground or backdrop; minimizing structure height and bulk; using color to blend with surroundings; and using existing buildings to locate facilities whenever possible.

The mission of the Adirondack Park Agency is to protect the public and private resources of the Adirondack Park through the exercise of the powers and duties of the Agency as provided by law. With its headquarters located in Ray Brook, the Agency also operates two Visitor Interpretive Centers, in Newcomb and Paul Smiths. For more information, call the APA at (518) 891-4050 or visit www.apa.state.ny.us.


Friday, January 15, 2010

Bolton Landing Wrestles With Ridge Line Development

From the heights of Bolton Landing, the views are of water, islands and mountains covered with forests that have not been disturbed for a century or more.

But from a boat on Lake George or from the opposite shore, the hills of Bolton Landing might remind some of a spawling suburb; houses creep along the crests and ridges, all designed with one goal in mind: to capture as much of the view as possible.

Despite the protests of groups like the Lake George Waterkeeper and The Fund for Lake George, more houses on ridge lines have been proposed.

And there appears to be little the environmental groups can do about it.

Bolton’s own comprehensive plan calls for the protection of the town’s hillsides, but that plan has yet to be translated into specific rules.

In the absence of regulations, the town’s Planning Board must work with developers to make roads and houses as unobtrusive as possible and to limit the numbers of trees that are felled.

“The challenge of the board is to allow development without changing the natural environment,” said Kathy Bozony, The Fund for Lake George’s land use co-ordinator.

One proposed development that will change the environment, representatives of the environmental protection organizations claim, includes a mile-long road up a mountainside where houses will be built.

The road and houses will be visible from the lake, the town-owned Conservation park and the Lake George Land Conservancy’s Cat Mountain preserve.

In December, for the third time in twelve months, the Planning Board reviewed the proposal.

According to Lake George Waterkeeper Chris Navitsky, the development will “become a permanent fixture of the viewshed from Cat Mountain, one of the most prominent peaks on the western shore of the lake. The clearing and disturbance is excessive and will have an impact on the resources of the community for generations to come.”

“We’re’re sensitive to viewshed preservation,” said Peter Loyola of CLA Site, the Saratoga-based architecture and design firm that planned the road and home sites. “But there’s a dilemna; the higher the home, the better the view. We want the houses to have some views of the lake.”

According to Loyola, the developers worked with the Town to create the most comprehensive and stringent program ever proposed in Bolton to mitigate the effects of tree cutting at the site, including stiff, enforceable fines for cutting trees once the houses were constructed.

“In twenty years, you won’t even see the houses,” said Loyola. Anyone violating the prohibition on tree cutting could be fined as much as $35,000 per violation, Loyola said.

But John Gaddy, a member of the Planning Board, said he questioned the efficacy of tree-cutting restrictions. “We’ve tried re-vegetation programs; they’re abused to get views. The Town won’t be a strong enforcer because it does not want to become the Tree Police,” said Gaddy. Moreover, he said, “There’s too much disturbance and the houses are in too sensitive
an area for me to support this project.”

Gaddy and another Planning Board voted against the project at the December meeting, just as they had at the two earlier meetings. With two members absent, having recused themselves, the proposal could not muster the support of a majority.

But according to lawyers for the developers, that vote does not mean the project has been denied. Instead, citing state law and local zoning codes, they argue that a stalemate constitutes “no action” rather than a denial. They assert the application must be deemed approved by default.

“We’re very disappointed the town could not reach a decision on one of its most controversial projects,” said Waterkeeper Chris Navitsky. “We’re contemplating legal challenges if the deadlock is treated as an approval.”

For more news from Lake George, read the Lake George Mirror

Photo: Artist’s rendering of a proposed development on Bolton’s ridge line, after reforestation has begun. Image courtesy of Lake George Waterkeeper.


Thursday, January 14, 2010

Groups Sue To Protect SLMP, Wilderness Water Routes

The Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK) and Protect the Adirondacks! (PROTECT), filed a lawsuit Tuesday in state Supreme Court in Albany to force the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) to classify the state-owned Lows Lake-Bog River-Oswegatchie wilderness canoe route in the heart of the Adirondacks.

The move comes on the heels of Governor David Paterson’s signing off on the classification and reclassification of about 8,000 acres (the Lows Lake Primitive Area, a portion of the Hitchins Pond Primitive Area, and additional acres south of Lows Lake) to wilderness their addition to the Five Ponds and Round Lake wilderness areas and also creating a new Eastern Five Ponds Access Primitive Area. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Eco-driving: Squeeze More Miles From Your Car

“We’ll need gas soon,” said my friend Jim, as we drove through the Adirondack night last weekend somewhere west of Warrensburg. “I think I can make it to Exit 19.”

I glanced over at the dashboard. The empty-tank warning light was glowing yellow, the needle so far below “E” that it appeared broken. We were coming back from an all-day cross country ski trip, both of us tired and sweaty. Exit 19 was a half-hour away.

I was about to say something, but then I decided not to bother. Jim is an eco-driver. He utilizes a variety of techniques to squeeze as much mileage out of a tank of gas as possible — inflating the tires well beyond their recommended pressures, coasting down hills with the engine off, drafting behind trucks. And he doesn’t fill up his tank until it’s damn-near empty — anything less would be an admission of defeat.

All of a sudden, climbing up a hill on that dark night, the Chevy Prism engine shuddered for a moment. The prospect of walking untold miles in the dark, with the temperature just north of 0 degrees F, loomed. Then the vehicle resumed its smooth operation.

“Maybe I’d better fill up in Warrensburg,” he said.

“You think?”

As those of us who are environmentally conscious look to find better ways to help the world around us, we might look no further than our cars. While some of Jim’s eco-driving practices are rather extreme, the idea at its heart has some merit.

Go to EcoDrivingusa.com, for instance, and you’ll see a variety of easy ways to save on mileage: check tire inflation regularly, avoid sharp starts, don’t waste time warming up the engine on cold mornings, take out unneeded weight from the trunk, stay at 60 mph on the highway. You can use low-friction oil, and keep an eye on your tachometer to keep the engine revving at around 2,000 rpm, the most efficient speed. You can keep your skis in the car with the seats down, instead of putting a wind-dragging rack on the roof.

After all, when driving, say, two hours to a hike to enjoy the natural world, it seems rather hypocritical not to use best driving practices on the way.

Jim, however, goes beyond the eco-driving norm. Is it really a good idea to drive with tires inflated at 10 psi over the recommended limit? Or drive down a hill with the power brakes and steering off? Or draft only a few feet behind the truck (besides, based on the rules of physics, wouldn’t that just take away from the trucker’s mileage, resulting in zero gain)?

“You’re not an eco-driver,” I once told him on another harrowing drive with the needle on E. “You’re an ego-driver.”

“Ha ha,” he said, reaching for my least-favorite CD — a compilation of a local folk band singing bawdy drinking songs from the 1700s. Jim and I have a strange friendship.

Still, eco-driving works, according to Jim. He says his Prism routinely gets 45 miles per gallon, about 10 miles more than the car’s typical highway miles. That doesn’t make those drinking songs any easier to listen to, but it does give this eco-driving thing a little bit of street cred. And to be honest, he hasn’t run out of fuel yet — though it’s been close.

So think about some of these practices next time you’re taking your car out for a long drive. And if you’re planning to catch a ride with Jim, you might want to bring an extra gallon of gas — just in case.


Monday, January 11, 2010

Guilty Pleasures: Skiing Adirondack Backcountry Glades

There’s plenty of good powder in the woods these days. It’s an ideal time for skiing glades.

Good luck finding one. Most backcountry skiers would sooner give out their bank PINs than reveal the locations of their favorite glades.

In the decade I’ve lived here, I’ve stumbled upon a few glades while exploring the woods and learned about others through word of mouth. I ski three or four glades fairly regularly.

It’s a guilty pleasure, though. Many glades are surreptitiously maintained by skiers who cut saplings and underbrush—which is illegal in the forever-wild Forest Preserve.

I’ve talked to skiers who insist that the grooming doesn’t harm the forest. As much as I enjoy skiing glades, I am a tad skeptical. Certainly, it changes the natural environment. Then again, so does just about everything we do in the wild—whether it’s cutting a hiking trail, driving a polluting snowmobile over a marsh, or stocking a stream with hatchery fish. The question is how much alteration of the environment is acceptable.

Recently, I happened to meet a well-respected environmental scientist at a trailhead, and I asked him if thinning glades damaged the forest. His off-the-cuff answer: not much.

An article in Vermont Life takes a hard look at the issue of cutting bootleg trails and thinning glades. One critic argues that cutting saplings creates a forest of even-aged trees and when these trees die, gaps in the forest will emerge. Yet the article also quotes an expert suggesting that glades can be managed to minimize the environmental impact.

Many resorts, including state-run facilities at Whiteface and Gore, have created glades to satisfy their patrons’ desire to ski in a more natural environment. Some backcountry skiers would like to see the state authorize the creation of managed glades in wild portions of the Forest Preserve. Frankly, I see that as a long shot, but it’d be neat if Paul Smith’s College or the state College of Environmental Science and Forestry looked at the impact of ski glades. As a long-term experiment, students could thin a glade on their own, study it over the years, and come up with suggestions for glade management. This information could be useful to resorts and perhaps to backcountry outlaws as well.

Backcountry skiers need to watch what they wish for. If the state did permit maintained glades in the Forest Preserve, everyone would know their locations.

I have a feeling, though, that hard-core enthusiasts would be skiing elsewhere.

Photo by Phil Brown: A skier in an Adirondack glade.

For more stories about backcountry skiing and snowshoeing, visit the Adirondack Explorer website.


Monday, January 11, 2010

Impact of Fireworks On Lake George? Not Much

A Lake George Association study of weekly fireworks displays on Lake George found that there is apparently no significant increase in key contaminants found in fireworks in the lake’s water and sediments. The Association warned, however, that the study was limited in its scope and there is still questions about what level is safe for a key environmental pollutant, perchlorate. Perchlorate is absorbed by the thyroid gland in place of iodine, which can interfere with the thyroid, essential to metabolism and mental development. Perchlorates, barium, and antimony are all associated with fireworks.

Each year lakes around the around the Adirondacks are host to dozens of fireworks display. Lake George sees the most, with weekly displays in Lake George Village, and regular displays at other town parks such as Bolton, and at private organizations and hotels. There is, however, no registration or permitting process for fireworks, so no way to know exactly how many. The sense of some members of the Association that the displays were becoming more numerous each year led to the study.

The Association collected water samples from three sites in Lake George Village before and after five fireworks events last summer and also made a comparison of sediment samples from the village and those taken near Shelving Rock, where no large fireworks displays are believed to have occurred. The samples were analyzed for perchlorates, barium, and antimony. The entire study is available in pdf, but this is what the Association said in a press release this week:

There is no federal or NYS drinking water standard for perchlorate. In 2006 Massachusetts was the first to set such as standard, and set the drinking water standard for perchlorate at 0.002mg/L. Part of the problem is that there isn’t really much agreement on what is or isn’t a safe amount of perchlorate. But for the purposes of our study we used 0.002 mg/L as a reference point. Our results showed no change in perchlorate, with perchlorate levels less then 0.002 mg/L for all tests, before and after firework events. We also did not find a change in antimony levels, and while barium levels slightly fluctuated, the results were also not significant. We also found perchlorate levels of less than 0.002 mg/L in the sediment samples from both locations. Perchlorate-free fireworks are available for use, however they are much more costly than traditional fireworks. Since perchlorate has implications for human and environmental health, a switch to perchlorate-free fireworks for fireworks used over Lake George might want to be considered.

However, our initial findings did not find changes in perchlorate levels in the water attributable to fireworks, so they do not necessarily support the need of this additional expense at this time. We would still like to caution that this study was by no means comprehensive, so we can not know for certain if there is need for a concern over perchlorate or not. We can only weigh our options based on the knowledge we have available to us and do our best to protect Lake George and the economic viability of the region.

Other studies that did find changes in perchlorate levels measured at much smaller intervals. For instance, one study we reviewed had a method detection limit (MDL) of
0.003 ug/L, compared to the MDL of 1.2 ug/L that our lab was able to achieve. So we
might not have been able to detect changes that were present. However, the question of
what levels are relevant in terms of safety for human and environmental health is still
unanswered. Do we need to be able to detect 0.003 ug/L of perchlorate in our drinking
water? We don’t have that answer right now.

What does at least seem to make sense at this time is to track the fireworks displays that occur over Lake George every year, so that we can have a better idea of the number and locations of these events. This is at least a starting point. And then in the mean time we can look for answers to some of the questions that are still out there.


Sunday, January 10, 2010

Bob Marshall in the Adirondacks

It’s safe to say Bob Marshall had left a lasting impression and significant legacy by the time of his death at the age of 38. Although he served only briefly in government—in the 1930s he was chief of forestry in the Bureau of Indian Affairs and then head of recreation management in the Forest Service—his ideas about wilderness preservation have had a lasting impact on wild places across the nation. Best known as the founder of the Wilderness Society, Marshall, with his brother George (and their guide Herb Clark) were the first Adirondack 46ers. The book Bob Marshall in the Adirondacks, edited by the Adirondack Almanack contributor and Adirondack Explorer editor Phil Brown, presents a variety of Marshall’s writings related to the region.

Bob Marshall’s father was Louis Marshall, considered a key player in the founding of the New York State Forest Ranger program and the State Ranger School in Wanakena. Bob Marshall grew up in New York City but spent youthful summers formulating his wilderness ethic in the Adirondacks. Although he was a prolific writer, only eleven of his articles or journals have been published, and so Bob Marshall in the Adirondacks in an important contribution to the history of the Marshalls, wilderness preservation, and the Adirondacks. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Permaculture Workshop: Sustainable Backyard Farming

On Saturday January 9 the Wild Center in Tupper Lake will host a talk and workshop on permaculture, aka, how people can produce food while enhancing the natural environment on the land around them.

At 11:30 Keith Morris, a Vermont-based instructor on the faculties of Sterling College and Yestermorrow Design/Build school, will discuss the concept of permaculture and ways people can design homes and communities that are productive, ecologically restorative and less fuel-reliant.

At 1 p.m. Morris will lead a workshop on how yards and other human-centered spaces can produce food and support pollinators (and look beautiful). He will discuss challenges, such as small spaces and contaminated soils, as well as animals and plants suitable for the Adirondack region, including nuts, fruits, berries and vines.

“One of the key issues for us in the Adirondacks is our soil,” says Gail Brill, a Saranac lake resident who received permaculture certification last summer through a course Morris taught at Paul Smith’s College. “If we are going to have to feed ourselves in the near future and become a nation of farmers (thank you Sharon Astyk) in order to survive, we need healthy soil to do it. Our sandy soil makes growing difficult, so one of the key issues for us is making compost as a soil amendment. This is something every household can do and we need to do it on a grand scale. (On March 20th, the Wild Center will be having a Home Composting Workshop.)

“We need to extend our growing season with high tunnels and cold frames,” Brill says. “We need to understand what edible wild plants are readily available and plant perennial Zone 3 vegetables like Chinese artichoke and creeping onion and much more. There is much to be done.”

The event is part of the Wild Center’s 2010 Winter Wildays series and is free to members or with paid admission.

Photo: A backyard apple tree in Saranac Lake.


Friday, December 25, 2009

Commentary: Ron Stafford, Adirondack Conservationist

Two weeks before Ron Stafford died on June 24, 2005, the North Country’s longtime state Senator was honored by the Adirondack Council on its 30th anniversary.

I thought of Stafford when Adirondack Almanack editor John Warren decided to solicit nominations for a list of influential Adirondack leaders.

While some might argue that Stafford’s importance lies in the number of prison jobs he created in the North Country, or in the millions in state funds he brought back to the district, I would argue that he deserves to be remembered as an Adirondack conservationist.

Though conventional wisdom might say otherwise, the Adirondack Council’s award to Stafford was richly deserved. » Continue Reading.


Monday, December 21, 2009

Clarence Petty’s Last Words of Wisdom

As editor of the Adirondack Explorer, I interviewed Clarence Petty before every issue over the past five years for our “Questions for Clarence” feature. Several times before his death, at age 104, I asked what piece of wisdom he would like to impart to future generations.

His answer: Let the people vote. He argued that since the Adirondack Park is a state treasure, the residents of the whole state should vote on matters of importance to the Park. He had no doubt that the statewide electorate would favor preservation of the Park’s natural beauty and wild character.

We didn’t discuss the nuts and bolts of how these referendums would work, but it’s an interesting idea. Surely Clarence is right that people in Buffalo, Syracuse, Long Island, and other distant places would be inclined to favor state land acquisition and other measures intended protect the Park’s natural resources.

Of course, in-Park officials would fight tooth and nail to prevent such outside influence on the region. But Clarence often found himself at odds with his fellow Adirondackers.

I got to know Clarence only in the last decade of his life. The Explorer’s founder and erstwhile publisher, Dick Beamish, knew him for nearly forty years. For the newsmagazine’s January/February issue, Dick wrote a lengthy article about Clarence’s life and contributions to the Park. It’s the most comprehensive piece on Clarence I’ve seen since his death in November. You can read it here. You’ll also find a selection of Questions for Clarence.

Photo of Clarence on top of Giant Mountain, at age 70, courtesy of the Adirondack Council.


Monday, December 21, 2009

Who Are The 10 Most Influential People in Adirondack History?

A recent discussion of leadership in the Adirondacks, got me thinking about who should be included on a list of the Adirondack region’s most influential people. I’d like to offer a list of the people who have had the greatest impact on the Adirondacks, and I’d like your help.

Clearly they should reflect the environmental, cultural, and political history of the park, and they need not be residents of the region, provided their impact was significantly felt here. I’ve offered some suggestions after the jump, but I’d like to hear your opinions and suggestions.

Theodore Roosevelt comes to mind, but what about Verplanck Colvin, or lumber barons James Caldwell and Daniel Finch? Does the Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks’ Paul Schaefer make the list? Clarence Petty? Father of NYS Forest Rangers William F. Fox? Or longtime environmental advocate John Sheehan? Should property rights advocates Carol LaGrasse or Fred Monroe be on the list? What about James Fenimore Cooper or transcendentalists Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson? Environmentalists George Perkins Marsh or Bob Marshall? What about great foresters like Bernhard Fernow or Gifford Pinchot? Ebenezer Emmons, the geologist who named the Adirondacks? Samuel de Champlain? William Johnson? William Gillbrand? John Thurman? Paul Smith? Isaac Jogues? Thomas C. Durant? William H. H. “Adirondack” Murray? Seneca Ray Stoddard? Arto Monaco? Nelson Rockefeller? Anne Labastille? Noah John Rondeau?

Feel free to add your suggestion, or argue for one of those above. We’ll produce a list of the ten most influential on January 18th.