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.


Friday, April 3, 2009

ADK: Plan To Cap State Tax Payments Officially Dead

The Adirondack Mountain Club has just announced the final death of Governor Paterson’s plan to cap tax payments on state owned land. The state will now continue to pay its fair share of local taxes on Forest Preserve lands in Adirondacks and Catskills and on other state-owned forest and park lands statewide.

Since 1886, in recognition of the impact of large state land holdings on local tax rolls, New York has voluntarily paid local property and school taxes on Forest Preserve lands. Over the years, the Legislature has extended the payments to other areas with large tracts of state forest or park land. In 2007-08, New York paid more than $170 million in local taxes on more than 4 million acres.

Under the Executive Budget, those payments would have been frozen at 2008-09 levels, which would have caused double-digit property tax increases in some rural communities and severely undermined local support for open-space protection programs statewide. Local governments have the right to veto most state land deals financed through the Environmental Protection Fund. The proposed payment freeze was stricken in a budget deal last week, but it was not officially dead until the state Senate passed the relevant bill late Thursday.

While the tax freeze has been widely viewed as an Adirondack and Catskill issue, the fact is that half of the state tax payments in 2007-08 went to communities outside the 16 Adirondack and Catskill counties. For example, the state pays full property taxes on Harriman State Park, Sterling Forest and Allegany State Park, and pays school taxes for the site of Sing Sing Correctional Facility in Westchester County. In 2007-08, the state made $33 million in local tax payments in Rockland County, $19 million in Suffolk County, $11.9 million in Orange County, $4.8 million in Cattaraugus County, $3.2 million in Putnam County, $3.1 million in Chenango County, $1.8 million in Dutchess County and $1.2 million in Allegany County. The tax freeze would also have hampered efforts to protect New York City’s Catskill/Delaware watershed, which provides drinking water to 9 million New Yorkers.


Saturday, March 28, 2009

Keeping Adirondack Skies Dark

From space the Adirondack Park is a dark spot in the Northeast, but even here outdoor lighting is starting to bleed into the night sky.

Tonight between 8:30 and 9:30 people around the world are turning off their lights to try to raise awareness about climate change. It’s also an opportunity to think about those lights.

Tonight’s dark-out is called Earth Hour. The movement began in Sydney, Australia, in 2007 when 2 million households and businesses shut out the lights to send a message about overuse of fossil fuels. The gesture grew into this year’s global effort.

Meanwhile the International Dark Sky Association estimates that two out of three people in the United States cannot see the Milky Way because skies have become obscured by light pollution.

In the Adirondacks, astronomers are raising funds to build an Adirondack Public Observatory for stargazing in Tupper Lake. That’s one reason village planners there are encouraging “good neighbor lighting” that doesn’t stray upward or across property lines. The municipal electric department has also been installing more efficient streetlights for several years.

“We are installing full-cutoff lighting throughout the village to help put the light down on the ground instead of out and around,” said John Bouck, electric superintendent. “Our results have been good. We’re continuing on with the process. There are expenses involved so we’re doing it over a three- to five-year period.”

“An added benefit of this type of light fixture is that there is less sky glow that most people are used to seeing as they approach a community,” added Marc Staves, chief lineman as well as president of the proposed observatory. “In fact it’s about 40 to 50 percent less as compared to areas that do not use this type of lighting.”

Tupper is experimenting with photocell lights that turn themselves off halfway through the night when very few people are awake. If they test well, the lights will be installed on every other pole in selected areas, Staves said.

The observatory was originally planned adjacent to the Wild Center, but there was too much glow from the nearby headquarters of Sunmount Developmental Disabilities Services Office, a state agency. So the observatory site was moved to the darkness on another edge of town. But light pollution is a curable problem, as Tupper Lake has figured out. Community awareness there continues to grow, household by household.


Wednesday, March 25, 2009

High Peaks Ranger Wins Alpine Stewardship Award

The Waterman Fund, whose objective is to strengthen stewardship of open summits, exposed ridgelines, and alpine areas of the Northeast, will present the 2009 Guy Waterman Alpine Steward Award to New York State Forest Ranger C. Peter M. Fish this Saturday, March 28th. The award is given each year to a person or organization that has demonstrated a long-term commitment to protecting the physical and spiritual qualities of the northeast’s mountain wilderness.

Pete Fish, a NYS Forest Ranger for 23 years, has served as a ranger in both the Catskills and the Adirondacks, and as an active member of the Adirondack 46ers and Catskill 3500 Club, where Fish has interacted with thousands of hikers on summits and in valleys. Through these organizations, as well as on his own initiative and time, Fish has educated the public about Leave No Trace, backcountry safety, mountain stewardship, and alpine hiking etiquette. He has assisted in training summit stewards since the early days of the High Peaks Summit Steward Program (a partnership of The Nature Conservancy, Adirondack Mountain Club, and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation). Fish has also worked on Ed Ketchledge’s (who received the alpine steward award in 2004) summit restoration efforts in the High Peaks Region. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, March 19, 2009

Spring Adirondack Wildflower Bloom Dates

Elsewhere in the Northeast, wildflowers are tentatively testing the air, while in the Adirondacks it’s still ski season. It won’t be long, though, till coltsfoot raises its fuzzy yellow head along roadsides.

Two of this region’s most-observant botanists made a study of when each native flower reappears in spring. The late Greenleaf Chase retired from the Department of Environmental Conservation but never tired of guiding friends to see rare blooms in rare places. Professor Mike Kudish, formerly of Paul Smith’s College, created a bloom-date chart for his book Adirondack Upland Flora.

And in case you think botany effete, consider that original Hall-of-Fame pitcher Christy Mathewson kept a list of flowers he found around Saranac Lake in the summer of 1922, when he was there to recover from tuberculosis. (An excerpt: “June 24, 1922: Musk Mallow, Pink Petals also White Petals!!!!”)

Starting with the vernal equinox tomorrow, daylight increases at its fastest rate, Kudish writes. The ground begins to thaw. Around April 5 the mean daily temperature begins to rise above freezing.

Here are Adirondack Upland Flora’s first median flowering dates (at elevations of 1,500 to 2,000 feet; if you live at lower elevations expect to see blooms sooner):

May 2: Trout lily, red maple
May 3: Spring beauty
May 4: Trailing arbutus
May 5: Dutchman’s breeches and squirrel corn
May 6: Round-leaved violet
May 7: Sweet gale
May 8: Sweet white violet
May 9: Painted trillium
May 10: Strawberry
May 11: Bartram’s serviceberry
May 12: Purple trillium
May 14: Leatherleaf
May 15: Blue violet, early saxifrage, Canada honeysuckle, kidneyleaf buttercup; most hardwoods begin to leaf out rapidly
May 17: Marsh marigold and sugar maple
May 19: Bellwort
May 20: Goldthread and toothwort
May 21: Canada violet and serviceberry
May 22: Witchhobble, downy yellow violet, red cherry (Christy Matthewson reported witchhobble blooms in April)
May 23: Dwarf ginseng
May 25: Red elderberry
May 30: Foamflower
May 31: Pussytoes

Shortly before he died in the early 1990s Greenie Chase made flower-finding notes for Kathy Regan, when she was staff biologist at the Nature Conservancy’s Adirondack Chapter. In late May, he suggested, visit Valcour Island to see ram’s head ladyslipper and look on alpine summits for lapland rosebay.

We’ll post more of Christy, Greenie and Mike’s bloom notes as spring and summer progress. You can see Christy Mathewson’s list yourself in the William Chapman White Adirondack Research Center of the Saranac Lake Free Library.


Thursday, March 12, 2009

Forbes, Madoff Lists and the Adirondacks

It was a tough year for the world’s billionaires, Forbes reported today. Hundreds of the world’s wealthiest are merely millionaires now, including Sandy Weill, former CEO of Citigroup and seasonal resident of Upper Saranac Lake. “His Citigroup shares have lost nearly all their value,” Forbes says, estimating that Citi shares have fallen 95 percent in the last 12 months. The financial services conglomerate that Weill built is now the recipient of a $45 billion federal bailout.

Weill is prominent in New York City philanthropic circles, but he maintains a low profile in the Adirondacks. Up here his wife, Joan, is much better known, especially for her generosity to Paul Smith’s College, where she serves as chairman of its board of trustees and spearheaded construction of a library (photo above) and student center that bear her name.

A Lake George summer resident, however, is still in good standing on the billionaire list. Forrest Mars Jr., co-owner of the privately held Mars candy company (which also includes Wrigley, Pedigree pet food and other brands), is the 43rd wealthiest person in the world with a net worth of $9 billion and growing, Forbes says. Mars and his wife Deborah Clarke Mars have a camp on the lake’s northeast shore, not far from Deborah’s hometown of Ticonderoga.

The Marses have been locally philanthropic, most notably to Fort Ticonderoga, but they withdrew support for the historic landmark last year after disagreements with its administration.

Meanwhile, Bernard L. Madoff pleaded guilty this morning to defrauding investors of about $65 billion dollars in a Ponzi scheme. The story seems unrelated, but it also has Adirondack connections, particularly for charitable giving. One of the victims on the Madoff list is the New York City–based Prospect Hill Foundation, a longtime supporter of many Adirondack environmental nonprofits. It’s still unclear what the repercussions will be for the foundation and its grant recipients. Also on the Madoff list is Anne Childs who — with her husband the Freedom Tower architect David Childs — owns a hilltop house in Keene.

If you know of other Adirondack connections on the Forbes or Madoff lists, please let us know.


Thursday, March 12, 2009

Growing Your Energy Independence Program

Bruce Brownell, founder of Adirondack Alternative Energy, will present a program at The Wild Center this Saturday, March 14th at 1 pm titled “Growing Your Energy Independence.” Brownell has over 30 years experience in passive building construction, and has been constructing passive homes and educating on the topic throughout the north east. At 1pm Bruce will present on a unique method of home construction and can offer ideas for things you can do today to improve energy efficiency in your home. (proper use of drapes, pipe insulation, wall/floor/ ceiling insulation, sealing up cracks around windows and wall openings, window placement, use, air circulation, programmable thermostats, etc.)

There will also be an optional tour following the program which will be leaving from The Wild Center around 2:30. The tour, lead by Bruce, will travel to Lake Placid to visit a passive house that is under construction. The tour is optional and participants need to provide their own transportation.

The event is free for members OR with paid admission. For more information or directions, please visit the Wild Center’s website or call 359-7800


Tuesday, March 10, 2009

DIY Natural History at The Wild Center

Maybe you’ve started walking to the store instead of driving, or line-drying the laundry, or insulating drafty gaps in your walls. Whatever you do, little steps like these can give other people ideas on how to reduce their own greenhouse gas emissions.

Visitors to the The Wild Center in Tupper Lake are writing footnotes about their efforts to cut fossil-fuel use and posting them by their hometown on a map of the Adirondack Park. Guests from farther away tape their stories outside the Blue Line. The little feet-shaped pieces of paper represent carbon footprints, which must shrink if the Adirondacks is to have a chance of keeping boreal birds, spruce trees and maples. » Continue Reading.


Monday, March 9, 2009

Adk Council Slams Paterson’s Adirondack Record

Here is a statement from the Adirondack Council’s Executive Director Brian L. Houseal on what he calls Gov. David Paterson’s “proposed give-away to polluters” under the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). My favorite part is when Houseal calls Paterson out on his Adirondack record (which makes George Pataki look like a saint) – “the Paterson Administration has displayed unexpected hostility toward environmental initiatives and Adirondack issues.” Stand back.

The Adirondack Council strongly objects to Governor David Paterson’s decision to give away pollution rights to polluters participating in compliance with the 10-state Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. Not only is the decision bad for the environment, it is also bad for the economy.

The decision is especially disappointing in light of President Barack Obama’s pledge to create a national cap-and-trade program similar to RGGI to control carbon dioxide emissions nationwide. It would be irresponsible to do anything to weaken the prototype program at this crucial moment. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, March 8, 2009

Adirondack Park Agency Meeting This Week

The Adirondack Park Agency (APA) will hold its regularly scheduled monthly meeting on Thursday, March 12 and Friday March 13, 2009 at the APA Headquarters in Ray Brook, NY. The Department of Environmental Conservation’s (DEC) amendment related to Lows Lake in the Bog River Complex Unit Management Plan was postponed to give DEC and APA staff additional time to complete the Final Environmental Impact Statement and consider public comments. Review of the proposal will be rescheduled for the Agency’s April meeting. » Continue Reading.