Wednesday, March 4, 2009

5 Questions: Saranac Lake Birder Brian McAllister

Brian McAllister of Saranac Lake conducts bird surveys for environmental groups and wind-power companies, teaches ornithology lab at Paul Smith’s College and is one of the founders of the annual Great Adirondack Birding Celebration.

He discusses what to look for during this winter-to-spring transition as warblers and other migrants journey north to their Adirondack nesting grounds, and he talks about tower lights that keep some birds from ever making it back.

Q. Can we call you a professional birdwatcher?

A. I guess I’d call myself a field ornithologist. I’ve been lucky to piecemeal a career in birding here in the Adirondacks.

Q. Do you bird-watch every day?

A. I bet I do. I’m constantly tuned in to what’s going on, even if I’m just driving somewhere.

Q. So how was your winter?

A. It’s been amazing. Every year there is some sort of irruption, with one or two species that sort of run out of food up north, so they come down south to the border states and into New York and Southern Canada to find cones or other food. This year it’s been phenomenal because everything came: red crossbills, white-winged crossbills, bohemian waxwings, redpolls, pine siskins, pine grosbeaks, hawk owls. Also, it’s a record year for snow buntings.

Q. What are you looking for now?

A. It’s funny, in March I veer away from the winter up here and focus on what’s happening in Florida and the Caribbean because a lot of migratory birds are starting to jump out of the tropical rainforest and work their way up the East Coast. Last night I was checking the Internet for rare bird alerts in Florida, and they’re seeing a bunch of warblers. They’re on the move. Along Lake Champlain and Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River we’ve got red-winged blackbirds and sparrows coming up from Mid-Atlantic states — also rusty blackbirds, brown-headed cowbirds, anywhere from March 1 on. Some winter birds begin to sing in March in courtship, like golden-crowned kinglets and brown creepers. Owls are on territory now and they’re breeding.

Q. You’ve done some field surveys at potential wind-turbine sites north of the Adirondack Park, but there’s a lot of talk lately about another kind of tower.

A. Yes, communications towers. The most famous tower-kill study was done by Bill Evans of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, and he conducted most of his dead-bird counts at television towers in the Boston Hills area of western New York. Tower kills per year are far worse than all wind turbine deaths put together. Outdoor cats kill the most birds, then towers and their guy wires are a close second. But what we have to realize is that these kills only occur on nights of heavy fog or very low cloud ceiling when there’s a heavy migration. The birds see this glow in the fog, and for some reason — we don’t know why — they’re attracted to it. They start circling, around and around and eventually they die of exhaustion or they actually collide into the tower or, more likely, into the unseen guy wires. . . . The solid red lights on top of towers should all be changed to blinking or strobe lights. Researchers have discovered that those are less harmful. When I lived on Averyville Road in Lake Placid there was a tower behind my cabin and on foggy nights it would cast this eery red glow, and I could see how birds are attracted to it.

Editor’s note: According to McAllister’s copy (thanks, Brian) of “Living on the Wind” by Scott Weidensaul (North Point Press, 1999), two to four million birds are killed by towers taller than 200 feet each year in the Eastern United States alone. To sign a petition asking the Federal Communications Commission to minimize tower kills click here. To follow current sightings by Brian and other Northern New York birders, click here. Brian’s own natural-history observations and photographs can be found on his blog, Adirondacks Naturally.


Saturday, February 28, 2009

Conference on the Adirondacks Community Sustainability

The Adirondack Research Consortium (ARC) invites research papers to be presented at the 16th Annual Conference on the Adirondacks on May 20-21, 2009, at High Peaks Resort in Lake Placid. The conference program will explore the latest information and research on such topics as community development and infrastructure, forest management, trends in private land development, findings of the Adirondack Assessment Project, GIS collaborations, green farming, energy technologies, the impacts of climate change, and opportunities to reduce our carbon footprint. The ARC invites and welcomes research on these and other topics including natural sciences, social sciences, and the arts and humanities relevant to the future of the Adirondack region.

To be considered, complete the 2009 Abstract Submission Form, which is available on the ARC webpage at adkresearch.org. An ARC conference committee will review all submissions to determine acceptance for presentation at the conference. The ARC expects that all presenters will register for the conference.

The ARC Invites Paper Presentations and Posters

Paper Presentations: Papers will be presented in panel discussions of two or three participants that run throughout the conference. Talks must be limited to 20 minutes for the presentation and question/answer period. Your audience may have lay persons who, although they might have a keen interest in your research and results, may not be fully conversant with the jargon of your science. We encourage you to use plain language. Slide, overhead, and digital projectors will be available in all meeting rooms.

Poster Presentations: Posters will be prominently displayed throughout the conference. Posters must be mounted on a rigid backing. The ARC will accept them at a designated time at the beginning of the conference. Conference staff will aid in affixing and removing the poster in the display area. An opportunity for conference attendees to meet the poster presenters will be formally scheduled during the conference.
Note: Students must submit name of faculty sponsor for presentations.

For more information, contact the Adirondack Research Consortium at 518-564-2020 or by e-mail at [email protected] The submission deadline is April 1, 2009. The ARC will make its final decisions by April 15, 2009 and notify all applicants shortly thereafter.


Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Another Victory Over Adirondack Mercury Pollution

Yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected an attempt by the Bush administration and the utility industry to reinstate a mercury-control regulation that would have allowed increased mercury pollution in the Adirondacks. According to the ADK’s Neil Woodworth, this is the “final nail in the coffin of this ill-advised regulation, which left the Adirondacks and Catskills vulnerable to continued mercury contamination.”

In January 2007, ADK filed a brief with the Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia asserting that Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Air Mercury Rule (CAMR) was an illegal attempt to weaken the strict mercury emission controls set forth in the Clean Air Act. Here is a little history of the legal battle over mercury pollution from the Adirondack Mountain Club:

In February 2008, the Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK) won a major victory when the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia threw out the CAMR, a cap-and-trade program that allowed polluters to buy pollution credits and emit mercury without pollution controls. CAMR resulted in regional mercury “hot spots,” and two recent studies have linked coal-fired power plants to mercury hot spots in the Adirondacks and Catskills. The appeals court ruled that the EPA mercury plan conflicted with the clear language of the federal Clean Air Act, which requires each power plant to install the best technology available to reduce mercury emissions by as much as 90 percent.

The Bush administration and the utility industry appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. Although the Obama administration withdrew the federal government’s appeal, the industry continued to pursue the case. Today, the Supreme Court dismissed the industry’s writ of certiorari, thus upholding the appeals court’s decision in the case.

The decision means that EPA must now promulgate regulations requiring each power plant to install the most advanced pollution controls to reduce its mercury emissions. Here is more from an ADK press release:

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 challenged in this lawsuit 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 the 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. Mercury is also present in two-thirds of Adirondack loons at levels that negatively impact their reproductive capacity, posing a significant risk to their survival.

New York State recommends that no one eat more than one meal per week of fish taken from any lake, river, stream or pond in New York State. There is a complete (and disturbing) list and map of the Adirondack fish advisories from the New York State Department of Health located here. It lists 55 Adirondack lakes from which “children less than 15 years old and women who are pregnant or who might one day become pregnant should not eat any fish.”


Friday, February 20, 2009

Alternative Home Power Program at The Wild Center

The Wild Center will be presenting a program by Jim Juczak on “Alternative Power sources for Your Home: Wind, Solar, and Wood” tomorrow Saturday, February 21st at 1 pm in the Flammer Theatre. There is a lot of information on alternative energy systems available and it’s hard to know what works and what doesn’t. Jim Juczak will describe how wind turbines, photovoltaic panels and wood heaters work and how they can be installed in your community or on your own home. As the cost of non-renewable energy rises, using locally produced, renewable energy systems will become much more important. This program will attempt to demystify and simplify your understanding of these important sources of power.

James S. Juczak is from Adams Center, NY has been a middle school and high school shop teacher for 26 years, with a strong focus on teaching his students practical skills. He and his wife, Krista, founded Woodhenge in 1997- it is an off-grid, mortgage-free intentional community. Their property is intended as a living museum for alternative energy, alternative structures and alternative food production systems serving as a working example in sustainability for local communities. They grow and preserve more than half of their food using traditional methods. Jim is on a leave of absence from his public school job in order to write, lecture and farm. His book: “The High Art and Subtle Science of Scrounging” will be published in the Spring of 2009. He was featured by the Science Channel’s Invention Nation program on building wind turbines from scratch.

For more information visit www.wildcenter.org or call 518-359-7800. The program is free for members or with paid admission.


Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Dr. Trudeau and The Third Oldest Profession


Logging and tourism rate permanent exhibits at the Adirondack Museum. But the third-oldest industry in the Adirondacks goes on, uncelebrated, behind closed doors in the administrative offices.

Fundraising. It’s possible that more Adirondackers work in what is now vaguely termed “development” than in the woods. Yet we rarely admit that begging is a pillar of the regional economy.

An early master of the dignified grovel was Dr. Edward Livingston Trudeau, a pioneer of bacteriology and tuberculosis treatment (phthisiology), and a founder of Saranac Lake itself. His autobiography, published in 1915, should be mandatory reading for every Adirondack fundraiser.

While sailing on Spitfire Lake circa 1882, Dr. Trudeau unintentionally made his first hit-up of a wealthy summer person: “We spoke of the wonderful, bracing character of the air and the beauty of the woods, the mountains and the lakes, and I expressed the wish that some of the poor invalids shut up in cities might have the opportunity for recovery which the climate offered and which had done so much for me. . . . He seemed much struck with the idea, and told me that if I carried out my plan I could call on him for five hundred dollars at any time. This was the first subscription I received.”

It became a pattern. By the end of the book, gifts to his Adirondack Sanitarium were in the $25,000 range (about half a million in today’s dollars). It’s almost a refrain as every chapter about a new friend ends, “And Mr. [name here] became a trustee of the Sanitarium, and served in this capacity until his death.”

Asking friends — and strangers — for money brings millions of dollars to the Adirondack Park each year and employs hundreds of people at museums, hospitals, children’s camps, environmental groups, arts and youth organizations, schools, you name it. We also beg our summer neighbors unprofessionally as volunteers for libraries, fire departments, ski areas, hospice. [A post-posting note: “Begging” was Trudeau’s word of choice; he used it with candor and humor. I intended no offense, though some readers who are philanthropy professionals tell me they prefer other terms for soliciting gifts.]

Why bring this up now?

~ Ambivalence about Wall Street bonuses. (Bonuses of CEOs with lakeside Adirondack camps have built wings for local hospitals and museums and employ nonprofit staffers; taxes on them keep snowmakers working at state-run ski areas.)

~ Layoffs at local nonprofits, including the Residents Committee to Protect the Adirondacks. (So far, the successor to Dr. Trudeau’s sanitarium and laboratory, Trudeau Institute, seems unscathed.)

~ Just the charm of Trudeau’s book. Old Adirondack books are comforting in uncertain times; they remind us how little the place changes over the years.


Monday, February 16, 2009

Public Comments Needed on LG Stream Buffer Regs

The Lake George Park Commission has finally released its draft stream buffer regulations [pdf] for the Lake George watershed. These regulations are the most important environmental action the Park Commission has taken in years and are important to the water quality of Lake George – over half of the water in the lake comes from local streams. The FUND for Lake George and Lake George Waterkeeper are asking folks to submit comments (deadline March 15th) to ensure that the Park Commission does not weaken these new rules. They have also published a special report Clear Choice: The Need for Stream Buffers in the Lake George Watershed [pdf] to help educate and inform the public about this issue. There is a Public Hearing Scheduled for February 24th at 11:00 AM at the Holiday Inn in Lake George.

The Albany Times Union recently published an op-ed by FUND Executive Director Peter Bauer on the need for the Park Commission to finalize new stream buffer rules.


Friday, February 13, 2009

Public Meetings on Lows Lake Controversy

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) have scheduled two informational meetings for the public on proposed revisions to the draft management plan for the Bog River Flow Complex. At each meeting, there will be a brief presentation on the amendment followed by an opportunity for public comment.

The meetings are slated for Wednesday, February 18th: » Continue Reading.


Monday, February 2, 2009

Books: Why The Adks Looks The Way It Does

If you want to consider yourself knowledgeable about the Adirondacks you must own and have read Mike Storey’s Why The Adirondacks Look The Way They Do. That’s not hyperbole – that’s a simple fact.

Storey self-published this guide to Adirondack natural history in 2006 and sold out the first printing in the first year. The reason, no doubt, is that it’s readable and relevant. Storey was the former Chief Naturalist at the Adirondack Park Agency (24 years at the APA!) and he wrote the book we all need to keep in our car, backpack, and back pocket. In fact, my only complaint is the book’s format doesn’t make it easy to pack – it could have been a lot smaller, even with all the info and images packed in there!

This book is more than a guide to our local flora and fauna, more than a wildlife guide, it covers geology, geography, forestry, history, cultural anthropology, environmental politics, from the life cycle of the black fly to the problems of upland development. The diagrams, illustrations, photographs, are illustrative beyond comparison. From “Grenville Continent Rifting and the Lake George Rift Valley” to the illustration of a 50-years of a hemlock and yellow birch growing on a rotting log resting on a glacial erratic rock, this book shows you the basics and backs it up with detailed explanations. The tracks of common animals, identifying common birds, leaves, trees, fish, soils, insects, eskers, kettle holes – its all there and more.

This book will do what it says it will – explain, in vivid and easy-going detail, why the Adirondacks look the way they do. I’ve been thinking about doing a “Ten Books Every Adirondacker Should Own,” and when I do, this book will be on that list.


Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Golden Arrow Retires 132 Tons of Carbon Dioxide

The Golden Arrow Lakeside Resort in Lake Placid, New York retired 132 tons of carbon dioxide for the month of December 2008. The Golden Arrow accomplished this by working jointly with the Adirondack Council and their Cool Park/ Healthy Planet Carbon Retirement Program. The program was created by the Adirondack Council to prevent thousands of tons of carbon dioxide from being emitted by power plants from Maine to Delaware.

The Golden Arrow committed to retire enough carbon credits to offset the total number of occupied room nights for the month of December. It has been estimated that the there are 100 lbs of carbon emitted per room night. The Golden Arrow had a goal to retire 100 tons of carbon credits through the program. A total of 2590 rooms were occupied at the resort for the month of December.

The resort through the program permanently retired 132 tons, which was almost one third more than their original goal. It was their objective to make guests and the public to understand that they can really help make a difference. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Adk Council: Budget Will ‘Savage Environmental Fund’

Governor Paterson released his budget proposals today and it doesn’t look good for the Environmental Protection Fund. Here is a note, just received from the Adirondack Council’s John Sheehan:

There is a great cause for worry about Gov. David Paterson’s first Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) spending plan, which was released today.

The governor proposes deep cuts in the programs supported by the EPF and proposes a fundamental change in the main source of revenue for the fund – from a stable, adequate source, to a speculative, untried funding scheme that has been blocked by the Senate for 20 years – threatening the EPF’s very survival. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

DEC Seeks Comments on Firewood Measures

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) today announced it has proposed making permanent a regulation to restrict the import, sale and transport of untreated firewood to aid in the fight against the spread of tree-killing pests and diseases. A public-comment period on DEC’s proposal runs through Feb. 9, 2009. DEC encourages interested parties to weigh in on the proposal – which can be viewed on the DEC website — at two public hearings or through written comments. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Adirondack Hotel Wins DEC Environment Award

An Adirondack hotel that has gone all out to go green and educate guests, a Capital Region college that has taken big steps to reduce its ecological footprint, and a Hudson Valley school district effort to protect the water supply, reduce waste and run an organic garden are among the winners of the 2008 Environmental Excellence Awards announced today by New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Pete Grannis.

The fifth annual New York State Environmental Excellence Awards ceremony took place in Albany today to acknowledge the winners and their projects. There were more than 40 applicants, with submissions coming from industry, local governments, advocacy groups, educational institutions, and the hospitality sector. A committee of 20 representatives from the public and private sectors selected the winning submissions.

“The projects selected are outstanding examples of how we can solve environmental challenges by using innovative and environmentally sustainable practices or creative partnerships.” Grannis said. “By recognizing New York’s environmental and conservation leaders, we hope to inspire stewardship so that others can make significant positive impacts and protect New York’s natural resources.”

Summaries of this year’s winners are below:

Golden Arrow Lakeside Resort, Lake Placid, Essex County

Energy efficiency. Water conservation. Recycling. Green grounds. Environmental education. The Golden Arrow Resort has instituted green programs on a variety of fronts to reduce the environmental impact not only of the hotel, but also of the traveler. It features a “green roof” – a rooftop expanse of native plants that provides wildlife habitat, reduces water runoff and helps keep the inn warm in the winter and cool in the summer. A limestone beach reduces the impacts of acid rain. In-room recycling, insulated windows, energy-efficient lighting and low-flow plumbing fixtures are also part of the mix. The hotel offers incentives for guests that travel by foot, ski, bike or hybrid car. The Golden Arrow also assists others in the hospitality industry find ways to reduce their carbon footprint.

Brewster School District, Putnam County

Through its multi-faceted “Environmental Education/Sustainable Practices Project,” the Brewster Central School District has demonstrated leadership in protecting the environment and in promoting environmental education. This project includes significant capital improvements and managerial processes to save energy and to protect the region’s water supply by preventing excessive plant growth, loss of oxygen and fish kills in the receiving waters. The project also includes educational activities that have developed students’ awareness of environmental issues and have empowered them with opportunities to participate in meaningful, innovative, hands-on activities that have measurable environmental impacts. Accomplishments have already included a 50 percent district-wide reduction in solid waste production, a student-run organic garden, and a technologically advanced wastewater treatment facility built in 2007. Improvements have resulted in more than 17 percent in annual energy savings, 1,724,388 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions prevented, and 250,000 cubic feet each of paper and plastic waste diverted from landfills.

Union College, Schenectady County

Union College has instituted the U-Sustain initiative – an innovative, campus-wide program that involves faculty, staff, students and administrators with the goals of reducing the ecological footprint of the college, increasing environmental awareness on campus and in the community, and making the college more sustainable. Accomplishments thus far include the renovation of student apartments to be an eco-friendly house, energy reduction strategies, dining options that include student volunteers working with dining services to provide fresh, local and organic meals, initiatives to offset energy consumption, and increased recycling/waste reduction opportunities.

Chemung County Soil and Water Conservation District and Southern Tier Central Regional Planning and Development Board, Chemung County

These public agencies worked together to develop an innovative guide, “Stream Processes: A Guide to Living in Harmony with Streams,” that describes how streams work and why functioning floodplains are integral parts of the stream system. The guide contains dramatic photographs that help promote the need for sound management practices. The lessons learned can be applied to stream channels, floodplains, stream corridors, and watershed activities that do not trigger regulatory actions. The guide has already begun having a positive effect on decisions made by Chemung County landowners and local highway departments and its reach is expanding as a result of more than 30,000 guides being distributed to a variety of audiences throughout New York State.

Aslan Environmental and City of Kingston Wastewater Treatment Plant, Ulster County

The City of Kingston partnered the Aslan Group to develop a new and innovative system – the first of its kind in the world – for managing wastewater treatment plant residuals in an economical and environmentally sound manner. Waste “biogas” is captured from the plant’s digesters and utilized as the only required fuel to turn 10 wet-tons-per-day of municipal wastewater sludge into one ton-per-day of an EPA-recognized pelletized usable “biosolid.” The biosolid is distributed free of charge for use as a lawn fertilizer or furnace fuel, which costs less than the previous practice of landfill disposal. Also, methane gas is efficiently utilized within the process as a fuel and since very little methane is flared, oxides of nitrogen and other pollutant emissions have been reduced.

New York State Soil and Water Conservation Committee, Albany County

The committee’s Agricultural Environmental Management (AEM) – Farming New York Cleaner and Greener program serves as a national model of how a voluntary, incentive-based approach to agricultural management can successfully protect and enhance soil and water resources, while preserving the economic viability of a diverse agricultural community. AEM assists farmers in making practical, cost-effective decisions that result in the sustainable use of New York’s natural resources. Recently the program has expanded efforts to assist vineyards. Currently 52 growers have completed a new self-assessment workbook, which has resulted in the development of 16 action plans that implemented an average of nine improved farming practices at each location. While AEM supports voluntary environmental stewardship, it is also a vehicle by which changes in environmental regulations have been effectively implemented at over 600 Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs). Plans have been successfully developed for all 147 large CAFOs and 92 percent of the state’s 472 medium sized CAFOs. More than 10,000 New York farm families participate and receive information, education and technical assistance so that farmers are able to operate cleaner and greener while competing in today’s global market.


Thursday, December 4, 2008

Gillibrand Is First To Retire Carbon Credits

On Monday Representative Kirsten Gillibrand became the first American to permanently retire carbon dioxide pollution allowances from a government-mandated carbon dioxide reduction program. She did it through the Cool Park/Healthy Planet Program [no web page that I could find!] created by the Adirondack Council to prevent thousands of tons of carbon dioxide from being emitted by power plants from Maine to Delaware.

The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) is the first government-mandated carbon dioxide control program in the United States. It requires power plant emissions reductions in New York and nine other Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic States. Over a period of years, the 10 states will steadily reduce their power plant carbon emissions through a “cap-and-trade” program. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Adirondack Climate Conference Final Thoughts

Well it’s over for today, but it’s clear that it’s not over forever. I think it’s fair to say that there was a collective sense that the Adirondack region is a unique place to lay out a framework to achieve local, national, and international changes in attitudes, policies, and our cultural and natural economies. One of the conference leaders (Howard Fish) put it succinctly when he said that residents of natural places like the Adirondacks play a critical role in ensuring both the survival of the world’s natural places and sustainable urban and suburban environments – the world looks to us to lead the way to, as the Adirondack region has for more then a century, coexistence between the natural and the human made world.

Here a few of the more important priorities that will likely be included in the draft Adirondack Climate Action Plan:

Education / Outreach / Clearinghouse of Technical Information
Improving Building Codes to Reflect Carbon Concerns
Incentivising / Creative Financing of Efficiency Retrofits
Advancing (Appropriate Scale) Local Energy Production for Local Consumption
Adopting Smart Growth Standards Across the Park
Promoting Alternative Energy Usage
Facilitating Local Green Business and Local Green Branding
Implementing Climate Change Research, Assessment, and Monitoring
Promoting Management of Our Adirondack Carbon Sink
Building Resiliency to Climate Change Through Local Planning / Action

Those were the ideas that seem to rise to the top. There were a lot more that will be incorporated into the draft action plan.

The three top priorities and three ways we’re moving forward:

Retrofitting Residences
Energy $mart Initiative will Approach 26 Communities Over the next year.

Clearing House / Education

There will be a new web site that hopes to be comprehensive on this issue in this region: WWW.ADKCAP.ORG

Leadership
Thirteen volunteers will form a steering committee to keep us on track and moving forward with the writing of the draft Adirondack Climate Action Plan.

Two final points:

The Seattle Climate Action Plan took two years to put together, so our task is going to be long but promises to be ecologically and economically rewarding for all Adirondack residents. We are looking at having a good draft document within a year.

An important point I think we’ve come away with is the notion that the Adirondack Forest, regardless of the value we ascribed to it before, now seems even more valuable as a carbon sink and nationally important precedent. Thankfully, it looks like local residents will lead the way to our climate future, whatever that may be, and that in itself is the most significant outcome of our little meeting here in Tupper Lake.


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