Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Adirondack Council Releases 2009 State of the Park Report

The Adirondack Council has released its annual State of the Park Report, what it calls “a comprehensive review of how the actions and decisions of local, state and federal officials have helped or harmed the ecology and beauty of the Adirondack Park over the past year.” Attorney General Andrew Cuomo received high praise; Governor David Paterson received a split rating. Several Adirondack towns also are being praised for efforts to protect the environment. “There was a time when it seemed like environmental organizations only argued with local government officials in the Adirondacks—those days are over,” Adirondack Council Executive Director Brian L. Houseal said in a press release accompanying the report. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

A 2017 Constitutional Convention And The Adirondacks

There has been a lot of public discussion about the potential for a constitutional convention in 2017 (as allowed by the current state constitution every 20 years), one that could influence the future of the Adirondack Forest Preserve and the Adirondack Park.

The New York State Constitutional Convention of 1967 (the last State Constitutional Convention) was held in Albany April 4 – September 26, 1967 and the revisions submitted to the voters that November; all of the convention’s proposals were rejected. Among the proposals that failed during the process were those to establish the forerunner of the Department of Conservation and to make it easier for the legislature to take land from the Forest Preserve (with voter referendum).

Wilderness preservation issues are likely to be hotly debated in the run-up to a constitutional convention—in fact, former Governor Mario Cuomo recently called for a chance to revise the constitution using, in part, these words:

A constitutional convention is a peoples’ meeting to design or redesign the peoples’ government. The legislature has traditionally not favored calling such a body to life. It feared that a convention might take steps to diminish the legislature’s institutional power or incumbents’ chances of re-election.

Others with particular interests to protect have also been skeptical. For example, environmentalists worry—needlessly, we think—about a convention altering the present constitution’s commitment to keeping our parks in the Adirondacks and Catskills ‘forever wild.’

This is short-sighted. Environmentalists might make gains at a convention by convincing us to constitutionalize positive rights to clean air and clean water.

Sure, it seems a long way off, but the idea that a new constitution might either abolish the forever wild clause, or “constitutionalize positive rights to clean air and clean water” is something Adirondack residents take seriously.

The New York State Library has recently digitized and made available online a treasure trove of documents relating to the 1967 convention. The current NYS Constitution can be found in pdf form here.


Friday, September 18, 2009

RPI Undergraduates to Live, Study on Lake George

RPI’s Darrin Fresh Water Institute has a global reputation for pathbreaking research on zebra mussels, acid rain, milfoil and water quality.

Now its researchers are teaching environmental science to RPI undergraduates who are living and working at the Bolton Landing facility.

It’s the first time since RPI opened the field station on Lake George in the 1980s that the university has offered a full semester of course work to undergraduates at the site.

According to Chuck Boylen, the Darrin Fresh Water Institute’s associate director, the Institute’s mission has always included education, but a lack of dormitory space made it impossible to accommodate undergraduate programs.

That defect was remedied in 2003, when RPI converted a 19th century summer cottage on the property into a year-round education and research facility, with a state-of-the art computing center, space for lectures and films and rooms for visiting scholars and students.

While some of the undergraduates participating in the semester on Lake George are commuting to Bolton Landing from RPI’s Troy campus, others are now occupying those rooms.

“We’ve expanded the RPI campus to include Bolton Landing,” said Sandra Nierzwicki-Bauer, the institute’s executive director.

The rooms’ rustic décor is certainly a departure from that of the usual dorm rooms, said Nicole Nolan. “Mine is moose-themed,” she said.

As on any campus, the students spend a significant amount of time in the laboratories and classrooms. But they also spend equal amounts of time on Lake George.

That’s one of the aspects of the program that attracted Kelsey Cote. “I had intended to be a cell biologist, but I realized that spending my life in a lab was not something I wanted to do,” she said.

“The students do field work, work with graduate students on individual research projects , do lab work with sophisticated technology and get exposed to environmental conservation organizations and agencies,” said Nierzwicki-Bauer. “That’s what we offer. It’s a great opportunity for the kids.”

The program’s blend of theory and practice makes it an especially strong one, said Chuck Boylen.

This year’s semester is essentially a pilot project for what Boylen and Nierzwicki-Bauer hopes will become a multi-disciplinary program serving large numbers of students every year.

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


Monday, September 7, 2009

The Almanack Reports: Forever Wired Conference

Tomorrow, Mary Thill and I will be headed up to Clarkson University in Potsdam for The Adirondack Initiative’s Forever Wired Conference. According to the event’s organizers the conference’s goal is “to advance creative work and lifestyle choices by promoting technology and services that encourage commerce and entrepreneurship with negligible impact on the natural environment.” The general idea is to “preserve the unique character of the communities that share the Adirondack Park with wildlife and recreation enthusiasts alike” by fostering exsisting trends in wired work.

More than 200 telecommuters, entrepreneurs, business people, educators, economic developers, government representatives, news media and others will be there (including New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli) to encourage regional economic growth in green tech commerce. That means widespread broadband, professional development and educational opportunities geared toward entrepreneurs, telecommuters, working professionals and others interested in responsible and sustainable economic growth in the Adirondacks. The goal of the Adirondack Initiative is to add (by 2019) 2,019 “corporate telecommuters, mobile workers, and working wired entrepreneurs to the region in support of green tech commerce and new economic opportunities that will grow the base of regional residents.”

In a series of posts tomorrow Mary and I will consider some of the challenges, report on what we learn, and offer route suggestions for the path toward growing a technological future in the Adirondacks.


Sunday, September 6, 2009

APA Meeting: Wind, Snowmobiles, Cell Towers, DOT, Lows Lake

The Adirondack Park Agency (APA) will hold its regularly scheduled monthly meeting on Wednesday, September 9 through Friday September 11 at APA Headquarters in Ray Brook. Meeting topics (detailed below) will include: two new cellular towers in North Hudson; the expansion of Adventure Bound Camps; a new permit application for wind energy projects; the 2009 New York State Draft Energy Plan; an agreement on travel corridor management between the Department of Transportation, Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and the APA; DEC and APA guidance for snowmobile trail construction and maintenance; the classification proposals for land and water in the vicinity of Lows Lake and the Five Ponds Wilderness Area. The September meeting will be webcast live on the Agency’s homepage; meeting materials are available for download at http://www.apa.state.ny.us/Mailing/0909/index.htm » Continue Reading.


Thursday, September 3, 2009

Understanding Green Roofs At The Wild Center

The Wild Center in Tupper Lake will present a program on what it takes to plan, install and maintain a green roof in the northern Adirondack climate on September 15th, from 11:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. The event is free to members or with paid museum admission.

The session will offer the principles of green roof construction presented by two experts in the field. Dustin Brackney, project manager with Apex Green Roofs, Somerville, MA, who installed The Wild Center’s own 2500 square foot green roof, and Marguerite Wells, owner of Motherplants, a green roof plant nursery in Ithaca, NY, will each share their tips and techniques for successfully growing plants on a building’s roof in our harsh northern climate.

Roof structure requirements and green roof material components will be discussed, along with plant variety considerations, the benefits to the environment, and the economics of creating a unique wildlife habitat that can reduce building heating and cooling energy cost.

Photo: Chris Rdzanek, Director of Facilities, checks out The Wild Center’s Green Roof.


Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Commentary: Birding And Climate Change

An ornithologist visiting Oseetah Lake this summer thought he heard the call of a fish crow. Being a scientist he is a careful person, and when I contacted him he said he really couldn’t confirm his observation—there may be hybrids of fish crows and American crows out there.

The common American crow has been in the Adirondacks at least since colonization, in the mid 19th century. Fish crows, which are smaller and voice more of an awh than a caw, reside primarily in the coastal southeastern United States and were once restricted in New York State to Long Island and the tidal Hudson River, according to The Second Atlas of Breeding Birds in New York State (2008) and John Bull’s Birds of New York State (1974).

I was curious about the possibility of a fish crow near my home, but in a different way than I would’ve been a decade ago. If one were here as an “accidental,” a bird blown off territory by a storm, it would be a novelty, occasion for birders to go out with binoculars and add it to their lists. If, however, fish crows were establishing themselves near Saranac Lake and even breeding here, it would mark a milestone in a northward and inland expansion that began in the last third of the 20th century. » Continue Reading.


Friday, August 21, 2009

Bill McKibben on Why 350 is the Most Important Number

In the past month Bill McKibben has been in India, the Maldives, Lebanon, Oman and Dubai. And last weekend he seemed delighted to be in Newcomb, population 472, catching up with Adirondack friends. The writer told Nature Conservancy members gathered at the Newcomb school for the Adirondack Chapter’s annual meeting how new information on atmospheric carbon has made him a global activist, and why he’s spreading the message that we must do more than install low-watt bulbs if we are to keep climate change from spiraling entirely out of control.

Two years ago arctic ice began melting dramatically faster than computer models had predicted, McKibben said. Scientists had projected that the natural systems that gave rise to civilization and the current array of life on earth would be disrupted when carbon dioxide in the atmosphere reached 450 parts per million. A recent paper by NASA scientist James Hansen and others puts that tipping point at 350 parts per million. The planet is already at 390 parts per million.

McKibben referenced several places where life as people know it is changing, perhaps irrevocably: Glaciers that feed rivers supporting hundreds of millions of people in Asia are melting. The Maldives, a nation of coral islands preparing to be swallowed by the Indian Ocean, is essentially shopping for a new homeland. “Hundred-year” rainstorms are becoming routine. A problem that McKibben thought would manifest in the time of his children and grandchildren appears to be unfolding now.

“We need to make [the transition away from fossil fuels] happen quicker than is economically or politically comfortable,” McKibben said. And that means more than reducing personal carbon emissions; citizens must pressure government and industry to change, he argued. “We all need to play a role of some kind in that solution.” Action taken in the next couple of years will determine “whether we get out of it at all,” he said.

McKibben is trying to engrain the number 350 in the minds of policymakers and citizens worldwide. As director of 350.org, he’s organizing a day of global activism on Saturday, October 24, encouraging people to go public in support of the 350 ppm goal. So far, 1,323 actions in 91 countries are planned, including some in the Adirondacks.

The Adirondack Council, based in Elizabethtown, is looking for 350 or more people who will commit to an alternative commute to work or school the week before Oct. 24. Paul Smith’s College, which coincidentally will have an incoming freshman class of 350, is organizing an event, details still to come. The Adirondack Green Circle in Saranac Lake is planning to do something as well, and other communities are early in the planning stages. You can visit 350.org to find an action near you or to register your own.

If you missed McKibben’s talk last week and can’t catch him tomorrow at a Protect the Adirondacks benefit in Olmstedville, you can watch him surviving this interview on the Colbert Report Monday.

Also, here’s a little of what Bill had to say about the Conservancy’s Finch lands purchase, and here is an excerpt from his Newcomb talk, broadcast earlier this week on North Country Public Radio.


Thursday, August 20, 2009

Study Reveals Mercury Contamination in Fish Nationwide

According to a just-released U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) study, scientists detected mercury contamination in every fish sampled in 291 streams across the country. About one fourth of the fish sampled were found to “contain mercury at levels exceeding the criterion for the protection of people who consume average amounts of fish, established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency,” according to USGS. More than two-thirds of the fish exceeded the U.S. EPA level of concern for fish-eating mammals.

Mercury contamination of fish, ospreys, loons, and other aquatic-feeding animals continues to be a concern in the Adirondack region where the problem is the most acute of all New York State. New evidence in the Northeast shows mercury contamination in animals that only feed on land, spreading the concern from water based ecosystems to terrestrial ones as well. » Continue Reading.


Friday, August 14, 2009

Pieces of Fort Edward Revealed During Hudson Dredging

A piece of historic Fort Edward, site of the Great Carrying Place portage between the Hudson River and Lake George and prominent in the history of the French and Indian War and the American Revolution, is reported to have been brought up while dredging the Hudson River for PCBs according to the Glens Falls Post Star.

“Neal Orsini said he was awakened at 4 a.m. by the noise of a clamshell dredge pulling the piece of wood, which he estimated to be about 14 feet long, from his property,” the paper reported. “There was a breakdown somewhere in the system and they took a piece of old Fort Edward out of the bank they weren’t supposed to be touching,” Orsini said, “It was really loud.”

Orsini also told the paper that a clamshell dredge removed a section of riverbank. “It left a gaping hole in my river bank,” he said. The paper is reporting that archeologists are on the scene and a “survey is being performed on the pieces taken from the area.”

Fort Edward was built in 1755 on “The Great Warpath” between Albany and the head of northward navigation at Lake George. It’s three components, the fort itself, a fortified encampment on Rogers Island, and a Royal blockhouse built in 1758 across the river was Britain’s largest military outpost in North America during the French and Indian War housing more than 15,000 troops. An earlier stockaded area named Fort Nicholson was located there in 1709 during Queen Anne’s War; it was rebuilt as Fort Lydus (primarily the trading post of John Lydus) and in 1731 was rebuilt as Fort Lyman. It was renamed For Edward by Sir William Johnson during the French and Indian War in 1755.

Although the historic site is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, it has been largely forgotten, after the area was heavily contaminated with PCBs, and has fallen into disuse except for the Rogers Island Visitors Center. The Associated Press reported this week that three entities are hoping to purchase parts of the site including the Archaeological Conservancy, the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, and archeologist David Starbuck, who has been excavating the site since at least 2001.

Rogers Island was also the base camp of Major Robert Rogers and his company of Rangers and it was there that he composed his “Ranging Rules” which form the basis of military tactics adopted by irregular fighting forces all over the world. The site is considered the birthplace of the U.S. Army Rangers. The fort fell to British forces under John Burgoyne in 1777 during the American Revolution.

The dredging project is in its fourth month of removing approximately 2.65 million cubic yards of Hudson Riverbed sediment contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). General Electric is believed to have dischargeed more than 1 million pounds of PCBs from its plants in Hudson Falls and Fort Edward into the Hudson River. The company then fought a legal, political, and media battle to avoid cleanup for nearly 20 years. GE fought the Superfund law in court and conducted a media campaign to convince the public that cleaning the toxic waste from the river would stir up PCBs. This week high levels of PCBs downriver slowed the dredging. GE was ordered by the EPA to clean up a 40-mile stretch of the Hudson River it contaminated in 2002.

Photo: Fort Edward from “A Set of Plans and Forts in Americas, Reduced From Actual Surveys” [1763]


Thursday, August 13, 2009

Bill McKibben, Bat Expert Al Hicks in Newcomb Saturday

Bill McKibben, author of The End of Nature, has been rallying support from around the world to call for a fair global climate treaty. Wildlife biologist Al Hicks trying to prevent the extinction of bats in the Northeast. McKibben (left) will be the keynote speaker at the annual meeting of the Adirondack Chapter of The Nature Conservancy and the Adirondack Land Trust on Saturday, August 15, at the Newcomb Central School in Newcomb, NY. Hicks’s lecture, The End of Bats in the Northeast?, is one of three field trip/educational opportunities being offered before the meeting formally kicks off at 1:00. The event is free and open to the public. Participants are asked to register in advance.

McKibben is founder of 350.org, which according to the website, “is an international campaign dedicated to building a movement to unite the world around solutions to the climate crisis–the solutions that justice demand.” Their stated mission is to”inspire the world to rise to the challenge of the climate crisis–to create a new sense of urgency and of possibility for our planet.” The number 350 refers to parts per million, and represents the level scientists have identified as the safe upper limit for CO2 in our atmosphere.

The meeting will also feature a conservation update from Michael Carr, delivering the latest news on historic land protection projects involving the former Finch, Pruyn & Company lands and the Follensby Pond tract—175,600 acres in all. Attendees will find out how sustainable forestry fits into part of the conservation plan.

At 11:00 a.m. in the Newcomb Central School Auditorium, state wildlife biologist Al Hicks will give an up-to-the-minute account of “white-nose syndrome,” a mysterious affliction causing bat populations in the Adirondacks and at least nine northeastern states to plummet. Hundreds of thousands of bats, including animals from well-established colonies in the Adirondacks, have already died. Hicks has been on the frontlines of this environmental crisis since the outbreak was first discovered in 2007.

Participants should plan to arrive around noon for the annual meeting, or before 11:00 a.m. to attend the special lecture. Bring a bag lunch or call ahead to reserve an $8 lunch from Newcomb Central School students raising money for their trip abroad.

To register for this event, reserve a bag lunch, or obtain more information, contact Erin Walkow at (518) 576 – 2082 x133 or [email protected]


Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Public Hearing: Rezoning 2,000 Acres in Inlet, Hamilton County

The Adirondack Park Agency (APA) will hold a public hearing on Wednesday, August 12, 2009 at 7:30pm in the Inlet Town Hall to discuss the Town’s proposed amendments to the Official Adirondack Park Land Use and Development Plan Map and provide opportunity for the public to comment on these proposals. The town’s proposals could result in a net increase of more than 1,000 buildings according to the APA. The hearing will be preceded at 6:30pm with an informal information session.

The four proposals would reclassify lands into a less restrictive classification which could potentially result in increased development in the areas under consideration. Here is the description from the APA:

On June 22, 2009 the Adirondack Park Agency received a completed application from the Town of Inlet, Hamilton County to reclassify approximately 1,913 acres of land on the Official Park Map in four separate areas within the Town of Inlet. The Official Map is the document identified in Section 805 (2) (a) of the Adirondack Park Agency Act (Executive Law, Article 27), and is the primary component of the Adirondack Park Land Use and Development Plan, which guides land use planning and development of private land in the Park.

Area A involves 203.4+/- acres of land along Uncas Road, between the Pigeon Lake Wilderness on the north and the Fulton Chain Wild Forest on the south. The Town proposes to reclassify the area from Low Intensity to Moderate Intensity.

Area B involves 23.6 +/- acres of land along State Highway 28 which serves as the southwest boundary for this area. This area is adjacent to the hamlet of Inlet and positioned between County Highway 1 and Limekiln Road. The Town proposes to reclassify the area from Low Intensity to Moderate Intensity Use.

Area C involves 1,043.7 +/- acres located along Limekiln Road which intersects with NYS Route 28, to the north, and runs south to Limekiln Lake. The Town proposes to reclassify the area from Rural Use to Moderate Intensity Use.

Area D involves 642.6 +/- acres of land south of State Highway 28, which serves as the northern boundary. The area is bordered on the east by the Moose River Plains Wild Forest. The Town proposes to reclassify the area from Low Intensity Use to Moderate Intensity Use.

Detailed information and maps related to this proposal may be viewed at the Agency’s website at:
www.apa.state.ny.us/_assets/mapamendments/MA200804_DSEIS.pdf

When considering proposed map amendments the Agency must prepare a Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (DSEIS), hold a combined public hearing on both the proposed map amendment and the DSEIS, and incorporate all comments into a Final Supplemental Impact Environmental Statement (FSEIS). The FSEIS includes the hearing summary, public comments, and Agency staff written analysis, as finalized after the public hearing and comments are reviewed. The Agency then decides (a) whether to accept the FSEIS and (b) whether to approve the map amendment request, deny the request or approve an alternative. The Agency’s decision on a map amendment request is a legislative decision based upon the application, public comment, the DSEIS and FSEIS, and staff analysis. The public hearing is for informational purposes and is not conducted in an adversarial or quasi-judicial format.

In addition to the public hearing on August 12 at the Inlet Town Hall the Agency is accepting written comment on these proposals until September 4, 2009.

Written comments may be sent to: Matthew S. Kendall Adirondack Park Agency P.O. Box 99 Ray Brook, NY 12977


Sunday, August 2, 2009

Climate Change Talk at Adirondack Museum

“Fifty years from now we may have Adirondack winters without snow and ice and forests that are the biological analogues of the dying coral reefs seen in the tropics today: stressed, structurally altered, not reproducing, and unable to support the birds and animals that once lived in them” Jerry Jenkins wrote in the Adirondack Atlas (2004). On Monday, August 3, 2009, Jenkins, co-author of The Adirondack Atlas: A Geographic Portrait of the Adirondack Park, will offer a program entitled “Climate Change and the Adirondacks” at the Adirondack Museum at Blue Mountain Lake. Part of the museum’s Monday Evening Lecture series, the presentation will be held in the Auditorium at 7:30 p.m. There is no charge for museum members. Admission is $5.00 for non-members.

Jenkins, a researcher for the Wildlife Conservation Society, will discuss
the impacts of global climate change on the region. He is trained in philosophy and mathematics, and works as a botanist and geographer. He has thirty years of field experience in the North Country, working as a naturalist and natural resources geographer for government agencies and non-profit groups including the Nature Conservancy, the State of Vermont, and the Wildlife Conservation Society.

Together with Andy Keal, Jenkins co-authored The Adirondack Atlas a Geographic Portrait of the Adirondack Park, perhaps the most significant Adirondack book in a generation. Bill McKibben describes the atlas as a “great gift…that marks a coming of age.” Jenkins recently contributed to an anthology Acid Rain in the Adirondacks an Environmental History, which one reviewer called the “definitive work on the topic.”


Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Linking Forests Across the Champlain Valley

The Adirondack Chapter of the Nature Conservancy gets a lot of attention when it completes a landscape-scale protection deal like the 161,000-acre Finch Pruyn purchase, or when it buys a place with a hallowed name like Follensby Pond.

But for decades it has also been working among the little farms and forests of the Champlain Valley with a larger picture in mind.

“The goal is to provide safe passage for species—a way for a moose, say, to go from the Adirondacks to Vermont with little risk of being struck by a car, or a salmon to make it far enough upstream to spawn without being blocked by a dry culvert,” Michael Carr, executive director of the Adirondack Chapter of the Nature Conservancy, said in a press release Monday. “Where are the most important habitat linkages and how do we work do we protect them? To date, we’ve raised several hundred thousand dollars in grants for this initiative in the Champlain Valley, which is a critical piece of a larger effort.” » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Emerald Ash Borers and the Purple Triangles

Emerald Ash Borer Trap Hanging in Chestertown in June 2017 (photo courtesy Greg Dower)The purple triangles seen hanging on trees along Adirondack roads are traps designed to lure and capture emerald ash borers (Agrilus planipennis). Emerald ash borers are small (half-inch long) metallic green insects that are coming to us from Asia via Michigan and wreaking havoc on the ash trees of North America.

Recently I wrote a piece on the American elm and its decline thanks to an insect and a fungus. The same thing is happening today with the American beech. But the emerald ash borer (EAB) acts alone. This insect overwinters under the bark of the ash tree (black, green and white ash are all susceptible) and emerges as an adult in the spring. After mating, the female lays her eggs in the crevices of the bark and about ten days later they hatch. The larvae now begin their devastating work, tunneling under the bark, eating as they go. When winter comes, the larvae become dormant, waiting for spring to arrive, at which point they emerge as adults and the cycle begins again. » Continue Reading.



Wait, before you go,

sign up for news updates from the Adirondack Almanack!