Summer has flown. Bird song no longer greets our sunrise. Many Adirondack migratory songbirds are starting to fly to their wintering grounds in Central and South America and the Caribbean islands this month. I take account of one very familiar bird I really missed this summer. Since we moved to Saratoga County in 1984, the flute-like, descending song of the male Veery ( Ve-urr, Ve-urr, Ve-urr) penetrated from our woodlands, beginning in late May and lasting well through the summer. The bird bred and raised young here for at least 25 years, and probably for centuries before that.
Veery, one of our familiar upstate thrushes, was a constant in our summer lives until this year when I only began to hear Veery in our woods in mid- July, long after this species usually nests. Its immediate habitat hadn’t changed. With this 50-acre patch of forest habitat more or less unchanged, I conjecture there were simply fewer breeding Veery in the area to fill its favorable habitat, and a non-breeding adult came to these woods late in their season. » Continue Reading.
A few months back one of my colleagues here at the Almanack wrote a fine post that raised the question of whether or not it is feasible for New York State to acquire Follensby Pond and surrounding lands.
I had great fun weighing-in on an element of philosophical gamesmanship that Phil Brown touched on related to Aristotle’s notion of begging the question. A short while later, I was describing what I thought had been my clever contribution to a friend who asked “yes, but what was your position?” Well I never! No really, I never even considered entering the conversation with my position on the situation. As a philosopher, much of my work involves drawing out the views of others into a constructive space where disagreement operates alongside mutual respect for differences of opinion. In this process I act as facilitator, offering my own opinion only when it might help to further the discourse. This method is useful, at the same time it is almost entirely without risk. Whereas others who participate in a dialog (say around Adirondack land acquisition) lead with their position and without the safety of neutral ground. This came up for me during a recent conversation with a few colleagues who work in the field of environmental education.
We were talking about how much of what we believe can and should we reveal when talk turns to issues that are invariably fraught with tension and where perspectives, and ultimately the people who hold them, are judged by what they believe. In other words, how much of our personal and ideological positions can we show up with while taking care to subject ourselves to the least amount of ire?
Each of us enters into a private negotiation to gauge this type of risk countless times a day. And the stakes are particularly high when viewpoints push past our personal belief into a professional space where often unspoken expectations about who we are and what we think are nearly written into our job descriptions as environmental educators, ecologists, biologists, and naturalists etc.
But what happens when our personal and public personas don’t seamlessly match, or when I hold to a belief that might put the two in conflict? What are the boundaries of my duty or the limits of my professional responsibility when what I believe isn’t consistent with what I am expected to believe? Am I duty bound, as German philosopher Immanuel Kant believed, to conduct myself with an artificial unanimity when I am in service to an institution or organization acting in the interest of the community? In this case is Kant right to call for obedience or submission to a disciplinary or professional agenda?
Maybe, but as members of the whole community or of a society of world citizens and thus in the role of a scholar he can argue without hurting the affairs for which he is in part responsible. In other words, as citizens and public intellectuals we are indeed obligated to speak our minds. Kant’s adamant belief in our responsibility as public and private citizens comes from his belief that freedom and righteousness always operate in concert. He envisions a landscape where we emerge as independent thinkers who value our own worth and every man’s vocation for thinking for himself where a greater degree of civil freedom appears advantageous to the freedom of mind which fosters the propensity and vocation to free thinking.
David Stradling, Professor and Graduate Studies Director at the University of Cincinnati, is author of The Nature of New York: An Environmental History of the Empire State. This recent (Fall 2010) survey of over four hundred years of New York’s environmental history has received praise from historians and environmental policy experts.
From the arrival of Henry Hudson’s Half Moon in the estuarial waters of what would come to be called New York Harbor to the 2006 agreement that laid out plans for General Electric to clean up the PCBs it pumped into the river named after Hudson, this work offers a sweeping environmental history of New York State. David Stradling shows how New York’s varied landscape and abundant natural resources have played a fundamental role in shaping the state’s culture and economy. Simultaneously, he underscores the extent to which New Yorkers have, through such projects as the excavation of the Erie Canal and the construction of highways and reservoir systems, changed the landscape of their state. Surveying all of New York State since first contact between Europeans and the region’s indigenous inhabitants, Stradling finds within its borders an amazing array of environmental features, such as Niagara Falls; human intervention through agriculture, urbanization, and industrialization; and symbols, such as Storm King Mountain, that effectively define the New York identity.
Stradling demonstrates that the history of the state can be charted by means of epochs that represent stages in the development and redefinition of our relationship to our natural surroundings and the built environment; New York State has gone through cycles of deforestation and reforestation, habitat destruction and restoration that track shifts in population distribution, public policy, and the economy. Understanding these patterns, their history, and their future prospects is essential to comprehending the Empire State in all its complexity.
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Internationally-acclaimed author, educator and environmentalist Bill McKibben will present a program entitled “The Most Important Number in the World: Updates on the Fight for a Stable Climate,” on Monday, August 1, 2011 at the Adirondack Museum. The program is part of the museum’s Monday Evening Lecture series.
McKibben will share news of the latest science around global warming, its effects on the Adirondack region, and the growing global movement to do something about it. In the past two years his group 350.org has coordinated what CNN called “the most widespread days of political action in the planet’s history.” He will share with the audience what those fighting for a stable climate across the planet are doing. Bill McKibben is the Schumann Distinguished Scholar at Middlebury College, and author of a dozen books about the environment, including The End of Nature, which is often called the first book for a general audience about climate change. Time Magazine has described him as “the planet’s best green journalist” and the Boston Globe has called him “perhaps the nation’s leading environmentalist.” He has spent much of his adult life in Johnsburg in Warren County, N.Y.
The presentation will be held in the Auditorium at 7:30 p.m. The lecture will be offered at no charge to museum members; the fee for non-members is $5.00. For additional information, visit www.adirondackmuseum.org or call (518) 352-7311.
A new infestation of the invasive species Asian clam (Corbicula fluminea) has been discovered in Lake George in Boon Bay in the Town of Bolton. The new infestation was discovered as part of the FUND for Lake George’s Eurasian watermilfoil management and control program in cooperation with the Lake George Park Commission. Initial survey work by the RPI Darrin Fresh Water Institute in Boon Bay estimates the population to be 3.75 acres – 5 acres in size.
This is the second infestation discovered in Lake George. Last fall a 5-acre infestation in the Village of Lake George was discovered. The Lake George Asian Clam Rapid Response Task Force organized to combat this infestation and a treatment effort has been underway in the Village since late April under permits from the Adirondack Park Agency and NYS Department of Environmental Conservation. Over 725 benthic barriers have been installed to suffocate the clams. » Continue Reading.
As the cost of home heating oil rises and oil reserves decline, the need for alternative renewable energy sources such as solar has never been greater. You can help kick the oil habit by learning to install solar photo-voltaic systems at The Wild Center, in Tupper Lake. From August 8 – 10, the HeatSpring Learning Institute will host a Solar Photo-Voltaic Installer Boot Camp Training course targeted for electrical contractors, general contractors, roofers, engineers and home installers.
This intensive solar training teaches you to design, install, and sell solar PV (electric) systems, plus helps you pass the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) Entry Level Exam. The training combines 16 hours of online lessons including reading assignments, worksheets and other prep with a three-day classroom based boot camp including hands-on exercises and face to face time with an ISPQ Certified Master trainer. On the last day of the training students take the NABCEP Entry Level Exam. The blended format of this course is designed to keep time off-the-job to a minimum and present the material in a variety of formats to allow for a variety of student learning styles. The three-day classroom based training follows 16 hours of online study beforehand when you review OSHA and solar safety, electricity basics, solar basics, solar components and solar integration. Learn to design and install solar electric systems from A to Z while earning 40 Board approved hours toward NABCEP certification, a key step to beginning or expanding your solar business.
Instructor Ken Thames is a master electrician, NABCEP Certified Solar PV Installer, ISPQ Certified Master Trainer and founder of Thames Electric Co, in Denver, Colorado. Ken has installed more than 500 solar PV systems since 1994, has deep expertise in battery-backed systems, project management experience on megawatt-scale projects, and teaches courses on the NEC for inspectors.
Each day the course runs from 8 am until 5 pm. With early registration and The Wild Center coupon, the cost for the course is $1,195. The cost includes books, exam fees, field guides, as well as coffee, breakfast and lunch on all three days. Register online for the three-day comprehensive course, at www.wildcenter.org and go to Calendar of Events or contact Andrew Kitzenberg at 1-800-393-2044 x 22.
The Adirondack Invasive Plant Program (APIPP) received the Adirondack Council’s “2001 Conservationist of the Year” award in a ceremony at the historic Irondequoit Inn on July 9. APIPP is the 27th winner of the prestigious annual award. APIPP Director Hilary Smith accepted on the award on the organization’s behalf.
“APPIP has pioneered the effort to get control of the invasive, non-native plants that threaten to destroy and replace the healthy, native trees and plants of our vast Adirondack forests,” said Brian L. Houseal, Executive Director of the Adirondack Council. “Under Hilary Smith’s leadership, APPIP has identified the places that need immediate attention and has trained and organized an army of volunteers to take on the hard work. It is not easy to identify, and then properly remove and dispose of invaders so they don’t take root somewhere else. » Continue Reading.
Most American communities will ultimately develop according to how they are zoned. Absent state or federal regulatory protection of wetlands, for instance, or other legal protection or zoning overlays, land in R-1 or other residential zoning will ultimately, some day be valued, bought, sold, and developed consistent with the number of houses allowed there under the local zoning code.
Of course, towns are legally allowed to plan for their futures, and regulate development in a far more creative fashion, but few in my area seem to use that authority. I live outside the Adirondack Park in Saratoga County, and found out that the allowable density under the zoning law in my town far outweighed the presence of a lot of small (read unregulated) wetlands, wet soils, lots and lots of trees, and well adapted critters like hawks and owls. An out of state developer was, therefore, “entitled” to 18 homes and 18 separate driveways on 18-wooded acres in this R-1 residential zone. Any questioning of this formula resulted in assertions by the town attorney that the applicant has vested rights in that number of lots. Lo and behold, the planning board actually asserted its authority and knocked out two lots, but I suspect that was only because a bunch of neighboring citizens, including my family, sued the town for failing to conduct a meaningful environmental review (the suit proved ultimately unsuccessful).
The neighbors walked and photographed the land in question in all seasons, and predicted that building over such a high water table would require expensive engineering vulnerable to failure, subjecting the neighbors to flooded cellars, and requiring sensitive wildlife “to move.” Any sympathy at town hall evaporated after the lawsuit. The board felt they had bent over backwards by knocking out two lots. Why this swampy land full of wood frogs was wrapped into the adjoining R-1 district was the town board’s, and not the planning board’s responsibility.
In contrast, the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) must interpret development density in the context of complicated regional legislation called the APA Land Use and Development Plan whose purpose is to “insure optimum overall conservation, protection, preservation, development and use of the park’s unique resources.” Under the APA law, there are no land use zones. In fact, you can not even find the word “zoning,” or zone in the definitions section. There are, instead, “land use areas.” Each of these six areas is described as to their character, purposes, policies and objectives. Each has a different guideline for the overall intensity of development which, according to the law’s logic, is compatible with and help to perpetuate the existing character, purposes, and uses of the land.
For instance, under the Resource Management (RM) land use area (whose basic purpose, quoting from the Act, is “to protect the delicate physical and biological resources, encourage proper and economic management of forest, agricultural and recreational resources, and preserve the open spaces that are essential and basic to the unique character of the park”) the overall intensity of development “should not exceed approximately fifteen principal buildings per square mile.” Hence, the oft-used expression that in this largest and most protected of private land use areas there is “43-acre zoning,” or one principal building allowed per 42.6 acres.
“43-acre zoning” is a serious misreading and misapplication of the APA law. This is because mathematical achievement of the overall intensity guidelines should only be viewed in context with other criteria for determining project approvability, including whether or not a development project would be compatible with the purposes, policies and objectives of the land use area in question, or whether it would cause an “undue adverse impact” upon the resources of the park which, in turn, must be assessed according to numerous and defined development “considerations” for water, land, air, noise, critical resources, wildlife, aesthetics, historic factors, and lots more defined in regulation. Knowing this makes the “shall not exceed approximately” language of the overall intensity guidelines more understandable. The Act is clearly not like my town’s zoning law. 43-acres per principal building in RM are not a vested right, but a guideline judged in context with other equally weighted criteria needed to comprehensively assess a given project.
Some APA applicants, particularly if they have attorneys representing them, misread the APA Act purposefully and speak of these intensity guidelines as a legal, vested, valuable (in dollars) right. Even the APA can forget the context of its own law. For instance, as the Adirondack Club and Resort (ACR) hearing got underway in March, APA hearing staff issued a draft document attempting to stipulate how many mathematical “building rights” the applicant Michael Foxman had in the two affected land use areas, Resource Management and Moderate Intensity Use. This language was objected to by a variety of parties, and APA quickly conceded the point and from then on used the term “principal building opportunity.”
Foxman’s ACR attorney Tom Ulasewicz never conceded the point, and used the term “building rights” repeatedly, even at the last day of the hearing in late June. At no point do I recall APA staff correcting him, or objecting to his frequent assertion of “building rights” in the hearing record. This tolerance for language that so distorts the law’s purposes may be a pet peeve of mine, but I fear it’s a symptom of a lowering of standards for project review at the park agency.
Does the fact that ACR’s Michael Foxman proposes to build 82 new principal buildings on nearly 4800 acres of Resource Management mean he is in the clear as far as this aspect of the law goes? Applying the overall intensity guidelines math (“43-acre zoning”) means he could “potentially” build 111 new homes on RM. As ACR attorney Ulasewicz frequently pointed out, his client is far below the “legal threshold.” There are 29 “additional principal building opportunities” which ACR is “not using” he pointed out at frequent intervals.
The answer to such a distorted view of the law should be that after weighing the hearing evidence and its law, the APA would be completely within its legal rights to declare that, for instance, all or large portions of the RM land should remain as it is, undeveloped, so that this land use area can continue to serve its legally defined purposes, policies and objectives, and so that a variety of undue adverse impacts may be avoided.
Photo: APA Staff at a 2007 field trip to the ACR site.
What follows is a talk given at the Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks’s Arthur M. Crocker Lecture Series in 2006.
It somehow takes the pressure off public speaking to know that one stands up here, rather than sits out there only by accident of birth. That is to say: my father Howard Zahniser, who died four months before the 1964 Wilderness Act became law, was the chief architect of, and lobbyist for, this landmark Act that created the now 106-million-acre National Wilderness Preservation System. I am up here because of his accomplishments. » Continue Reading.
The Lake George Land Conservancy (LGLC) held a dedication ceremony recently in honor of Mrs. Margaret A. Darrin for the newly named Peggy’s Point in Hague. The dedication of Peggy’s Point was made in recognition of Mrs. Darrin’s contributions to the Lake George Land Conservancy, including her donation of the 1.9-acre park in 2005.
Nearly 100 people came to witness the celebration of Darrin at the Hague Community Center, including Peggy’s three sons and their wives, and six grandchildren. Among those who spoke during the ceremony were Hague Town Supervisor Dan Belden, historian Judy Shultz, LGLC Board President John Macionis, LGLC Executive Director Nancy Williams, and Peggy’s sons Drake and David and granddaughter, Hannah Darrin. “Peggy is a great inspiration,” said Macionis, adding “I hope we can all follow her lead to find our own ways in which we as individuals can contribute to the protection of the lake.”
Drake Darrin read from a prepared speech of fond personal memories he shared with his mother, including the many swimming lessons from their dock. “Your love of the lake over the years is contagious.”
Williams spoke to the group of the park’s Friendship Garden, of which she said, “the rules of the garden are simple. It is here for you.” To Peggy, she added a personal thank you, sharing that the garden project was responsible for reconnecting her with her brother, to whom she hadn’t spoken in 30 years.
Williams also took several minutes to go through the many names of individuals and businesses that contributed to the park and its Friendship Garden, in materials, time or monetary donations. Among them were Dan Belden, the Town of Hague and staff, David and Joanne DeFranco and team at DeFranco Landscaping, Judy Shultz and the Hague Historical Society, the entire Darrin family, Julia Beaty, Mary Lou Doulin, Peter Foster, Doug Langdon, Rich Morgan, Ray Murray, Scott and Alice Patchett, Betty Hans Rettig and the Carillon Garden Club, Nancy Scarzello, CL Williams, and the LGLC Stewardship Assistants who worked for weeks to the fence, path and garden, Mike Cerasaro and Jack Willis. In addition, plants for the garden were provided by Emily DeBolt of Fiddlehead Creek Native Plant Nursery and Mark Perry of Sweet Pea Farm Perennials and Art Gallery.
The ceremony ended with a champaign toast and cake, after which those in attendance then visited the property and contributed plants to the Friendship Garden.
The public is invited to add to the Friendship Garden; it is intended to provide a location for local residents and other Lake George visitors to memorialize or honor a loved family member, friend, memory or event with the planting of a perennial or small shrub. Plants may also be marked with small identifying plaques. For more information see www.lglc.org/naturepreserves/peggyspoint or call Sarah at 518-644-9673.
The Board of Trustees of the Adirondack Museum at Blue Mountain Lake, New York has announced the selection of Jerry Jenkins as the recipient of the 2011 Harold K. Hochschild Award.
The Harold K. Hochschild Award is dedicated to the memory of the museum’s founder, whose passion for the Adirondacks, its people, and environment inspired the creation of the Adirondack Museum. Since 1990 the museum has presented the award to a wide range of intellectual and community leaders throughout the Adirondack Park, highlighting their contributions to the region’s culture and quality of life. The Adirondack Museum will formally present Jerry Jenkins with the Harold K. Hochschild Award on August 4, 2011.
Jerry Jenkins is an ecologist with the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Adirondack Program (WCS). An accomplished botanist, naturalist and geographer, he has almost forty years of field experience working in the Northern Forest. Over the course of his career, his work has included conducting biological inventories for The Adirondack Chapter of the Nature Conservancy, surveying rare plant occurrences for the State of Vermont, chronicling the environmental history of acid rain with the Adirondack Lakes Survey Corporation, and understanding and interpreting historical changes to boreal lowland areas in the Adirondacks with WCS. His enthusiasm for natural history has also led him to study plant diversity and distribution across various forest types – from the Champlain Hills to large working forest easements, and from old growth forests to high elevation alpine communities.
His most recent and notable accomplishments with the Wildlife Conservation Society are his collection of Adirondack publications. Together with Andy Keal, Jerry Jenkins co-authored The The Adirondack Atlas: A Geographic Portrait of the Adirondack Park, considered one of the most significant Adirondack book in a generation. Some 300 pages in length, the Adirondack Atlas contains 750 maps and graphics, and represents the most comprehensive collection of regional data brought together in a single source. The park’s geology, flora and fauna are featured, as well as the history and the dynamic nature of the park’s human communities. Bill McKibben describes the atlas as a “great gift…that marks a coming of age.”
In his newest book Climate Change in the Adirondacks the Path to Sustainability, Jenkins demonstrates how climate change is already shifting the region’s culture, biology and economy, and provides a road map towards a more responsible and sustainable future. He provides the first comprehensive look at both the impacts of, and the potential solutions to, climate change across the Adirondack region. This compilation, along with his other regional contributions, prompted Bill McKibben to offer that “Jerry Jenkins has emerged as the information source for our mountains…and we are all in his debt.” Photo Courtesy Leslie Karasin, Wildlife Conservation Society.
The Common Ground Alliance of the Adirondacks will meet in Long Lake this Wednesday, July 20, for an interactive forum that will focus on future scenarios to assist the Park’s communities, their economies and the environment.
More than 100 participants are expected to attend the event, including local, state and federal officials, small business owners, non-profit leaders and citizens from across the Adirondack region. Local businessmen and scenario experts Dave Mason and Jim Herman will present six possible scenarios for the future of the Park. Mason and Herman are the entrepreneurial team that brought affordable broadband telecommunications to Keene and Keene Valley. “We hope to stimulate people to think more strategically about the difficult and complex issues facing the Park”, Mason said. “We want people to think hard about what they want the Park to become in the future.” “Scenarios are a great way to expand the scope of ideas under consideration and improve the conversation” according to Jim Herman. » Continue Reading.
Have you ever wondered what that slimy green/ brown stuff covering rocks or floating in the water was? What you were looking at was algae. Algae, like plants, use the sun to make energy (photosynthetic organisms), and are food for a variety of animals including fish, bugs, and birds. Algae differ from plants by not having true roots and leaves.
Also like plants, algae need light and a food source to grow. Algae loves phosphorus and nitrogen that enter the water. If these nutrients enter the water excessively, algae can bloom and become a nuisance and potential health hazard. When algae blooms it can become toxic, clog intake pipes and discourage swimming and other recreational activities. Algal blooms have been found in bodies of water throughout the Adirondacks, some of the most noted in Lake Champlain where blue/green algae or cyanobacteria can be found. These algae can form toxic blooms that can harm humans, pets and wildlife. Not all algae produces toxins, in fact most algae does not.
Lake George has been also been experiencing algal blooms. Algae there is found in the littoral zone, or near shore and is mostly green algae with very little blue/green. Generally algal blooms within Lake George are caused by lawn fertilizers washing into the lake, faulty septic systems, and storm water.
Excessive amounts of algae can also cause a dead-zone within a lake, an area of the water that has no oxygen and thus no fish. If you see an algal bloom in Lake Champlain contact the Lake Champlain Committee at (802) 658-1414 and report time of day, location and a description. Algal bloom in Lake George should be reported to the Lake George Waterkeeper.
While excessive amounts of algae are bad, it is a natural part of the aquatic environment. Algae can also be used by a trained scientist to determine if a body of water is healthy.
There are a variety of types of algae that can be seen in almost any body of water, including your fish tank. One of the more interesting types, looks like a ribbon twisting in a glass bottle. This form is often found in Lake George.
Beginning today members of the Adirondack Forest Preserve Education Partnership (AFPEP) will contribute to the Adirondack Almanack about Adirondack outdoor recreation. AFPEP shares a vision with Almanack founder John Warren that outdoor recreationists will know, share, and protect the park and themselves. AFPEP hopes to provide Adirondack visitors and residents information about having safe and enjoyable recreational experiences, while protecting the Forest Preserve for future generations. With two and a half million acres of Forest Preserve public land and another three and a half million acres of private land, Adirondack Park recreational opportunities are available for everyone. These weekly essays will offer advice on the entire range of activities allowed on state land from paddling to motorboating, backcountry skiing to snowmobiling, to hunting, fishing, birding, and more.
AFPEP is a coalition created by the Wildlife Conservation Society, Adirondack Mountain Club, Adirondack Invasive Plant Program, Adirondack Regional Tourism Council, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and Leading E.D.G.E. Building on the Leave No Trace philosophy, their goal is to provide public education about the Forest Preserve and Conservation Easements with an emphasis on how to safely enjoy and protect these unique lands.
In a letter today complaining to The New York Times about its coverage of a new Department of Environmental Conservation study on fracking, commissioner Joe Martens lists the Adirondack Mountain Club as one of three environmental groups who support its move toward partially ending the freeze on the controversial gas-drilling technique.
Except that’s not the case. In fact, the Mountain Club (ADK) supports only the DEC’s decision not to allow high-volume hydraulic fracturing on state-owned forests, parks and wildlife reserves. “This is great news and a major victory for the 28,000 members of the Adirondack Mountain Club who use these lands for outdoor recreation,” ADK director Neil Woodworth said in a statement released Thursday.
“Like our many environmental allies, we share a deep concern about the potential environmental impacts of fracking on drinking water, rivers, streams and other natural resources,” ADK’s statement continued. ADK plans to read and analyze the DEC’s study before making further comment. The report is scheduled to be released at 5 p.m. today. (Happy Fourth of July weekend, reporters.)
Hydraulic fracturing would affect mainly the Southern Tier of New York State, which is underlain by a massive shale formation containing natural gas pockets. The Adirondack Park is not expected to be affected.
The Adirondack Almanack is a public forum dedicated to promoting and discussing current events, history, arts, nature and outdoor recreation and other topics of interest to the Adirondacks and its communities
We publish commentary and opinion pieces from voluntary contributors, as well as news updates and event notices from area organizations. Contributors include veteran local writers, historians, naturalists, and outdoor enthusiasts from around the Adirondack region. The information, views and opinions expressed by these various authors are not necessarily those of the Adirondack Almanack or its publisher, the Adirondack Explorer.
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