Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Salt solutions?

Billy Jones salt bill

Lake George has been a leader in road salt reduction and now some of those lessons will be coming north.

Wilmington Supervisor Roy Holzer, who attended the sixth annual Lake George road salt reduction summit last week, said his town has applied for a grant that would pay for cameras on the Whiteface Highway, a steep climb out of the hamlet to elevations where it can snow before it does down below. But not always. With cameras, plow drivers can open an app and assess conditions before driving up and salting a road that may not need it. Salt pollution has been recognized as a threat both to the environment and public health.

Essex County Department of Public Works Director Jim Dugan said some methods used further south, such as brining the highway, aren’t as effective in the mountains where it’s colder. But that doesn’t mean local governments are powerless.

Dugan said the county, with a $750,000 state grant and a $250,000 match, is building a shed to keep its stores of sand under roof. Before it’s stockpiled, salt has to be mixed into the sand to keep it from freezing into unspreadable chunks. Dougan said the shelter will keep the sand dry, and greatly reduce the ratio of salt to sand.

Dugan said he would also like to be allowed to cut trees in the highway right of way to let in the ice-melting sun, but even though environmentalists agree this is an important strategy, in the Forest Preserve that’s not allowed.

Holzer follows the late Wilmington Supervisor Randy Preston, for which road salt reduction law is named.

“I certainly feel an obligation to carry through with his mission, and I feel like Wilmington is leading change in the North Country,” Holzer said. Smart salt law can strike a balance between safety and the environment, while saving taxpayer money by reducing the need to purchase salt, he said.

NYS Assemblyman Billy Jones speaks Dec. 4, 2020, at a commemoration of the signing of the Randy Preston Road Salt Reduction Act. More than 10 months later, the task force created by the bill is still without members. Mike Lynch photo 

Editor’s note: This first appeared in Adirondack Explorer’s weekly “Water Line” newsletter. Click here to sign up.


Tuesday, October 26, 2021

The Wild Center to send delegation to U.N. climate talks in Scotland

youth climate rallyWhen world leaders convene in Scotland for critical climate change negotiations later this month, The Wild Center’s Youth Climate Program will be there.

The organization is sending a nine-person delegation to Glasgow for COP26, the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties. The Wild Center’s delegates will have a front-row seat as representatives from 197 countries seek solutions to mitigate ongoing effects of climate change.

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Sunday, October 24, 2021

Watching the salmon run

salmon run

The warm October has slowed the fall salmon run a bit, but the fact that there is any salmon run at all in the rivers that flow from the Adirondacks into Lake Champlain is a point of some celebration. The dams that powered industry, the resulting pollution from this industry and overfishing destroyed the Atlantic salmon fishery in Lake Champlain prior to the Civil War.

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Sunday, October 17, 2021

The Real Johnny Appleseed

apples

There’s little in life more pleasing than biting into a fresh, crisp, juicy, mouth-watering, slightly sweet, slightly tart, apple. And what could be healthier? Apples contain vitamins C and A, antioxidants, potassium, pectin, fiber, and no cholesterol. They can be eaten fresh, baked, or stewed. They can be juiced or turned into cider; made into sauce, butter, jelly, vinegar, and wine; or cooked into pies, crisps, crumbles, cakes, doughnuts; even meat dishes. They make delightful confections when coated with candy (sugar syrup), caramel, or toffee and nuts, too.

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Monday, October 11, 2021

When it comes to permaculture, we have a lot to learn

permaculture gardenI’ve never been fond of buzzwords. “Organic,” “Natural,” and “Sustainable” lost their foothold in reality decades ago when they were co-opted as marketing labels. Corporate buzzwords, cynical and empty, are often buzz-phrases anyway: “Whole-Systems Thinking,” “Trickle Down,” “Customer Journey.”

In my view, “Permaculture” has been teetering on the edge of irrelevance for some time.  Just look how it’s described in Wikipedia, which can usually be trusted for succinct and reasonably cogent (if not entirely accurate) definitions: “Permaculture is an approach to land management that adopts arrangements observed in flourishing ecosystems, and includes a set of design principles derived using whole-systems thinking.” Wait a minute – whole-systems thinking? I’ve heard that somewhere.

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Saturday, October 9, 2021

NYS Birding Trail Takes Flight


bird watchingDEC Commissioner Basil Seggos announced the launch of the new NYS Birding Trail to highlight world-class birding opportunities across the state. Birding or birdwatching is one of the fastest-growing recreation and tourism activities and requires little to no experience or equipment to get started.

The New York State Birding Trail provides information on places anyone can go to find birds amid beautiful natural settings across the state. The trail is not a physically connected or built trail but a network of promoted birding locations that can be accessed by car or public transportation and provides an inclusive experience for all.

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Tuesday, October 5, 2021

When doing your best means doing nothing

Painting: Dawn Loading by Kathleen Kolb

Painting: Dawn Loading by Kathleen Kolb

“If I knew for a certainty that a man was coming to my house with the conscious design of doing me good, I should run for my life.” David Henry Thoreau’s statement, funny in a way, also brings to mind the grave harm done to cultures around the world by Western powers in the guise of “helping” them. In a less horrific sense it applies to how we’ve “assisted” nature to disastrous ends. Cane toads in Australia, mongoose in Hawaii, Kudzu in the Southeast, and Asian harlequin ladybeetles that invade our homes each fall are a few examples of being too helpful.

I get a lot of questions from folks who’ve recently purchased a few acres of forest or home on a wooded lot and want to know if they should clear brush, thin trees, or do other things to improve the woods. It’s a fair question, and an important one.

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Tuesday, October 5, 2021

ESF’s Center for Native Peoples and the Environment and The Nature Conservancy Embark on Transformational Partnership

center for native peoples (ALL INTERNAL RIGHTS, LIMITED EXTERNAL RIGHTS) June 2015. Jamaica Bay Wildlife Reserve. Photo credit: © Kevin Arnold and the environment

Syracuse, NY – A new partnership between the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry’s (ESF) Center for Native Peoples and the Environment (CNPE) and The Nature Conservancy (TNC) will serve as a bridge between traditional ecological knowledge and Western scientific approaches, embracing a “two-eyed” way of seeing and informing conservation.

“This partnership arises out of shared interests and common goals to conserve cherished landscapes and biodiversity,” said Dr. Robin Kimmerer, CNPE Director, botanist, and enrolled member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation. She is also the author of the bestselling book ‘Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants.’ “This as an opportunity for co-learning between the CNPE and TNC and Indigenous communities, who are a critical partner in this work.”

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Monday, October 4, 2021

A Harvest of North Country Cranberries

Gathering cranberries with a floating 'boom'

The 2021 growing season is nearing an end. And, as the last of the greens, Brussels sprouts, and turnips are taken from the ground, I’m grateful for the diverse variety of vegetables that family, friends, and neighbors have harvested, processed, stored, and shared; everything from tomatoes, potatoes, summer squash, and zucchini, to Romanesco broccoli, Kohlrabi, purple cauliflower, tomatillos, and blue dent corn. Tree fruit and nut yields from both wild and cultivated trees were bountiful this year, too. Wild and cultivated herbs and edible medicinal plants are being readied for use as spices, teas, tinctures, and poultices. And the harvest of forage corn, hay, and beans, which will feed dairy and meat cattle in the months ahead is nearly complete.

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Saturday, October 2, 2021

Annual Regional Road Salt Reduction Summit coming up Oct. 14

road salt truck

Municipalities, businesses and not-for-profit organizations interested in learning how to keep roads, driveways and parking areas safe this winter while reducing the cost and environmental consequences of road salt use are invited to attend the 2021 Adirondack Champlain Regional Salt Summit, Thursday, Oct. 14, from 8 a.m.-3 p.m. at the Fort William Henry Hotel and Conference Center in Lake George. Online attendance will also be available for those unable to travel to the Summit. Registration is free for all attendees.

This year’s Summit will be the 6th annual gathering focused on best practices for reducing road salt use, and will feature progress on road salt reduction in the Lake George region. It is presented by the Lake George Association, which spearheads the Lake George Road Salt Reduction Initiative, and Lake Champlain Sea Grant. The agenda will include:


Friday, September 24, 2021

Climate Week Updates


EV charging stationFor 2021 Climate Week, Sept. 20-26, DEC is highlighting two green initiatives in the Adirondack Region.

Solar Installation on Lake George Island
A new solar installation on Lake George Island now powers the caretaker cabin. The solar installation replaces an underwater power line that is used to provide electricity to the cabin. Not only is this green energy solution better for our climate, it is also more resilient.

Electric Car Chargers at DEC Campgrounds
Electric car chargers have been installed at Meadowbrook Campground in Ray Brook and Frontier Town Campground, Equestrian, and Day Use Area in North Hudson. Meadowbrook has one dual charging station with a solar-powered streetlight. Frontier Town has four single-car chargers. These stations are used by both visitors and campground staff. There are plans for more chargers to be installed at additional facilities in the region.


Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Book explores connections between water quality, algal blooms

algae bookSaint Albans Vermont based author, artist and aquatic biologist, Corrina Parnapy has released a new book compiled from over a decade of scientific research within the Adirondacks and Vermont, and articles she’s had published regionally and nationally, all focused on the connection between water quality and algae.  From road salt, acid rain, invasive species, sewage waste, fertilizers, to lawn care practices; all have a connection and impact on algae populations.

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Monday, September 20, 2021

A quarry in question

white lake quarryPushback against the granite quarry proposed for a forming mining site on White Lake in the town of Forestport (the northern tip of Oneida County) has been building for months.

In late August, the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) issued a Notice of Complete Application for the project, kicking off the formal review process, that because of the location inside the Adirondack Park boundary, is taking place in collaboration with the Adirondack Park Agency (APA).

Representatives of both agencies recently presided over a hearing on the project. As our correspondent Megan Plete Postol has been reporting on this story, opposition to the project is strong, with more than 1,000 letters submitted to the APA and not a single person at the hearing made a comment in support of the project. (Although she did send us a photo of one pro-quarry sign she came across in her travels.)

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Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Monster Mosquitoes

Psorophora ciliata

As the Dalai Lama once said, “If you think you’re too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito.” Really all it takes is one or two of the little whiners in your tent to spoil a night’s sleep. I’m convinced their ear-buzzing is an adaptation to raise a victim’s blood pressure so they fill up faster. Makes you wish you could return the favor somehow. 

Well if mosquitoes actually slept, there is something that would likely keep them up at night: The Mosquito Monster! Or rather, the monster mosquito, Psorophora ciliata (sore AH fur uh silly AHT uh). In addition to terrorizing campers and picnickers, this hulking menace, which is two to three times the size of most species, regularly dines on its smaller kin. 

Such inter-family cannibalism only goes on in the larval stage, but I like to imagine that when an adult Psorophora ciliata touches down, the average mosquito would back away slowly, saying “Hey, this arm’s all yours, buddy. I was just leaving anyway and please don’t eat me, heh,” or a pheromone message to that effect. 

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Monday, September 13, 2021

Asters and Goldenrod: Late Season Native Perennials

Monarch-Butterfly-on-New-England-Aster-2-–-Rick-L-Hansen-US-Fish-and-Wildlife-Service.

As autumn approaches, the days grow shorter, evenings grow cooler, acorns fall from the oaks, and the maples, in anticipation of the coming change of season, start to reveal hints of the glorious spectacle of color that lies ahead.

It’s also the time of year when the goldenrod and the asters (also called starworts or frost flowers) present their showy blooms along roadsides and forest edges, in woodland openings, meadows, and old fields, and along stream banks. At a time when most other perennials have finished blooming, their eye-catching flowers are an abundant source of nectar for bees and butterflies, including adult monarchs, setting out on their remarkable flight to overwintering sites in the high-mountain forests of central Mexico. The seeds of both (and the insect larvae that feed on the plants themselves) are a valuable food source for birds, including migratory birds making their way south, and for many small mammals, as well.

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