Thursday, June 26, 2008

Wild Center: Climate Change ‘Producing Significant Harm’

The Wild Center in Tupper Lake is holding a national climate conference [details pdf] opened today with an admonishment from conference Co-chair Carter Bales: “We know the risks from climate change are immediate and serious. We know that we have to cut emissions now to cut those risks. It is time to stop talking about what we can do, and start to do it.” Conference organizers released this note today:

The two day conference has attracted leaders from industry, science and policy organizations to the Adirondacks because its organizers promised the event would focus on solutions that would place the United States in a leadership position in a global effort to move away from carbon-based economy. But before the conference attendees started to hash out solutions two speakers took the stage to update the audience on the latest climate science.

John Holdren, a world renowned expert and director at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, and President of Woods Hole Research Center spoke first. Holdren warned that climate change was not a future event, but “causing significant harm now.” In graphic detail he presented statistics that showed a speeding up of changes in weather patterns around the world, including new data from China linking droughts in Asia to changes in climate. “This is not some radical group,” he said, “this is coming out of the Chinese government, and it is causing them to act.” Holdren told the gathered leaders that the odds were growing worse each day that the world temperature would reach a level not seen in 30 million years, “a time,” he said, “that crocodiles roamed in Greenland.”

Holdren was followed by Thomas Lovejoy, president of the Heinz Center for Science, Economics and the Environment. Lovejoy echoed Holdren’s calls for swift action. He cited global reports of major shifts in species locations, showing that “nature is already on the move everywhere.” Lovejoy said that based on current science, 20 to 30 percent of all species on Earth are likely to be extinct by 2030 as a result of traumatic system shifts caused by changes resulting from climate change. He pointed to locations all over the globe, using models that consistently predict drought in the critical Amazon region in South America and rising sea levels that would alter vast habitats and force large human migrations. Both Lovejoy and Holdren spoke about the complexity of the natural world, and the difficulty of understanding how each change would impact other parts of the system. They both agreed that the pace and scale of changes would cause, as Lovejoy put it, “ecosystems as we know them to fall apart.”

Lovejoy cited the heat wave that took 35,000 lives in Europe in 2003 as an example. The spike in temperature was then thought of as a one in a hundred year event. Lovejoy said that based on current projections that same heat wave would occur every other year by 2020, and would be considered a cool summer by 2050.

The economists and business presenters followed Lovejoy and Holdren. Dimitri Zenghelis, Chief Economist at Cisco’s climate change long-term innovation group and a special advisor to the British government on climate, who had flown in from London for the conference, reiterated that this was not “tomorrow’s story, this is happening now.”

Zenghelis said that a reduction of emissions across the globe of 6-10% every year for the next ten years would produce a 50/50 chance that global temperatures would stabilize at only 1.2 degrees hotter than today, a level that is projected to lead to severe disruptions in natural systems, including those responsible for food and water supplies.

Zenghelis ended by saying that the solutions that were available to cut emissions could result in a cost of only 1 to 2 percent of global GDP, a number he related to the 5 percent of U.S. GDP dedicated to military expenditures or the 15 percent spent on healthcare.

Ken Ostrowski, who is the head of a major climate initiative at McKinsey & Company, one of the world’s leading consulting firms, presented an outline of the McKinsey Report on greenhouse gas reductions that describes ways the U.S. could reduce emissions. The report also helped form the basis for the conference’s solution-oriented structure. In one example he said that a move to use existing energy efficient products would eliminate the need for $300 billion dollars in new power plant investment freeing up money for other uses.

Ostrowski described a series of ways that the cuts could be made in a way that benefited the economy. He used examples as simple as consumers changing to fluorescent lighting that would cut electric use, reduce overall costs for consumers and cut pollution associated with manufacturing and shipping dozens of old-style incandescent light bulbs that a single long-lasting fluorescent bulb would replace. More complex examples included the challenges posed by the need to move quickly and in an organized way across many parts of the economy.

Each attendee at the conference was supplied in advance with reports outlining options that would collectively help move the United States sharply away from carbon dependence. The eventual goal is an 80 to 90 percent reduction in emissions by 2050. Conferees broke up into three groups, one to hammer out recommendations for power generation, another for forestry and land use, and the last for buildings and appliances. More than 60 leaders from each sector sat around tables and began to shape their group’s recommendation. The gatherings were closed to outside observers to allow what conference director Kate Fish said would be a completely open discussion. “What they are trying to do here could be historic,” said Fish. “We wanted everyone to feel that they could take risks, and take positions without concern that they might be quoted in something they said years from now.”

Fish said that the conference was filled to overflow, with more than 200 total attendees for an event that organizers planned for 125. All of the main presentations are being prepared for internet broadcast by the Wild Center. “We filmed all the Plenary sessions,” said Fish. “We will post the presentations and speeches as soon as possible on the conference website.” She said that the entire conference plan, and all the advance reports were already posted in the website the Wild Center created for the Conference at www.usclimateaction.org. She said that all the presentations and speeches would be available on that site within three weeks.

Attendees will reconvene Thursday to complete work for each sector, and to convene as a group to work toward a first draft of the conference’s “Message to the Nation,” which will be widely circulated once it has been completed. The conference concludes Thursday at 5:00.


Thursday, June 26, 2008

Smart Growth Bill Passes NYS Legislature

From State Senator Carl L. Marcellino (R, Syosset) and Assemblyman Sam Hoyt (D, Buffalo) comes this announcement that the Senate and Assembly have passed the New York State’s first Smart Growth legislation. This is a lot of quotes with not a lot of substance, but here it is nonetheless:

This legislation defines Smart Growth Principles for New York State government to look towards as they implement State policies and programs. State activities are often a foundation for economic and community development. These principles will ensure that the State considers it’s impact on suburban and urban sprawl. A recent survey revealed that as the population in upstate New York grew by 2.6%, the amount of land developed increased by 30%.

“This legislation is a great first step in moving our State from suburban sprawl to smart growth. We need to focus state resources on creating livable neighborhoods that protect our open spaces, and reduce the need for cars and their air pollution,” Senator Carl L. Marcellino said. “Without action, our environment and communities are threatened by shortsighted and poorly planned developments.”

“With this legislation, the State takes its first step towards reducing the taxpayer burden and refocusing development to where it costs the least,” said Assemblyman Sam Hoyt. “These smart growth principles will reinforce communities across New York State and make New York more competitive. As a smart growth champion I am proud to be the Assembly sponsor of New York’s first smart growth law.”

Smart Growth Principles require the State to review public investment, economic development, conservation and restoration, intergovernmental partnerships, community livability, transportation, sustainability and consistency in future state infrastructure and development programs.

“Audubon New York applauds the leadership of Senator Carl Marcellino and Assemblyman Sam Hoyt in establishing the New York State Smart Growth Principles for State Agencies to implement sound development and planning programs,” said Albert E. Caccese, Executive Director of Audubon New York the state program of the National Audubon Society. “Habitat loss resulting from uncontrolled sprawl has been a leading cause of declining bird populations in many parts of New York, and thoughtful planning of development is imperative for many species. Establishing these Smart Growth Principles is an important first step, and we look forward to working with these leaders to advance stronger policies that seek to promote smart growth in New York in the years to come”

“The Nature Conservancy commends Senator Marcellino and Assemblyman Hoyt for recognizing that conservation is not merely a matter of sequestering nature into our parks and preserves,” said Kathy Moser, Acting State Director for The Nature Conservancy in New York. “But rather, effective conservation requires integrating smart growth principles into the public policy planning process in order to protect open space, conserve natural resources, preserve community character, and facilitate adaptation to climate change while still promoting the economic drivers essential to the prosperity of New Yorkers.”

“The basic principles of Smart Growth are good for both the economy and the environment in the Adirondack Park,” said Brian L. Houseal, Executive Director of the Adirondack Council, a not-for-profit environmental research, education and advocacy organization. “We commend Senator Marcellino and Assemblyman Hoyt for their vision and foresight in sponsoring this new law. It will encourage sound planning that promotes economic growth in places where it is most needed and where it can do the least harm to our natural resources.”

“Vision Long Island applauds the Legislature for the passage of the Smart Growth Principles Bill as a first step towards the creation of a Smart Growth program,” said Eric Alexander, Executive Director of Vision Long Island, a regional smart growth planning organization. “Senator Marcellino and NYS Assemblyman Sam Hoyt should be congratulated for their leadership as the principles in this legislation will help lay the groundwork for comprehensive planning and infrastructure reform. With this action and the Governor’s Smart Growth Cabinet, we have seen positive progress towards a Smart Growth agenda for New York.”

“By embracing smart growth values, we will begin to develop a long-range, regional approach to sustainability of our communities. This legislation starts a process that will inspire an overdue change of philosophy as we develop our ever expanding neighborhoods,” Senator Marcellino concluded.

The bill numbers are S.8612/A.7335A – according to the bill memo:

TITLE OF BILL: An act to amend the environmental conservation law, in relation to establishing the New York state smart growth principles

PURPOSE OR GENERAL IDEA OF BILL: The purpose of this bill is to outline state smart growth principles and to direct state infrastructure agencies to implement these principles in funding future policies and programs.

SUMMARY OF SPECIFIC PROVISIONS: This bill defines “smart growth principles” in terms of public investment, economic development, conservation and restoration, intergovernmental partnerships, community livability, transportation, sustainability, and consistency, for future state infrastructure and development programs.


Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Adirondack Park End-Of-Session Bills Update

From the Adirondack Council comes this update on environmental bills making their way through the New York State legislative process as the session draws to an end. The big news is in Net Metering, and Smart Growth.

Now awaiting Governor Paterson’s signature:

Smart Growth: This bill passed the Senate today. It passed in the Assembly yesterday. It requires state agencies to support the concepts of sound planning, energy conservation, open space conservation and shared services when doling out public money or supporting economic development projects. In other words, projects that create sprawl, that use too much water or energy, that intensify traffic congestion or cause pollution, would be unlikely to receive state assistance. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program

The Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program (APIPP) will host a training session in invasive plant identification for volunteers who want to survey lakes and ponds for aquatic invaders such as Eurasian watermilfoil that are invading Adirondack waters. The session will be held in Old Forge on Thursday, June 26. The session is free and open to the public, but space is limited. To attend, RSVP to Hilary Oles at (518) 576-2082 x 131 or holes@tnc.org.

Left to spread, invasive plants reach nuisance levels that degrade recreational and natural resources. Luckily, as the boating season begins, hundreds of citizens will keep watchful eyes for new infestations, which can lead to quick action to ensure the eradication of the invasives. » Continue Reading.


Monday, June 23, 2008

Discussion: Adirondack High Peaks Oil Drilling

Last week John McCain changed a long-held position and endorsed lifting a 27-year moratorium on off-shore oil drilling, President Bush asked Congress to end the ban and arguing that it was one part of his plan to lower the price of gas (now $4.30 in Pottersville).

Democrats, including Barack Obama, are opposed to McCain and Bush’s plan, calling it a political ploy that will not lower prices, and instead another handout to Big Oil. Obama wants a windfall profits tax on oil companies with heavy investment in renewable energy.

Since there is little hope of passage of anyone’s plan, some see a meaningless political debate that is being used to sidetrack and divide voters much in the way the Gay Marriage Debate did in the 2004 Elections.

Let’s assume that the oil wasn’t located off-shore, but in the High Peaks.

The New York Times reports that:

A 2007 Department of Energy study found that access to [High Peaks] energy deposits would not add to domestic crude oil and natural gas production before 2030 and that the impact on prices would be “insignificant.”

However:

The National Petroleum Council estimates that beneath the [Au Sable River], there might be 36.7 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and 5.2 billion barrels of oil — numbers that would require extensive exploration to verify. . . .

What would you want to do? I’d love to hear from the Adirondacks wind project supporters – oil or wind project – does it matter?


Saturday, June 21, 2008

NYS Legislative Session Green Bills Update

The New York League of Conservation Voters reported on their blog a round-up of environmental bills on the table in the final rush to the end of the legislative session on Monday, June 23.

Here are some of the highlights:

Net Metering / Alternative Energy
This may finally be the year to end one of New York’s largest barriers to alternative energy, the state’s current net metering law. Also known as “turning the meter backwards,” net metering allows residential consumers to generate power and sell the excess energy back to utilities. But the existing New York law — one of the most restrictive in the nation — doesn’t allow commercial customers to do the same. That means the enormous potential of roofs (think malls, industrial parks and office buildings) to generate solar power is going untapped. Working with a broad coalition of labor, business and environmental groups, NYLCV is advocating for legislation that would allow commercial customers to sell up to 2 megawatts (2,000 kilowatts) back into the grid and expand the list of approved technologies.

Comprehensive State Energy Plan
After New York’s power-plant siting law — known as Article X — expired on Jan. 1, 2003, the Legislature has been unable to agree on how to streamline the permitting and regulation of new plants. Right now, new plants can still be built, but the review process requires power developers to seek permits from multiple agencies and local jurisdictions — a lengthy and complicated process. With the formation of a new State Energy Planning Board by Gov. David Paterson, plus new leadership by Sen. George Mazairz (R-Newfane) and Assemblyman Kevin Cahill (D-Kingston) in the Legislature’s Energy committees, there is renewed hope for Article X. Click here to join NYLCV’s call for a comprehensive state energy plan and ensure that renewable energy plays a big role.

Brownfields Redevelopment Law Reform
The reform of the brownfields redevelopment law — which spurs the cleanup and revitalization of contaminated properties — is one of NYLCV’s top priorities. Due to flaws in the current legislation, the Brownfield Cleanup Program has yet to reach its full potential, and reform has stalled. That program, plus its accompanying tax credits, must be streamlined to allow for improved community planning through the principles of smart growth. Key members of the legislative and executive branches have indicated that brownfields reform will be a top priority for the end of the session. Click here to urge Albany to honor its word.


Thursday, June 19, 2008

APA Commissioner Dick Booth Being Reappointed

A short note from John Sheehan of the Adirondack Council:

The Senate Environmental Conservation Committee yesterday approved the Governor’s nomination of Richard Booth to a four-year term on the Adirondack Park Agency’s Board of Commissioners. If the nomination is approved by the Senate Finance Committee later this week or early next, the nomination would go to the full Senate for a final vote.

Booth was first appointed to the APA board by Governor Eliot Spitzer, to fill the unfinished term of Katherine Roberts, of Garrison, who stepped down before her term expired.

Booth is an environmental law professor at Cornell University. Before joining the APA board, he held elected office in the City of Ithaca and Tompkins County governments. He also spent 10 years as a trustee of the Adirondack Council, ending in 1992.

An Update from Sheehan:

Richard Booth Reappointed
The NYS Senate on Wednesday (June 18) confirmed the Governor’s reappointment of Richard Booth to the Adirondack Park Agency Board of Commissioners.

Booth was first appointed to the APA board in 2007 by Governor Eliot Spitzer, to fill the unfinished term of Katherine Roberts, of Garrison, who stepped down before her term expired. Booth is a professor in the City and Regional Planning department at Cornell University. Before joining the APA board, he held elected office in the City of Ithaca and Tompkins County governments. He also spent 10 years as a trustee of the Adirondack Council, ending in 1992. Booth has served as a staff attorney for the APA and the Department of Environmental Conservation. He is considered one of New York’s leading environmental lawyers.

Lani Ulrich Nomination Proceeds
The Senate Environmental Conservation Committee is expected to vote today in favor of the Governor’s renomination of Park-resident APA commissioner Lani Ulrich (Herkimer County). Ulrich’s nomination is expected to pass through the Finance Committee on to the full Senate later today, or on Monday. Ulrich has been a strong advocate for community development and smart growth planning in the Park. Her full name is Leilani C. Ulrich. She lives in Old Forge.

For more information on commissioners Booth or Ulrich, see the Adirondack Park Agency’s annual report, on its website at www.apa.state.ny.us.

While these two reappointments allow the 11-member APA Board of Commissioners to continue its work without vacancies on the board, the APA staff is still lacking an Executive Director. A senior staff member had taken the reins following the retirement of Richard Lefebvre in 2007, but is no longer able to fulfill the duties of Acting Executive Director in addition to his other staff position.


Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Environmentalists Sue Over Floatplane Use

Received from the Adirondack Mountain Club and forwarded for your information, the following press release:

ALBANY, N.Y. — The Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK), the Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks, the Sierra Club and the Residents’ Committee to Protect the Adirondacks filed a lawsuit in state Supreme Court in Albany on May 29. The suit asks the court to compel the state Department of Environmental Conservation to ban floatplanes on Lows Lake in the Adirondack Park.

The lawsuit was filed because DEC has failed to abide by legal commitments it made in 2003 to eliminate floatplanes on the wilderness lake. In January of that year, the DEC commissioner signed a unit management plan (UMP) for the area that committed DEC to phasing out floatplane use of Lows Lake over five years. The five-year window expired at the end of January, but DEC has not promulgated regulations to ban floatplanes. According to the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan, which is part of the state Executive Law, “preservation of the wild character of this canoe route without motorboat or airplane usage … is the primary management goal for this primitive area.”

“Lows Lake is a true wilderness within the ‘forever wild’ Forest Preserve,” said David H. Gibson, executive director of the Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks. “Eighty-five percent of its shoreline is bounded by designated wilderness. It is the true eastern border of the Five Ponds Wilderness Area. The public expects DEC to manage wilderness according to well established principles and legal guidelines, among which is the key provision that there shall be no public motorized use.”

“We take this action reluctantly and only after extensive discussions with DEC at the highest levels,” said Roger F. Downs, conservation associate for the Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter. “From the moment these lands and waters were acquired for the public in 1985, the state’s verbal and written intent was to treat this body of water as wilderness and to close Lows Lake to all public motorized use. Finally, in 2003, DEC committed in the UMP to doing just that over the ensuing five years, providing floatplane operators with a long time to adjust their business plans. Five years constitutes a very generous and lengthy public notice. We act today because DEC has failed to follow through on a very public commitment advertised far in advance and involving extensive public involvement and debate.”

At 3,122 acres, Lows Lake, which straddles the St. Lawrence-Hamilton county line, is one of the larger lakes in the Adirondack Park. The lake stretches about 10 miles east to west and is the centerpiece of a roughly 20-milelong wilderness canoe route. Floatplanes were rare on Lows Lake until recently. Sometime before 1990, non-native bass were illegally introduced into the lake, and as public awareness of the bass fishery grew, floatplanes and motorboat use increased. Motorboats, except those for personal use by the few private landowners on the lake, are now prohibited on Lows Lake.

A recent analysis by the Residents’ Committee shows that only 10 of the 100 largest lakes and ponds in the Adirondacks are “motorless,” and three of these are in remote areas that are not easily accessible. The vast majority of lakes and ponds in the Adirondacks are overrun with floatplanes, motorboats and personal watercraft.

“Motorboats have already been prohibited on Lows Lake, making this decision by DEC inconsistent as well as illegal,” said Michael P. Washburn, executive director of the Residents’ Committee. “The park should be the place where people know they can find wilderness. That will only happen if New York state follows its own laws.”

DEC’s proposed permit system would limit flights into the lake and allow DEC to designate specific areas for take offs and landings, but the plan creates a number of problems. For one thing, floatplane operators would be allowed to store canoes for use by their clients on Forest Preserve land designated as wilderness, an inappropriate and unconstitutional commercial use of public land. Floatplanes would also have to beach on the wilderness shore to drop off and pick up clients at the canoe storage sites.

During the peak paddling season, July through September, floatplanes would be prohibited from landing on and taking off from Lows Lake on Fridays and Saturdays and on Sundays before 2 p.m. This would increase pressure on the area because visitors coming in by floatplane would have to camp for at least three nights on weekends during the busy season. Floatplane customers would also be coming in on Thursday, allowing them to quickly fill up camping sites before weekend paddlers have a chance to get there.

DEC attempts to justify the proposal by manipulating the results of a survey of paddlers who visited Lows Lake in 2007. Generally, the survey results do not support continued use of floatplanes on Lows Lake. For example, 68 percent of the paddlers surveyed said they believe it is inappropriate for floatplanes to use the lake and 85 percent said floatplanes diminished their wilderness experience. These figures are consistent with the hundreds of letters the state received in 2002 supporting a floatplane ban.

“Lows Lake provides a rare wilderness paddling experience, but that experience is greatly diminished by the intrusion of floatplanes,” said Neil F. Woodworth, executive director of ADK. “It’s frustrating, after a hard day canoeing or kayaking, to discover that your favorite campsite has already been grabbed by someone who can afford to hire a plane.”

The suit is returnable on July 11 in Albany. Attorney John W. Caffry of Caffry & Flower of Glens Falls is representing the coalition in the case.


Monday, June 2, 2008

New Kevin Bacon Ad Campaign for Adk Environment

This past month the Adirondack Council filmed a series of public service announcements on acid rain, climate change, the need for pure water, wilderness and wildlife habitat featuring Michael and Kevin Bacon, collectively known as the Bacon Brothers . [At right: L-R, Kevin Bacon, Adirondack Council Trustee Sarah Collum-Hatfield, Adirondack Council Communications Director John Sheehan, Michael Bacon].

Kevin is the famous movie actor (Animal House, A Few Good Men, JFK, Apollo 13, Sleepers, Wild Things, Friday the 13th, Mystic River, Footloose, etc.). Michael is an award-winning composer, with a long resume of stellar work with PBS films. Together, they formed a country/folk/rock band in 1997 whose first album “Forosoco” includes the song “Adirondack Blue.” Their sixth album is due out soon. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, May 11, 2008

Bird Blogs, News and Events

Though we are not technically a birding blog, we do like birds – including aves, the film, the theory, and the band.

Here are three local or specially relevant birding blogs we follow at Adirondack Almanack:

The Feather and Flower – a wider regional focus but written by an ornithologist at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

The Zen Birdfeeder – the blog of Saratoga’s Wild Birds Unlimited Nature Shop co-owner and author Nancy Castillo.

Rich Guthrie’s Birding – a Times Union blog by a “hardcore birder.”

Other sites worthy of note are the Smithsonian’s Migratory Bird Center, the closer to home Cornell Lab of Ornithology, and the Adirondack Regional Tourism Council’s Adirondack Birding Site.

The Cornell Lab, or CLO, call themselves “a membership institution dedicated to interpreting and conserving the earth’s biological diversity through research, education, and citizen science focused on birds.”

CLO sponsors a number of interesting programs and events including their “Migration Celebration” (Saturday, May 17, 10:00 A.M. to 3:00 P.M.) at Cornell Lab of Ornithology, 159 Sapsucker Woods Road, Cornell. Family-friendly events include guided bird walks, interactive exhibits, live birds, games, and hands-on activities for children. This years theme is Tundra to Tropics: Connecting Birds, Habitats, and People. The goal is to raise awareness about the various kinds of habitat birds need, how these natural landscapes are disappearing, and what you can do to create bird-friendly spaces at home. The event if free. Contact (800) 843-BIRD or visit www.birds.cornell.edu/birdday for more info.

­Bird Sounds Recording Workshop

From June 7 to 14, the annual Sound Recording Workshop offered by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology returns to San Francisco State University’s Sierra Nevada Field Campus in the spectacular surroundings of the eastern foothills of California’s northern Sierra Nevada mountains. Participants learn state-of-the-art techniques for capturing bird sounds, guided by experts.

Learn to capture the sounds of wildlife through lecture, discussion, and daily field recording sessions participants learn how to effectively handle a portable field recording system to make scientifically accurate recordings of bird vocalizations. Participants learn how to conquer wind, how a roadbed can help overcome the sound of a rushing stream, and why placing a microphone on the ground is sometimes the best strategy. There is also an introduction to the science of sound analysis which converts sound waves into visual images called spectrograms. With signal analysis it’s possible to visualize a bird song note by note.

The Sound Recording Workshop fee of $895 covers tuition, class materials, ground transportation, food, and lodging. A $100 deposit is requested to reserve a space, which is limited to 20 students. Registration and payment are due by May 31. Learn more here.

NestWatch Community Observation Project


NestWatch is ­a new, free citizen science project funded by the National Science Foundation. Participants visit nests during spring and summer to collect simple information about location, habitat, species, number of eggs, and number of young in the nest. Then they submit their observations online.

All NestWatch materials and instructions are available online at www.nestwatch.org, including directions on how to find nests and how to monitor them without disturbing the birds.

NestCams Online Live Nest Cameras

The NestCams site has been recently revamped. Live cameras show the nesting activities of Barn Owls, Wood Ducks, and Northern Flickers in Texas and California. More cameras go online all the time.


Saturday, April 26, 2008

The Biggest Threats to Adirondack Water Resources

The Adirondack Council has released a report that outlines eight major threats to Adirondack water resources. Titled Adirondack Waters: Resource at Risk [pdf], the 32-page booklet describes the threats and what can be done about them. The eight risks include: Acid Rain, Mercury Pollution, Global Climate Change, Aquatic Invasive Species, Inadequate Sewage Treatment, Suburban Sprawl, Diverting Adirondack Waters, and Road Salt.

Acid Rain – More than 700 bodies of water in the Adirondack Park have been damaged and native fish, amphibians, and other aquatic life are threatened. Although they may look clear and pristine, the appearance of water bodies damaged by acid rain is actually due to a lack of native life in the water. Recently, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized the Clean Air Interstate Rule (CAIR), which provides for the largest reductions in the pollutants that cause acid rain since the passage of the original Clean Air Act in 1963. Congress needs to put these new rules into law. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Pending Adirondack Related State Budget Items

Here is an e-mail recently received from the Adirondack Council’s John Sheehan outlining the pending Adirondacks related budget deals. According to Sheehan, this is the “Environmental Conservation budget plan agreed to by Legislative leaders, which is in the process of being passed by both houses. The Governor is expected to sign the bills.” At least some time soon, the budget is now a week late.

The big news for us is that it looks like the the money is available to finish the (Pataki initiated) Domtar land purchase, the Lake George West Brook money didn’t make it, but money to study the impacts of road salt did.

The Almanack reported in January Spitzer’s budget proposals relating to the Adirondacks. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, April 6, 2008

Hybrid Cars and the Adirondacks

In December of 2007 the old Subaru went down for the count and it was time for a new car. We got lucky (likely because it was December, not exactly a banner month for car sales) and found the Honda Civic hybrid we were looking for in Schenectady – it was the only one they had and we bought it on the spot.

At first, many of our friends, relatives, and neighbors showed some skepticism. They asked whether we thought we were jumping in to a new, unproven, technology. Some congratulated us for being ahead of the curve. Others wondered about the pick-up, asked if the batteries would hold-up for long drives in the mountains, questioned the costs of repairs, how it would handle in the ice and snow -you name it, they asked it.

So on the flip are some observations about our Hybrid experience so far.

The four-door Honda Civic that we bought doesn’t look funny – aside from the hybrid label on the back and the more streamlined look, it appears generally like most other current sedans.

Most folks who ride along have no idea it’s a hybrid unless we tell them. The car has the same pick-up as comparable automatics of its size. The only clue it’s a hybrid from the inside are the gauges and the fact that it shuts off when you come to a stop. Once you lift your foot off the brake, it starts right up again and you’re off. If the stereo is on, and you don’t know it’s happening, you can’t tell. On a related note – if we got rid of all the unnecessary stop signs in America and replaced them with yield signs we would save a LOT of gas.

Overall the mileage could be better. Although it’s rated for 45 mpg, we’ve gotten only 36 on average so far. Even so, I’m sure the old Subaru got a lot less then it was rated for – the bottom line is we’ve cut our monthly gas bill about 35 percent. Every car should have a current mpg gauge – just seeing how our driving is wasting gas has offered us as much savings as the hybrid technology.

As we’ve learned to drive the hybrid, we’ve gotten better mileage. We stared with about 32 on average, but since there’s a gauge showing the current mpg and a trip setting, we’ve been making a contest to see who can get the best mileage – I recently got an even 42 mpg on a trip to Albany and back. The trick we’ve learned is to keep the speed down on the highway (69 instead of 72), keep the cruise-control on, and keep the rpms below 3,000 when climbing large hills. We could probably make the 45 mpg average if we drove only 55 on the highway, which is not going to happen. It’s true that the mileage is considerably better in the city, primarily because the speeds are in the 20s, 30s, or 40s.

The way gas prices are rising (our theory is $4 by Labor Day, then it falls off again just before the election and rises considerably afterward) – we’re counting on our hybrid keeping its value enough to allow us to upgrade in two years when hopefully electric cars will be available at a reasonable price – that may be wishful thinking.

As far as the Adirondack conditions, the car climbs hills normally but it’s front wheel drive and does not even closely compare with the Subaru – that’s why we’ve kept our older Legacy wagon. When the weather is bad – like it’s been lately (and the Suuby has made legendary trips lately!) – we take the wagon. When the roads are dry, we take the hybrid. Since we live on a fairly main road, we could probably manage with only the hybrid, otherwise it would have to be one of the four-wheel drive models that naturally get much worse mileage. The combination we have now makes a lot more economic sense.

There you have it – I’d be interested in others comments on the hybrid experiences in the mountains.


Wednesday, March 26, 2008

20 Things Adirondackers Should Know About Rural Life

One of the best new blogs is The Rural Blog, started last year by the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues. According to their masthead, The Rural Blog is “a digest of events, trends, issues, ideas and journalism in rural America.” They often report on issues in our area as they did when the Glens Falls Post Star started collecting information on local gun owners or in this piece about broadband access in Corinth.

Here are 20 things we’ve learned from the The Rural Blog that affect our Adirondack region:

Global demand for maple syrup is rising, but production is struggling to keep pace

Self-employment is on the rise in rural areas, but the average income of the rural self-employed is falling

While enlistments for Iraq have been dropping in urban areas, rural enlistments have remained stable

The decline in small-market broadcast news is hitting rural areas the hardest

Doctor and surgeon shortages are worst in rural areas

Hillary Clinton does best in mainly rural Republican districts

Many small market newspapers are not just surviving, but also thriving

Balloons are offering wireless service in rural areas

In rural areas, cell phones can cause 911 delays that lead to tragedy

Rural patients are less likely to receive necessary organ transplants

Lack of rural trauma systems kills rural Americans

Strong seat-belt laws help reduce deaths on rural roads

Even though Meth production is in decline, the drug remains a priority for police

Rural Americans make up a disproportionate share of Iraq war casualties

Hobby farms are boosting rural population as urbanites seek rural retreats or retirement

Kentucky’s public-private partnership for rural broadband serves as a national model

Municipal Wi-Fi is thriving in some rural towns

Hunting and fishing is declining, but watching wildlife is on the rise

Rural areas across the nation are struggling to keep educated young people

New EPA rules have left 45 rural counties (including Warren and Essex) out of ozone compliance


Monday, March 24, 2008

$1 Million Awarded to 18 Adirondack Projects

Here is a press release that just arrived from Governor Patterson’s Office. The projects include wireless, historic preservation, affordable housing, tourism, beautification, and more.

GOVERNOR PATERSON ANNOUNCES SMART GROWTH GRANTS FOR ADIRONDACK PARK COMMUNITIES

Projects Link Sustainable Development, Environmental Protection and Community Livability

Governor David A. Paterson and Commissioner of Environmental Conservation Pete Grannis today announced “smart growth grants” for Adirondack communities to help counties, towns, villages and their partner organizations develop plans that link sustainable development, environmental protection and community livability.

A total of $1 million will be awarded to 18 projects – ranging from one proposing a new life for the Indian Lake Theater to another designing a better wireless communication network across the Adirondack Park. The initiative, announced last July, proved so popular that the DEC received more than $3 million worth of proposals from around the Park. The grants relate to a mix of local, regional and park-wide projects.

“The Adirondack Park is a unique American treasure, a special place for residents and the millions who visit each year,” said Governor David A. Paterson. “The Park serves as a model for how to merge environmental sensitivity with the pressing needs of development and expansion. By providing local planning assistance, we hope to meet the challenge of developing sustainable communities while protecting natural resources.”

“This program is dedicated to the belief that sustainable development and environmental protection go hand-in-hand,” said Commissioner Grannis. “Safeguarding the assets of the forest preserve and fostering sustainable development and a good quality of life for residents throughout the Park is in everyone’s best interest. This initiative provides the local planning assistance needed to accomplish both. The overwhelming response demonstrates the program struck a chord with Adirondack Park communities.”

Smart growth is sensible, planned growth that balances the need for economic development with concerns about quality-of-life, such as preserving the natural and built environment. Smart growth is also becoming a useful tool to attract businesses that value community quality-of-life.

The 2007-08 Environmental Protection Fund included $2 million in grants to promote smart growth initiatives; $1 million was earmarked for the Adirondacks. Smart growth can be useful in addressing land-use issues facing rural communities – workforce housing, aging infrastructure, water quality, economic development, open space protection and village/hamlet revitalization.

The grant winners include 12 projects that address local issues, four that are regional in nature and two that are park-wide in impact.

The grants include:

– $106,971 to the Town of Saranac to develop the “Wireless Clearinghouse” project to create a comprehensive plan for identifying potential structures for telecommunications infrastructure to bolster wireless networks in the Park. The State University of New York at Plattsburgh and the Adirondack North Country Association will assist the Town;

– $100,000 to the Town of Tupper Lake to produce a “Community Development Priorities” plan. Part of the plan includes developing a “visual identity” for the Town and Village of Tupper Lake, and concept designs for streetscape and waterfront projects;

– $42,600 to the Town of Indian Lake to plan the re-opening of the Indian Lake Theater. The 250-seat, Main Street venue has been closed for more than a year. Local officials want to explore re-opening the facility as a year-round community stage and screen, offering films and musical and theatrical performances, and a public space for schools, libraries and other organizations for meetings, lectures and seminars;

– $100,000 to Essex County to create an “Essex County Destination Master Plan” that will focus on communities beyond Lake Placid. It will explore opportunities to take advantage of recreational and natural resources in an economically sustainable way in locales such as Moriah, North Elba, Schroon Lake, Ticonderoga and Wilmington;

– $50,000 to the Town of Wilmington to conduct feasibility studies for a community center, municipal offices, historical society building and a fly fishing museum; and

– $35,000 to the Town of Chester to make plans for retaining existing affordable housing and establishing new affordable housing opportunities for working families.

Senator Betty Little said: “Balancing stewardship of the environment with the economic, housing and infrastructure needs of our Adirondack villages, towns and counties is critically important. I am pleased to see this partnership between the State and our local governments. I want to thank Commissioner Grannis for spearheading this initiative and congratulate the recipients for their successful applications.”

Assemblywoman Teresa Sayward said: “I applaud Commissioner Grannis and the DEC for addressing the needs of the North Country. These grants as well as collaboration among State and local officials, business leaders and concerned citizens are a good step toward a balanced approach to our economic development while sustaining the character of the Adirondack region.”

Assemblywoman Janet Duprey said: “I am pleased DEC has recognized the unique issues facing municipalities within the Adirondack Park. I congratulate the local governments that have been awarded smart-growth funding and look forward to working with these communities as they complete these projects. The large number of competitors for the grants points out the struggles facing Adirondack Park municipalities, and I encourage Commissioner Grannis and DEC to continue this competitive grant program.”

Adirondack Park Agency Chairman Curt Stiles said: “We were impressed by the innovative and comprehensive grant applications that were submitted by Adirondack municipalities. We extend our congratulations to the grantees and look forward to the successful implementation of their plans. This was a very competitive grant program and demonstrated a strong need for future support. Partnering with local governments and State agencies enables smart growth through synergy and shared values, and makes for stronger communities.”

Upstate Empire State Development Corporation Chairman Dan Gundersen said: “I look forward to seeing these projects enhance and shape the Adirondack communities in a way that invites economic development that is compatible with the Adirondack’s natural environment.”

Secretary of State Lorraine Cortés-Vázquez said: “The Adirondack smart-growth initiative represents a model for inter-agency and inter-governmental collaboration on some critical challenges and opportunities in the Adirondacks. With these grants, the State and the individual Adirondack communities have demonstrated an impressive commitment to economic and environmental sustainability in the region.”

Brian L. Houseal, Executive Director of the Adirondack Council, said: “It was a great pleasure to stand with Commissioner Grannis last summer as he announced in Lake George that half of the State’s smart growth grants would be awarded to communities and organizations in the Adirondack Park. Sound planning is a wise investment for municipalities, and it helps preserve open space, natural beauty, water quality, and wildlife habitat.”

Established in 1892, the Adirondack Park features world-class natural and cultural resources, including the Nation’s only constitutionally-protected wild forest lands. In contrast to America’s national parks in which no one resides, the Adirondack Park is home to 130,000 full-time residents and hundreds of businesses whose future depends on continued protection of the natural resources and a sustainable economy.

Many Adirondack communities lack the resources to comprehensively address the land-use challenges before them. The smart-growth grants program will provide communities with technical capabilities necessary to plan for the future.


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