Friday, February 29, 2008

Adirondack Snowmobiling: Resources, Conditions, and Controversy

This winter, after a number of years of lackluster snow conditions, Adirondack snowmobiling has once again made a resurgence. Here are a few things about Adirondack snowmobiling you should know:

Snowmobile Trails
The Adirondacks are criss-crossed by hundreds of miles of snowmobile trails. A free Adirondack Snowmobile Trail Map is available here. Trailsource is also an excellent resource for New York State snowmobile trails.

Snowmobile Conditions
Conditions throughout the region vary depending on elevation, nearness to large lakes, and latitude.

Current Northeast Snow Depths

Snowmobile Online Resources
Snowmobile forums offer sled fanatics discussions of videos, people offering sleds or parts for sale and other classifieds, snow tech, snowmobile politics, vintage snowmobiles, and any number of topics related to sledding. Some of the more popular are:

Trail Conditions.com
Snowmobile Forum
Snowmobile Fanatics
Net Sleds
Snowmobile World

Snowmobile History
Our post on the history of snowmobiling in the Adirondacks tracks the development of the snowmobile (or more generally, motorized snow travel) from the emergence of snow machines in the early 1900s, through the development of the personal sled that is so familiar today. The five part history continues into the explosion of makes and models and the spread of snowmobiling throughout the Adirondack region with races, clubs, and dealers taking advantage of the boon in snowmobile sales that occurred from 1965 to 1970. It concludes with the emerging conflicts over snowmobiles in the Adirondack Region.

Snowmobiling Controversy
The DEC and the Office of Parks Recreation and Historic Preservation are developing a Snowmobile Plan for the Adirondack Park. The plan will establish a baseline for creating a comprehensive and integrated Adirondack Park snowmobile trail system. It also establishes standards for developing and maintaining trails on DEC managed lands in the Adirondacks. Despite the excitement of some snowmobile clubs who have misrepresented the plan’s goals and effects by claiming that it will mean no new trails in the Adirondacks, the plan will likely call for the establishment of long-awaited new connector trails between towns.

The DEC press release on the snowmobile plan

Opposition from The New York State Snowmobile Association

Opposition from Winter Wildlands: Snowmobiles Stress Wildlife In Winter

New York Times Article Snowmobilers vs. Hikers in the Adirondacks

The APA is accepting comments on the plan until March 4, 2008.

Snowmobile Safety
Statewide there were nine people were killed on snowmobiles in December 2007. In January 2008 an ATV and two snowmobiles went through the ice on Lake Pleasant in Hamilton County and a snowmobile went through the ice on Lake George in Warren County. Worse news came in February 2008 however, with the tragic deaths of three snowmobilers within five days on Trail 7C connecting Boonville and Forestport.

The winter of 2007-2008 has claimed 18 snowmobilers lives so far (the deadliest sledding season was 2002-2003 when 31 riders died, their were 10 fatalities in New York in the 2006-2007 season and 14 the year before that). Snowmobiling can be dangerous. Use common sense and avoid thin ice on lakes and rivers, and high speeds on trails.

Take a minute to think about snowmobile safety and make others aware of the potential dangers:

Take the Safe Riders Online Quiz


Thursday, January 24, 2008

Spitzer’s Budget Proposals: Adirondack Edition

The latest on Governor Eliot Spitzer’s Budget Proposals courtesy of John F. Sheehan
Communications Director of The Adirondack Council:

Below is a summary of the NYS Budget as it relates to the Adirondack Park and the NYS Environmental Protection Fund.

Adirondack Park Agency

Budget same as last year ($6.2 million; $700,000 is federal money)

Staff remains the same at 72

$350,000 increase for computers and cars (located in DEC’s capital projects budget)

Olympic Regional Development Authority

– State Budget would rise to $8.6 million

– Total budget $32 million – they get most of their revenue from lift tickets

– $400,000 increase (benefits, retirement)

– staff level stays the same at 203

Department of Environmental Conservation

– Total budget $1.1 billion

– Decrease of $31 million from last year

– half of that decrease caused by reductions in federal aid

– DEC will eliminate some local and regional initiatives to compensate

– Total employees up by 4 to 3,752 (two of the 4 are likely to be assigned to invasive species control programs)

Environmental Protection Fund

Total of $250 million (guaranteed in statute) – $25 million could be added if the Bigger Better Bottle Bill is approved

Land

$66 million of the $250 is for open space protection statewide – that means purchases of new public lands and parks, conservation easements (development-limiting agreements with private landowners).

The other $184 million will go into the two other broad categories: Municipal recycling and solid waste projects and state parks, historic preservation and zoos/botanical gardens.

Additional Projects/Other Changes

Masten House – $125,000 from the EPF goes to SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry to purchase and rehabilitate the Masten House, on the site of the former iron mines in Tahawus, Town of Newcomb, Essex County. It will become a forestry research facility for the college, which owns nearby Huntington Experimental Forest. The college is based in Syracuse.

There are also three new categories in the EPF from which money may be drawn for specific purposes:

1. Air quality enforcement (only vague details available)

2. Renewable solar energy (community college tech training programs)

3. Farmland protection (plastic-waste and pesticide management programs)

Smart Growth Back at Department of State

This grant program to encourage environmentally sound community planning rises from $2 million to $2.5 million. It was transferred back to the Department of State, where the program started, after spending one year under DEC’s supervision in 2007.

The Sweep-Out

This is the worst news of the day, but not quite unexpected. Due to the $4.5-billion budget shortfall projected by the comptroller, the Governor will “borrow” $100 million of the unspent funds of previous EPFs. This is the largest sweep-out proposed since Governor Pataki started this distasteful practice more than five years ago.

Since the EPF was created in 1993, a total of $322 million in unspent EPF revenue has been diverted to other state purposes. If the Governor’s proposal is accepted, that amount would jump to $422 million in unredeemed IOUs. That would be nearly two years’ worth of missing revenues.


Thursday, January 10, 2008

State of the State: Adirondack Report

The full text of Eliot Spitzer’s State of the State Address is here. An e-mail today from John Sheehan (Communications Director for the The Adirondack Council) outlined the “three major environmental initiatives” Spitzer announced:

1. A $100 million investment in state park infrastructure including buildings and wastewater treatment/sanitary facilities, as well as an effort to make existing and new buildings accessible to people with disabilities. Many state campgrounds and park buildings are causing water pollution in nearby lakes and rivers due to aging and inadequate facilities. The Adirondack Park has about a dozen state-run campgrounds.

2. Smart Metering: This would change the way power companies bill their customers to allow consumers to take advantage of off-peak power rates when running power-hungry appliances such as dishwashers, laundry machines, irrigation pumps, etc.

3. Net Metering: This would allow power customers to reduce or eliminate their power bills by installing clean power generating equipment (solar panels, small wind turbines, etc.). Power companies would be required to buy back any excess power generated by these private, home- and business-based systems. Several owners of large Adirondack great camps and resort compounds have said they want the ability to control their costs, reduce power outages and help pay for the investment in renewable energy by selling the extra power back to the power company.

I have copies of pdfs that explain each if anyone is interested.


Thursday, January 10, 2008

2007 Adirondack Memorial – Remembering Those We Lost

This will be an annual series highlighting the careers of those who passed during the year who had important impacts on the Adirondack region.

Peter Berle, Environmentalist

Known to many as the long-time host of WAMC’s Environment Show, environmental lawyer Peter A. A. Berle had important impacts on the Adirondack region. He served three terms as a New York State Assemblyman (1968-1974), and three years (1976-1979) as Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Conservation. Under his tenure the state started action against General Electric for knowingly polluting the Hudson River with PCBs and began work to address Love Canal. Berle helped author New York’s first solid-waste plan which ended in the closing of many Adirondack landfills. He also helped write the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan and was appointed to the Task Force on the Future of the Adirondack Park. Berle was also President and CEO of the National Audubon Society (1985-1995) and was appointed by President Bill Clinton to the Joint Public Advisory Committee to the North American Commission on Environmental Cooperation under NAFTA. He died suddenly at the age of 69 when a barn at his farm collapsed.

Bill Frenette, Tupper Lake Historian and Outdoorsman

William Charles Frenette was a lifetime Adirondacker who spent his working career in the family business — Frenette Bros. Beer Distributors and Tupper Lake Coca-Cola Bottling Company. Bill was an avid outdoorsman who loved to hike, paddle, and ski. Although he travelled extensively the Adirondacks was his lifelong home. He was an early 46er, and climbed all 46 in both summer and winter. He was also a gold medalist in the prestigious Coureur de Bois ski marathon. Frenette was actively involved in organizing Sugarloaf Ski Hill, and helped layout the trails on Mount Morris for Big Tupper, for which he served as the resorts Ski Patrol founding chief and an early member of the Search and Rescue Team. Bill was also a founding trustee of the Wild Center (the Natural History Museum of the Adirondacks), a board member of the Adirondack Medical Center and served on the board of the Friends of Mount Arab. He served as the historian for the Town and Village of Tupper Lake. He died at his Tupper Lake home at the age of 80.

Paul Jamieson (From Nov 2006)

Paul Jamieson taught English at Saint Lawrence University for 36 years, but his longest lasting legacy for the Adirondacks comes from his 20 year fight to force New York’s Courts to recognize that free-flowing rivers are open to paddlers as public transportation routes, just as they were in the nineteenth century. Jamison was critical in initiating state purchases of two scenic stretches of Adirondack rivers: Lampson Falls on the Grasse and Everton Falls on the St. Regis. He has been recognized by innumerable accolades. Adirondack canoe builder Peter Hornbeck named a boat design Jamieson. Jamieson was honored in 2003 by the Adirondack Mountain Club with its Trail Blazer award. He was given an Honorary Life Membership to the Adirondack Mountain Club and was a founding member of its Laurentian Chapter. He received the Stewardship Award from the Nature Conservancy, the Navigable Rivers Award by the Sierra Club and a Founders Award by the Adirondack Museum. The Adirondack Council awarded him its Distinguished Achievement Award. Jamison was the author of Adirondack Canoe Waters: North Flow and an autobiography Uneven Ground. He edited The Adirondack Reader, Man of the Woods (a memoir by Wanakena guide Herbert Keith), and Adirondack Pilgrimage (a collection of his writings). He was also an Adirondack 46er and received honorary doctorates from St. Lawrence University and Paul Smith’s College. He was 103.


Thursday, January 3, 2008

RCPA Names Michael Washburn New Executive Director

Forwarded for your information, a press release from the Residents Committee to Protect the Adirondacks. They have just named a new Executive Director to replace Peter Bauer.

Michael Washburn to head leading regional advocacy group

North Creek –The board of directors of Residents Committee to Protect the Adirondacks announced today that it has named Dr. Michael P. Washburn of Clifton Park, NY to be executive director beginning January 2008. Washburn is known nationally as a leading figure in the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) sustainable forestry certification movement. He most recently has been engaged in private consulting to help progressive forest companies implement sustainability programs. He previously served as Vice president of Brand Management at the Forest Stewardship Council US in Washington, DC, and is a former research scientist at Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. He brings 15 years of experience in conservation, including roles with the US Forest Service, and Penn State University.. » Continue Reading.


Friday, November 2, 2007

Step It Up’s Saturday Glens Falls Events

Tommorrow, Saturday, Novemeber 3rd, local citizens concerned with doing something about global climate change will be attending a series of Step It Up events at the Farmer’s Market, City Park, Wood Theater, and other local Glens Falls spots to raise public awareness. A complete list of events in our area can be found here.

EVENT SCHEDULE

10:00 am Bike, Walk, Carpool to Farmers Market at South Street Pavilion

Information, displays and entertainment at the Farmers Market along with locally grown and made food and other products. Save energy that would be used transporting imported alternatives. Traveling to the market by foot or bicycle reduces your carbon footprint even further! Entertainment by Bill Campbell. Meet people who use their bikes to commute. Rick’s Bike Shop will show commuter bikes. Local food and snacks, solar oven cooking, biodiesel info-samples. Also, get to know the Toyota Prius hybrid.

11:30 am Entertainment by C.E. Skidmore at City Park (Bay & Maple Streets)

Fun Activities for Children organized by Joy McCoola and National Honors Society

12:00 Noon Rally for the Planet at City Park

Representatives from the Sierra Club will introduce the Cool Cities program. Mayor Roy Akins will sign the U.S. Mayor’s Climate Protection Agreement. Commuter-biker David Legg will describe his positive experiences traveling by bike in Glens Falls. Kirsten Gillibrand’s representative, Lisa Manzi, will describe the Congresswoman’s efforts in regards to climate change. A group photo will be taken to relay to Washington. On the way to the Wood theater, stop out front to see the Natural Gas Honda!

1 – 5:00 pm Presentations and Exhibitors at Wood Theater (207 Glen Street)

1:00 pm Author James Howard Kunstler – The Long Emergency (Surviving the Converging Catastrophes of the 21st Century) Book signing to follow in the lobby

2:15 pm Barton Mines video presentation on Green Building

2:30 pm Green Builders/NYSERDA Presentation

3:00 pm GroSolar’s Carbon Challenge – How solar energy works in your home

4:00 pm Seth Jacobs – Local Agriculture as Part of the Solution to Global Climate Change

Exhibitors: GroSolar, Green Builders, G.F. Electric, Community Energy, Thermal Associates, NYSERDA, Cornell Cooperative Extension/Agricultural Stewardship Association.

5:45 pm Premiere of “The Eleventh Hour” (Leonardo DiCaprio’s Directorial Debut)

Aimie’s Dinner & A Movie 190 Glen Street (518) 792-8181 Reservations suggested.

7:30 pm “Live N’ Local” Premieres at Rock Hill Cafe with Local Bread Giveaway!

“Live n’ Local” will happen every Saturday Night at 7:30 pm. Rock Hill is going to establish a venue for original music and an audience who appreciates it. Local food and local musicians. Three Dimensional Figures, a great local jazz/jam and techno trio will be their first guests. No Cover Charge!

Sponsors: Barton Mines, City of Glens Falls, Rock Hill Cafe


Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Adirondack Park Agency Nominations Update

From the Adirondack Council‘s John Sheehan, an update on last night’s APA confirmations.

At 11:20 p.m. last night, the NYS Senate confirmed the nominations of three commissioners to the Adirondack Park Agency’s 11-member board of commissioners. The confirmations fill the existing vacancies, including the position of chairman.

Curt Stiles, Tupper Lake, was appointed chairman of the Adirondack Park Agency. Stiles is currently president of the Upper Saranac Lake Foundation, which recently hired the first Waterkeeper to guard an interior Adirondack water body. Lake George and Lake Champlain are the only other Adirondack lakes with Waterkeepers. The foundation has been active in protecting water quality, while fighting pollution and invasive plant species.

Curt is also vice chairman of the Adirondack Council Board of Directors, although stepped down from that role upon his confirmation as APA Chairman by the Senate. He joined the Adirondack Council’s board in 2005. Stiles is also on the board of the Trudeau Institute, a medical research facility in Saranac Lake. He is a past board member of the Adirondack Medical Center (Saranac Lake) and Paul Smith’s College. His a former member of the Harrietstown Planning Board, so he has some local government experience and is familiar with the task of reviewing land-use plans, a chief duty of the APA. He is a retired senior executive with Xerox.

He replaces acting chairman Cecil Wray, Manhattan, who had stepped into that role following the resignation of chairman Ross Whaley in September. Wray was a member of the Adirondack Council board of directors until his appointment to the APA by Governor Pataki more than a decade ago. He is an attorney.

Richard Booth, Ithaca, was appointed commissioner to hold one of three seats reserved for non-Park residents. Booth is a Plattsburgh native. He has experience in both Ithaca City government and the Tompkins County Legislature. More importantly, he is an environmental law professor at Cornell University and one of the most respected environmental legal experts in the nation. Booth served on the Adirondack Council board of directors from 1982 through 1992. He was initially nominated as chairman by Governor Spitzer, but a handful of local government officials and state Legislators complained that he was not a Park resident. Spitzer withdrew Booth’s name as a chairman nomination, but resubmitted him as a regular commissioner on the APA board.

Frank Mezzano, Lake Pleasant, was reappointed to a four-year term. His current term ran out earlier this year. Frank joined the board early in the Pataki Administration over the objections of the Adirondack Council and other environmental groups, who objected to the fact that Mezzano was a sitting local government official. The groups argued that as Town Supervisor and a member of the Hamilton County Board of Supervisors, Mezzano was being put in a position of conflicting interests. How, we asked, could he impartially judge the merits of development projects that might affect the finances of the community for which he is chief financial officer? This conflict still exists. Mezzano left the board briefly at the end of his third term, then came back to take the remaining term of another local representative who had left before her term had expired (Deanne Rehm of Bolton, Warren County).

The APA Board of Commissioners has 11 members. Five must be full time Park residents, while three seats are reserve for non-Park residents. The remaining three belong to the commissioners of Environmental Conservation and Economic Development and to the Secretary of State. No more than five of the eight citizen members may be from the same political party.

The APA’s staff still lacks an Executive Director, following the retirement of Richard Lefebvre of Caroga Lake, Fulton County, this summer.


Monday, October 22, 2007

New Adirondack Park Agency Nominations

According to North Country Public Radio:

The state Senate is expected to consider confirmations of three new APA board members today. Governor Spitzer has named Upper Saranac Lake resident Curt Stiles to serve as chairman. Stiles has served as chairman of the Upper Saranac Lake Foundation and has taken a leading role on the issue of invasive species.

The Senate is also expected to confirm Dick Booth, an environmental attorney and author from Ithaca. Booth was initially named to serve as chairman, but his appointment drew criticism because he lives outside the blue line. Booth has had close ties to local government groups and to the environmental community.Governor Spitzer has also reappointed Frank Mezzano, town supervisor from Lake Pleasant. Mezzano is a veteran member of the APA who returned to the board earlier this year after a brief hiatus.

The APA is currently led by interim chairman Cecil Wray. It’s unclear whether interim executive director Mark Sengenberger will be named to fill that post permanently.Stiles takes over at a time when the APA confronts major decisions, including the Park’s snowmobile policy and the fate of the Adirondack Club and Resort project in Tupper Lake.


Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Adirondack Snowmobile History, Part Five

In Part One of Adirondack Snowmobile History, we traced the emergence of snow machines in the early 1900s, in Part Two we looked at the development of the personal sled that is so familiar today. Part Three followed the explosion of makes and models and the spread of snowmobiling throughout the Adirondack region with races, clubs, and dealers taking advantage of the boon in snowmobile sales that occurred from 1965 to 1970. Part Four covered the emerging conflicts over snowmobiles in the Adirondack Region, a topic we’ll conclude this series with today.

As the the 1970s began, new snowmobile clubs and riders argued for more trails and Adirondack locals increased their investment in the industry. The New York Times, noted in an piece tilted “Snowmobiles in the Adirondacks” in 1972:

An economic boom is putt-putting into the remote fringes of the Adirondack Forest Preserve these days on the rubber tracks and diminutive skis of the snowmobile. Some restaurants, banks, gasoline stations, and grocery stores, long accustomed to depressingly quiet winters in this snowfast region, now are doing a volume of business that reminds them of days in July and August. Each weekend, some 11,000 snowmobilists fan out from . . . downstate areas for a day or two of picnicking and racing on the lakes and mountains.

The local residents of such villages as Speculator are happy to see the winter weekenders trundling along the highways with their snowmobiles cradled on trailers behind their cars. “Most winters we used not to make expenses,” said Howard Romaine, a restaurant proprietor here. “But with these snowmobile people coming in, the millennium has arrived.”

As snowmobilers talked about the economic impacts of their sport in the Adirondacks, the number of snowmobile being sold every year boomed to unprecedented levels. In the early 1970s there just over a hundred snowmobile makers. The most profitable were the big three – Bombardier / Ski Doo, Polaris, and Artic Cat – but motorcycle and outboard motor companies also branched out to take advantage of the increasing popularity in the sport.

From 1970 to 1973 more than 2 million sleds were sold but the popularity of the sport was at its peak. Never again would sled sales equal those golden years. The recession of 1973 and a declining economy throughout the 1970s helped slow outdoor sports sales at a time when other opportunities to ride – namely ATVs – were beginning to emerge.

Additionally, and perhaps most importantly, a new environmental awareness made it less desirable among many to run the trails on a noisy motor powered machine. Noise was a major factor in the first attempts to seriously regulate snowmobiles. The reason was explained by snowmobile historian Leonard Reich:

Snowmobiles were noisy for technical, economic, and social reasons. Technically, it was difficult to quiet their two-stroke engines without compromising power output. Baffled mufflers that worked well on four-stroke engines disrupted the two-stroke’s exhaust flow and robbed it of power. To be effective a muffler had to contain substantial quantities of sound-absorbing materials, which made it large, bulky, and expensive. Even if the exhaust could be quieted, the engine’s air intake created noise, and the entire drive system of clutches, gearing or chains, and track added even more. Shrouds and other enclosures helped, but they too added weight, bulk, and expense.

Even though noisy snowmobiles could have an adverse impact on riders’ hearing, many wanted loud machines. An article in Snow-Mobile Times commented, “For some snowmobilers, noise is a large part of the fun of the sport. The sound of that loud motor means power, speed, the thrill of being in control of a revved-up machine.” Snowmobile dealers knew their market. As one commented, “If it’s noisy and goes like hell, it will sell.”

By 1972, a number of state legislatures had acted to curb snowmobile noise, setting decibel limits for a full-throttle machine heard from 50 feet. When the maker of the Johnson Skee-Horse and Evinrude Skeeter committed itself to achieving 73 decibels within six years, the ISIA [International Snowmobile Industry Association, formed in 1965 by Bombardier] grudgingly went along, and several states wrote that limit into their legislation. It was not long, however, before the industry “recognized that it had spoken too quickly and had to backtrack when subsequent engineering and marketing analyses led most industry members to conclude that they could not produce a marketable machine meeting this noise standard.” What that statement meant, of course, was that the added expense and reduced “vroom” would significantly cut into sales.

In 1971 efforts to increase the miles of trails as a hedge to the rampant trespassing and misuse of cross-country ski trails began in earnest. By 1973 more than 40,000 miles of snowmobile trails had been built in North America. By the end of the 1970s the number had more than doubled. In 1980, an ad-hoc DEC survey of snowmobile trails in the Adirondacks estimated that there were about 850 miles of snowmobile trails in the region. When the DEC announced it 2006 Snowmobile Plan for the Adirondacks it noted that there were about 850 miles of snowmobile trails in Wild Forest and Primitive Areas alone and another 1,172 miles of funded snowmobile trails in the park as a whole not including perhaps more than a thousand additional miles maintained through lease agreements with private landowners by towns (particularly Webb and Inlet) and local clubs. The entire 2006 Snowmobile Report can be found here.

While the number of snowmobile trails in the Adirondacks has increased dramatically since the sled boom of the late 1960s and early 1970s, the number of sleds sold each year continues to slump.

According to Leonard Reich:

For the 1968 model year, an unpleasant statistic, called “carryover,” crept into the industry’s production and sales figures. That year, 170,000 machines were produced but only 165,000 sold to consumers. The remaining 5,000 awaited the following year in dealers’ hands. The next year carryover increased to 35,000, then shot up to 100,000 in 1971 on a sales volume of just under 500,000.

In 1971, snowmobile sales for the first time failed to increase substantially over the previous season, thus exacerbating the carryover problem. Whereas 1968’s 165,000 sales had become 1969’s 250,000 and 1970’s 460,000, sales fell short of 500,000 in 1971. In an industry accustomed to rapid growth, many producers soon faced bankruptcy, and the shakeout began. Sales remained in the 400,000-500,000 range through 1974, while carryover increased from 125,000 in 1972 to 315,000 in 1973, and to 500,000 in 1974, a colossal drag on the industry.

By 1997, sales had reached 260,000 sleds and have continued to drop ever since. With the advent of ATVs (which evolved in the 1960s and spread in the 1970s and 1980s) and the reduction of annual snow cover due to global warming, the snowmobile may be on its way to becoming a relic of the past.

Return to Part One. Read the entire series here.


Monday, October 8, 2007

Adirondack Snowmobile History, Part Four

In Part One of Adirondack Snowmobile History, we traced the emergence of snow machines in the early 1900s. In Part Two we looked at the development of the personal sled that is so familiar today. Part Three followed the explosion of makes and models and the spread of snowmobiling throughout the Adirondack region with races, clubs, and dealers taking advantage of the boon in snowmobile sales that occurred from 1965 to 1970.

From the beginning some snowmobile riders and some folks concerned about the impacts of snowmobiles on the rural and wilderness environments began to debate the new outdoor sport. With 200,000 snowmobiles already traveling American lakes, fields, and trails in the 1966-1967 season and many more apparently on the way, government and environmental advocates began to address the possible impacts and attempt to responsibly manage them.

Snowmobile historian Leonard Reich noted that:

During the mid-1960s, snowmobile enthusiasts began to organize clubs whose activities were oriented toward safety, social events, and group activities such as festivals (“snodeos”), clearing, marking, and grooming trails, and trail rides (“snofaris” and “sno-mo-cades”) that could include as many as fifty sleds. One observer of a large nighttime ride recalled that “from a distance, their bobbing head-lights resembled a religious procession,” and in a way it was. Some clubs shipped their snowmobiles to distant sites, then flew or bussed members there for group touring.

In 1970, New York State began requiring riders to register their sleds with the Parks and Recreation Department’s Division of Marine and Recreational Vehicles. Registration forms could be had a local dealers, county clerks, Sheriff’s offices, and regional offices of the Department of Conservation. Registration cost just $5, although some sled riders complained at the cost despite the fact that events organized by local clubs often cost as much as $1 to $2 per sled. The 1970 regulations also required young riders to take a Young Snowmobile Operator’s safety course before riding alone.

Beginning in 1971, a number of governments across the United States and Canada began investigating the boom in snowmobiles in order to asses and mitigate their impacts. In 1971 Congressional testimony, Sno Goer magazine publisher Susie Scholwin voiced the freedom snowmobilers felt on their new machines:

Before snowmobiles, in northern Wisconsin] winters were something just “to be lived through.” Nice winter days on weekends brought the sleds, skis, toboggans, and general fun-in-the-snow. Nights were long and lonely. As were the weekends as a whole. Ice fishing on the lake was good, but the best spot was over a mile away. . . .

The winter of 1964 and early 1965 took on a different tone than those before [with our family’s purchase of a snowmobile]. Mom and dad loved it–the kids loved it. Winter was not the gloomy thing it had been–but each day was an adventure of its own. It was much easier to get “over to the other side of the lake” fishing. . . .

There were races held, but they were something minor. . . . The important thing . . . was that more and more of the neighbors in the area were buying these fantastic little machines and, lo and behold–winter was turning into FUN! The little snowmobile had become a funmobile–one that made winter something to look forward to! Everyone in the area looked forward to weekends, with their picnics, trail-riding, exploring, scavenger hunts, and social gatherings. . . . Many in their fifties and sixties, who were not enthused about the muscular sport of skiing, found that the snowmobile was the answer to their dreams.

For their part of the debate, the dozens of snowmobile clubs in the Adirondack region began exercising their muscle. For example, the President of the Keeseville Trail Riders wrote to local papers in 1972 to remind riders that a $1.15 billion bond issue coming before voters in November would include $44 million for land acquisition in the Adirondacks, but he “doubts very much if any of this money would be used to acquire land for snowmobile trails.” In opposing the bond issue, the Trail Riders noted that their $5 registration fee was being used to build boating services in the Adirondacks.

Take your neighbor or friend or the fellow down the street who owns a boat, the fee to register it for three years is $3.00 and the state has built parking lots and boat launching ramps.

The economic argument was also put forward early:

Take a minute to think how much money this sport has brought to the North Country. We have Boonville over in the western part of the state where thousands come to view races on weekends. Then closer to our community we have our friendly neighbors, Schroon Lake, where the Chamber of Commerce is in the process of putting out our their winter brochure.

So you see everyone stands to gain either enjoyment, money or employment from this sport.

True or not (and their was some question about the actual impact of snowmobilers on the Adirondack economy, even in the boom years), the economic arguments of the clubs and their supporters found important allies in the local press and among the property rights and anti-government crowd. We’ll explore those conflicts in Part Five.

Return to Part One. Read the entire series here.


Thursday, September 20, 2007

RCPA Has New Chair: John Collins of Blue Mountain Lake

A Press Release recieved from the Residents’ Committee to Protect the Adirondacks (RCPA):

RCPA Votes John Collins as the New Chair of the Board of Directors

Robert Harrison of Brant Lake selected as Vice-Chair

North Creek – The Residents’ Committee to Protect the Adirondacks (RCPA) Board of Directors voted John Collins of Blue Mountain Lake as the new Board Chair. John Collins was a founding Board member and has served on the Board since 1997. Robert Harrison of Brant Lake was voted in as the new Vice-Chair. Harrison has served on the RCPA Board since 2005.

“The Residents’ Committee to Protect the Adirondacks is a very important voice. The RCPA serves as the eyes and ears and especially the voice for those of us who live in the Park and recognize its value. We will continue to work to protect the natural resources and promote a sustainable economy throughout this remarkable place. The Board and staff of the RCPA are committed to preserving the Forest Preserve, the great open spaces and the rural communities that are the Adirondacks,” said John Collins, the new RCPA Chair. Collins has served on the Town of Indian Lake Planning Board, the Indian Lake Central School District Board of Education, as a Commissioner and Chairman of the Adirondack Park Agency, on the Board and as Executive Director of the Adirondack Museum, on also currently sits on the Board of Directors of the Crary Foundation and the Northern Forest Center.

Robert Harrison was voted in as the RCPA’s Vice-Chair. Harrison is a member of the Brant Lake Volunteer Fire Department, is a school bus driver for the North Warren School District, and is a member of the Town of Horicon Master Plan Steering Committee. “I’m very concerned about the Adirondack Club & Resort project proposed for the Big Tupper Ski Area. The RCPA has applied for party status and will continue to participate and monitor this project in the months and years ahead. As an FSC certified landowner in the RCPA’s sustainable forestry certification program, I will work diligently to grow this program and recruit new landowners and help get more businesses certified to use certified wood and sell certified projects. This program seeks to build the local economy and protect private forestlands,” said Bob Harrison.

In addition Joe Mahay of Paradox was voted as the Secretary/Treasurer.

“We’re all delighted with the new leadership that John Collins and Bob Harrison bring to the RCPA,” said Peter Bauer, RCPA Executive Director. “We face many challenges across the Adirondacks from over-development, poor state management of the Forest Preserve, declining water quality, a serious shortage of affordable housing, invasive species and land protection among other issues. Our challenges are huge so somebody who knows the Park well, who has a successful business here, and who cares deeply about both the future of the Park’s wild areas and residents is critical at this point in time to lead the RCPA to confront these challenges.”

The 14-member RCPA Board of Directors are all year-round residents of the Adirondack Park. The Board meets seven times a year and holds an annual members meeting each September. The Board approves all RCPA programs and positions (all RCPA positions since 2003 are posted on the RCPA website www.rcpa.org). The RCPA manages the largest water quality monitoring program in the Adirondacks, the Park’s only sustainable forestry FSC certification project for landowners and businesses, monitors development on a town-by-town basis annually, and has issued reports on development trends in the Adirondack Park, ATV abuse of Forest Preserve lands, need for improvements in state regulation of septic systems in New York, and the future of Fire Towers on the public Forest Preserve and private lands in the Adirondacks. The RCPA manages the Adirondack Park Land Protection Campaign and the Adirondack Park Clean Waters Project and works collaboratively on various community development projects. The RCPA formed in 1990. The previous RCPA Chairs were Joe Mahay of Paradox, Philip Hamel of Saranac, and Peter Hornbeck of Olmstedville.

The Residents’ Committee to Protect the Adirondacks

The Residents’ Committee to Protect the Adirondacks is a privately funded, not-for-profit organization dedicated to the stewardship and protection of the natural environment and human communities of the Adirondack Park for current and future generations. The RCPA pursues this mission through advocacy, education, legal action, sustainable forestry certification, research, water quality monitoring and grassroots organizing. The RCPA has 3,500 household members and maintains an office in North Creek.


Friday, September 7, 2007

RCPA Executive Director Peter Bauer Leaving

Peter Bauer, Executive Director of the Residents Committee to Protect the Adirondacks today. Before his tenure with since 1994, will leave his position by the end of September according to a news release the Adirondack Almanack receivedRCPA Bauer worked for the Commission on the Adirondacks in the Twenty-First Century, and at Adirondack Life. In his position with the RCPA, he worked on a variety of issues affecting the stewardship and environmental protection of the public and private lands of the Adirondack Park and was the target of much right-wing criticism. He is married to Cathleen Collins and has two children, Jake and Emma. He will be moving to a position as Executive Director for the Fund For Lake George. » Continue Reading.


Monday, June 25, 2007

2007 NY Legislative Results: Adirondack Edition

John Sheehan, of The Adirondack Council sent a set of e-mails outlining bills in the final days of the the State Legislature’s 2007 session that will have an impact on the Adirondacks. We’ll reprint part of his e-mails here for your information:

Raquette Lake Water Supply: On Wednesday June 20, at about 9:30 pm, the Assembly granted final passage to a Constitutional Amendment to allow the hamlet of Raquette Lake to construct its drinking water supply system on the “Forever Wild” Forest Preserve. Construction (aside from trailside lean-tos and ranger cabins) is currently banned on the Forest Preserve. This bill would give permission only to Raquette Lake, and requires the Town of Long Lake, in which the hamlet is located, to swap a similar tract of land to the state to make up for the lost acreage. The bill passed both houses in 2006 and now will be on the November 2007 statewide ballot. It does not require the Governor’s signature. The bill was sponsored by Sen. Elizabeth Little, R-Queensbury, and Assem. Robert Sweeney, D-Lindenhurst, the Assembly EnCon chairman.

Route 56 Power Line Construction: The New York Power Authority is seeking permission from the public to construct a power supply line from Stark Falls Reservoir power dam in Colton, St. Lawrence County, to Tupper Lake, Franklin County, where power outages have been severe and frequent. NYPA has agreed to build the line along the side of Route 56, crossing an area of Forest Preserve, rather than detouring the line through an environmentally sensitive area containing endangered species, wetlands and an ancient white pine forest. In this case, the private lands around the Forest Preserve are wilder and in greater need of protection that the area of Forest Preserve adjacent to the state highway.

The Route 56 constitutional amendment passed the legislature last year, but had to be retracted due to errors in the first version. The Assembly’s approval late last night now represents first passage of a new amendment, so it must be passed again by a separately elected legislature before it can go on the ballot. The soonest that can happen is January 2009. Given the need to construct the line as soon as possible, environmental organizations have agreed not to try to prevent NYPA from building the power line without the benefit of official permission, explaining that the alternate route would cause needless ecological degradation to remote, pristine areas. A new power line right-of-way would only add to the threat of all-terrain vehicle trespass into those areas and adjacent Forest Preserve.The bill is sponsored by Senator Little and Assemblyman Sweeney.

Fire Fighting Costs: Also late night on June 20th, the Assembly granted final passage to a bill repealing the requirement that the 12 Adirondack Park counties and 3 Catskill Park counties repay the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation for the assistance of state forest rangers in fighting forest fires on state lands in the two wilderness parks. This arcane fee had so outraged local officials that DEC had been reluctant in recent years to even bill them. The fee was a thorn in the side of the late Sen. Ronald Stafford, who sponsored similar legislation to repeal it, but was stopped short by the Assembly’s objections. The bill is sponsored by Senator Little and Assem. Darrel Aubertine, D-Cape Vincent. The 12 Adirondack Forest Preserve counties are Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Fulton, Hamilton, Herkimer, Lewis, Oneida, St. Lawrence, Saratoga, Warren and Washington. The three Catskill Forest Preserve counties are Greene, Sullivan and Ulster.

Environmental Protection Fund Expander: A bill sponsored by both Houses’ EnCon Chairmen, Sen. Carl Marcellino, R-Syosset, and Assemblyman Sweeney. It would increase the Environmental Protection Fund from its current level of $150 million per year to $300 million by FY2009-10. The EPF’s main capital projects funds are for landfill closure and recycling grants, parks and historic preservation and open space. This bill has passed the Assembly and is awaiting action in the Senate Rules Committee. Under this bill, the funds available for open space should increase from the current $50 million annually to about $100 million.

Lake Colby Horsepower Limit: This bill would limit the size of boat motors on Lake Colby, near Saranac Lake, to 10 HP. The lakeshore owners requested this for their own peace and to preserve a colony of nesting loons. It has passed the Senate and is awaiting action in the Assembly Rules Comte. It is sponsored by Sen. Little and Assem. Janet DuPrey, R-Plattsburgh.

NYS Invasive Species Council: A bill creating one has passed the Senate and awaits action in Assembly Rules. Sweeney/Marcellino.

Climate Change Task Force: A bill creating one is out of committee and awaiting action in each house; ready to pass when taken up. Marcellino/Sweeney.

Mileage and CO2: A bill would require carbon dioxide emissions information to be posted on the same sticker as mileage ratings for cars sold in New York State. Sweeney/Marcellino.

NCPR has a full report on what was left undone by our increasingly disfunctional legislature, including the Senates failure to confirm Spitzer’s choices to head the Adirondack Park Agency, the Olympic Regional Development Authority Board of Directors, and the Upstate Economic Development Corporation.


Saturday, June 2, 2007

Adirondack Events: Watershed Ecology Lecture Series

The Lake George Land Conservancy and the Lake George Association a presenting a series of lectures on natural features of the Lake George watershed this spring and summer. The series of speakers will address the ecology and natural history plants and animals found around Lake George.

The events are free and open to the public. they will be held on Thursday evenings at 7 p.m. at either the Lake George Association or the Lake George Land Conservancy; light refreshments will be provided.

June 14, “Bats in your Backyard,” Al Hicks, NYSDEC Mammal Specialist, 7 p.m. at LGA office.

June 28, “Lake George Fish: Natural History and Ecology,” Emily Zollweg, NYSDEC Senior Aquatic Biologist, 7 p.m. at LGLC office.

July 12: “Zebra Mussels in Lake George,” John Wimbush, Darrin Fresh Water Institute researcher, 7 p.m. at LGA office.

July 26: “Rattlesnakes at Lake George: What You Need to Know but Were Afraid to Ask,” Bill Brown, associate professor emeritus of Biology at Skidmore College, 7 p.m. at LGLC office.

Aug. 9: “Mushrooms of the Adirondacks,” Nancy Scarzello, 7 pm at LGA office.

Aug. 23: “Exploring Pond Life: Turtles, Frogs and Pollywogs,” Emily DeBolt, LGA education and outreach coordinator, 7 p.m. at LGLC office.

For more information contact LGA’s Emily DeBolt 518-668-3558 or LGLC’s Sarah Hoffman at 518-644-9673.


Tuesday, May 22, 2007

The Unique Fingerprints Of Adirondack Wildlife

An interesting press release from the Wildlife Conservation Society on fisher fingerprints and other unique patterns in Adirondack mammal tracks.

A new study in the May issue of the Journal of Wildlife Management reports that scientists from the New York State Museum, Wildlife Conservation Society and other groups have teamed up with the New York State Department of Criminal Justice to developed a new technique that uses fingerprints to track the fisher – an elusive member of the weasel family, and the only carnivore species known to have unique fingerprints.

Fingerprints left behind at special tracking-boxes allow field biologists to identify which individual fisher had come in for the bait and, therefore, count the exact number of animals using an area. Scientists teamed with fingerprint experts at the New York State Department of Criminal Justice (DCJS) to develop this method, which is far simpler and less expensive compared to alternatives such as DNA fingerprinting.

Fisher prints differ from human fingerprints because they are made up of patterns of dots rather than ridges, so standard criminology software did not work. “We tried submitting fisher prints to the state’s fingerprint database but it didn’t pair up the prints well,” says Richard Higgins, retired chief of the DCJS Bureau of Criminal Identification. “But looking at them side-by-side it was obvious when you had a match.”

The fisher, an eight-pound member of the weasel family, is the only carnivore known to have fingerprints, which are also known from primates and koalas. Other species may also have unique patterns in their tracks that would help in counting their numbers in the wild.

“The few porcupine and opossum tracks we got had incredible patterns and will probably turn out to be unique with more study.” says Dr. Roland Kays, curator of mammals at the State Museum, who co-authored the Journal article, along with Higgins and others.

“Identifying individuals allows us to actually count how many animals are in different areas, which is essential information for monitoring their conservation status,” says Justina Ray, director of Wildlife Conservation Society Canada. “My hope is that we can apply this kind of inexpensive, sure-fire technology to help conserve a wide range of species, especially those that are threatened with extinction.”

Scientists surveyed fishers from 2000-2002 as part of a carnivore survey across 54 sites in the Adirondack region of Northern New York. Fishers were the second most commonly detected carnivore species, behind coyotes.

“Our study suggests fisher populations are healthy throughout most of Northern New York,” said Ray. “Fisher populations are rising in most of the Northeastern United States, showing that wildlife can reclaim their turf if forests are allowed to recover.”

Fishers were nearly driven to extinction in the state by deforestation and over-trapping before receiving protection in the 1930s. This led to a slow recovery, and limited trapping was permitted again in the 1970s. Their recent population boom appears to have begun in the 1990s.

Fishers spread south out of the Adirondacks and Vermont and into the Hudson Valley. They are also spreading westward, with today’s leading edge around Syracuse. Fishers were first recorded in the suburbs of Albany and Boston in the last six years.

The other co-authors of the Journal study are Mike Tymeson and Richard Higgins, DCJS; Carl J. Herzog, state Department of Environmental Conservation in Albany; Dr. Matthew E. Gompper, Department of Fisheries and Wildlife Sciences at the University of Missouri in Columbia, MO and Dr. William J. Zielinski United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Research Station, Redwood Sciences Laboratory in Arcata, CA.


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