Monday, July 13, 2009

Protecting The Adirondacks: A New Era Begins

After months of discussion and evaluation, the decision was made on Saturday to formally consolidate the Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks (AFPA) with the Residents’ Committee to Protect the Adirondacks (RCPA) and to form a new organization called Protect the Adirondacks. The new organization will continue a better than 100-year history of protecting the Adirondacks so I thought I’d take a moment to take a look at the new group and how it developed historically.

At their annual meeting last Saturday at Heaven Hill Farm outside the Village of Lake Placid, the memberships of both organizations voted in favor of consolidation, which enables the process to move through the final legal steps of incorporation. The membership of the Residents’ Committee voted 83-0 in favor of the consolidation. The membership of the Association voted 111-2 in favor. » Continue Reading.


Monday, July 13, 2009

Baseball and Botany Go Together in Saranac Lake

Baseball and blooms are both in full season, so we’ll let Christy Mathewson field the July wildflower date observations (May and June lists here and here).

The following notes are verbatim from a hand-written list compiled by the pitcher in 1922, when the charter Hall-of-Famer was in Saranac Lake trying to recover from tuberculosis. He died there in 1925.

July 2
Water Avens
Yarrow or Sneezewort (White Rays, also Pink Rays!!!!!)
Common Milkweed
Indian Poke or False Hellebore
Purple Flowering Raspberry
Fireweed; Great Willow Herb
July 4
Cow Parsnip
July 5
Common Elder
Yellow Avens or Field Avens
July 12
Great Mullein
Meadowsweet
St. Johnswort (Hypericum perforatum)
Bull Thistle
Common Parsnip yellow
July 15
Day Lily (H. fulva)
July 16
Water Lily: Water Nymph
Maiden Pink (D. Deltoides)
Yellow Loosestrife (Lysmachia terrictris)
July 17
Canada Thistle
Early Goldenrod (S. juncea)
Loosestrife (in swamp) (Lysimachia stricta?)
Broad-leaved Arrow Head
Joe Pye Weed
Shinleaf
Daisy Fleabane?
Lance-leaved Goldenrod
Hardhack: Steeple Bush (S. tomentosa)
Chicory?
Asparagus
July 20
Catnip
Blue Vervain
Bellflower (C. rapunculoides, Linn)
Tansy, Bitter Buttons
Elecampane
Bouncing Bet
July 22
Pickerel Weed (P. cordata)
Narrow-leaved Arrow Head
Ladies Tresses
Jewel-weed: Spotted Touch-me-not
Monkey Flower
July 22
Blue Aster (A. sagittifolius?)
Potato (Irish)
Lettuce (L. interfrifolia? purplish)
Turtlehead (C. glebra)
July 24
Water parsnip
Golden Ragwort – Squaweed
Smaller Purple-fringed Orchis
Monkey Flower (M. Ringens)
Ladies Tresses (S. ceruns)
July 26
Dalibarda (D. repens)
Fetid Currant
Pipsissewa or Princess Pine
Common Evening Primrose (Oe. biennis?)
July 31
Bedstraw (Galium triflorum)
Mad-dog Skullcap (S. lateriflora)
White Aster (A. acummatus and umbelatus)
August 1
Bedstraw (G. asprillum)
Bottle Gentian
Wild Cucumber, Wild Balsam Apple
August 3
Skullcap (S. galericulata)
Bladderwort (U. vulgaris)
August 4
Climbing false buckwheat

Some of the common plant names Mathewson noted have faded from use in this region (hardhack, sneezwort, wild balsam apple). My posthumous crush on this guy deepens every time I look at his list. His excitement over pink rays in the yarrow (!!!!!) and uncertainty over a species of primrose (?) are endearing. It’s hard to imagine a contemporary pro athlete taking such careful notice of the natural world.

Photo: Christy Mathewson attends a town league game in Saranac Lake, 1920s. Courtesy of Historic Saranac Lake.


Monday, July 13, 2009

Adirondack County Fairs 2009 Schedule

Local county fairs start this week, so here is our full list of Adirondack county fairs, listed according to opening date. As usual, I’ve included a few of the most important regional fairs as well. See you at the fair!

July 14 – 19
Jefferson County Fair (Watertown)

July 14 – 19
Saratoga County Fair, Ballston Spa

July 21 – 25
Lewis County Fair (Lowville)

July 21 – 26
Clinton County Fair (Morrisonville)

July 27 – Aug 2
Oneida County (Boonville)

August 1
Warren County Youth Fair (Warrensburg)

August 3 – 9
St. Lawrence County Fair (Gouverneur)

August 8 – 16
Franklin County Fair (Malone)

August 12 – 16
Essex County Fair (Westport)

August 18 – 23
Herkimer County Fair (Frankfort)

August 24 – 30
Washington County Fair (Greenwich)

August 27 – September 7
New York State Fair (Syracuse)

August 29 – September 7
Champlain Valley Fair (Essex, Vermont)

September 4-13
Vermont State Fair (Rutland, Vermont)


Sunday, July 12, 2009

Crown Point Pier and Champlain Lighthouse Reopened

Restoration work on the Crown Point Pier and Champlain Memorial Lighthouse has been completed and both facilities are once again open to the public. Restoration work on the pier included reenforcement of the bulkhead and piers, removal of zebra mussels, refurbishing of the metal trusses and decking, repair of the roof — including replacement of broken slate shingles, thorough cleaning of exterior and interior surfaces and placement of new signs.

Work on the lighthouse included restoration of the Rodin sculpture, thorough cleaning and repair of outer stonework and thorough cleaning, resealing and painting of the interior. The Rodin sculpture has not been placed back on the lighthouse, but will be prior to the Quadricentennial Celebration in September. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, July 12, 2009

Hawthorn vs Hawthorn – Avoiding The Invasives

I took a few moments this morning to read the comments on past posts to the Almanack (thank you, all) and found a potentially distressing note on my deer-proofing post. I had mentioned that a good deer proof plant to include in your arsenal was hawthorn, and someone commented that we need to be careful about invasive hawthorns. Invasive hawthorns? I didn’t know there were such things, so I had to look it up.

Lo! and behold, the anonymous commenter was correct: there is an invasive hawthorn out there. It is Crataegus monogyna, the oneseed hawthorn, aka: English hawthorn. This plant has become quite the pest out in California, but it seems to have made inroads throughout the West as well as the East. According to the range map I saw, the middle of the US seems to be free of this invasive so far. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, July 11, 2009

Adk Museum Presents The Adirondack Mining Village

Mining was once a major industry in northern New York State. Small iron mines and forges appeared along Lake Champlain in the late 1700s. In the 1820s, the industry began to grow rapidly, reaching its peak in the mid-to-late 1800s. The story of mining is much more than minerals found and ores extracted. This Monday, July 13, 2009 Dr. Carol Burke will explore human aspects of Adirondack mining in an illustrated program entitled “The Adirondack Mining Village” at the Adirondack Museum at Blue Mountain Lake.

Part of the museum’s popular Monday Evening Lecture series, the presentation will be held in the Auditorium at 7:30 p.m. There is no charge for museum members. Admission is $5.00 for non-members.

Burke’s presentation reflects an ongoing project that documents accounts of the daily lives or ordinary people who lived and worked in the now abandoned mining villages of Tahawus and nearby Adirondac (known in the 1950s as “The Upper Works”). Dr. Burke will share photographs and recollections of everyday life in these former company towns.

Carol Burke, a Professor at the University of California at Irvine, is a folklorist and journalist whose ethnographic work has produced books that document the lives of Midwestern farm families, female inmates in our nation’s prisons, and most recently, members of the armed services. Six months ago she was embedded with an army unit in northern Iraq.

Dr. Burke spends her summers in the Adirondacks and is currently documenting the everyday life of the once-flourishing mining village of Tahawus. Before joining the faculty at the University of California at Irvine, Professor Burke taught at Vanderbilt University, Johns Hopkins University, and the United States Naval Academy.

The broad story of mining in the Adirondacks is one of fortunes made and lost, of suicide, madness, and ambition, and the opening of one of America’s last frontiers. Mining shaped the physical and cultural landscape of the Adirondack Park for generations. The Adirondack Museum plans to open the completely revitalized exhibit “Mining in the Adirondacks” in 2012 to share this incredible history.

Photo: Adirondack Village, Near the Upper Works. From Benson J. Lossing’s The Hudson, from the Wilderness to the Sea, 1859.


Saturday, July 11, 2009

Adirondack Lightshow: A Short Primer On Fireflies

Now is the time for the ultimate light show. I’m not talking about the fireworks that lit up the sky over the 4th, nor those gossamer curtains that dance across the heavens when sunspot activity is just right (although, I must say that northern lights are a real contender). No, I’m referring to fireflies, those dancing lights that must’ve been the inspiration for many a faerie legend.

First off, we must set the record straight: fireflies are not flies. They are beetles. It may be a small thing, but it is important that we start off on the right foot. Insects with hard wing covers are beetles. Fireflies have hard wing covers. Insects with two wings are flies. Fireflies have four wings: the two forewings are the wing covers, and beneath them are are the two delicate back wings. Still, to suddenly start calling them “firebeetles” would probably confuse a lot of folks, so we’ll stick with tradition and call them fireflies. (We could go with their alternate name, lightning bugs, but we run into the same problem: they are not bugs. Bugs are actually a specific Order of insects known as True Bugs. But I digress.)

So, you find yourself standing in your back yard on a balmy night in June or July. The sun has long set, and there above the grass, above the shrubs, you see a flash of light. Then another. A couple flashes glint from down in the grass. Some of the lights zigzag, others form an ephemeral “J”. Some go up, others go down. Some flash high in the air, some flash at medium height, and some flash close to the ground. Some flash all night, some flash for only a few minutes. The more you watch, the more variations you see. What does it all mean?

Perhaps it is best we start simply. Only male fireflies fly. Therefore, any flashing you see above the ground is a male firefly. The females do not fly (they don’t have wings), so they flash from the ground.

Now it gets more difficult, for there are many species of fireflies and each has its own flash pattern, which can vary in color, brightness and timing. Some species flash early in the night, while others prefer a later hour. Each species also claims a preferred height above the ground at which to make its display. If you learn all these characteristics, you are well on your way to knowing which fireflies like your yard.

Let’s take a look at a very common firefly, Photinus pyralis (sorry – they don’t have common names). You can recognize this firefly’s pattern easily: it is bright yellow and its flash is an upward rising light, forming a “J”. In the early part of the night, P. pyralis flashes close to the ground, but as the night progresses, he moves higher. He starts off by giving a set of flashes, each about six seconds apart (depending on the temperature; the warmer the night, the closer together the flashes will be). The female will respond with a flash about two seconds after the male flashes. If he sees this, he flies towards her, the two repeating their sequences until they meet.

After a tete-a-tete, the female will be off to lay her eggs (in some species the eggs glow), from which will emerge larvae that we call glowworms. The larvae lurk underground until spring, hunting voraciously for subterranean prey. Some species will stay as larvae for a second year. Anyway, come spring, they pupate and emerge as adults.

But what about that light? Where does it come from? Does it burn? The glow of the firefly is a natural light called biolumenesence. Biolumenesence is a cool light, meaning that the energy that is released in its making goes almost entirely into making light – little to no heat is produced. If only mankind could replicate this! In these insects the light is the result of a chemical reaction that takes place within the light organs on the underside of the abdomen. The firefly produces two of these chemicals: luciferin and luciferase. Added to these is ATP (adenosine triphosphate), a chemical that all living things have. The final ingredient is oxygen, which the firefly acquires through small openings along its abdomen. Once in contact these chemicals and voila! there is light. It’s like magic.

Seeing fireflies in your yard, catching fireflies in a jar, it’s a kind of rite of passage that every child should enjoy. This summer it seems like we have an abundance of fireflies, which is a wonderful thing. Some areas, though, are suffering a derth of fireflies. The southeastern US has seen a decline upwards of 70% in firefly populations. Biologists have been researching the cause for this, and light pollution seems to be the culprit. Street lights and house lights are huge contributors to this, but the new fad of solar lights along walkways and gardens seems to have been the “one straw too many.” Now even those dark(er) corners of yards have been lit up. With all this light, fireflies either a) don’t know it is night and therefore are not signaling for mates, or b) can’t see the lights of potential mates because they are overpowered by all the artificial lights man has turned on. If there is no mating taking place, there will be no future generations of fireflies.

It is a blessing to live in the Adirondacks, where we still have a fair bit of dark sky and can see the fireflies and stars before we go to bed.


Friday, July 10, 2009

Weekly Adirondack Blog Round-Up


Friday, July 10, 2009

ANCA Head Named APA Head

Adirondack Park Agency Chairman Curt Stiles announced today that Terry Martino will become executive director of the state land-use oversight agency in August.

Martino, a resident of Onchiota, has been involved in economic and community development projects throughout the park as director since 1991 of the Adirondack North Country Association (ANCA), an independent agency that helps obtain grants and build networks for woods-products businesses, farmers, artisans, tourism entrepreneurs and related municipal infrastructure. The APA has operated under the interim staff leadership of Mark Sengenberger and Jim Connolly since the retirement of Richard Lefebvre, of Caroga Lake, two years ago. Martino will earn a salary of $90,800.

Following are details about the Martino appointment from an APA press release:

“Terry Martino brings an incredibly rich background and understanding of the Adirondack Park, its people and its needs,” said Chairman Stiles. “We are extremely fortunate to have someone with Terry’s established management abilities, leadership skills and demonstrated success in the key leadership position at the Agency,” he concluded.

Terry Martino said, “I would like to thank Governor Paterson, Chairman Stiles and Agency Commissioners for this opportunity to work with them, Agency staff and all stakeholders to address the future of the Adirondack Park. Throughout my career I have recognized the tremendous value of balancing economic and community development with environmental stewardship inside the Park.”

Since 1986 Ms Martino has worked for the Adirondack North Country Association (ANCA). She served as Program Director before her promotion, in 1991, to ANCA’s Executive Director. As Executive Director she managed the regional non-profit organization that is committed to economically viable communities, environmental stewardship and protecting a rural quality of life.

Ms Martino’s responsibility included oversight of personnel, programs and finances with annual budgets ranging from $600,000 to 2.5 million dollars. She provided community outreach, public communications and developed strong partnerships with numerous municipalities, agencies and organizations including providing administrative support to initiatives such as the Common Ground Alliance. She was also responsible for securing and managing millions of dollars in investment in the Adirondack North Country including; USDA Forest Service Ice Storm Recovery Program, Scenic Byways Marketing Programs, USDA Grazing Lands Conservation Initiative and the Heifer Project International.

Ms Martino was a delegate in Saranac Lake’s successful selection as an All American City in 1998 during the National Civic League Competition in Mobile, Alabama. In 2004, she was appointed as a member to the Northern Forest Lands Council 10th Anniversary Forum. She has been a member of the NYSDOT Scenic Byways Advisory Board since 1992.

She has numerous professional affiliations including:
NYSDOT Scenic Byways Advisory Board
Director Adirondack Railway Preservation Society
Northern Forest Strategic Economy Initiative
Adirondack Energy Smart Park Initiative
NYSDEC Adirondack Park Advisory Committee
Core Team Member – Adirondack Common Ground Alliance
Project Manager Adirondack Park Regional Assessment Project
Director CBN Connect

Ms Martino received a Bachelor’s Degree in English from Carleton University and a Master Degree in Professional Studies from The NEW School, Graduate School of Management.

The New York State Adirondack Park Agency was created in 1971 by the State Legislature to develop long-range land use plans for both public and private lands within the boundary of the Adirondack Park. With its headquarters located in Ray Brook, the Agency also operates two Visitor Interpretive Centers, in Newcomb and Paul Smiths. For more information, call the APA at (518) 891-4050 or visit www.apa.state.ny.us.


Friday, July 10, 2009

This Week’s Top Adirondack News Stories


Thursday, July 9, 2009

ADK Music Scene: Bluegrass Festival, Hip Hop and A New Open Mic

Some very different styles of music are flowing through the North Country this weekend. Seems like everyone ought to find something that will feed their musical soul and give us something to smile about despite all the wet weather. I find that dancing in the rain is a lot more fun than camping in the rain.

On Friday in Saranac Lake Penny Kings Productions is doing their thing at The Waterhole starting at 9 pm. I’ve only experienced the show twice and it was a while back but I have fond memories of the energy these guys create. They get the whole room jumping up and down at the same time – quite impressive as well as fun. It’s loud, it’s Adirondack-grown and it’s hip hop!

Also on Friday in North Creek there is a new regular Friday open mic happening at Cafe Sarah. Acts will be performing from 5 to 8:30 pm. Check out the Cafe Sarah website for more information.

On Saturday also at The Waterhole, Greg Merritts Heavy Road will be jamming at 9 pm. This is the kind of band that will hit a groove and not stop until everyone in the room has rotated, at least once, all the parts of their body.

The big festival this weekend is in Chateaugay. The Gibson Brothers and Chateaugay Rotary are hosting the Second Annual Adirondacks Unplugged Music Festival from 1 until 8 pm Saturday. Four other local folk and bluegrass acts besides the Gibson Brothers will be performing. They are; Caroline O’Connor, Crossing North, John and Orion Kribs with Gwen Tracy and in the 4:30pm slot Beartracks. The Gibsons go on at 6 pm. The festival will be held at the Chateaugay Recreation Park on Route 374 – Tickets are $20 in advance and $25 at the door – the gates open at noon.

Photo: The Penny Kings


Thursday, July 9, 2009

Annual Adirondack Loon Census Seeks Volunteers

Loons are the quintessential symbol of wilderness. Just watch any TV show or movie that has a “wilderness” scene and you will hear loon calls in the soundtrack (even if it is in the desert). A stroll through any gift shop in the Adirondacks, Canada or Maine proves that they are probably the number one animal associated with the outdoors (competing only with moose and bears). There is nothing quite like the mournful wail of a loon floating through the night air as you lie in the dark trying to sleep. It is easy to see how people might once have associated them with unhappy or restless spirits. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Dragon Hunting in the Adirondacks

We see them darting about over streams, ponds, and lakes. Sometimes they are cruising the parking lots, or hanging out on the tops of hills or mountains. Dragonflies: they are a marvel of engineering and the “latest thing” to identify.

Every summer I assign myself something new to study. Unfortunately, I find myself distracted by all the options and never settle on just one new thing. But this year I really want to work on my dragonfly identification skills. Afterall, we see them everywhere, and if we can ID warblers and sparrows, how hard can a dragonfly be?

There are two good books out there for beginning dragonfliers: Cynthia Berger’s Dragonflies, part of the Wild Guide series, and the Stokes Beinnger’s Guide to Dragonflies. You can also try Dragonflies Through Binoculars, but I found that one to be a bit more of a challenge. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Lake Placid Closes One Boat Launch, Surveys Milfoil

On Lake Placid yesterday, efforts to contain recently discovered variable leaf milfoil moved forward on two fronts. As village officials prepared to close the village-owned launch on Victor Herbert Road—redirecting boat traffic to the NYSDEC launch next to the Lake Placid Marina—the Lake Placid Shore Owner’s Association released the first aerial photograph of the milfoil bed on Paradox Bay.


The photo, taken by the volunteer team of Lake Placid-based environmentalist and aviator Ed McNeil and Dr. Charles D. Canham, a forest ecologist with the Cary Institue of Ecosystem Studies, in Millbrook, was from a survey of the lake’s littoral regions in search of secondary establishments of the invasive weed. None were discovered. According to McNeil, the the favorable angle of the sun and the transparency of the lake water allowed them to survey to depths of about 12 feet. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, July 7, 2009

More From the Frontier: Largest Northern New York Drug Bust Ever

Things have changed along the Northern New York border over the past decade. People have always smuggled things across — alcohol, cigarettes, drugs, immigrants, guns, depending on cycles in the underground economy — but marijuana, once mostly a southern border import, now streams into the U.S. from Quebec.

And there are more federal law-enforcement officers on this side of the line than ever, trying to stop it and other contraband.

A phalanx of officials from the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), Customs and Border Protection Office of Air & Marine, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), other Homeland Security personnel and the U.S. Attorney’s Office joined with local and state law enforcement Tuesday at the DEA’s newly built two-story Plattsburgh headquarters to announce they had broken a billion-dollar marijuana smuggling ring, wrapping up the largest drug case in the North Country ever, the DEA says.

Police are charging 13 men, from Montreal to Boston to Florida, with felony drug offenses for allegedly conspiring to import and distribute tons of weed across the eastern United States over the past few years.

“Eleven years ago when I first became involved in criminal prosecutions on the northern border, DEA and the U.S. Attorney’s Office were two essentially unknown federal agencies in Franklin County,” said Franklin County District Attorney Derek Champagne. “Today they’re partners in dismantling a 300-pound-a-day marijuana operation, an operation which led to movement in excess of $250 million a year in marijuana over the past four years.

“What I’ve seen is we went from one DEA agent, who I was really happy when he would come over and work a case with us, to this building we’re in today,” Champagne continued. “And I think back then, yes, was there smuggling? Absolutely. But what’s occurred is we’ve gone from an intelligence-gathering stage to fully executing something like this, something that takes out an entire network. It’s really a growth that I could only have dreamed of ten years ago for the North Country.”

DEA and local law enforcement joined Champagne in Franklin County last week to announce arrests in a different, $25-million marijuana importation ring.

“Although all the locals knew what was going on for years and years, and I remember as a kid everyone talking about the smuggling in Malone and the area, now there are the resources to assist,” Champagne said.

Police say the marijuana came across the border in two places. The first has been implicated in smuggling since boundaries were established: Akwesasne, the St. Regis Mohawk Reservation that overlaps the U.S./Canada border on the St. Lawrence River, including several islands. Police say 35-year-old Richard Todd Adams, aka “Frank,” coordinated shipments across the river to his compound in Snye, Quebec, which is on the reservation and contiguous to New York tribal land. Adams is indicted but remains at large. Asked by a reporter how police plan to deal with perennial smuggling via Akwesasne and related sovereignty and jurisdictional issues, Assistant U.S. Attorney Grant Jaquith was vague, stating, “We are very vigilant when it comes to the exploitation of that area.” Investigators don’t give many details of their surveillance methods, but the Customs aviation unit provided high-aerial photographs of the Snye compound, and officers on the ground kept tabs on couriers, who traveled with “blockers,” drivers of other vehicles who intentionally broke traffic laws to distract police.

The second point of entry was described as a “secluded wooded area” just north of Churubusco, near the Clinton/Franklin County line in the vicinity of Frontier and Lost Nation Roads. Police would not comment on who owns the land or how drugs were moved across the border. Twenty-eight-year-old Anthony Plata of Montreal was in charge of smuggling through that point, they allege.

Police did not offer many details about how the bust actually went down, and whether any of the marijuana was distributed in this region. But they said they arrested the alleged ringleader, 23-year-old Steven Sarti of Montreal, in Vermont on June 17. They executed warrants in the arrest of eight other people today. In addition to Adams, two other indicted suspects have not yet been arrested.

Officials Tuesday seemed to prefer to focus on sending a message.

“It’s easy to forget in these idyllic surroundings and friendly communities and with our close relationship with our Canadian neighbors that there are people who wish harm or who are so interested in lining their own pockets that they don’t care what harm they cause others — and exploit this area to move large quantities of narcotics throughout the United States,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Jaquith said. “We hope this collaboration will stand beyond this tremendous success in bringing the curtain down not only on this drug trafficking enterprise but also on all who follow in their footsteps.”

The DEA said that money confiscated in previous drug cases helped build their new Plattsburgh office building, and money from this and future cases will go to strengthen local agencies that work hardest to break them. Police charged ten men with money-laundering conspiracy and seized $7 million in cash and drugs in this sweep. Prosecutors are also seeking “a money judgement in the amount of $25 million,” according to a press release.

Map of an alleged marijuana importation base at Snye, Quebec, on the Akwesasne Reservation, provided by federal law enforcement officials. You can see more images here.