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.


Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Lake Placid: Wet and Wild Wednesdays Start July 8

The first Sprite Wet and Wild Wednesday, the weekly freestyle show featuring aerialists, debuts for the summer at the freestyle pool at the Olympic Jumping Complex tomorrow July 8 at 1 p.m. These weekly shows features freestyle and aerial athletes launching up to 60-feet into the air off of the kickers, where they execute a series of spins, twists and flips before splashing down in the 750,000-gallon pool.

Athletes of all levels – from the beginner to World and Olympic champions – train at this site, which has one of only two pools in the U.S. where freestylers are able to perfect their moves. Current athletes training in Lake Placid include U.S. and World Champion Ryan St. Onge, and 2006 Olympic bronze medalist Vladimir Lebedev from Russia – both of whom have their eyes on the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver. U.S. Ski Team members Matt DePeters and Ashley Caldwell as well as Russian Anton Sannikov are all spending the summer at the freestyle training center hoping to make their respective Olympic teams as well.

During Wet and Wild Wednesday, visitors have a chance to win some great prizes and learn more about the sport of freestyle. Spectators can come early or stay late to ride the chairlift from the Base Lodge to the bottom of the 120-meter ski jump tower. From there, guests may take the enclosed elevator up 26-stories to the Sky Deck and experience a ski jumper’s view of the Adirondack High Peaks and surrounding area.

Admission to the venue is $14 for adults and $8 for juniors and seniors. The price includes entry to the competition as well as the chairlift and elevator ride to the Sky Deck. In addition, with the purchase of a $29 Olympic Sites Passport, your one-time entry into the jumping site is included. The passports can be acquired at any ORDA venue, as well as the ORDA Store on Main Street in Lake Placid.


Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Biomimicry, Nature’s Solutions Focus at Wild Center

A new exhibition at The Wild Center looks at how humans are tackling problems by uncoding natural solutions to problems in the wild. From MIT to the University of Tokyo scientists equipped with new tools that let them look into the nano structure of nature are discovering the secrets to some of the most elusive tricks in the world. Their sights are aimed at everything from making energy from sunlight to replicating the way spiders forge a material stronger than steel at room temperature.

David Gross, head curator at The Wild Center, which will showcase some of the breakthroughs this summer, has spent more than a year researching where the new science is headed. Gross is a biologist, and his lifetime of observing animal behavior turned him on to the bio-based discoveries. “Most of these new breakthroughs are happening because people saw something in nature, and were curious about how it happened. How do spiders make silk? How does a burr stick to a dog’s fur? In the last decade we have developed the tools to see and work at tiny scales, where nature works, so we can start to build things in a revolutionary new way.”

This relatively new science, coined biomimicry, (from bios, meaning life, and mimesis, meaning to imitate) studies nature’s best ideas and then imitates these designs and processes to solve human problems. The core idea is that nature, imaginative by necessity, has already solved many of the problems we are grappling with. Basically, after 3.8 billion years of research and development, failures are fossils, and what surrounds us are the secrets to survival.

Biomimicry is gaining in recognition throughout the world. A recent article in the United Kingdom’s Daily Telegraph highlighted this truly international movement. A fast, ultra-broadband, low-power radio chip, modeled on the human inner ear that could enable wireless devices capable of receiving cell phone, internet, radio and television signals has recently been developed by scientists at MIT. A National Geographic article highlighted biomimetics in April 2008.

Here are some examples of how looking at nature can help solve some of the problems of humanity.

Locusts Don’t Crash
Locusts fly in swarms but never crash. How do they avoid having multi-locust pile-ups? Car manufacturers like Volvo and Nissan are studying locusts, and other insects like bees, to discover their crash-avoidance systems to see how they can be incorporated into our vehicles, making our roads safer.

Frozen Frog Hearts
Organs used for transplants can last as little as five hours. Keeping hearts and other organs on ice can significantly damage the tissue making the organs not viable. So how does the wood frog manage to freeze in the winter and thaw itself in the spring with no damage to its internal organs? Scientists are working on ways to mimic their non-toxic antifreeze to prolong the life of transplant organs.

Shine a Light on Moths and Butterflies
Moths, unlike cats, have very non-reflective eyes, a trait that protects them against nocturnal predators and helps them see at night. Their eyes have a series of bumps that help keep the light from reflecting. Using a silicon coating on solar panels that resembles the texture of moths’ eyes improves the solar collecting efficiency of solar panels by as much as 40 percent, bringing the price of solar down.

Scientists recently discovered that butterflies harvest the warmth of the sun through small solar collectors on their wings. Their wings are covered with an intricate array of scales, arranged in such a way that the light reflects off of other scales rather than bouncing off the wing where the warmth would be lost. Chinese and Japanese researchers designed a solar cell based on the butterfly’s intricate design and converted more light to energy than any existing solar cell at a lower fabrication cost.

The Whale’s a Fan of the Owl
Plane’s wings have streamlined edges so they can cut through air more efficiently, right? One of the biggest animals in the world, the humpback whale has extremely unstreamlined edges and can still fly through the water. Scientists have determined that the tubercles, or bumps, on the edge of the flippers produce more lift and less drag than sleek flippers. This discovery has implications for wind power and ceiling fans. Owls fly silently through the night, stealthily approaching their prey before capturing their next meal. Would mimicking the design of owl’s wings silence the noise of the fan in your computer? Engineers are studying the tips and curvature of owl’s wings and have created a quieter and more efficient fan blade design.

Gross says the promise of this kind of science is huge. “I’ll use the spider example. They can make seven different kinds of thread, do it all at room temperature, and it’s not just stronger than steel, it’s stronger than anything we have invented. And at the end of the day the spider can eat its own web and recycle the material. Imagine if we could make buildings out of tiny beams that required no mining, no smelting, and minimal energy, and could be entirely recycled again at room temperature? Or if we could figure out how plants photosynthesize, we could solve all of our energy needs.”

Why the Adirondacks? “One thing about these inventions is that you need to be able to watch nature to see what it’s up to, and it makes the Adirondacks a living lab. You can see the wood frogs that freeze solid and thaw, right here at The Wild Center. If you pay attention at The Wild Center you can begin to look at things differently when you’re outside and learn from them.” Gross says the inventions are everywhere. “The real breakthrough is that we can start to see the molecular structure and even the chemistry lab inside a spider, that’s what is fueling the breakthroughs.”

On a walk at The Wild Center Gross points out subjects under study. A bee buzzes by. “We know they vote. They can come into a hive and present a case for a new hive location, and elect which option to choose, and the bees all head to the new location. Computer companies are trying to figure out how so much information is shared and acted on so accurately and quickly.”

The Wild Center’s exhibit, throughout the 31 acre campus, is the first of its kind in the world. It will feature 51 stories of how humans are studying nature and discovering a better way to do things. How does nature make colors without using toxins? How do loons desalinate salt water? How can dogs detect cancer cells just from sniffing a person? A trained sniffing dog, a robot that can scurry over almost any object based on a cockroach and a silent fan modeled on an owl’s quiet flight will be on display. From the moment visitors enter the parking lot, until they leave, they will discover amazing ways that nature has solved its own challenges without using high heats, harmful chemicals or overusing its own resources.


Tuesday, July 7, 2009

In and Around Essex, Architecture at History Center

The Adirondack History Center Museum will host two events in July that look at the landscape and built environment in Essex County. A reception, slide show and gallery tour by photographer Betsy Tisdale featuring the exhibition, In and Around Essex will be held on July 8th, 2009 at 4:00 p.m. The slide show highlights photographs not included in the exhibition and focuses on changes that have taken place in Essex, NY over the last 30 years. Light refreshments will be served including an array of pies contributed by Essex community members for a taste of hometown Essex. Donations accepted. Please call for reservations.

Celebrating a Landscape of Culture and Ideas: 1609-2009, is the focus of this season at the History Center which is offering its next event on Sunday, July 12 at 4:00pm. A lecture by Ellen Ryan, Community Outreach Director at Adirondack Architectural Heritage (AARCH), features “What can we learn about people and their environment by looking at architecture?” The presentation corresponds with the exhibition currently on display at the museum: Race, Gender, and Class: Architecture and Society in Essex County. Please call for reservations. $10/non-members, $5/members, $2/students.

The museum is located at 7590 Court Street, Elizabethtown (corner of Hand Avenue and Court Street). For more information please contact the museum at 873-6466 or echs@adkhistorycenter.org.


Monday, July 6, 2009

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Monday, July 6, 2009

Matt Funiciello Reports: Scott Murphy Comes Town

Matt Funiciello sent us the following report on Scott Murphy’s trip to the north country last week. Matt writes a regular blog that can be found here.

I went to visit Scott Murphy on Tuesday morning. The new Congressman was opening the doors of his new congressional office in Glens Falls, N.Y. Located at 136 Glen Street, it is just around the corner from my own cafe. About 65 people were gathered to voice concerns and ask questions of the 20th District’s newest representative. Murphy appeared calm and thoughtful as he answered all the questions asked of him for about 45 minutes.

He first spent twenty minutes talking about his initial 7 weeks in the House and extolling the virtues of the Credit Card Reform bill and the Mortgage Reform bill which he voted for. He also spoke at length about his support of the recent (and controversial) Energy Independence bill. One citizen critic opined that the bill was a boondoggle designed to put carbon-trading credits under the control of Wall Street bankers.

Murphy noted that there were pluses and minuses to the bill and pointed out that, in New York state, we spend far more for power than other states because we have already done so much to clean up our power sources. He cited, as well, the credits that were negotiated right before the bill passed concerning “woody biomass”. These credits, he said, will favor pulp and paper mills like Finch-Pruyn, located in Glens Falls, which he specifically mentioned.

Although many questions were asked, a reasonably large number of people were in the crowd to voice their support for a Single-Payer Health Care plan (HR 676, Improved and Expanded Medicare For All). We were there to ask Mr. Murphy why he has not signed on as a sponsor to the bill. John Thomas, from Hartford, asked him to define single-payer as he saw it and Peter Lavenia, co-chair of New York state’s Green Party asked why he would not sign on as a sponsor.

Murphy said that, “I haven’t decided which of the various bills that I am going to vote in favor of or against.” He went on to say that he was looking at access to health care for those who don’t currently have it but also the retention of “choice” for those who do. Further, he said that Americans “have the most expensive system with the most mediocre result.”

David Nicholson, a Vietnam Veteran, was holding a sign that read, “Rub Out The Two Party Mafia” and a compatriot of his had one that said, “Washington. You’re fired!” I spoke to Nicholson prior to the event and he said that he wanted to ask about whether or not Murphy would support the HR 1207, the bill Ron Paul and Denis Kucinich have sponsored which would allow for proper auditing of the Federal Reserve. They did not have a chance to speak directly with Murphy before he took the event indoors, so after pledging my support (as a businessman, an employer and a person who grew up under a single-payer system) to HR 676 and urging him to consider supporting it, I asked if he would support Ron Paul’s bill.

He maintained, as many elected officials have, that an independent firm already audit’s the nation’s bank, but he also said that he would not be against further auditing being done directly by the General Accounting Office to allow for better oversight of the privately-held bank that has literally made $2 trillion disappear right in front of lawmakers’ eyes.

He had made an earlier statement about troop withdrawals from Iraq under Obama and I asked how he felt about the historical number of mercenaries that were being deployed to replace the soldiers now headed from Iraq to Afghanistan. I asked if this switch, along with our 14 permanent military bases in Iraq, could really be looked at as any sort of meaningful “withdrawal”?

Murphy responded, “As we are bringing our troops back, there are also people that are hired by the U.S. and by Iraqi Security Forces to provide security and, my hope is that, over time, we’re drawing that (number) down as well.”

Lastly, I asked him why our state’s dairy farmers are still being forced to deal with subsidies and price controls in an age when people are starting to eat real food and are getting used to paying what it is actually worth. I also asked his position on N.A.I.S. (the National Animal I.D. system which would have every farm animal tagged and coded for federal oversight).

Murphy said he has spoken with many dairy farmers and that he spent several days trying to figure out all the nuances involved in our “anachronistic” system of dairy pricing. He said that he was working towards answers but that it was a very complicated issue.

As for the tagging of every egg, chicken, cow and piglet, he said that it is not something “the agricultural community is very excited about” and that
he would not support it “at the current time”.


Monday, July 6, 2009

Adirondack Park Agency July Meeting Agenda

The Adirondack Park Agency (APA) will hold its regularly scheduled monthly meeting on Thursday, July 9 and Friday July 10 at APA Headquarters in Ray Brook, NY. The July meeting will be webcast live on the Agency’s homepage. The Full Agency will convene on Thursday morning at 9:00 for the Acting Executive Director’s monthly report. Here is the full APA agenda:

At 9:15 a.m., the Regulatory Programs Committee will consider a proposal from the Franklin County Industrial Development Agency and Graymont Materials (NY) Inc. to undertake a two-lot subdivision and relocate Graymont’s existing ready-mix concrete batch plant from the Village of Tupper Lake to an existing 135+/- acre business park located on the westerly side of Pitchfork Pond Road in the Town of Tupper Lake, Franklin County.

The new facility would be located on a 5.07+/- lot and include a ready-mix concrete batch plant, a boiler room, an office/lab, a stockpile area of crushed stone and sand, and parking areas. A self contained/recycling truck washout pit which would contain all material washed off/out of the trucks would also be located on project site.

Key issues include revisions to business park covenants, potential impacts to adjoining land uses, visual impacts and local approvals.

Next the committee will consider a second permit renewal for a single- family dwelling and temporary two-lot subdivision into sites in the town of Webb, Herkimer County.

The committee will also determine approvability for a Verizon proposed 74-foot telecommunications tower and 10-foot lightning rod for an overall height of 84-feet. The proposed tower would be installed east of the Northway in the Town of North Hudson, Essex County adjacent to the northbound High Peaks Rest Stop, which is located between exits 29 and 30, on Interstate 87.

Key issues include Agency Towers Policy compliance and co-location potential.

At 11:30, the Legal Affairs Committee will receive an update on the Agency’s proposed legislation involving affordable housing incentives, permit reforms and community planning funds. Staff will also provide a status update on current regulatory revision.

At 1:00, the Park Policy and Planning Committee will consider a Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement and authorization for staff to conduct a public hearing for proposed map amendments to the Official Adirondack Park Land Use and Development Plan. The Town of Inlet, Hamilton County is requesting the reclassification of approximately 1,913 acres of private land. The proposals are located in four areas throughout the town and would result in the reclassification of:

• Low Intensity Use to Moderate Intensity Use; 203.4+/- acres • Low Intensity Use to Moderate Intensity Use; 23.6+/- acres • Rural Use to Moderate Intensity Use; 1043.7+/- acres • Low Intensity Use to Moderate Intensity Use; 642.6+/- ac

Following this discussion the committee will hear a presentation from Adirondack Association of Towns and Villages President Brain Towers and Jim Martin from the LA Group on the recently completed Adirondack Park Regional Assessment Project. The discussion will focus on the community infrastructure inventory that was conducted as part of the regional assessment.

At 2:30, the Administration Committee will hear a final reading and possibly adopt revisions to the Agency’s Policy & Guidance System. In addition, Acting Executive Director James Connolly will inform the committee about ongoing landscaping efforts at the APA facility in Ray Brook.

At 3:30, the Enforcement Committee will come to order for administrative enforcement proceedings related to alleged permit violations resulting from non compliant signage on commercial businesses in the Town of Ticonderoga, Essex County and an alleged wetland fill/disturbance violation on a private property in the Town of Hopkinton, St Lawrence County.

On Friday morning at 9:00, the Interpretive Programs Committee will convene for a presentation on regional events planned for the Quadricentennial celebration and events planned for September 19th at the Crown Point Historic Site.

The Full Agency will convene at 10:00 to take action as necessary and conclude the meeting with committee reports, public and member comment.

Meeting materials are available for download from the Agency’s website at: http://www.apa.state.ny.us/Mailing/0907/index.htm

The next Agency meeting is August 13-14, 2009 at the Adirondack Park Agency Headquarters.

September Agency Meeting September 10-11, 2009, Adirondack Park Agency Headquarters.


Sunday, July 5, 2009

DEC, APA Remind Shoreline Owners About Regulations

Shoreline property owners and contractors who plan to construct, replace or expand structures located within shoreline setback areas or repair or install seawalls, riprap, docks, cribs and/or boathouses on waters within the Adirondack Park, are advised to contact the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) before undertaking any work according to the following press release from the state agencies, published here for your information:

Among the most valuable resources in the Park is the land along its thousands of streams, rivers, ponds and lakes. The shoreline is an important ecological feature that defines the transition zone between land and water. All levels of the food chain – from forage fish to large mouth bass, shorebirds to waterfowl, and amphibians to mammals – benefit from a “healthy” shoreline.

DEC and APA staff can determine if permits or variances are required and provide information on ways to minimize environmental damage associated with construction in and around protected waterways. The laws the APA and DEC administers protect wildlife habitat, water quality and the scenic appeal of Adirondack shorelines by establishing setbacks, lot widths and cutting restrictions.

“Shorelines are a valuable natural feature of the Adirondacks. The application of appropriate standards for shoreline structures protects the aesthetic character of our landscape as well as associated habitats for a variety of wildlife.” said Betsy Lowe, Regional Director for DEC Region 5

“Every year, our law enforcement officers encounter project sites along the water where work is underway without proper permits,” said Judy Drabicki, Regional Director for DEC Region 6

“Due to the 2008 APA rule changes pertaining to shoreline structures within the Adirondack Park, the public is strongly encouraged to also contact APA staff for regulatory advice before constructing, replacing or expanding shoreline structures,” said Curt Stiles, Chairman of the APA.

DEC has recently identified “Preferred Methods” for shoreline stabilization. These include preserving as much natural shoreline as possible; use of vegetation plantings, where feasible, to stabilize the shoreline, create habitat and reduce pollution from stormwater; and bioengineering which utilizes a combination of natural materials (sticks, logs, root wads, etc.) and applied engineering to correct shoreline problems.

More information on shoreline stabilization, including preferred and traditional methods, is available on the DEC website at http://www.dec.ny.gov/permits/42519.html.

Contacts for shoreline projects in the Adirondack Park:

• All locations within the Adirondack Park – Adirondack Park Agency, in Ray Brook at (518) 891-4050

• Clinton, Essex, Franklin and Hamilton Counties – DEC Region 5 Environmental Permits Office in Ray Brook at (518)897-1234

• Fulton, Saratoga, Warren and Washington Counties – DEC Region 5 Environmental Permits Office in Warrensburg at (518)623-1281

• Lewis, Jefferson and St. Lawrence Counties – DEC Region 6 Environmental Permits Office in Watertown at (315)785-2245

• Herkimer and Oneida counties – DEC Region 6 Environmental Permits Office in Utica at (315)793-2555


Sunday, July 5, 2009

The Importance of Weeding

To me weeding ranks right up there with housework: it’s one of those chores that just never go away. As soon as you clear out a patch of weeds, it seems to grow right back, like a gecko’s tail. After a while you begin to wonder if it really is all that important to do. Afterall, many books and garden gurus espouse the benefits of “green manure” and “living mulches” – what makes those different from your average weeds?

I have yet to resolve this question with any real satisfaction.

Green manure, perhaps, is easier to rule out. This is the name given to plants/crops sewn that will later be tilled into the garden bed. These plants are usually those that provide nutrients to the soil and are usually planted in off years when you don’t put any food crops in the bed. Green manure plants include things like fava beans and buckwheat. They are also great for attracting pollinators.

Living mulches, on the other hand, are plants you stick in the ground in and among your food plants, like clover. In theory they stay low, shading the soil from the harsh rays of the sun and the sharp patter of raindrops. Additionally, they are supposed to smother out “weeds.” I tried some of the clover last year…it did very well, grew quite tall, and took over a section of the garden. Hm…seems like it became just another weed.

So where do you draw the line between weeds and living mulches? Maybe it all comes down to the species of plant. Clovers, afterall, do help provide nutrients to the soil. “Weeds,” on the other hand, steal the nutrients and water from your crops, reducing your yield, sometimes monumentally. Does the clover not do this, too? Enquiring minds want to know.

Until I can find a satisfactory answer to these burning questions, I guess I will just have to resolve myself to pulling the weeds. And, if you are like me and keep putting it off, let me give you some hard-learned advice: don’t. Get out there and pull those weeds as soon as you see the buggers sticking up between your plants. If you don’t keep on top of them, they will take over and before you know it, those lovely gardens that you sweated and strained over, digging by hand, planting with loving care, will once more become part of your lawn and you’ll stand there looking at your strangled flowers wondering what happened. Yep. And then you’ll find yourself back at square one, having to redig those beds, only this time you have to be careful not to damage the surviving flowers and shrubs as you thrust your spade into the soil to uproot the weeds and grasses. Uh-huh…the hard-won truth is that you must keep up with the weeding every week.

They say converting your yard to gardens will save you time. Maybe they just meant you cut back on the time you mow (which is a good thing in my book; mowing is too much like vacuuming). And the time you save not mowing can now be put to good use elsewhere, like weeding.


Saturday, July 4, 2009

Lake Placid: Olympian Anders Johnson Wins Summer Ski Jump

Olympian Anders Johnson made the two longest jumps of the day to claim the annual 90-meter Summer Ski Jump at the Olympic Jumping Complex on Friday. Johnson, hailing from Park City, Utah, conquered the wet and rainy conditions without a hitch. He laid down a first round jump of 98.5 meters, and followed that with a 100.5-meter jump in the second round to earn a total of 267 points.

“Other than being wet, it was good, and it was as fair as it could have been,” stated Johnson. “It was quick, short and sweet, so that’s always nice.”

Second place went to Nick Fairall of Andover N.H., who made jumps of 93.5 meters and 94.5 meters for 243.5 points. Alex Haupt, also from Park City, claimed the bronze medal with jumps of 88.5 meters and 87 meters for 212.5 points.

“I’ll be here in October for Nationals, but I won’t be here for New Year’s – it’s not one of my top priorities,” said Johnson, the three-time Art Devlin Cup winner about trying to gain a fourth Devlin trophy. ”My goal is the Olympics in Vancouver (February 2010). And also the World Cup circuit – getting some experience and getting some World Cup points would be a nice bonus.”

The Art Devlin, Sr. Memorial Cup is awarded to the jumper with the most combined points from three events: the Summer Ski Jump, the Flaming Leaves Ski Jump, and the New Year’s Masters Ski Jump. The winner of the Art Devlin, Sr. Memorial Cup receives a cash prize of $1,000.

In the junior division, lone female jumper Tara Geraghty-Moats of Fairlee, Vt., took the gold medal. The NYSEF jumper made jumps of 93.5 meters and 86 meters, earning 222.5 total points. Silver went to last year’s summer ski jump champion A.J. Brown, jumping 93 meters and 83.5 meters for 207 points. Zack Daniels and Brian Wallace each earned 197 points. Daniels landed jumps of 86 and 83 meters, while Wallace made jumps of 85 and 83.5 meters.

Here are the complete results:

Open Division

1. Anders Johnson, Park City, Utah, 98.5 meters, 100.5 meters, 267 points
2. Nick Fairall, Andover, N.H., 93.5, 94.5, 243.5
3. Alex Haupt, Park City, Utah, 88.5, 87, 212.5
4. Cooper Dodds, Steamboat Springs, Colo., 86.5, 87, 212
5. Andrew Bliss, Lake Placid, N.Y., 87, 85, 209
6. Chris Lamb, Andover, N.H., 86, 86, 206
7. Pete Frenette, Saranac Lake, N.Y., 93.5, 77.5, 201.5
8. Krzysztof Kowalczyk, Chicago, Ill., 86, 78.5, 187.5
9. Nick Johnson, Eden Prairie, Minn., 73, 84.5, 173
10. Colin Delaney, Lake Placid, N.Y., 75, 72.5, 151.5
11. Dan Englund, Iron Mountain, Mich., 66, 68, 121.5

Junior Division

1. Tara Geraghty-Moats, Fairlee, Vt., 93.5 meters, 86 meters, 222.5 points
2. AJ Brown, Fox River Grove, Ill., 93, 83.5, 207
3. Zack Daniels, Louden, N.H., 86, 83, 197

3. Brian Wallace, Woodbury, Minn., 85, 83.5, 197

5. Connor Jacobson, Woodstock, Ill., 86, 85, 196

6. Spencer Knickerbocker, Brattleboro, Vt., 78.5, 73, 157.5


Saturday, July 4, 2009

Ode to the Elm – a Fourth of July Tribute to an American Icon

I am easily impressed, I admit it. Still, the sight of a mature American Elm (Ulmus Americana) can send me into transports of delight. This stately tree, once ubiquitous east of the Rockies and synonymous with street side plantings, was nearly exterminated by the 1970s thanks to the fast work of an invasive insect and its associated fungus.

This pathogenic pair lived harmlessly in Asia, where the native elms were resistant to the effects of the fungus (Graphium ulmi). Somehow they made their way to the Netherlands, where in short order they did in the elms that held that country’s famous dykes (and hence the disease was named Dutch Elm Disease, or DED). From there DED migrated to England, taking out the stately English elms. Still, the US was protected; we were an ocean away and all ports of entry were watched and imported woods were thoroughly inspected. Or so we thought.

Suddenly in 1930 an outbreak occurred in Ohio. The “sanitary forces” were called in and the outbreak was eliminated. But in 1933, 3800 diseased elms appeared in New Jersey, and another 23 in Connecticut. The DED sleuths fanned out and the source was finally located: a load of English elm veneer wood, swarming with Scolytus multistriatus, the elm bark beetle. Forty years later, millions of elms across the US had succumbed to the disease.

Here’s what happens. The beetle (there is a native elm bark beetle as well as the invasive Asian species; both are now known to be carriers) snacks on the tree, chewing through the bark at the crotches of the twigs. Through these wounds the fungus’s spores, carried by the beetle, enter the tree. Once in the inner bark, they germinate, spreading fungal threads throughout the tree’s vascular system, essentially clogging it and preventing the transport of water and nutrients. Before long, the tree dies.

Mature trees were hit first, but folks were hopeful because seedlings and saplings were plentiful. Unfortunately, once saplings reached 4” dbh (diameter breast height, a measurement taken at 4.5’ above ground), they succumbed as well. So how is it possible that today I find mature trees?

It turns out that there were isolated pockets of mature trees that were never exposed to the disease, and other individuals exhibited resistance (a benefit of sexual reproduction). Today you can purchase varieties of resistant elms, such as “Valley Forge” and “New Harmony,” from various nurseries and breeders.

But what I enjoy is finding that lone wild elm, with its classic vase-shaped form. We have one here in Newcomb, prominently located at the Memorial Garden by the town’s Scenic Overlook. It is a breathtaking sight, this tall, graceful tree. Sadly, few people who see it probably realize what it is. Now that elms are few and far between, the specter of Dutch Elm Disease has been relegated to the halls of learning, where forestry and horticulture majors are about the only ones who learn of it.

This hit home for me about ten years ago when I worked at a zoo that had a magnificent specimen in one of its enclosures. No one else knew what it was and one day they decided to cut it down so they could expand the exhibit. I had to step in, crying “NO! It’s an elm – they are almost extinct!” It had a stay of execution that day, but by now it may be gone.

When American elms were plentiful, they played an important role in our history. Famous speeches were made under elms; treaties were signed; states were formed. So many historical events have been associated with elms that Donald Peattie wrote in A Natural History of Trees of Eastern and Central North America:

“If you want to be recalled for something that you do, you will be well advised to do it under an Elm – a great Elm, for such a tree outlives the generations of men…”

Elms can grow to over 100 feet in height, with diameters exceeding four feet and crowns stretching up to 150 feet! If it avoids DED (or elm yellows, the other major disease that affects elms), it can live for several hundred years. In the classic form the tree resembles a fountain: the lower trunk exhibiting no branches, then suddenly splitting into multiple stems from which the branches fan upwards and outwards. This arching, vase-like form made it the perfect street tree, for its branches would meet those of the elm across the street, uniting over the pavement and shading the cars below in a tunnel of green. Likewise, it was perfect for planting in the yard: no lower branches would hit you in the face for all the branches were up high, reaching over your house to cool it in the heat of the summer with its dappled shade.

Sure, there were some folks with a utilitarian eye who claimed the tree was useless. C.A. Sheffield wrote in the Atlantic Monthly in 1948:

“They are the most useless piece of vegetation in our forests. They cannot be used for firewood because they cannot be split. The wood cannot be burned because it is full of water. It cannot be used for posts because it rots in a short time. It can be sawed into lumber but it warps and twists into corkscrews and gives the building where it is used an unpleasant odor for years.”

Yet despite this, the American elm (aka: white elm and water elm) was plenty useful. Early settlers learned from the Natives that the bark could be easily stripped and made into cordage, baskets, and even canoes. Whips were made from the braided bark to urge recalcitrant oxen to their duties. Because the wood is so strong, supple, and shock resistant, it was ideal for the hubs of wagons used to carry heavy loads. It was also used to make agricultural tools, sporting goods, flooring, and was even used in ship building. Barrel staves and chopping bowls were routinely made from its wood. And, because it held screws better than any other wood, it was ideal for making boxes and crates.

Young elms can be found where mature elms once lived. I have an elm sapling that reaches into my yard. Learning to identify the asymmetrically heart-shaped and toothed leaf, with its sandpapery texture, is fairly easy. Scope out places where historic elms once grew (like The Elm Tree Inn in Keene), and you will likely find some youngsters growing quietly nearby. If you want to add an elm to your yard, then hop on-line and do a search for nurseries and breeders who have resistant varieties for sale. Every home should have an elm grace to grace its yard…and maybe a revival in street trees will take root, restoring the elm to its coveted place in our towns and cities.


Friday, July 3, 2009

Emily Hughes, Jason Wong Headline Saturday Night Ice Show

The Citizens Bank Summer Skating Series resumes this weekend with Freaky Friday and the Saturday Night Ice Show, presented by North Country Community College, this Friday and Saturday, July 3-4 at the Olympic Center. Olympian Emily Hughes, the younger sister of 2002 Olympic champion Sarah Hughes, placed seventh in Torino during the 2006 Olympic Games. She won the silver medal during the 2007 U.S. National Championships and has skated in many national and international events, including Grand Prix events.

Jason Wong is the 2008 U.S. Collegiate National Champion and recently competed in the 2009 World University Games in China. Wong has won the New England Regionals in the junior, intermediate, novice and senior divisions and also earned the silver medal at the U.S. Junior National Championships in 2004. Wong skates for the Skating Club of Boston.

Joining Hughes and Wong on the famed 1932 Rink Jack Shea Arena ice will be skaters participating in the 77th Annual Miracles of Gold summer skating program. The skaters will perform their individual and group numbers during this entertaining event. Showtime is at 7:30 p.m. Admission to the show is $9 for adults, $7 for juniors and seniors. Children six and under may enter for free.

The ever-popular Freaky Friday show is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. in the 1932 Rink Jack Shea Arena. Students in the Miracle of Gold summer skating program create their own unique routines for this event. The skaters have come up with wonderful costumes and ideas, such as baseball players playing in Fenway Park, girls dressed in Poodle skirts, hula hoops and much more. This free event is a great way to support the figure skaters.

To learn more about the Lake Placid Summer Skating programs visit www.lakeplacidskating.com.


Friday, July 3, 2009

Adirondack Weekly Blogging Round-Up