Monday, December 14, 2009

Leg-Hold Traps Criticized: UPDATED

Wildlife rehabilitators who helped rescue a bald eagle last week say trappers and state regulators should reconsider use of leg-hold traps.

This bald eagle became ensnared near Moffits Beach, on Sacandaga Lake in Hamilton County, but was able to fly off with the trap still attached. The five-foot-long chain it was dragging then snagged in the branch of a tree 16 feet above the ground. The bird was discovered by the trapper on December 6 hanging upside down.

The trapper contacted the Hamilton County Sheriff’s office, which called Lake Pleasant–based Forest Ranger Thomas Eakin, who used a pole to bring the bird safely to the ground. He then wrapped the bird in cargo netting from his pickup truck and kept it warm until wildlife rehabilitator Wendy Hall, of the Wilmington refuge Adirondack Wildlife, arrived. She transported the eagle to two Saratoga-based North Country Wild Care rehabbers.

Hall said that the eagle is perching and appears to be mending well from superficial wounds. She thinks its chances of release back into the wild are high. However, the prospects of a red-tailed hawk whose leg was severed this fall in a leg-hold trap in Brushton are not as good. Most raptors brought to wildlife rehabilitators have been hit by cars, Hall said, and most cannot be released. Many captives then become part of educational programs.

The trapper broke no rules and acted responsibly by reporting the injured eagle, those involved in the rescue said. But these two birds prompted Hall to write an essay, “What’s wrong with leg-hold traps?”, for her Web site, adirondackwildlife.org. She respects hunters and says they are wildlife rehabilitators’ best allies. “However, we will never understand why New York continues to permit the use of leghold traps for wildlife. They banned the use of snares and toothed leghold traps, but this does not really address the two main problems with the non-toothed clamp traps which are still legal in New York.

“The first problem is that any wildlife so trapped is going to suffer unimaginable agony, and in many documented cases, the animal will chew off its own leg to effect its escape. These traps do not legally need to be checked by the trapper more than once every 24 hours, which means the captive animal not only may suffer for long periods, but runs the additional risk of drawing in predators attracted by the noise of the creature’s struggles, and who will naturally take advantage of the creature’s inability to flee. Some folks say that’s nature. We call it interference.”

Others say the problem is not the traps themselves. There is movement to change the regulation to prohibit use of “exposed” bait, which can be seen from the air by raptors, which are sight hunters. The Moffits trap was baited with a beaver carcass with the intention of trapping a coyote. Pelts are a source of income for many Adirondackers.

Photograph by Thomas Eakin, NYS DEC


Sunday, December 13, 2009

Lake Champlain: The Water in Between

The eastern edge of the Adirondack Park stretches into the middle of Lake Champlain, that great river-lake 120 miles long, four times the size of Lake George. Standing between the states of New York and Vermont, it’s the largest body of water in the Adirondacks, one that connects to the St. Lawrence River and Atlantic Ocean by way of the Quebec’s Richelieu River. A new book of 120 color photos of the Lake Champlain by more than 35 local photographers and edited by Jared Gange, does a remarkable job of capturing the lake: The Water in Between: A Photographic Celebration of Lake Champlain.

The book includes images by Carl Heilman II of Brant Lake, and Gary Randorf, former staff member for The Adirondack Council, along with those from other photographers from Vermont, New York and Québec, including John David Geery, Paul Boisvert, Robert Lyons, Daria Bishop, David Seaver, Marshall Webb, Steve Mease, Matt Larson, Dennis Curran, and Brian Mohr.

The Water in Between explores the culture, history, and environment, of both the New York and Vermont sides of the lake as well as images from Quebec and the Richelieu River. According to the publishers, “the book showcases the lake’s setting, its various river and lake sources, many activities both on and off the lake, and a number of towns, familiar bridges and buildings.” The book also includes a short narrative on the history, culture, and geography of the region.


Saturday, December 12, 2009

APA Schedules Hearings on Boathouse Regulations

The Adirondack Park Agency (APA) has scheduled four public hearings to encourage comments on the agency’s proposed revisions to its Boathouse regulations. Designed to protect ecologically sensitive shorelines, boathouse regulations, were first adopted in 1979 and revised in 2002. This newest proposed revision limits the overall footprint of boathouses to 900 square feet and the height to fifteen feet. This criteria revises the previous “single story” limitation, which was being violated with large “attics” and rooftop decks, according to the APA, and clarifies that boathouses are for boat storage only.

The proposed revisions would continue prohibitions on using boat houses for anything but boats, building’s constructed for other uses will be required to meet with APA shoreline setbeck regulations. According to the APA public hearing announcement, “other structures such as decks, guest cottages, and recreation rooms are prohibited on the shoreline if greater than 100 square feet in size. Under prior regulations, landowners attached these components as part of what would otherwise be a boat berthing structure, and argued these components were part of the “boathouse” because the previous definitions did not specifically exclude them.”

Here are the further details from the APA:

The 2002 definition limited boathouses to a “single story.” However, the definition fails to prohibit large “attics,” and extensive rooftop decks, resulting in some very large non-jurisdictional shoreline structures. The lack of clarity requires architect’s plans and time-consuming staff evaluation.

The 2009 proposal retains the 2002 provisions that define “boathouse” to mean “a covered structure with direct access to a navigable body of water which (1) is used only for the storage of boats and associated equipment; (2) does not contain bathroom facilities, sanitary plumbing, or sanitary drains of any kind; (3) does not contain kitchen facilities of any kind; (4) does not contain a heating system of any kind; (5) does not contain beds or sleeping quarters of any kind”.

The proposal adds: “(6) has a footprint of 900 square feet or less measured at exterior walls, a height of fifteen feet or less, and a minimum roof pitch of four on twelve for all rigid roof surfaces. Height shall be measured from the surface of the floor serving the boat berths to the highest point of the structure.”

The change is prospective only; lawful existing boathouse structures may be repaired or replaced pursuant to Section 811 of the APA Act within the existing building envelope. For those who wish to exceed the size parameters or expand a larger existing boathouse, a variance will be required. Standard shoreline cutting and wetland jurisdictional predicates still apply in all cases.

Shorelines are important to the Adirondack Park’s communities and environment. The dynamic ecosystems that edge Adirondack Park lakes, wetlands, rivers, and streams are critical to both terrestrial and aquatic species. Well-vegetated shorelines serve as buffer strips, protecting banks from erosion, safeguarding water quality, cooling streams, and providing some of the Park’s most productive wildlife habitat.

Large structures and intensive use at the shoreline causes unnecessary erosion and adverse impacts to critical habitat and aesthetics and raises questions of fair treatment of neighboring shoreline properties.

The Statutes and Regulations that the Agency is charged to administer strive to protect water quality and the scenic appeal of Adirondack shorelines by establishing structure setbacks, lot widths and cutting restrictions. However boathouses, docks and other structures less than 100 square feet are exempt from the shoreline setback requirements.

The four hearings are scheduled for the following dates and locations:

January 5, 2010, 6:00 p.m.
Adirondack Park Agency
Ray Brook, New York
This hearing will be webcast at the APA website.

January 6, 2010, 6:00 p.m.
Town of Webb Park Ave. Building
183 Park Ave.
Old Forge, New York

January 7, 2010, 11:00 a.m.
Department of Environmental Conservation
625 Broadway, Room 129B
Albany, New York

January 7, 2010, 6:00 p.m.
Lake George Town Hall
Lake George, New York

Written comments will be accepted until January, 17, 2009 and should be submitted to:

John S. Banta, Counsel
NYS Adirondack Park Agency
P.O. Box 99
Ray Brook, New York 12977
Fax (518) 891-3938


Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Weasel: Black and White and Curious All Over

In my humble opinion, one of the most adorable animals in our Adirondack woods is the weasel in winter. To be more precise, it’s two animals: the short-tailed weasel, or ermine (Mustela erminea), and the long-tailed weasel (Mustela frenata). Both animals, with their pristine white fur, black-tipped tails, black button noses and alert black eyes, embody the essence of cute and curious, while at the same time filling the role of efficient predator.

Most of us, upon encountering a weasel, would be hard pressed to say if it was the long- or short-tailed variety, mainly because the encounter is likely to be fleeting. As the names suggest, the primary difference between these two mammals is the tail length: on the long-tailed weasel the tail is almost half as long as its body, whereas on the short-tailed weasel the tail is maybe a third of the body length. The short-tailed weasel is also the smaller of the two, but sometimes, without a side-by-side comparison, it can be difficult to tell which you have. According to D. Andrew Saunder’s Adirondack Mammals, the long-tailed weasel is the less common of the two species, but you couldn’t prove that by me, because I think every weasel I’ve encountered has been M. frenata.

Long and slender, weasels are ideal little predators. Their tubular bodies and short little legs enable them to flow easily across the landscape and into the dens of their favorite prey: mice and voles. But, just like any good predator, if the opportunity arises to take something larger, like, say, a gigantic snowshoe hare, it will. Food is food, and if the weasel can take it down, it will.

When it comes to energy conservation, however, this lithe body shape is far from ideal. If you look at most northern mammals, you see a tendency towards rounded body shapes, with abbreviated ears, short snouts, and short legs. Compactness is what it’s all about, for by being stocky an animal is better able to prevent heat loss during the long, cold winters. So how is the weasel, with its long body, short fur, and big ears, able to compensate? By feeding heavily and feeding often.

Many references, in describing weasels, refer to their tendency to partake in “bloodthirsty killing sprees.” This is really no more than an anthropomorphic description of an efficient hunting strategy. If you had to consume upwards of forty percent of your body weight every day just to stay warm, you’d probably do as the weasel does: take advantage of every prey item that passes your way. And if this means killing a whole family of mice when you are really only hungry for one, well, then you will just have to store the extra food away as insurance against lean times. Of course, this biological imperative is not likely to endear you to the farmer whose chickens you just wiped out.

While I know that weasels live in my neighborhood year-round, it really isn’t until winter that I become aware of their presence. As with all winter wildlife, any movement they make is recorded in the snow. The track pattern that catches the eye as distinctly weaselish is the 2×2 pattern, wherein you see two footprints side-by-side, followed by a space with no tracks, then another set of two. This pattern is made as the weasel leaps over the snow, its back humped slinky-like, its hind feet landing in the same pair of prints the front feet just made. Anyone who has had ferrets in his life knows exactly what this looks like (I used to have ferrets, so I speak from experience).

Winter is also when weasels are at their cutest, for it is now that they are all decked out in their splendid white fur. The only color that remains is the black tip on the tail, and the alert black eyes and little black nose. In the summer, the only white they sport is the fur on their bellies, the rest of their pelage being a basic brown (the tail keeps its black tip, regardless of the season). A weasel discovered in the spring or fall is likely to be a mottled mix of brown and white as the animal goes through its change. In the fall, the brown fur is shed and the new fur grows in white, thanks to hormones turning off the production of melanin, the pigment that determines coloration in fur (and hair, eyes, and skin). Come spring, the process is reversed and melanin is turned back on, causing the new fur to grow in brown as the white fur is molted out.

But why change color at all? It’s all about camouflage. Because it is constantly on the move looking for its next meal, a weasel’s cryptic coloration isn’t designed to improve its odds as a predator. Instead, it serves to help it avoid becoming dinner for something bigger, like a coyote, hawk or owl. This is also where the black-tipped tail comes into play. In one account I read, a hawk was presented with a stuffed weasel that had no black-tipped tail. The hawk attacked this presumed-food item on the head every time. When presented with a stuffed weasel that had a black-tipped tail, the hawk hesitated before striking (weasel has more time to escape) and then, more often than not, attacked the tail end (increasing the odds of weasel survival).

If you’d like to bring weasels to your property this winter, you can try putting out stashes of suet near good weasel habitat, such as brush piles. If there are weasels around, this will likely draw them out, for they are highly inquisitive animals and suet is a high-energy food source that will not fight back if pounced upon. Of course, you might have to fend of squirrels and other wildlife that are also attracted to your bait station. I may try this myself this winter, once the bears are denned down, and see if I can finally capture a photograph of weasel in its winter whites.


Friday, December 11, 2009

Weekly Adirondack Web Highlights


Friday, December 11, 2009

Lake George Sewage: DEC Demands Upgrades Costing Millions

New York State has officially closed its investigation of the July 5 sewer break that spilled thousands of gallons of sewage into Lake George and closed Shepard Park Beach to swimmers for the remainder of the summer.

But according to a consent order drafted by the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation, Lake George Village must agree to complete millions of dollars worth of improvements to the Village’s wastewater collection system if it is to avoid $10,000 in fines and other enforcement actions.

The Village’s Board of Trustees has not yet authorized Mayor Bob Blais to sign the consent order, said Darlene Gunther, the Village’s Clerk-Treasurer.

“The board is awaiting notification that the Village has received a grant that will help pay for the improvements, said Gunther.

“Once we receive the grant, we’ll sign it and then go ahead and do everything that is required of us,” said Mayor Blais.

U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand has placed Lake George Village’s wastewater collection system on a list of municipal projects eligible for immediate federal funding, said Blais.

The Village should hear within a matter of days whether it has been awarded the grant, said Gunther.

Lake George Village has also submitted an application for funds that would allow the Village to install equipment at the Wastewater Treatment Plant that would remove nitrogen from effluent, said Blais.

Even if it signs the consent order, Lake George Village will still be required to pay $5000 in fines, but Village officials hope that sum can be reduced through negotiations, said David Harrington, the Village’s Superintendent of Public Works.

In return for agreeing to improve the system, state officials will agree to forego additional enforcement actions against the Village for violating, however inadvertently, state laws prohibiting the discharge of sewage into Lake George, the consent order states.

Among other things, the DEC requires Lake George Village to repair the broken pipe that caused the sewage spill and undertake remedial actions at the pump station in Shepard Park.

According to Harrington, those actions were completed within days of the break.

Crews from Lake George Village’s Department of Public Works and the construction firm TKC completed repairs to the pump station in Shepard Park and a new section of pipe where the break occurred was installed. Village crews also installed additional alarms within the building, said Blais.

The consent order also requires Lake George Village to draft an Asset Management Plan for the wastewater system, which, according to the consent order, must include: “an inventory of all wastewater collection system assets; an evaluation of conditions; a description of necessary repairs or replacements; the schedule for repairs; costs of repairs.”

At its November meeting, the Lake George Village Board of Trustees appropriated $5000 to retain C.T. Male Associates to draft the Asset Management Plan.

According to Blais, C.T. Male associates helped develop the application for the grant that is now pending.

“We were asked by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s staff to establish our priorities, and our priority is to slip line every sewer line where there’s a problem with infiltration of water,” said Blais.

“DEC’s priorities, as we understand them, are the priorities we’ve established,” Blais added.

Walt Lender, the Lake George Association’s executive director, said that he had not yet seen DEC’s order of consent and could not comment on its terms.

Peter Bauer, the executive director of The Fund for Lake George, praised the DEC for requiring Lake George Village to complete an Asset Management Plan.

“This is the first step in the prevention of future sewage spills; we need to know where the flaws in the system are, and this will help identify the improvements that must be made if we’re to address the chronically high coliform counts in waters near the Village,” said Bauer.

Dave Harrington estimated the costs of improvements to the wastewater system to be $3.2 million.

DEC’s consent order requires those improvements to be completed by September, 2011.

Photo: Shepard Park in June, before the spill that closed the beach. Lake George Mirror photo.

For more news from Lake George, read the Lake George Mirror. http://lakegeorgemirror.com


Friday, December 11, 2009

This Week’s Top Adirondack News Stories


Thursday, December 10, 2009

Adirondack Music Scene: Duos, Jazz & Country

We went to barVino in North Creek last night to see Jamie Notarthomas. He plays a mix of originals, Dylan, Beatles, Springsteen and others. He occasionally plays an entire set of Dylan or The Beatles, but last night was the first time I saw him play all original music. Jamie has been writing songs and playing shows for over 20 years. He went chronologically through his albums from first to most recent. We have been seeing him play since 2000 and he is great. Keep your eyes open for him at Zig Zag’s in Lake Placid, on the patio at The Waterhole in the summer, at Slicker’s in Old Forge, or in North Creek, either at barVino or the Music by the River Concert Series. Learn more about Jamie at his website: http://www.jamienotarthomas.com

Thursday, December 10

Power-Duo Sirsy is at Gaffney’s in Saratoga Springs at 10pm.
http://www.sirsy.com/
http://www.gaffneysrestaurant.com/

Melvin Seals & JGB are at the Putnam Den in Saratoga Springs. Show starts at 9pm.
http://www.jgbband.com/
http://www.putnamden.com/

Friday, December 11

Josh Cramoy at Hot Shots in Glens Falls at 9pm.
http://www.joshcramoyband.com/
http://www.myspace.com/clubhotshots

Dreaded Wheat at The Blue Moose (formerly The Trading Post) in Queensbury at 9pm.
http://www.myspace.com/dreadedwheat
http://www.bluewatermanor.com/stone-manor-restaurant.htm

Saturday, December 12

David Allen Coe at Northern Lights in Clifton Park.
http://www.officialdavidallancoe.com/
http://www.northernlightslive.com/

Wednesday, December 16

Tony Jenkins Jazz Trip at barVino in North Creek. No Cover 8-10pm.
http://www.myspace.com/thetonyjenkinsjazztrip
http://www.barvino.net


Thursday, December 10, 2009

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Thursday, December 10, 2009

Newcomb, Long Lake, Indian Lake, Planning Finch Purchases

The towns of Newcomb, Long Lake, and Indian Lake are all developing plans to purchase parts of the Nature Conservancy’s Finch Pruyn lands according to the just-released annual report of the conservation organization’s Adirondack Chapter & Adirondack Land Trust.

Newcomb plans to purchase about 970 acres of the Finch Pruyn lands within its hamlet to expand the High Peaks Golf Course and provide housing for student teachers. Long Lake is planning the purchase of about 50 acres for a municipal well and Indian Lake is looking at the purchase of approximately 75 acres near its downtown for “community purposes,” according to the Conservancy’s annual report. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A Dearth of Adirondack Oak Trees

Oaks are one of those trees for which we have an almost visceral attraction. They symbolize strength and permanence; they almost ooze power. Native peoples used the nuts for food (you really have to blanch them first, though, or else they are very, very bitter) and for dye (I’ve made a lovely soft grey dye for wool from white oak acorns). When the first settlers came to this new world, they were impressed (especially along the coast of Maryland) by the vast quantities of oaks. Back in the motherland, however, our oaks were considered inferior to English oaks, but in reality, if cured correctly, American oaks were every bit as durable as those from the British Isles. Used for everything from ship-building to cooperage (making barrels), flooring to firewood, oaks played a major role in the expansion of the human race, at least in the western world. And yet, here in the central Adirondacks, we find ourselves facing not just a scarcity of oaks, but a downright lack of these mighty trees. Why is that? » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Another Big-Screen Show for Photog Carl Heilman

Landscape photographer Carl Heilman II, who has published numerous photo books and offered an acclaimed photo show at the Wild Center in Tupper Lake, has just wrapped up a new audio-visual presentation.

Heilman, a Brant Lake resident since the 1970s, has been a full-time nature photographer since the late 1990s. His landscapes, and especially his panoramic prints, adorn public spaces around the region. He’s released a number of books and has a continuous presentation, Wild Visions, playing at the Tupper Lake Wild Center.

Now he’s got a new show.The half-hour program, called “I am the Adirondacks,” was created for the new Arts and Sciences Center/Old Forge. It debuted last Sunday on WMHT in Schenectady, and an 18-minute version will be showed regularly when the Old Forge center opens next summer. If you can’t wait, Heilman will soon be selling a copy of the DVD.

His new show includes narration and music by Adirondack folk musicians Dan Berggren, Dan Duggan and Peggy Lynn. It’s focus is on both the scenic beauty of the Adirondacks, and the people who work and play in the mountains. It contains about 60 percent new material, Heilman said. “It’s designed like the Adirondacks themselves are speaking and narrating the show,” he said, “My goal from photography from beginning was try to help create a sense of being in these places.”

More information about Heilman’s work can be found here.


Wednesday, December 9, 2009

NYS State Police: Your Local Private Security Firm

A strange thing happened after a windstorm a couple of weeks ago. I saw a New York State Police car show up at my neighbor’s camp. The trooper got out, and carried into the nearby woods the fairly large top of a tree that had fallen in front of the building. It took him four or five trips to get all the branches into the woods. When he was done, he climbed back into his car and drove away.

So what was the State Trooper doing clearing my neighbor’s yard of blowdown? Turns out, my neighbor is one of many part-time residents in the region who get New York State Police protection for seasonal camps as a part of the State Police’s Posted Property Program. A program, that “has been around longer than anyone currently with our agency can remember,” according to a State Police spokesperson. Homes so designated are posted with the sign you see here.

“As a service to the public, we post and inspect summer homes, summer camps and similar buildings that are unoccupied from October 1 to May 1,” I was told in an e-mail, “this merely entails occasional checks of the property when a trooper is on patrol in the area of the property.”

The next time I saw a trooper make a stop at the cabin across the way (he was checking the door handle), I asked why he cleared that downed treetop. He told me he had cleared the debris because he didn’t want the house to appear unoccupied. He also told me that he stops every time he patrols the area – I’ve seen him show up every few days, and no doubt have missed a few of his visits.

According to the State Police spokesperson, the agency does not post buildings located in villages that have an organized police departments, buildings that are not secure, or summer motels, hotels or other commercial property. Presumably they are required to protect their own property by using a local security firm.

I suspect the State Police keep the program pretty hush-hush. After all, it wouldn’t take too many folks taking advantage of their free home security program to keep police too busy for speed traps or safety belt road blocks.

According to the State Police, property owners who want their tax supported local security services between October and May should send a letter to their local Troop Commander and include the following information:

—the exact location of the property

—the owner’s name, winter address and a phone number where they can be contacted in an emergency, and

—if there is a caretaker, their name, address and phone number(s)

Oh . . . and don’t forget to call the security folks in town and let them know you’ve found someone better—someone who actually keeps the yard clear, and carries a gun.


Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Major Deer Poaching Crackdown Results In Nearly 300 Charges

The NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has announced that “a major initiative to crack down on illegal deer hunting from the Hudson Valley to the Canadian border” has led to nearly 300 charges against 107 individuals in just six weeks. Dubbed “Operation Jackhammer,” Environmental Conservation Officers (ECOs) focused on deer jacking, the illegal practice of killing deer at night by shining a spotlight on the animals feeding in fields to “freeze” them long enough to shoot them.

According to DEC spokesperson Yancey Roy, this fall’s six-week long enforcement operation was “the largest coordinated anti-deer jacking initiative in the state’s history” and included more than 100 Forest Rangers from the Hudson Valley, Capitol Region, the Catskills and the Adirondacks. Rangers targeted rural locations, mostly in the weeks before deer season opened when DEC tends to field more complaints about deer jacking. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Museum Seeks to Acquire Boreal Paintings

A series of paintings of Adirondack animals and trees affected by airborne pollutants may find a home at the Adirondack Museum, in Blue Mountain Lake.

The collection, entitled “Boreal Relationships,” comprises seven watercolors by Rebecca Richman. Richman made the paintings between 2003 and 2006, and wrote narratives on how acid rain and mercury deposition affect each subject: brook trout, red-backed salamander, red spruce, Bicknell’s thrush, common loon, sugar maple and mayfly.

The artist says she hopes the paintings will encourage people to think about connections between places and species—and lead to action to stop Midwestern pollutants from destroying habitats downwind in the Northeast. She has always hoped the originals could  “remain together as an educational force, helping to abate the threat of acid rain to the Adirondacks, a land I truly love.” Richman lived in the Adirondacks from 2000 to 2006, much of that time working for the Nature Conservancy’s Adirondack Chapter. She now lives in Colorado, where she works as a seasonal park ranger and continues to paint. » Continue Reading.