The survival of the North Country’s economy — both in New York and New England — is the topic of the Rockefeller Institute of Government Public Policy Forum on Nov. 24 at the Institute, located at 411 State Street. The event begins at 10:30 a.m. and ends at noon.
New York’s six-million-acre Adirondack Park is part of a 70-million-acre contiguous forest running from the coast of Maine to the Tug Hill Plateau, just west of the Adirondack Park. The rural communities Northern Forest share a common heritage and common economic challenges in the years ahead. Rob Riley, president of the Northern Forest Center in Concord, NH, will deliver a presentation on the center’s recent report: Strategy and Recommendations for Economic Resurgence in the Northern Forest. The report includes recommendations to create economic and community development strategies across the region to reinvigorate the rural economies of the Northern Forest.
The panel discussing the report includes: Brian L. Houseal, executive director of the Adirondack Council; Joe Short, from the Sustainable Economies Initiative at the Northern Forest Center; and Todd L. Shimkus, president and CEO of the Adirondack Regional Chambers of Commerce.
Susan Arbetter, host of WMHT-TV’s weekly New York Now, will be guest moderator.
Athletes from around the world are at the Olympic Sports Complex in Lake Placid preparing for the America’s Cup Bobsled and Skeleton competition which begins Thursday. America’s Cup features men’s and women’s skeleton, as well as 2-man, 4-man and women’s bobsled. Many of these athletes are up-and-comers looking to gain sliding experience with their sights set on making their respective Olympic teams for the 2010 Olympic Winter Games to be held in Vancouver. Schedule for America’s Cup competition in Lake Placid:
Well it’s over for today, but it’s clear that it’s not over forever. I think it’s fair to say that there was a collective sense that the Adirondack region is a unique place to lay out a framework to achieve local, national, and international changes in attitudes, policies, and our cultural and natural economies. One of the conference leaders (Howard Fish) put it succinctly when he said that residents of natural places like the Adirondacks play a critical role in ensuring both the survival of the world’s natural places and sustainable urban and suburban environments – the world looks to us to lead the way to, as the Adirondack region has for more then a century, coexistence between the natural and the human made world. Here a few of the more important priorities that will likely be included in the draft Adirondack Climate Action Plan:
Education / Outreach / Clearinghouse of Technical Information Improving Building Codes to Reflect Carbon Concerns Incentivising / Creative Financing of Efficiency Retrofits Advancing (Appropriate Scale) Local Energy Production for Local Consumption Adopting Smart Growth Standards Across the Park Promoting Alternative Energy Usage Facilitating Local Green Business and Local Green Branding Implementing Climate Change Research, Assessment, and Monitoring Promoting Management of Our Adirondack Carbon Sink Building Resiliency to Climate Change Through Local Planning / Action
Those were the ideas that seem to rise to the top. There were a lot more that will be incorporated into the draft action plan.
The three top priorities and three ways we’re moving forward:
Retrofitting Residences Energy $mart Initiative will Approach 26 Communities Over the next year. Clearing House / Education There will be a new web site that hopes to be comprehensive on this issue in this region: WWW.ADKCAP.ORG
Leadership Thirteen volunteers will form a steering committee to keep us on track and moving forward with the writing of the draft Adirondack Climate Action Plan.
Two final points:
The Seattle Climate Action Plan took two years to put together, so our task is going to be long but promises to be ecologically and economically rewarding for all Adirondack residents. We are looking at having a good draft document within a year.
An important point I think we’ve come away with is the notion that the Adirondack Forest, regardless of the value we ascribed to it before, now seems even more valuable as a carbon sink and nationally important precedent. Thankfully, it looks like local residents will lead the way to our climate future, whatever that may be, and that in itself is the most significant outcome of our little meeting here in Tupper Lake.
One of the interesting things to come out of this morning’s presentations was the idea that we need to involve all residents. In particular for municipalities that means fire, ambulance, police, and highway departments. After all, they, along with the local library and town hall, are often one of the single biggest energy users in many small towns. I’m afraid that aside from planning departments and some local government types, these folks have been absent from our discussions over the last day and half – that’s a testament to the need for better local education.
One of the things that really struck me came from Rhett Lamb, the Planning Director of the City of Keene, NH when he said “historic preservation people are our best friend.” It makes perfect sense. The carbon footprint of an old building must be better then starting from scratch, even with the cost of efficiency retrofits. The last thing we want to do is tear down old buildings and send them to the landfill, when we could reuse them and refit them with new technologies. Check out the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s blog post “Combining Sustainability with Historic Conservation: the English Experience.” Here is quite a sentence:
Decades of neglect and little investment leads to slum clearance and wholesale redevelopment, while whole life costing tied to embodied carbon modeling has been using carbon calculations (15-20 years) assigned by bankers and investors that are likely less than the true value of our material culture. In terms of ecological sustainability, models suggest that melting ice caps will cause a breach of the Thames and catastrophic flooding of London.
Now that’s something historic preservationists need to be concerned with. The National Trust has been evaluating their properties with regards to climate for a number of years. Here’s more:
In England, they are specifically identifying impacts to their properties from warmer temperatures, drought, coastal erosion, storms, flash floods and heavy rainfall. At Stourhead in Wiltshire, for example, a very wet summer followed by a crisp, frosty winter led to a “soup of green algae” in their bucolic lake. It should be noted though that it wasn’t climate change alone that caused this algal bloom. The nitrogen run-off from synthetic fertilizers used in the region combined with the unusual rainfall have presented the perfect conditions for the algae growth – a sort of one/two whammy from human impact. One of the most arresting images, was the slide of historic cottages dropping off the side of cliffs in Cornwall as coastal erosion overwhelms the coastline. Again and again, Sarah showed devastation at their properties which may have been caused by increased rainfall but was often exacerbated by irresponsible land use.
The National Trust is taking direct action to mitigate these impacts, wherever it is reasonably possible. These efforts include:
1. Reduce emissions of greenhouse gases: Changing to low energy lightbulbs including the ubiquitous CFLs. But they’ve gone one step further by working directly with light bulb manufacturers to develop new low energy bulbs for their historic fixtures.
2. Improve energy efficiency of their buildings: Here, because of their massive landholdings, they are actually able to use their own sheep to produce thermafleece for insulation, for example.
3. Reduce carbon footprint: They are evaluating their fuel sources, changing to more efficient boilers (often developed by German companies) and avoiding the use of electricity from non-renewable resources.
4. Generate energy on site: They have begun using thermal and photovoltaics at many of their sites including directly on the roofs of some of the Grade 2 listed buildings. And on support buildings of lesser importance at some of their sites, they have begun installing the PV slates.
5. Reduce embodied energy: In an effort that Sarah calls “slow conservation” (which she compared to the “slow” food movement) they are looking to building new construction in ways more sympathetic to the environment.
In order to adapt to these climate induced changes, the National Trust is looking at short, medium and long term adaptations such as installing larger gutters, going back to traditional practices (these were often done for good reason) and most importantly, managing properties better with cyclical maintenance programs.
There is a lot more. Check it out before you give Adirondack Architectural Heritage a call.
I’m back at the Wild Center climate conference today. One of the highlights of this morning was hearing from the 80-year-old town supervisor of the Town of Franklin on that tiny town’s climate program. Another was a presentation from the City of Keene, New Hampshire about a climate program they established in 1999 that is really bearing tremendous fruit in financial savings, and raised awareness of the public and local officials.
The highlight of the morning was one of the shortest presentations on the results of a year’s worth of research (supported by the Wild Center and the Association to Protect the Adirondacks Energy $mart Park Initiative) to establish a baseline of just what exactly our region’s greenhouse gas emissions are. I will post a link to the full draft asap.
Compared to the rest of the United States, we look pretty good, but there is some question about whether or not our actual impacts are reflected in the study. We know what we’re doing here for instance, but what about the impacts of goods and service that originate outside the blue line but are consumed here? Here is what the study found with regard to where our biggest emissions are coming from:
38% Transportation – this category well outpaces the national average of 28%. Obviously, our geographic situation makes this one of our more difficult areas. Denser development, focused public transportation programs, and walkable, skiable, and bikeable hamlets could all help in this area, as would converting municipal fleets to biodiesel and hybrid / electric.
29% Residential – we are much higher than the national average (17%) mainly because of the high use of bulk fuels, very dirty and inefficient electric heating, and old housing stock. This makes us a perfect candidate for weatherization programs, which, due to our cold climate would improve the payback.
21% Industrial – a large portion of this comes from one plant, the International Paper plant in Ticonderoga. we are below the national average in this category (29%) for obvious reasons. It should be noted again, that this does not reflect industrial operations carried on outside the Blue Line that are consumed here.
Our per capita greenhouse gas emissions are, as expected, high for the rest of the world, but lower than the national average:
US 23.6 metric tons per year ADK 17.5 Germany 12.3 UK 11.1 France 8.7 China 3.9 India 1.8
Another interesting fact is that it’s believed that about 25% of our emissions are sequestered in the great carbon sink that the Adirondack forest provides. One commenter went so far as to say that the Adirondacks “should be receiving carbon offsets.”
Here is a press release from the Wild Center on the report on Adirondack climate change impacts which was first posted here at the Almanack earlier today. I’ve been live blogging the Wild Center’s climate conference today and will continue tomorrow – you can read all the posts here (start from the bottom).
From the Wild Center: An advance edition of a sixty-two page report detailing potentially radical shifts in the ecology and economy of the Adirondack region was released today as part of a climate change conference held at The Wild Center in Tupper Lake. The document was produced by the Wildlife Conservation Society, and authored by Jerry Jenkins, with support from The Wild Center and The Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies.
The report analyzed data from the Adirondacks and looked at projected changes based on a range of peer-reviewed climate change models. The report states that even if fossil fuel use were immediately reduced, the upstate New York region would still experience a warming of about six degrees Fahrenheit over the next century. The report details a recent rise in temperatures in the Adirondacks. Highlights of the report include: » Continue Reading.
Now for an update. I decided to sit in on the Alternative Fuels and Small Scale Power Generation workshop. There were about 30 people in the group and I was surprised how smoothly the discussion went. There were folks from all walks of Adirondack life: state, county, and town and village government, planners, builders and developers, educators and students, green business professionals, and simple residents with an interest. Among the groups who were represented (well actually not represented, but folks from these organizations were in attendance): the Adirondack Park Agency, St. Lawrence University, Paul Smiths, SUNY-ESF, Lake Placid High School, Houghton College, Residents Committee to Protect the Adirondacks, and many more. We heard first from Amanda Lavigne of St. Lawrence University who provided us with lots of background information. We then characterized the problem as “what alternative fuels and power options are available to Adirondack Park residents that can reduce the rising economic impacts of home heating and transportation while minimizing carbon emissions and the impacts of climate change.”
Finally, we made a list of potential priorities including things like broadly incentivising alternative energy, creating a clearinghouse for information and technical assistance, encouraging appropriate scale local energy production for local consumption in a decentralized distributive manner, and many more.
Tomorrow we’ll be focusing on laying out a one year action plan for our group, and then we’ll be bringing it together with the rest of the other groups Wednesday afternoon.
Carter Bales, Co-Chair of the American Response to Climate Change National Conference, just gave a talk on what a national approach to greenhouse gas reductions might look like. “It’s difficult to be optimistic,” Bales said, noting also that it would require “a mobilization of the nation not seen since World War Two.” He said that provided the misinformation campaign of the Exxons and the coal producers fails, and the new Obama administration is serious, there “could be legislation may by 2011″ and it may become effective by 2015.” “There is hope” he said, “but time is not our friend.” Generally speaking Bales said a four pronged action plan was necessary:
1 – a cap on carbon emissions 2 – raising efficiencies 3 – supporting deployment of new technologies and solutions 4 – addressing sections of the economy not included in the carbon cap (like ag and forestry)
Bales laid out five areas where differences could be made:
Building and Appliances (advanced lighting, electronic equipment, building shell / green building improvements). He called for a “new generation of appliances using half the energy of today.”
Transportation (biofuels, fuel economy improvements, advanced propulsion systems). Bales said gas would be $14 gallon if not for “peace keeping” and subsidies.
Industry (recovery of non CO2 green house gases from industrial processes, carbon capture and storage, energy efficiency). Bales said that carbon capture and storage is “a complete nightmare, it either isn’t going to happen or it isn’t going to happen for a long time.”
Carbon Sinks (Afforestation of underutilized pasture and crop land, better forest management, alternative agricultural practices such as winter cover crops, conservation tillage). Bales noted that our carbon emissions in the US average about 20 tons per person; in India, it’s 1.5 tons per person. He also noted the important role of forested areas as carbon sinks. Guyana, he pointed out, has negative carbon emissions per person thanks to their large rainforest. “We should be paying Guyana to keep its rainforest standing,” he said adding that it would cost less than $5 a per ton of carbon emissions.
Power (expanding low carbon generation including carbon capture and storage for coal, developing wind and solar, and improving power plant efficiencies). “Natural gas is at best a transitional strategy,” he said, adding that “without fixing our power generation you’re not going to fix the problem.”
Bales also suggested a number of economic benefits from the transition to a low carbon economy:
1 – many existing industries (such as energy services) will boom especially as off-shoring is reduced and local production and servicing comes to the fore.
2 – new industries and businesses will form (particularly around efficiency retooling and green technologies).
3 – energy efficiency will save money for consumers directly.
4 – “peaking power” used at times of peak power demand will be reduced (“peaking power” is dirtier and more expensive)
5 – economies in rural areas (!!) will benefit from renewable energy technologies including wind and biomass.
One important thing for our region that Bales said was that there needs to be discussions on putting a value on standing carbon sinks like the Adirondack forests.
So far the conference is going well and putting together an Adirondack Climate Action Plan looks closer to reality then ever before. This afternoon smaller groups will meet and workshop over the following topics:
Energy Efficient Buildings & Contractor Preparedness Alternative Fuels & Biofuels, Small Scale Power Generation Local ‘Green’ Economic Development and The role of Government Natural Ecosystems and The Role of Adirondack Lands and Forests in Carbon Mitigation
So many questions are going through my mind that it’s difficult to decide on which session.
What are the plans for getting the big real estate developers on board? After all, construction is a huge segment of our economy.
Does small scale power generation mean a distributed network? Small scale solar, water, and wind everywhere? Does it mean the kind of industrialization of our mountaintops and ridges like that proposed for the wind project in Johnsburg?
How does the tourism industry get on board? Does green economic development mean finally capitalizing on the Adirondacks potential as a green tourism destination?
Does the Adirondack sink mean that money will flow from government and industry coffers into the region in the future? Aren’t we in the Adirondacks like Guyana, at least a little bit?
So many questions, and I can only get to one workshop.
Just pulling into the Wild Center from my drive over I was heartened to see a line of hybrids – mostly Toyotas, but a few Hondas as well – it’s clear that the crowd that has gathered here is already in the choir.
The sense so far from the speakers has been that the challenge of checking human-made global warming is daunting, depressing, lacking inertia, distracted by economics and politics, but doable. » Continue Reading.
Starting this month, I will begin offering (verbatim) the Adirondack Park Agency‘s monthly meeting summaries. You can find all of the summaries by clicking on “APA Meeting Summaries” below.
During its deliberations on Friday, November 14, 2008 the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) approved a cellular project in the Town of Keene, Essex County. The Agency authorized an energy policy which integrates concerns for energy supply, conservation, and efficiency into the Agency’s Park planning, public education and project review functions. The Agency also adopted regulatory reform which addresses subdivisions involving wetlands, expansion of non-conforming shoreline structures, land division along roads or right of ways owned in fee and clarified definitions for floor space and hunting and fishing cabins. Verizon Wireless Cellular Project, Town of Keene
The Agency approved a cellular tower southeast of the hamlet of Keene along State Route 73. The tower will provide cellular service throughout most of the hamlet of Keene and help infill coverage along 73 north to Lake Placid. Coverage will extend into the hamlet of Keene Valley.
The project involves construction of a new 79 foot tower behind the gravel pit east of NYS Routes 9N and 73. The site is adjacent to the Town of Keene’s water tank and will be accessed from an existing dirt road. The tower will include a ten foot lightening rod for a total height of 89 feet. Verizon will paint the tower and antennas a dark charcoal or a black color to minimize its visual appearance. The color and project site, which includes a vegetative and topographical backdrop, ensures substantial invisibility and compliance to the Agency’s Telecommunications and Tall Structures Policy.
Agency Endorses Policy on Energy Supply, Conservation and Efficiency
The Park Agency approved a forward thinking policy that sets forth general principals for consideration of energy concerns inside the Adirondack Park. The purpose of this policy is to provide guidance to Agency staff, Park stakeholders and permit applicants regarding the APA’s exercise of its responsibilities under the APA Act and the State Environmental Quality Review Act for energy supply, conservation and efficiency. The policy is intended to protect Adirondack Park resources while recognizing that energy conservation is critical to sustainable communities within the Park.
The Energy policy considers public and private concern for current energy use and conservation, climate change, fossil fuel consumption, acid rain and development sprawl impacts. The policy will address the cumulative effects of energy consumption on the Park’s natural resources and the need to continue to develop clean, reliable and affordable energy supplies. It is consistent with State efforts to address climate change, state energy use, sustainable communities and smart growth.
Staff will work in partnership with applicants during pre-application meetings to incorporate policy guidelines ensuring projects adhere to existing New York State Energy Conservation Construction Code requirements. Large-scale subdivision projects will be encouraged to exceed the minimum requirements of the State’s Energy Code.
The policy also directs the Agency to improve public awareness by serving as a forum on energy related issues. To meet this goal the Agency will use its Visitor Interpretative Centers and websites to promote greater awareness for energy conservation and sustainable building practices. Please see the APA website @ www.apa.state.ny.us for energy resources.
The Agency adopted five proposed revisions to its rules and regulations. Revisions were approved for: (1) wetland subdivision; (2) expansion of non-conforming shoreline structures; (3) land division along roads or rights-of-way; (4) definition of “floor space”; and (5) definition of “hunting and fishing cabin”. These involve new or amended definitions and companion changes to sections of the Agency’s regulations in Parts 570, 573, 575 and 578 of 9 NYCRR Subtitle Q. The revisions will apply to future Agency determinations and are expected to take effect on December 31, 2008.
The record for this rule making began in 2003 when the topics were first addressed by the Agency and Park stakeholders. It involved extensive interaction with all affected stakeholders over the following years. In August 2008, the Agency provided notice of the rulemaking and posted related documents to its website. In October, it conducted public hearings including one hearing outside of the Park to solicit public comment.
The Agency regulatory reform effort: (1) clarifies existing regulatory language; (2) expedites delivery of services to the public; (3) introduces more consistency, uniformity and predictability into Agency administration and decision making consistent with governing statutes, and (4) improves regulatory, advisory, and educational functions.
The Agency deleted provisions allowing unlimited expansion of pre-existing non-conforming shoreline residential structures located within the setback area established by Section 806 of the APA Act. As a result, most expansions will require a variance, similar to the variance required by many municipalities for non-conforming structures under local zoning. The right to replace pre-existing structures is unaffected by the revision, and in the eighteen towns with Agency-approved local land use programs, these variances will continue to be administered by the local zoning boards. In other situations, landowners will need to consult the Agency regarding the variance requirement. The definition revisions for “Floor Space” and “Hunting and Fishing Cabins” establish structure criteria that provide clarity and consistency for jurisdictional determinations.
Adopted changes to “subdivisions involving wetlands” remove long recognized unintended consequences that ensnare individuals in inadvertent violation of the law and often resulted in the creation of lots with no development potential, solely to avoid APA jurisdiction. The adopted regulation carefully tailors jurisdiction to the potential for impacts to the wetlands protected by the statutes.
Years ago, you simply didn’t see wild turkeys unless you were lucky. The birds were abundant in New York forest in colonial times but by the early 1800s had been all but hunted out. According to SUNY-ESF:
Reports indicate that wild turkeys were abundant in New York State during the 1600’s. However, the combination of uncontrolled hunting and the intensive clearing of forests resulted in the demise of native populations. In 1844, the last recorded observation of native wild turkeys came from extreme southwestern New York State.
For over a century, the wild turkey continued to be absent from the New York landscape. However, in the late 1940’s, wild turkeys had moved northward from Pennsylvania and were reported again in southwestern New York. Wild turkeys were re-established in New York by 1957, but occupied only the extreme southwest portion of the state. During the same year, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation began relocating birds to areas of the state that were capable of sustaining wild turkey populations.
The return of the wild turkey to New York State is truly a success story in the field of wildlife conservation. Wild turkey populations in New York have increased dramatically from an estimated 2,000 in 1959 to over 65,000 in 1990.
Today, it seems turkeys are everywhere. A recent National Wildlife Federation report pointed to the influx of turkeys into suburban areas from Boston to Schenectady County (along with fishers and bears). The population boom means that now is the time to shift toward eating local birds rather then having artificially raised commercial turkeys shipped across the country to your Thanksgiving table. Not enough meat you say? Nonsense. A mature gobbler can stand weigh in at 24 pounds (and stand 4 feet with a 5-foot wing span). The National Wild Turkey federation has a variety of recipe ideas on their website.
If you are not into hunting and don’t know a turkey hunter, try out a local farm-raised bird. At Harvest Hill Farm in Willsboro – (518) 963-1127 – Michael and Laurie Davis sell all-natural pasture raised turkeys (reserve early). At Windswept Meadows Farm in Watertown – (315) 788-1933 – Thomas & Delta Keeney are 3rd generation farmers who plants food crops specifically for turkeys.
In early September, the Adirondack Museum at Blue Mountain Lake sent out a “Call for Quilts,” searching for exceptional quilts, comforters, or pieced wall hangings made after 1970, used in, inspired by, or depicting the Adirondack region. The goal was to identify outstanding contemporary pieced textiles to be in included in a new exhibit, “Common Threads: 150 Years of Adirondack Quilts and Comforters” which will open in May 2009.
Quilters across the North Country responded. The museum received fifty-two quilts for consideration, representing the work of thirty-seven quilters. A panel of three quilters and quilting scholars selected pieces for the exhibit. They included: Edith Mitchell, quilt maker, quilting teacher, and founding owner of Blue Mountain Designs; Shirley Hewitt Ware, Family and Consumer Science educator and organizer of the Adirondack Park Centennial Quilt Exhibit held in 1992; and Lee Kogan, Curator of Public Programs and Special Exhibitions at the American Folk Art Museum in New York City.
Fifteen contemporary quilts or wall hangings will be displayed in the new exhibition. The quilters and their work include: Sherry Matthews, Piseco, N.Y, “Adirondack Fall; “Linda Zila, Chestertown, N.Y., “Change in the Wind;” Rosemary Goliber, Indian Lake, N.Y., “Cedar River;” North Country Crafters, Indian Lake, N.Y., “Indian Lake” (Sesquicentennial); Fifty-six friends of Terry and Diane Perkins, “Housewarming Quilt;” Schroon Lake Central School, “Class of 2008 Group Quilt.”
Also: Louisa Woodworth, Long Lake, N.Y., “A Sight for Sore Eyes;” Kris Gregson Moss, Queensbury, N.Y., “The Wind Embracing the Tree;” Anne Smith, St. Regis Falls, N.Y., “The Mad Fiddler:” Betty Walp, Chestertown, N.Y., “Black Bear;” Nancy DiDonato, Diamond Point, N.Y., “Home, Glorious Home;” Camp Sagamore Quilters, “Camp Sagamore Quilt;” Kathleen Towers, Wells, N.Y., “Giant Mountain, Keene Valley, “In My Mind’s Eye;” Patty Farrell, Long Lake, N.Y., “Adirondack Nostalgia;” and Jacqueline Luke-Hayes, Booneville, N.Y., “Adirondack Fall.”
The remaining quilters who submitted entries have been invited to exhibit their quilts in a special show as part of the Adirondack Museum’s annual Adirondack Fabric and Fiber Arts Festival to be held on September 12, 2009.
The Adirondack region has nurtured a vibrant pieced-textile tradition for over a century and a half. From bedcovers, plain or fancy, meant to keep families warm through long Adirondack winters, to stunning art quilts of the twenty-first century, the quilts and comforters of the North Country mirror national trends and also tell a unique story of life in the mountains. “Common Threads: 150 Years of Adirondack Quilts and Comforters” will include quilts for the Adirondack Museum’s textile collection that are rarely on display.
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