Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Bats Flying and Dying in Broad Daylight

The disturbing die-off of the Northeast’s bats has been mostly something we’ve heard about on the news.

Reporters have accompanied biologists into abandoned mines to witness bats dying or dead, piled on the floor of their winter hibernacula. » Continue Reading.


Monday, April 20, 2009

Mark Mahoney of The Post-Star Wins Pulitzer

Mark Mahoney, chief editorial writer for the Glens Falls Post-Star has won the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Writing.
The Pulitzer committee recognized Mahoney for:

“. . . his relentless, down-to-earth editorials on the perils of local government secrecy, effectively admonishing citizens to uphold their right to know.”

Finalists in this category included the Washington Post and Chicago Tribune.


Monday, April 20, 2009

Lake Placid Tour Boat Doris II Retired From Service

Management of the Lake Placid Marina has decided to suspend operation of the tour boat Doris II for the 2009 summer season. According to Dan Keefe, spokesman for New York’s Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, a Marine Unit inspector noticed “structural diminishment” to the hull during his annual visit last Thursday. The inspector advised officials at the Marina that no inspection to the vessel would take place until preliminary repairs were made. Lake Placid Marina Manager Brian Bliss characterized the damage to the 58-year old tourist attraction as chronic wear-and-tear. The structural work necessary to restore the hull to compliance was deemed prohibitively expensive. Lake Placid Marina owner Serge Lussi told the Adirondack Daily Enterprise that Doris II would not be restored to operation and that a search for a replacement has been launched. The 60-ft long craft, originally designed to carry 126 passengers, is presently stored on site. No decision has yet been made on sale or disposal of the craft.

Doris II was assembled in the spring of 1951 at George & Bliss boathouse (current site of Lake Placid Marina) on Lake Placid, from a kit of materials shipped from Bay City Boat Co. in Michigan. The purchase and construction were overseen by George & Bliss Manager Leslie Lewis and Captain Arthur Stevens, who skippered the original Doris on Lake Placid from 1903 until its retirement from service in 1950. Doris II was launched July 3, 1951 and toured her first paying customers along the 16-mile shoreline of the lake on July 12 (corrected from earlier version) of that year.

Until a replacement is found, the absence of Doris II raises the prospect of the first summer season since 1882 that Lake Placid will not float a large-capacity touring vessel. Last year The Lady of The Lake, another long-time icon of Lake Placid tourism, was removed from service. Tightened regulations following the capsizing of the Lake George tour boat Ethan Allen contributed to that retirement. A third Lake Placid tour boat of recent years, the Anna, remains on the lake under private ownership, according to Brian Bliss.


Monday, April 20, 2009

A Dry White(water) Season

Low snowpack and scarce April showers have led to burn bans around the Adirondack Park. The drought also has river paddlers wandering, searching for streams pushy enough to float their colorful little boats.

“Whitewater kayakers are being forced into summer habits of traveling downstream, unfortunately by car, to seek water levels suitable enough to sink their paddles in,” writes Jason Smith, on Adirondack Lakes and Trails Outfitters blog. “The Hudson River along with the Moose River, in the central Adirondacks, offer reliable spring flow and are popular spring runs. But even these mighty rivers are running lower than usual. . . . [D]on’t be alarmed if you see a vehicle loaded with short, plastic kayaks driving aimlessly around your neighborhood.”

Other Adirondack critters known to crave a good spring rain are amphibians. In Paul Smiths, in the high-elevation north-central Adirondacks where ice was still on ponds as of Thursday, wood frogs and spotted salamanders began to move on a warm rainy night about two weeks ago, observes Curt Stager, professor of biology at Paul Smith’s College. The cold-blooded creatures live buried in the forest floor most of the year, braving exposure to predators and car tires on rainy April nights to travel to the ephemeral ponds where they breed. Peepers, American toads and other frogs and salamanders also congregate at waterholes this time of year.

Showers Saturday gave creeks and rivers a noticeable boost. The last two weeks had brought snow and then unrelenting sun. “They [herps] have been dribbling around. It was an early start and then it got cut off by the dry weather,” says Stager, who studies local phenology. “Every year is a little different in the Adirondacks. You’ve got to watch it for decades to notice a real pattern.”

High/dry kayaker sketch courtesy of Jason Smith


Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Ausable Two-Fly Challenge’s 10th Year

The Ausable Two-Fly Challenge will be held on the banks of the West Branch of the Ausable River, Saturday, May 16. Now in its 10th year, the tournament brings together fly fisherman from across the United States, who want to test their skills on the acclaimed river, while at the same time promote the 35-mile long river as a fishery and raise money to protect it.

Rules for the catch and release tournament are simple. Anglers are allowed to bring two barb-less hook flies, of any combination or patterns and once the flies are lost or unusable… you’re out. Anglers must fish with a partner and each must record the total number of fish caught, the length of each fish and the cumulative number of inches. Only fish handled by the angler and successfully released will count as caught fish.

The Two-Fly Challenge begins Friday night, at R.F. McDougall’s, with a fly tying demonstration and the opportunity to rub elbows with some of the best fly anglers from around the country. Anglers are asked to gather Saturday morning at the Whiteface Mountain Regional Visitors Bureau at 6:30 a.m. and the Challenge begins at 7.

The Ausable River Two-Fly Challenge is not a professional contest, but it will feature a pro-division. The pro-division applies to anyone who gets paid to fly-fish, including guides and anyone who professionally competes for money. Prizes will be awarded to winning anglers in both the amateur and pro divisions during the banquet dinner, which will also feature a guest speaker, raffles and auctions.

Registration is open to the public and for more information, contact the Whiteface Mountain Regional Visitors Bureau at 946.2255, or through e-mail at [email protected]


Saturday, April 18, 2009

DEC Wants Comments on Upper Salmon River UMP

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has announced that it is beginning work on a unit management plan (UMP) for five state forests, one fishing access site and conservation easement lands encompassing 8,951 acres along the Upper Salmon River. The UMP will also include a pending acquisition from National Grid that covers approximately 675 acres in Oswego, Oneida and Lewis counties.

The DEC is seeking public input and will hold a public meeting on Thursday, May 7, 2009, from 7-9 p.m. at its Salmon River Fish Hatchery in Altmar, N.Y. The evening will begin in an “open house” format that will allow the public to interact with DEC staff and view displays, followed by a brief presentation by DEC staff, then a return to an open house format. The public will be encouraged to fill out comment cards that can be turned in at the meeting or mailed at a later date. Those unable to attend the meeting may submit comments to the contact person by mail or e-mail.

UMPs assess the natural, physical and recreational resources of the landscape and guide state forest land management activities. The Upper Salmon River Unit is comprised of the Salmon River, O’Hara, Hall Island, Battle Hill and West Osceola state forests, which encompass 8,764 acres. The unit also includes the 36-acre Jackson Road Fishing access site and 151 acres of conservation easement lands covering Huckleberry and Burdick islands in the Salmon River Reservoir. Another 675 acres of land to be acquired in a pending acquisition from National Grid is part of the unit as well. These lands are located near the village of Redfield (north of the Salmon River Reservoir) and are in the towns of Orwell, Redfield, Osceola and Florence.

The five state forests covered by the proposed plan currently offer many recreational opportunities including hiking, camping, bird watching, fishing, hunting, trapping, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and all terrain vehicle (ATV) access for people with mobility impairments. In addition, these forests are managed to sustain important natural resources including forest products, clean water, clean air and wildlife habitat.

The initial comment period for development of the draft UMP will end on July 5, 2009. However, comments will be accepted continuously throughout the plan development process. After the draft plans are completed, DEC will hold a formal public meeting to accept written and verbal comments.

An informational package is available. Requests for this package, comments and/or questions regarding development of the draft plan should be addressed to: Upper Salmon River UMP, NYSDEC, 2133 Salmon River Fish Hatchery, Altmar, NY, 13302. The public also may e-mail any comments or requests for informational packages to [email protected]


Friday, April 17, 2009

This Week’s Top Adirondack News Stories


Friday, April 17, 2009

Adirondack Weekly Blogging Round-Up


Thursday, April 16, 2009

APA OKs Lows Lake Floatplane Ban After 2011

Floatplanes will be prohibited from using Lows Lake after 2011 and the lake will be managed as wilderness under a resolution approved today by the Adirondack Park Agency (APA). Neil Woodworth, the Adirondack Mountain Club’s executive director, said the resolution adopted today is positive step and an improvement over earlier proposals for the lake. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, April 16, 2009

Adirondack Events for Mid-April

Rick Moody — author of Garden State, The Ice Storm, The Diviners and the memoir The Black Veil — will read from his most recent novel at 7 p.m. tonight at the Joan Weill Student Center of Paul Smith’s College. The event is free, sponsored by the Adirondack Center for Writing.

Kayaks are on roof racks and the Northern Forest Paddle Film Festival returns to the Lake Placid Center for the Arts at 7 p.m. Friday. There’ll be five shorts about canoeing, kayaking, waterways and the paddling life. Proceeds support the Northern Forest Canoe Trail. $8-12.

April brings the spring whomp. Old-time fiddle and harmonica duo the Whompers are back in town, 7:30 Friday at BluSeed Studios, in Saranac Lake ($10). Musicians are invited to bring instruments for a second-set jam. On Saturday night, Whompers and friends play at the Red Tavern, in Duane. The place is off the grid and off the map, and the dancing goes late into the night.

In the pastoral hill country east of Glens Falls and west of Vermont, 10,000 spectators are expected to turn out Saturday and Sunday for the Tour of the Battenkill, the largest bike race in the country. Two thousand riders will blow through downtown Greenwich, Salem and Cambridge, but the real character of the race comes from remote dirt roads that have earned the event the nickname Battenkill-Roubaix, after the Paris Roubaix of France.

In Bolton Landing, Up Yonda Farm offers a guided Cabin Fever Hike at 1 p.m. Saturday. The walk winds through the farm’s trails to a vista overlooking Lake George. On Sunday the farm will offer Earth Day activities all day. $3; members free.

Monday through Thursday next week, days start warming at the greatest rate of the year. Impatient? At the Adirondack Museum at 1:30 Sunday, naturalist Ed Kanze presents “Eventually . . . the Adirondack Spring.” Free for members and kids; $5 everybody else.

On Monday the Lake Placid Center for the Arts begins a six-session life drawing course, 6-8:30 every Monday evening through May. $55. Call (518) 523-2512 to sign up. Gabriels artist Diane Leifheit runs the course. She will also offer pastel plein air evening classes beginning May 20 (sign up by May 11). The first session introduces pastels and materials, setting up to paint outdoors and mixing colors. The following four sessions will go on location around Lake Placid (weather permitting), capturing the early evening colors. $95. 6-8:30 p.m. Wednesdays, through June 17.


Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Curse of Adirondack Bank Robbers

The robber of a Tupper Lake bank (in a presumably fake beard and mustache, left) is still at large, six days after the heist. This is unusual in the Adirondacks. The general wisdom is that nobody has pulled off a bank robbery inside the Blue Line, at least in recent memory. Hold up a bank? Sure, quite a few have done that. But get away? That’s the trick.

There are only so many forest-lined roads in and out of any Adirondack town, and if the police are quick with roadblocks, the theory goes, it’s simple enough to sweat out the thief. In the 1970s, cops caught the robbers of a Willsboro bank waiting for the Essex ferry to Vermont.

Others, such as a husband and wife in St. Regis Falls, were picked up locally within hours, and a guy who took off on foot from Adirondack Bank in Lake Placid was met by police on the Saranac Lake end of the Jackrabbit Trail.

Jack Lawliss, retired commander of State Police Troop B, began his career as a Trooper in Tupper Lake in 1955. He worked on several bank cases inside the Blue Line, all solved. The Willsboro case stood out in his memory because the same bank was the victim of an unrelated robbery a week earlier, and those thieves were apprehended in Reber, five miles away. The institution had operated without incident for a century before then.

After Lawliss retired, a 1992 robbery of a Key Bank in Au Sable Forks ended in the arrest of Robert Jones, who had also held up a bank in Plattsburgh with his wife as getaway driver and their two kids in the back seat. To reduce his wife’s sentence, Jones later confessed to the kidnapping and murder of Kari Lynn Nixon, a 16-year-old Au Sable Forks girl who had been missing for seven years.

Admittedly, an exhaustive search of Adirondack police blotters and newspaper archives dating back to the creation of the park in 1892 is a daunting project that we have not undertaken, so if you know of any successful in-park bank robberies please tell us.

Meanwhile, bank hits seem to be a nationwide trend, and there have been three unsolved hold-ups recently in Canton, north of the Blue Line.

The manhunt continues around Tupper Lake. Roadblocks, dogs and a helicopter Friday afternoon failed to net the gunman, who is reported to have fled on foot in the direction of Saranac Lake. “Solitary robbers usually target a bank that is close to their place of residence, making a car unnecessary,” wrote George Bryjak, retired professor of sociology at the University of San Diego, in a scholarly look at bank robber demographics in Wednesday’s Adirondack Daily Enterprise.

Police agencies have not said how much money was taken. Following is the State Police’s complete press release:

On April 10, 2009, at 12:15 p.m., the New York State Police responded to an armed bank robbery at the Community Bank, located on Hosley Avenue in the town of Tupper Lake. The preliminary investigation has established that a suspect entered the bank and displayed a handgun. The suspect fled the bank with an undetermined amount of cash.

Suspect is described as a white male, tall with a thin build, last seen wearing a tan hooded jacket and blue jeans. Subject may have tried to disguise himself with a moustache and or goatee and wearing sunglasses.

State Police Aviation, Canine, Uniform and BCI personnel, Tupper Lake Police Department, Saranac Lake Police Department and New York State Forest Rangers remain on scene and are continuing interviews of witnesses and searching the area for evidence.

Anyone with information is asked to contact the New York State Police, Troop “B” Headquarters, Ray Brook at 518-897-2000.


Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Opinion: Taxation Without Representation in the 20th CD

On this Tax Deadline Day 2009, residents of New York’s 20th Congressional District are stuck in unrepresented limbo. Two weeks after the balloting in the special election to fill the house seat, both sides have doubled-down, adding lawyers and recount strategists to their campaign payrolls. The lawyers have been challenging absentee ballots right and left (mostly right). Of the votes cast at the polls on Election Day, Republican candidate James Tedisco held a 65 vote (.04%) edge over Democrat Scott Murphy. And that right there is about where the pavement ends. Here are a few signposts to look for on the rest of the journey:

Timing is Everything
Though the partisan challenges make too spongy a foundation for solid analysis of the numbers, in most counties Murphy seems to have increased his margins in the absentee count over the Election Day machine count. One possible explanation for this phantom trend may be in the timing of the votes: any number of absentee votes may have been cast before the last week and a half of the campaign when Tedisco surged on his efforts to associate Murphy with the AIG executive bonuses.

The Saratoga Stakes
Domestic absentee ballots—due last week—have been tabulated and reported in eight of the ten counties in the district. The other two counties, Saratoga and Washington (both containing Adirondack voting precincts) have withheld progress reports while the ballots are being tabulated, awaiting a full and final tally.

Of the 6726 absentee ballots returned throughout the district, Saratoga County accounts for 1842 (twenty-seven percent). Capitol Confidential blog reports 714 (thirty-nine percent) of Saratoga’s absentee ballots have been challenged and must await a court ruling on their validity before being counted. The importance of every other skirmish in the recount hinges on the resolution of these challenges and the count of these votes. On Election Day, Tedisco won the machine count in Saratoga County with over fifty-four percent of the vote. If he manages to increase that margin in the absentee count (defying Murphy’s possible edge in early votes) then he may win the race without resorting to other stratagems. If not, go to plan B . . .

Pray for Reinforcement
On Monday, Tedisco petitioned to prolong the period for the return of military ballots to the district. Bear in mind this would not extend the postmark deadline for military voters—that was and remains March 30th. Apart from signaling a dim faith in the Pentagon’s capacity to fight two wars and deliver mail in a timely manner all at once, there seems to be little advantage in this maneuver other than the buying of time. Which brings us to the final signpost.

When in Doubt, Stall
Tedisco has pretty much put his career on the line in this race. It has already cost him his minority leadership position in the New York Assembly. If he loses here, he will be increasingly vulnerable to a challenge in his Assembly district should he stand for reelection. Fundraising for his next race will be tough enough without having to deal with the enormous debt this race will dump on him (which he will have to deal with even if he prevails). In short, Tedisco has nothing to lose by playing this recount out as long as possible, raising as much GOP money as he can while the national spotlight remains on him. Even if it means letting the residents of New York’s 20th Congressional District go a few more weeks or months without representation in Washington.


Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Welcome to the Adverondacks

At milepost 105 north of exit fourteen on the New Jersey Turnpike there is a word on a billboard that caught our attention last week. Actually it isn’t even a word—more like a head-on collision of syllables—set in a familiar blue font, against a milk chocolate background. The billboard itself was practically buried in the visual chaos of overpasses, smokestacks, tank farms, power lines, and inbound commercial jets that identifies that region of the Garden State, but just conspicuous enough for a carload of homing Adirondackers.

The word on the billboard, “SNACKORONDACKS” (full context “Go Camping in the SNACKORONDACKS”) is a recent installment of an advertising campaign for Snickers candy bars. The gist of the campaign is to fuse/graft/smash together unrelated words or phrases into something suitable for a linguistic freak show. The result: grotesque, fascinating, and as thoroughly targeted as musk bait in a wire snare. Use of the name Adirondack for a national advertising campaign (a blog comment from someone in the Pacific Northwest suggested it would be easier for her to go camping in the “SNACKCADES”) seems somewhat haphazard until you consider that Candy Baron Forrest Mars, Jr., son of the man credited with introducing malt nougat to the candy bar, keeps a family place near Ticonderoga. » Continue Reading.


Monday, April 13, 2009

Route 28 Project Includes Large Clear-Cuttings

The Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks is calling upon the heads of the Public Service Commission (PSC), Departments of Transportation (DOT) and Environmental Conservation (DEC), New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), and Adirondack Park Agency (APA) to adopt “the highest standards for protecting the wild forest character of the Adirondack Park when reconstructing electric power lines and highways.”

Through a freedom of information request, the group received documents about an incomplete application now being reviewed at the APA for highway and power line reconstruction and realignment which would in their words “effectively clear-cut forests along 7.4 miles of scenic State Route 28 in the southwestern Adirondacks.” The route extends from Forestport to the South Branch of the Moose River in the Adirondack Park. Sections of this route involve the “forever wild” public Forest Preserve.

The application calls for a new “tree management area” that would mean the removal of all trees for 37.5 feet on either side of new utility poles, throughout the length of the highway project. The poles, which are now along the road, would be moved 16 feet from the highway edge, this area declared a “clear zone,” and the poles themselves increased in height from 40 feet to 57 feet.

David Gibson, Association Executive Director said that he was “astonished to find that the Route 28 project as currently proposed calls for clear cutting a swath of 53 feet from the highway shoulder for placement of super-sized power poles and electric lines,” adding that “clear-cutting trees in such a manner would drastically impact the Park’s scenic character, and violate numerous laws, policies and plans. The public will not stand for this kind of bad stewardship by our State agencies.”

“We contend that the Park’s history, State law, our State Constitution and, frankly, common sense, require all State agencies to take every precaution in design standards for Route 28 and for other combined highway-power line realignments throughout the Park. Our highways are the public’s window on the Adirondack Park and vital to positive public perceptions of the Park. The wild forest and rural character of the Park’s highways must be conserved,” Gibson said, calling the move an effort to “water-down” environmental guidelines by eliminating NYSERDA funding to establish a standard for the Adirondack Park for projects like the one proposed along Route 28.

Since the 1924 passage of the Adirondack Sign Law, the state has attempted to secure the scenic character of views along roadways inside the Blue Line. Scenic and historic highways programs have been developed over the years by state and local governments to exploit roadside opportunities, sometimes through significant investment.

According to the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan, state agencies are required to plan for these Travel Corridors to “achieve and maintain a park-like atmosphere… that complements the total Adirondack environment. Attention to the Park’s unique atmosphere is essential.” The DOT’s Guidelines for the Adirondack Park, which were approved in 2008 after disastrous roadside cutting along Routes 3 and 56, states: “The Adirondack Park is a special state treasure and our work with in its boundaries must be conducted with great care.”

The Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks is calling for meetings to review standards for power line and road reconstruction that preserve the scenic character of the Park’s highways as potential “greenway” corridors.


Sunday, April 12, 2009

Faster, Easter Bunny, Run, Run

Spinning egg by Marquil



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