Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Reporting From NY Master Forest Owner Training

I’ll be reporting regularly this week beginning Wednesday evening from Cornell Cooperative Extension’s New York Master Forest Owner (MFO) training at SUNY ESF Adirondack Ecological Center in Newcomb. The program, which is being held in the Adirondacks for the first time, combines classroom and field experience in general forestry. My goal is to simply learn a little more about the variety of local forestry issues we cover here at the Alamanack. Forest ecology, wildlife management, water quality issues, timber harvesting and management, invasive species, sugar bush management, and more are all on the schedule.

The MFO website explains why the program is valuable:

Over 14 million acres of woodland in NY State are privately owned by approximately 500,000 nonindustrial forest owners. That’s over 3/4 of New York’s total forest area! It is estimated that less than 1/4 of the state’s private forest holdings are purposefully managed despite the educational programs and technical services available. In order to reap the benefits of this vital resource, sound stewardship is necessary. Stewardship objectives involve management practices that ensure ecologically sound forest productivity. Forests represent a precious commodity that, if wisely managed, can generate a variety of economic, ecological, and aesthetic values to forest owners and their communities, generation after generation.

I’ll regularly report my experiences and some of what I learn here at the Almanack, as I did with the Wild Center’s climate conference in November 2008.

You can find out more about the program and training schedule here.


Tuesday, May 12, 2009

New Adirondack Scenic Byways Site Coming

The Adirondack North Country Association (ANCA) will launch the a new website for the Adirondack North Country Region Scenic Byways program and release the 2008 Scenic Byways Visitors Survey. Both will be formally presented to the public on June 4, 2009 at the Adirondack Museum. The Adirondacks includes 13 designated scenic byways.

During the program, ANCA will introduce what they are calling a “state-of-the-art website that will increase state, national, and international exposure for the 45 towns along the Adirondack Trail, Central Adirondack Trail and Olympic Scenic Byways.” ANCA will also present the results of a comprehensive visitor survey (based on face-to-face interviews) conducted in 2008.

“Comprehensive trip planning information about the area, including community features about arts, history and cultural resources, services, the natural environment, outdoor recreation, and special events will be featured,” the ANCA said in a letter to supporters. “The site will serve as a companion resource to Chamber and tourism websites and will profile Byway communities by promoting the unique experiences and quality of life sought after by leisure travelers.”

Those who would like to attend the June 4th program should complete and return the Reservation Form [doc] by mail, e-mail or fax. There will be a $10.00 registration fee to cover the cost of lunch. At the close of the program, guests will have the option to tour the museum at their leisure and ANCA’s Board will host a director’s meeting.


Tuesday, May 12, 2009

NYSEG Ordered to Open Ausable Chasm to Paddling

Serious whitewater boaters are frothing at the prospect of access to a Class IV multidrop stretch of the Ausable River along Upper Ausable Chasm. Word on the Northeast Paddlers Message Board is that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has ordered New York State Electric & Gas (NYSEG) to develop a plan to enable kayakers to cross its land to reach the river for the period between Memorial Day and October 31.

But patience: paddlers are saying it’s doubtful NYSEG will be able to comply in time for this season.

The Adirondack Mountain Club and American Whitewater, a national organization, have battled for years for the right to use NYSEG’s land to get to a 3.4-mile stretch of the Ausable, from the NYSEG powerhouse below Rainbow Falls Dam to the Route 9 bridge. “BOO YAH. That thing runs ALL SUMMER,” comments one paddler on the Northeast Paddlers Message Board, which has more information. The run is expected to draw boaters from around the Northeast because of its consistent water.

NYSEG and the Ausable Chasm Corporation, which operates a tourist attraction at the gorge, had argued against boating access because the steep and narrow canyon, 150 feet deep in places, makes rescue difficult. Ausable Chasm Co. also offers tubing and rafting for paying guests on the lower portion of the chasm. But ADK and American Whitewater countered that FERC had a duty to maintain public access to a public waterbody that had become obstructed by the power dam.

This YouTube video offers a preview of the drops and rapids.


Monday, May 11, 2009

ADK Club Pushes Environmental Access to Justice Act

The Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK) is asking the state Senate to pass the Environmental Access to Justice Act (S.1635, A.3423), which would allow individuals and organizations to bring environmental lawsuits without having to prove they have suffered an injury different from the harm to the general public. According to the ADK the Environmental Access to Justice Act would restore the original legislative intent of the state Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA). Passed in 1975, SEQRA was supposed to provide the public with a voice during the environmental review process for projects throughout New York State, but as denizens of town planning boards across the state know, SEQRA review of projects has become watered down by the influence of corporate and pro-development interests.

Under SEQRA, the public was supposed to have the right to petition the courts to review a state agency’s or local government’s compliance with the law’s environmental review requirements. According to “The Treatise on New York Environmental Law,” because no government agency is charged with ensuring compliance with the provisions of SEQRA, that responsibility “has fallen on the shoulders of individual members of the public, civic and environmental organizations and governmental bodies aggrieved or injured by an agency’s failure to comply with the requirements of the statute.” They have traditionally fought that battle in the courts.

But in 1991, in case known as Society of the Plastics Industry vs. Suffolk County, the New York Court of Appeals greatly curtailed the right to bring an environmental claim under SEQRA. The high court ruled that in order to have standing, or the right to bring a lawsuit, the plaintiff had to suffer a unique injury or damage that was different than the harmful impact suffered by all members of the public. That decision turned the intent of the legislation on its head.

“Without the ability of the public to seek a court review of the SEQRA process, there is no way to ensure that government has followed the law and properly reviewed the potential environmental consequences of a project,” according to Adirondack Mountain Club executive director Neil Woodworth. “If citizens have no right to sue when SEQRA provisions are ignored or compromised, there is nothing to stop development-obsessed government officials from ramming through ill-advised projects regardless of the cultural, social and environmental costs.”

Of the 16 states with environmental review statutes, New York has the most stringent standing requirements, and this continues to affect environmental cases according to the ADK which provided these examples:

In 2002, a state court ruled that the Long Island Pine Barrens Society and several of its members lacked standing to seek review of a development project in the Long Island Pine Barrens. The society claimed that the project would impact the water supply aquifer beneath the Pine Barrens, but the court ruled that the potential harm to the plaintiffs was no different than the potential injury to any member of the public. The society was shut out of court before it could prove an open and shut case of environmental harm to the eastern Long Island aquifer.

In 2002, a citizens group was denied standing in an attempt to block destruction of a row of 19th century buildings in the village of Catskill, Greene County. The historic buildings were demolished.

In 2007, the Basha Kill Area Association was denied standing to challenge approval of a 200,000-square-foot mushroom plant atop the Shawangunk Ridge in Sullivan County.

In 2008, members of Save the Pine Bush were denied standing to challenge an industrial development project in Clifton Park, Saratoga County, that threatens habitat of the endangered Karner blue butterfly.

The bill has passed in the Assembly and has been approved by the Senate Environmental Conservation and Codes committees. It awaits action by the full state Senate. The bill is sponsored by Sen. Antoine Thompson, D-Buffalo, and Assemblyman Adam Bradley, D-White Plains.


Monday, May 11, 2009

$120M In Grants Targeting Upstate Communities

Governor David A. Paterson announced late last week that $120 million will be made available from Upstate Regional Blueprint Fund for grants to finance business investment, infrastructure upgrades and downtown redevelopment. Paterson believes the fund will support projects that help provide a framework for future growth in regions with stymied development. The Blueprint Fund will be administered by Empire State Development (ESD). Applications due June 15, 2009; Awards will be announced August 17, 2009

According to a press release from the Governor’s office: “The Fund will invest in projects that advance local development and small businesses, for instance making improvement to industrial parks and providing loans for purchase of equipment, real estate or other needs. Eligible applicants include municipalities, businesses, academic institutions, and non-profits and awards will range from $100,000 to $5 million. The program will give a preference to requests for loans, with principal repayments able to be recycled for future projects.”

To ward off corruption, all applications will undergo a competitive review process by ESD’s Regional Office Directors, with the support of the central ESD. Requests for business investment assistance will be reviewed on a rolling basis, and requests for infrastructure and downtown redevelopment assistance will follow a quarterly calendar, with the first round of applications due June 15, 2009, and awards announced August 17, 2009.

Upstate Regional Blueprint Funds application forms are posted on Empire State Development’s Web site at www.nylovesbiz.com. ESD is New York’s primary economic development agency which also oversees the state’s “I LOVE NY” marketing campaign.


Monday, May 11, 2009

Know Your Rights: Canoe Passage

I’m accustomed to setting out on an article knowing less about a subject than the people I interview. A recent assignment went the other way, to a surprising extent.

The topic was navigation rights in New York State. The editor of the Adirondack Explorer, Phil Brown, and I wanted to know why, ten years after a state high-court decision affirmed canoeists’ rights to carry around obstacles, paddlers rarely test rivers that flow through private Adirondack land (you can see the article here).

Out of five riparian landowners I spoke with, three stated that their rivers were “closed” because bridges, dams or downed trees block the streams and paddlers are prohibited from carrying around them. That’s a pre-1999 view. Obstructions have not been grounds for denying canoe passage for a decade, I explained, no matter who owns the riverbank.

All three landowners then responded that the rivers were probably impassable anyway and who would want to paddle them. (A sixth landowner who in the past claimed that passage is closed between Mud Pond and Shingle Shanty Brook did not return phone calls or e-mails; I have no doubt from a trip through that property myself that it is a navigable stream with one quick carry.)

Frankly I expected landowners on disputed rivers to know the law because they have the most at stake. I expected to find the confusion on the paddlers’ side of the issue, and there is plenty among that group too. This first page of the 2008 Paddlesports Press guidebook Adirondack Paddler’s Guide states: “Most private lands, however, are just that — the public is not allowed.” Zero effort to explain the river access that paddlers fought decades to earn. The next sentence: “In fact some private reserves are patrolled and huge lawsuits have ensued for trespass.” There was one lawsuit, and it changed everything: A group of four canoeists and one kayaker provoked a test case on the South Branch of the Moose River in 1991, and the ensuing trespass suit sought $5 million in damages, which a judge dismissed. One of the defendants says the dollar figure never weighed on the group. It did take seven years and three courts to reach a final ruling, which contains vague language that only rivers proven to be “navigable in fact” are open. Nuanced, but not a blanket ban and not a reason to monger fear.

These examples prove a point made by Charlie Morrison, a retired Department of Environmental Conservation official. Morrison is lobbying the state legislature to pass a bill that would make the 1999 Moose River decision statutory. He says he does not want to change the law, just to codify it so it doesn’t get lost again.

Navigation rights are not new; they derive from common law and interpretation of that law by courts. The late canoeist and author Paul Jamieson pointed out that travelers crossed the Adirondacks freely by small craft in the early 19th century. Gradually, transportation became land-based, landowners began posting rivers, law enforcers began upholding the land-posters, and rights of passage faded. The 1999 ruling restored them.

Jamieson and the Moose River paddlers righted a century-old wrong, which is not to say the landowners’ instinct to protect their privacy is wrongheaded. Some told me off the record that members of the public who have passed through their land left fire rings and litter. If a paddler gets hurt — and these are generally tricky rivers, not flatwater cruises — landowners are the ones who’d have to come to the rescue. The Moose River case affirmed the right to travel through, but they do not give paddlers the right to stop, picnic, fish, hunt, camp, even take a pee. If you can’t run a river through somebody’s property in a day, then that river is not navigable, at least under existing state law. The West Branch of the St. Regis River below the St. Regis Canoe Area probably falls into that category.

One obstacle Morrison faces in Albany is the disorganization of the state Senate. Assembly sponsor (Democrat Sam Hoyt of Buffalo) needs to find a counterpart in the next week or two. Another obstacle is the passive resistance of the Adirondack Landowners Association, which seems to prefer the inhibiting effect of the reigning confusion: if the law is not spelled out, canoeists will stick to publicly owned waters where they don’t have to decipher access rights.

And over the past 15 years the state has acquired miles of new public waterways, so the situation on the ground is relatively peaceful. But keep an eye on the Beaver River connecting Lake Lila to the Stillwater Reservoir: The landowners and guerilla padders I interviewed agree it’s really only runnable after snowmelt, and then for a week at most. Whether that makes the Beaver “navigable in fact” may take another court to decide.

Photograph: The Beaver River near Lake Lila; by MWanner, from Wikimedia Commons


Sunday, May 10, 2009

Sliding Sports Museum Proposed For Lake Placid

At the 1932 & 1980 Lake Placid Winter Olympic Museum Board of Directors’ April meeting, newest member Joe Clain donated $1,000 to kick-off the creation of an International Sliding Sports Museum in Lake Placid. Clain made the donation on behalf of his father Gus Clain and the Linney Family in the hopes that other prominent families in the history of sliding sports will come forward and meet the challenge.

Angus (Gus) Clain was the brakeman for the four-man sled piloted by Robert Linney, which qualified at the 1939 trials in Lake Placid for the 1940 Olympic Winter Games. Because of WWII, the Games were not contested in 1940 or 1944. The family of Gus Clain previously created and donated a very rare exhibit consisting of the sweater and jacket issued to the 1940 Olympic Bobsled team, and which is on permanent display in the Olympic Museum.

The Sliding Sports Museum at Mt. Van Hoevenberg will be an annex to the already existing Olympic Museum – located within the Olympic Center – and as such will come under the same chartering agency, the Board of Regents of the University of the State of New York on behalf of the State Education Department. The future museum will share the same 501(c) 3 not-for-profit status making all donations eligible for a tax deduction.

“The next logical step is to create an advisory board of interested community members who share the same passion for preserving, displaying and educating future generations on the rich history of sliding sports in this area,” said Olympic Museum Director Liz De Fazio in a press release issued this week.

For more information on the proposed International Sliding Museum, or to make a donation, contact De Fazio at (518) 523-1655, ext. 226 or [email protected]


Sunday, May 10, 2009

Adirondack Gardening Dilemma: Timing Seed Planting

This spring has many of us North Country gardeners in a quandary: do I put in my peas yet or not? The rule of thumb here in Newcomb is not to plant before Memorial Day Weekend, but this year the weather has been so balmy so early that we are itching to get those early veggies started.

Seed packets come with instructions like “Plant after all danger of frost has passed,” or “Plant as soon as the ground can be worked.” The latter applies to peas. And with the scorching weather at the end of April, it was really really hard NOT to plant – I had to keep telling myself, “It’s still April.” And even though peas and spinach are cool weather plants, killer frosts and even snow are not out of the question.

I ran into a neighbor that last weekend in April and we immediately started talking peas. He said that if he could get his tiller going that day, he’d plant his; I heard the tiller rumbling the rest of the morning. And I hear that the doctor over in Long Lake put his peas in, too. I decided to spend the day prepping my veg beds instead, getting ALL of them ready for planting a little later in the season.

Last Sunday, as the weeding continued, I uncovered a whole bowlful of leftover potatoes in one of the beds! Mmmm – fresh potatoes in May! I even have undug onions and last year’s leeks resprouting! We’ll see if they grow into edible bulbs.

Meanwhile, every day the tomatoes are getting a bit taller in the kitchen, and the squashes I started are, eh, doing so-so (I was a bit over-anxious and started them a wee bit too soon). The flower seeds I started a week or so ago are sprouting now, too.

So, we wait and practice patience. Still, there is something appealing in being able to plant the garden BEFORE the blackflies come out!


Saturday, May 9, 2009

DEC Revises Adirondack Campground Closure Plan

The DEC has announced that under the new plan, it will operate four of six campgrounds previously slated for closure for shortened seasons, from June 26 through Labor Day. In addition, after partnering with local officials, DEC will substitute one Piseco Lake-area campground in Hamilton County on the closure list for another. At the campgrounds that will remain closed, DEC will allow use of its hiking and horse trails and climbing routes.

In DEC’s own words:

“New York is facing tough economic times and closing campgrounds was not an easy choice. With the help of local officials, DEC has devised a way to soften the impact,” Commissioner Grannis said in a press relase. “Each of the targeted facilities historically suffered from low occupancy over the course of a full season. By shortening the season, we can open the campgrounds during traditional peak occupancy periods. This plan will help local tourism and provide opportunities for affordable getaways while still reducing our annual operating costs.”

The revisions for the 2009 season are:
In the Catskills

Beaverkill, Roscoe, Sullivan County.

The campground will be operated under an abbreviated season – from June 26 through Labor Day. DEC will operate the facility with assistance from Sullivan County, upon adoption of a cooperative agreement.

Bear Spring Mountain, Walton, Delaware County.

The previous decision to close the camping area within this facility remains in effect. However, numerous horse and hiking trails and associated trailhead parking areas at this popular Wildlife Management Area will continue to be available for public use. There will be no fee for parking.
In the Adirondacks

Point Comfort, Arietta, Hamilton County.

The campground will be operated under an abbreviated season – from June 26 through Labor Day. However, DEC will not open Poplar Point, which is also in the Piseco Lake area, for 2009. DEC will explore options to work cooperatively with Arietta officials to continue to potentially offer a day-use facility at Poplar Point in future years.

Sharp Bridge, North Hudson, Essex County.

The campground will be operated under an abbreviated season – from June 26 through Labor Day.

Tioga Point, Raquette Lake, Hamilton County.

The campground will be operated under an abbreviated season – from June 26 through Labor Day.

Pok-O-Moonshine, Keeseville, Essex County.

The previous decision to close this facility remains in effect. Hikers, rock climbers and other recreational users will be able to access hiking trails and climbing routes by parking in the entrance area. No fee will be charged for parking.

DEC will work closely with ReserveAmerica, the state’s camping reservation service contractor, to contact visitors whose reservations were previously cancelled, to offer them their original reservations and to re-open the camping site inventory to them before it is made available to the general public. DEC will cover the cost of the reservation fees to lessen the impact to the visitors that will be affected.

DEC is responsible for managing 52 campgrounds and 7 day-use areas in New York’s Adirondack Park and Catskill Park.


Saturday, May 9, 2009

Learning to Love the Little Things

It’s human nature to get excited about the “charismatic megafauna” around us. Let’s face it: polar bears, elephants and eagles are impressive. But what about the other 99% of life on this planet? Where is the cheering section for sea slugs? Is there a “Hug a Millipede” campaign? What about bladderworts? As a naturalist, many people ask me what my favorite animal is, or they want to know my area of expertise. It’s a difficult question to answer because the more I learn about my fellow beings on this chunk of space debris, the more fascinating I find each to be. » Continue Reading.


Friday, May 8, 2009

2009 Adirondack Paddling Calendar

Eager boaters have been on the water since ice-out, but the Adirondack canoe-and-kayak social season really gets cruising this month. We offer a chronological calendar:

The first two get-togethers are really commercial affairs, aimed at selling canoes and kayaks, but hey we enjoy new gear as much as anyone: Adirondack Lakes and Trails Outfitters holds Demo Days this weekend, May 9–10, by the state boat launch on Lake Flower, in Saranac Lake, (518) 891-7450. And Adirondack Paddlefest is May 15–17 at Mountainman Outdoor Supply Co., in Old Forge. The Fest is billed as “America’s largest on-water sale.” $5 admission for adults, (315) 369-6672 » Continue Reading.


Friday, May 8, 2009

Adirondack Weekly Blogging Round-Up


Friday, May 8, 2009

This Week’s Top Adirondack News Stories


Thursday, May 7, 2009

ADK Music Scene: Battles, Bunnies, Jazz and Dancing

A musical battle in Indian Lake , three Bunnies and two Long Hares in Saranac Lake, jazz in North Creek and late night dancing at The Waterhole.

Not quite a feast . . . more of a nice spread.

On Friday May 8th at 8 pm The Battle of The Bands sponsored by ALCA will be held at the Indian Lake Theater. There is $20 registration fee and the winner takes it all home. Tupper Lake’s Fat River Kings will be one of the competing groups.

A show I shamelessly recommend is: The Dust Bunnies and Long Hares at BluSeed Studios in Saranac Lake. It starts at 7:30 pm, Saturday night. Yours truly is one of the troupe so I’m biased, but honestly we write great songs. Love, loss and laundry contemplated in three part harmony AND backed up by a fabulous rhythm section — it promises to be a fun evening. Call for reservations: (518) 891- 9402 or take your chances and just show up at 24 Cedar Street. We’d love to see you!

Also on Saturday at The Waterhole, 48 Main Street in Saranac Lake, Tim Herron Corporation (THC) starts at 10 pm for a $5 admission — late enough so you can go dancing after the Dust Bunnies!

Even more on Saturday at 7:30 pm, the Tony Jenkins Jazz Trip will be playing at Tannery Pond Community Center, 222 Main Street, in North Creek. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for students. Call (518) 251-2505 for more information.

A correction: The open mic at Station Street I posted about last week is not a weekly event yet. They are still working out which night is most appropriate and how many times a month. As soon as I learn when the next open mic is scheduled, it will be posted.

Photo: Two Hares (Colin Dehond and Kyle Murray) and Two Buns (Tracy Poszditch and Mary Lou Reid) on way to record their upcoming CD


Thursday, May 7, 2009

Lake Placid: Doris II Replacement; Lady of The Lake Sold

On Lake Placid, the era of the big public tour boat is over. At least for the time being. According to Brian Bliss, Manager of the Lake Placid Marina, a fully covered, thirty-foot aluminum pontoon boat has been purchased to replace the sixty-foot, one hundred-passenger Doris II, which was retired from service on April 16th. The new boat will handle sixteen passengers. Bliss says there are no plans to find a larger or more distinctive vessel to accommodate the sightseeing trade.

This is the second loss in as many years to Lake Placid’s once proud tour fleet. Lady of the Lake was removed from service before the start of last summer’s season. Lake Placid Marina sold the sleek vessel—built in 1929 by Hutchinson’s Boatworks of Alexandria Bay—to Brian Arico, former owner of Camp Minnowbrook on the lake.

Attempts to resell the boat for private use on nearby water were unsuccessful, and a prospective sale to an individual from Lake Eustis, Florida fell through at the last minute. Lady of the Lake spent the winter months alongside Route 86 in Ray Brook. Late last month she was finally sold to a private classic boat collector who transfered her to a flat bed trailer and hauled her away to Wisconsin.

The loss of Doris II and Lady of the Lake, along with the retirement to private ownership some years ago of the smaller Anna, ends a streak of large boat excursion service on Lake Placid dating back to 1882. Mattie (1882), Water Lily (1884), Ida (1886) and Nereid (1893) were all propelled by steam, as was the original Doris (1898) until her conversion to a gasoline engine in 1907. In March 1950, when Doris II was assembled on the shores of Lake Placid, she inherited the original 30″ by 36″ propeller from her namesake. Asked if Doris II might still have that same propeller, Brian Bliss said that logs and maintenance records were not retained over the years.

Photo of Nereid courtesy of Lake Placid Shore Owners’ Assn.



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