The Adirondack Lakes Survey Corporation (ALSC) recently completed collections of dragonfly larvae in acid rain sensitive Adirondack surface waters in a new study of mercury pollution.
ALSC staff assisted Dr. Sarah Nelson of the University of Maine Mitchell Center and School of Forest Resources, and collaborators at the SERC Institute, Maine Sea Grant, the USGS Mercury Research Lab, and Dartmouth College, who have been developing the concept of using dragonfly larvae as bio-sentinels for mercury concentrations in northeast lakes and streams. Dragonfly larvae or immature dragonflies live in the water for the first year or years of their lives. » Continue Reading.
The Adirondack Council, an independent advocate for the Adirondack Park founded in 1975, has issued it’s 2012 State of the Park report. “The Adirondack Park was subjected to a barrage of extreme outside influences over the past 12 months, some of which devastated small communities and public natural resources, while others brought unprecedented good news to park residents and visitors,” a Council issued press release said.
The annual State of the Park Report reviews of the actions of local, state and federal government officials that the Council believes have helped or harmed the Adirondack Park over the past year. The illustrated, 18-page review is the Council’s 27th annual State of the Park report. A copy of the report is available online. » Continue Reading.
The Wildlife Conservation Society’s Adirondack Program has issued a call for volunteers to help census loons on Adirondack lakes as part of the 11th Annual Adirondack Loon Census taking place from 8:00–9:00 a.m. on Saturday, July 21. With the help of local Adirondack residents and visitor volunteers, the census enables WCS to collect important data on the status of the breeding loon population in and around the Adirondack Park and across New York State. The results help guide management decisions and policies affecting loons.
Census volunteers report on the number of adult and immature loons and loon chicks that they observe during the hour-long census. Similar loon censuses will be conducted in other states throughout the Northeast simultaneously, and inform a regional overview of the population’s current status. One of the major findings of the 2010 census: The Adirondack loon population has almost doubled since the last pre-census analysis in the 1980s, and now totals some 1,500–2,000 birds. A new analysis however, demonstrates the threat environmental pollution poses for these iconic Adirondack birds. » Continue Reading.
It was immensely satisfying to watch EPA administrator Lisa P. Jackson announce today that power-plant mercury emissions will be reduced 90 percent.
We in the Adirondacks have waited more than two decades for this. You would think limiting a toxin such as mercury, which harms the nervous systems of children exposed in the womb, would not be subject to protracted debate. But coal- and oil-fired power plants resisted the regulation shamelessly for decades. » Continue Reading.
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has announced awards for “Clean Air Grants” to 13 New York communities, including three in the Adirondack region. The grants are hoped to assist counties, towns and villages in reducing open burning of leaves and other organic materials, educate residents about the dangers of open burning and assist with the purchasing of recycling and composting equipment.
“DEC is committed to reducing harmful air pollutants and the prevention of destructive wildfires,” DEC Commissioner Joe Martens said in a prepared statement. “In addition to releasing harmful pollutants such as benzene, formaldehyde and lead, the open burning of residential organic waste such as leaves and branches, is the largest single cause of wildfires in the state.” A total of $60,000 was awarded for 13 projects statewide ranging from helping the Village of Windsor in Broome County better manage wood waste to partnering with the Dutchess County Town of Tivoli to conduct a home composting pilot project and help educate residents about safer alternatives to open burning. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) provides DEC with the funding for these grants.
DEC recently extended restrictions on the open burning of residential organic waste in all communities statewide, regardless of the community’s size in population.
The Clean Air Grant Program was designed to help local communities better manage residential organic waste materials and also build better community understanding of the dangers associated with open burning. Grants of up to $5,000 were awarded to the following local communities:
Town of Pinckney, Lewis County, to assist in the purchase of a commercial wood chipper to give area residents a safer option for disposing branches and other tree waste. The Town will partner with the Tug Hill Commission and Development Authority of the North County to educate residents about the availability of the chipping service, the dangers of open burning and how they can get wood chips and mulch from the program.
Town of Webb, Herkimer County, to assist in the purchase of a municipal leaf vacuum to help the community safely and efficiently remove and compost organic materials. In addition to the health and safety benefits of reducing of open burning, the Town also identifies the economic benefits of maintaining clean air and a healthy eco-system within the Adirondack Park.
Town of Boonville, Oneida County, to repair and refurbish a municipal leaf collection vacuum to reduce the possible loss of life and property that can often result from open burning and the added burden it puts on local volunteer fire companies.
Author, environmentalist, photographer and former longtime Adirondack Park Agency commissioner Anne LaBastille died in Plattsburgh on Friday, July 1st; she was 77.
LaBastille was an outspoken proponent of environmental conservation whose book Woodswoman reached a national audience and served as inspiration for legions of women interested in the outdoors. At the same time she was a controversial Adirondack figure who served as Adirondack Park Agency (APA) commissioner from 1975 to 1993, a tenure that showed her to be a tenacious defender of the wild character of the Adirondack Park.
Born in Montclair, NJ on Nov. 20, 1933, she attended Cornell University and received a B.S. in Conservation of Natural Resources in 1955, long before environmentalism began to emerge as a force for natural resource protection. She left Cornell to attend graduate school at Colorado State University where she received an M.S. in Wildlife Management in 1961. Her Masters Thesis was An Ecological Analysis of Mule Deer Winter Range, Cache la Poudre Canyon, Colorado.
As the modern environmental movement began to take shape following the publication of Silent Spring by Rachel Carson in 1967, LaBastille was already immersed in ornithology and wildlife ecology. During the 1960s her field work produced a number of papers on Guatemalan birds and fish including the Atitlán Grebe (Podilymbus gigas), also known as Giant Pied-billed Grebe or Poc. The flightless upland water bird began to decline precipitously following the introduction of invasive large and smallmouth bass into its home waters of Lake Atitlán, Guatemala in the late 1950s. LaBastille’s “Recent census and observations of the Giant Pied-billed Grebe” (published with C.V. Bowes in 1962) set her on a 25-year project that tracked the decline and eventual extinction of the Poc.
LaBastille’s thesis “The life history, ecology and management of the Giant Pied-billed Grebe (Podilymbus gigas), Lake Atitlán, Guatemala” was accepted in 1969, the year she received a doctorate degree in Wildlife Ecology from Cornell University. She helped establish a refuge for the Poc in 1966 (the first national wildlife refuge in Guatemala) and while their numbers rose through the early 1970s they were reduced to only 32 by 1983. The last two birds were seen in 1989. LaBastille’s Mama Poc (1990) recounted her experience with the Giant Pied-billed Grebe and its extinction. Her first book, Bird Kingdom of the Mayas, was published in 1967.
In 1974 she helped build her own small cabin at the northeast end of Twitchell Lake, near Big Moose Lake. While her academic work in the 1970s focused on conservation in South and Central America, particularity Quetzals and Giant Pied-billed Grebes, LaBastille wrote a series of children’s books about wildlife for the National Wildlife Federation and Adirondack related works for a general audience. She had three pieces in Adirondack Life in 1972, including “Canachagala and the Erie Canal,” “The Adirondack Museum” and “Canoeing through time: The Eckford Chain.” She continued to contribute regularly to Adirondack Life and other publications for the next several years, most notably “The endangered loon” and “Across the Adirondacks” for Backpacker Magazine in 1977.
LaBastille was part of the Environmental Protection Agency’s DOCUMERICA Project which hired freelance photographers to document environmental problems, EPA activities, and outdoor recreation. The National Archives has digitized and placed online 370 of her photographs.
Her autobiographical sixth book, Woodswoman, in which she relates her Adirondack experiences in a back-to-the-land Thoreau style, was published in 1976. It drew some critical acclaim, but more enduring was the envy and respect of followers of her adventures in the woods and on the waters. Subsequent volumes included Beyond Black Bear Lake (1987) and Woodswoman III (1997). Her most recent book was Woodswoman IIII, published in 2003 by her own West of the Wind Publications of Wesport.
LaBastille wrote in Woodswoman that she came to the Adirondacks to “sit in my cabin as in a cocoon, sheltered by the swaying spruces from the outside world.” In an obituary this morning, long time Adirondack guide and outdoors writer Joe Hackett described LaBastille:
“Following the publication [of Woodswoman], LaBastille became an instant role model for thousands of young women all across the country. Her story offered evidence that a lonely life in the forest can foster great confidence.
“Her story proved to be an inspiration for a generation of female outdoor enthusiasts, and it empowered them to be more independent and self-reliant in their enjoyment of the outdoors.
“In the process of paddling, hiking and camping throughout the Adirondacks, she became an icon of the mountains she wandered. Undoubtedly she cultivated her image, and it didn’t hurt matters that she had blonde hair, a fit figure, a bright smile and a tangible sense of independence. She exuded an air of confidence, and whether she was walking into a diner or paddling across a pond, her presence turned heads. She recognized it and enjoyed it.”
LaBastille received her first (an interim) appointment to the Adirondack Park Agency in 1975 during a time when, as writer David Helvarg has noted, “one of the most militant Property Rights movements in the United States… escalated from protests to punches to vandalism and an organized campaign of terror involving death threats, arson, and gunfire…”. LaBastille became a prominent target.
On August 7, 1992, during the debate over the findings of the Commission on the Adirondacks in the Twenty-First Century, LaBastille’s barns at her home in Wadhams were destroyed in a fire she believed was an act of arson by residents opposed to the APA (the Adirondack Council’s offices were vandalized on several occasions around the same time).
“I’m a woman alone, so I’m a great target” she said at the time, “What’s happening in the Adirondacks reminds me a lot of the death squad stuff in Central America [where the game warden she worked with was murdered].” Although she claimed at the time that she was doing so out of the demands of her career, she stopped regularly attending APA meetings and resigned the following year.
“Anne became a symbol to these people,” former APA Director Bob Glennon (the man who captured arsonist Brian Gale in the act of torching an APA building in 1976) later remembered. “They’d point to her as a world conservationist and say she didn’t represent the Adirondacks’ point of view, meaning theirs.”
During her tenure at the APA, LaBastille’s predicted many of the issues that would come to the fore in later decades. She argued against the proliferation of towers as early as 1976 [pdf], even opposing the location of the 1980 Olympic ski jumps [pdf]. Her work in Guatemala influenced her early warnings about the endangered loon (which she wrote about for Adirondack Life in 1977) and the dangers of invasive species such as Coho salmon [pdf]. In 1982, she voiced concerns about building an Adirondack economy around prisons [pdf].
LaBastille took an early interest in the impact of acid rain on the Adirondacks and wrote
“Death from the Sky” for Outdoor Life in 1979, the first of a series of articles she wrote about the problem for popular audiences in National Geographic, Garden Journal, Sierra, and other publications. Her work contributed to the greater awareness of the problem which precipitated the 1980 Acid Deposition Act. The law established a 10-year US government research program that produced with first assessment of acid rain in the United States in 1991. LaBastille’s Beyond Black Bear Lake is considered one of the first accounts of the impacts of acid rain written for a popular audience.
LaBastille was the first woman awarded The Explorers Club Citation of Merit in 1984 and the Outdoor Writers Association of America’s Jade of Chiefs Award in 1988. In 1990 she recieved honorary doctorates from Ripon College, Wisconsin and the State University of New York at Albany. She was given the Society of Woman Geographers Gold Medal in 1993 and the following year the Roger Tory Peterson Award for National Nature Educator. In 2008 she received the Howard Zahniser Adirondack Award given by the Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks and also the the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Adirondack Center for Writing.
In the late 1990s LaBastille began spending less time at her lakeside cabin, and more time at her home in Wadhams near Westport. In 2008 the Almanackreported that she had became too ill to remain at home and her pets were put for adoption. Adirondack Council Conservation Director John Davis later confirmed that “Dear friend and Park champion for decades, Anne LaBastille is for the first time in memory missing a summer at her beloved cabin north of here, due to health concerns.”
Photos: Anne LaBastille with her constant companions at her Twitchell Lake log cabin in 2004 (Courtesy Cornell University); “Rain and Mist on Twichell Lake” (Anne LaBastille, EPA Photo); Souvenir Village Old Forge c 1973 (Anne LaBastille, EPA Photo).
UPDATE: Anne LaBastille’s birth date and age of death were corrected in the this story from 1935 to 1933, based on information discovered by Valerie Nelson of the LA Times.
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has announced the adoption of an emergency rule pertaining to the sales of outdoor wood boilers in New York. The emergency rule extends the current regulation’s sell-through date by 90 days, allowing a distributor to sell through July 14, 2011 any non-certified outdoor wood boiler models that were in the distributor’s stock as of April 14, 2011. Other than units already in stock, distributors may no longer sell any outdoor wood boilers that are not certified by DEC as meeting the emission standards set forth in the state regulation for outdoor wood boilers (Part 247).
The state outdoor wood boiler regulation was adopted on December 29, 2010 and became effective on January 28, 2011. Portions of the current regulation including stack height, setback, certification, and nuisance related guidelines remain in effect as of April 15, 2011 and include: 1. Minimum stack height of 18 feet above ground level.
2. Setback requirements:
100 feet or more to the nearest property boundary line for outdoor wood boilers with maximum thermal output ratings less than or equal to 250,000 Btu/hour.
200 feet or more to the nearest property boundary line, 300 feet or more to the nearest property boundary line of a residentially-zoned property and 1000 feet or more from a school for outdoor wood boilers with maximum thermal output ratings greater than 250,000 Btu/hour.
Setbacks may be based on distances to residences not served by an outdoor wood boiler if the boiler is located on contiguous agricultural lands larger than five acres.
Customers must make sure their setback is based upon the maximum thermal output of their outdoor wood boiler and should consider contacting the manufacturer directly for this information.
3. Distributors must provide potential customers with a copy of the regulation (Part 247) and a Notice to Buyers form. A template for the Notice to Buyers is available on the DEC website [pdf].
4. The opacity and nuisance provisions set forth in the current rule apply to all outdoor wood boilers. Potential buyers must be aware that even if the requirements of the regulation are met, there may be conditions or locations in which the use of a new outdoor wood boiler unreasonably interferes with another person’s use or enjoyment of property or even damages human health. If such a situation occurs, the owner or lessee of the new outdoor wood boiler causing the situation may be subject to sanctions that can include a requirement to remove the device at their own expense as well as any other penalty allowed by law.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed new pollution standards for power plants that are being seen as a major step in reversing the contamination of Adirondack lakes, fish, and wildlife. The rules are likely to be challenged by congressional Republicans, according to a report by John M. Broder and John Collins Rudolf of The New York Times, but nonetheless appear to mark a turning point in the 40-year-long fight to reduce some of America’s worst air pollutants.
In response to a 2008 U.S. Court of Appeals ordered deadline the EPA has proposed the first-ever national standards for mercury, arsenic and other toxic air pollution from power plants. The new standards would require many power plants to install state-of-the-art pollution control technologies to cut harmful emissions of mercury, arsenic, chromium, nickel and gases that cause acid rain and smog. Currently, only about half of the country’s more than 400 coal-burning plants have some form of pollution control technology installed, and only a third of states have any mercury emission standards. » Continue Reading.
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) announced late Wednesday that the Environmental Board has approved a new regulation that sets stringent performance standards for new outdoor wood boilers (OWBs) sold in the state. The regulation will go into effect 30 days after it is filed with the Secretary of State. The stricter guidelines will ensure that new OWBs burn at least 90% cleaner than older models, according to a DEC press release.
Provisions in the regulatory proposal to phase out the use of older OWBs and place restrictions on their use in the interim have been removed and will be addressed through a new public stakeholder process to develop a revised regulatory framework to address concerns of residents impacted by the operation of such units. “This is about ensuring that new outdoor wood boilers burn cleaner — not only for people who buy OWBs and their families, but also for their neighbors. It’s not unlike the switch to cleaner cars,” said Acting DEC Commissioner Peter Iwanowicz. “It’s also to ensure that OWB stacks are high enough to disperse emissions rather than having them blow directly into houses and other dwellings. That’s important for public health. Also, we have listened to the agricultural community and made appropriate exceptions for farming operations.”
The regulation approved Wednesday includes stack height requirements for new OWBs that will are expected to reduce the impact of emission plumes on neighboring property owners. In addition, new OWBs will be required to be set back a minimum of 100 feet from neighboring properties — except for OWBs used in agricultural operations, which must be at least 100 feet from neighboring homes. Both new and existing OWBs will be subject to fuel restrictions hoped to ensure that only appropriate fuels are burned.
“The new guidelines the state has set on outdoor wood boilers is a necessary step in improving the process of burning wood as a renewable energy resource and is not to stop people from burning clean wood,” said Village of Tupper Lake Mayor Mickey Demarais. “Trying to make our air cleaner and protect our residents is our responsibility and the Village supports establishing guidelines and standards on OWBs to make this happen.”
“The new regulation on OWBs is a responsible move in the right direction without being overly intrusive on the public,” said Elizabethtown Town Supervisor Noel Merrihew. “It’s a good move to put together regulations for the manufacture of the OWBs. Outside the Hamlet areas the smoke can be a problem and this assures long term environmental benefits for our state.”
The text of the final rule before the Environmental Board is available on the DEC website.
Photo: Air pollution caused by an Outdoor Wood Boiler (DEC Photo).
The Glens Falls mill discharged some 3.8 million pounds of chemicals in 2009.
Finch’s emissions were less than 1.1 million pounds as recently as 2007, meaning that their pollution has nearly quadrupled since the long-time locally owned company was sold to a pair of outside investment groups in mid-2007. » Continue Reading.
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has announced the submission of a regulation to the state Environmental Board for consideration at its October 25 meeting that will set stringent performance standards for new outdoor wood boilers (OWBs) sold in New York State. If approved, the regulation would go into effect 30 days after its filing with the state Secretary of State. The stricter guidelines are designed to ensure that new OWBs burn at least 90% cleaner than older models. “This is a positive and necessary step in our goal to improve air quality in New York State and protect the health of our residents,” DEC Commissioner Pete Grannis said before being fired by New York Governor David Paterson, explaining that DEC limited an earlier proposal in response to comments received during an extensive public outreach effort. “DEC staff carefully reviewed and took into account all the concerns that were expressed during the rulemaking process and has developed this regulation to ensure that new outdoor wood boilers are cleaner and that existing boilers have a reduced impact on air quality.”
The regulation before the Environmental Board also includes fuel restrictions and stack height standards for existing as well as new OWBs which will reduce the impact of their emission plumes on neighboring property owners. New OWBs will be required to be set back a minimum of 100 feet from neighboring properties. A provision in an earlier proposal to phase out the use of older OWBs has been removed and will be addressed through a new public stakeholder process to develop a revised regulatory framework to address concerns of residents impacted by the operation of such units.
The rule shortens the period when OWBs cannot be used in the Northern Heating Zone – which includes all counties north and west of Dutchess, Ulster and Sullivan counties — to the period from June 1 through August 31. The seasonal restriction for all other areas of the state will run from May 15 to September 30.
The text of the final rule before the Environmental Board is available at on the DEC website. The complete rule package will be available on the DEC website after the Environmental Board meets on October 25.
On Earth Day 1970, people around the country, mostly college students, demonstrated on behalf of environmental causes. Forty years later, the environmental movement has come into the mainstream and secured state and federal agency leadership positions. More importantly, the movement has significantly improved the quality of our rivers, lakes and forests and in doing so has provided for the proliferation of local wildlife. While there are certainly challenges that remain – invasive species, inappropriate development, toxic exposures, nitrate and storm water management, climate change, the plight of amphibians, migratory birds, and bats – the environmental successes of the last 40 years should not be underestimated.
By and large, the first Earth Day was much like those that have followed: politicians, celebrities, concerts, environmental fairs, and the like. But Earth Day 1970 was a radical proposition in a time before the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was founded, and before there were state sanctioned bodies like the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to protect the environment. At Boston’s Logan Airport, where a few hundred demonstrators had gathered in what a CBS reporter called a “thoroughly peaceful and non-disruptive demonstration”, police charged the crowd and arrested 13.
In the 40 years since that first Earth Day the Adirondack region has seen a revolution in the way we interact with our environment. Sure, we can point to the founding of DEC (1970), the establishment of the EPA (1971), the Clean Air Act (1970), and the Clean Water Act (1972), State Environmental Quality Review Act (1980), the Superfund Law (1980), and the Environmental Protection Fund (1993) but there has been a leadership revolution as well. Today, Pete Grannis, who was part of the first Earth Day demonstrations, is now the head of the DEC. Judith Enck, the state’s leading environmental activist in the 1980s, is now the Administrator of EPA’s Region 2.
Changes in the natural environment have been extraordinary. The Hudson River, once an open sewer where no one dared to boat, never-mind swim or fish, now bustles with recreation activities in summer. According to the DEC, the number of seriously polluted waters in the state has fallen by 85% and Sulfur Dioxide pollution is down by 90%, with a corresponding improvement in Acid Rain.
Successes we don’t typically consider include the closure of outdated and poorly located landfills (more than 100 in Adirondacks alone), the elimination of the tire dumps (including more than 27 million tires statewide), the cleaning up of Superfund and brownfield sites (1,800 statewide) and the thousands of water bodies large and small around the state that have been cleaned-up in the last 40 years through waste-water management.
We may not consider those victories as much as we should, but local wildlife certainly has. In 1970 there was just one occupied Bald Eagle nest in New York State, in 2010 there are 173. Eagles and other raptors we rarely saw in the 1970s and 1980s, birds like the peregrine falcon, are now fairly frequent sights; ravens and osprey have returned to the Adirondacks. Wild turkeys have exploded from about 25,000 in 2010 to 275,000 today, and so turkey hunting has returned to the Adirondacks. Native trout have been returned to more than 50 ponds according to the DEC, and the average number of fish species has increased by a third offering increased angling opportunities. Beaver, fisher, and otter have flourished in cleaner, more diverse waters and so trapping seasons have returned for those species. In 1970 there were no Moose in the Adirondacks, today there are 400 to 500 in the region.
Clean water, clean air, and open spaces were the demands at the first Earth Day in 1970. Those demands were met by legions of combative corporations, industry alliances, business groups, chambers of commerce and their attorneys. A look at a local paper on any given day shows that those battles continue, but 40 years has shown that the environmental movement has been an enormous success. Despite the attacks and “enviro-nazi” insults, the former hippies, political greens, organization environmentalists, and wildlife conservationists who have made up the environmental movement have much to be proud of.
Two weeks before Ron Stafford died on June 24, 2005, the North Country’s longtime state Senator was honored by the Adirondack Council on its 30th anniversary.
I thought of Stafford when Adirondack Almanack editor John Warren decided to solicit nominations for a list of influential Adirondack leaders.
While some might argue that Stafford’s importance lies in the number of prison jobs he created in the North Country, or in the millions in state funds he brought back to the district, I would argue that he deserves to be remembered as an Adirondack conservationist.
Though conventional wisdom might say otherwise, the Adirondack Council’s award to Stafford was richly deserved. » Continue Reading.
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.
According to a just-released U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) study, scientists detected mercury contamination in every fish sampled in 291 streams across the country. About one fourth of the fish sampled were found to “contain mercury at levels exceeding the criterion for the protection of people who consume average amounts of fish, established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency,” according to USGS. More than two-thirds of the fish exceeded the U.S. EPA level of concern for fish-eating mammals.
Mercury contamination of fish, ospreys, loons, and other aquatic-feeding animals continues to be a concern in the Adirondack region where the problem is the most acute of all New York State. New evidence in the Northeast shows mercury contamination in animals that only feed on land, spreading the concern from water based ecosystems to terrestrial ones as well. » Continue Reading.
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