Posts Tagged ‘Climate Change’

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Adirondack Crows, Ravens, and Jays

While most people like birds, some are totally ga-ga over them, while others downright fear them. When it comes to the corvids, though – birds informally known as members of the “crow family” – it seems it’s an either/or situation: either people hate them because they are “cruel,” “mean,” “vicious” birds, or they are intrigued by them because they are “clever,” “intelligent,” and “ingenious.” Somewhere in the mix, the truth lies.

Here in the Adirondacks we are lucky to have four species of corvids: ravens, crows, blue jays and gray jays. A fifth species, the fish crow, is listed as “rare” in the Lake Champlain Basin, so we can consider it an Adirondack possibility, but one exhibiting low probability. A more southern species, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if the fish crow became a more frequent visitor to our region, along with vultures and cardinals, as our climate continues to change. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, August 26, 2010

Climate Change in the Adirondacks

“Although global in scale, the impact of climate change will be felt, and its effects will need to be fought, at the local level.” That simple truth – that the climate is changing, that we’ll feel it, and fight it, here in the Adirondacks – is taken from the flap of the new book Climate Change in the Adirondacks: The Path to Sustainability by Jerry Jenkins (who is giving a talk on the book this Friday at 7 PM at the Northwoods Inn in Lake Placid).

The book is an extensive gathering of data on local climate change problems, and as importantly, what Jenkins calls “An Adirondack Strategy” that includes suggestions for moving from fossil fuels (coal and oil) to renewable energy (sun and wind). What makes this book so valuable is that Jenkins has crafted a readable and useful reference developed with local Adirondack conditions in mind: our excessive automobile and home energy use; the increasing loss of ice and snow cover and winter recreation businesses and facilities; the northern movement of the boreal forest and invasive species from the south; the loss of northern climate cultural traditions. “These losses will be extensive,” Jenkins writes. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Commentary: Climate Change in the Champlain Basin

Over the past several hundred thousand years, global atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide have remained relatively stable, averaging 280 parts per million (ppm) and varying between 180 and 300 ppm through several ice ages. But over the past 60 years, the carbon dioxide concentration in the atmospheric has risen steadicly, at an accelerating rate from decade to decade, to the current level of 392 ppm.

Why should we care? There is a strong causal link (shown by ice core and other scientific studies) between atmospheric concentrations of “greenhouse gases” such as carbon dioxide and global surface temperatures. Moreover, scientists who study the earth’s history have discovered periods in the Earth’s history, tens and hundreds of millions of years ago, when high concentrations of greenhouse gases apparently led to global warming and mass extinctions of the earth’s biota as much of the planet became uninhabitable. In the current period of rapidly rising atmospheric CO2, we are already seeing dramatic evidence of ecosystem change. Among many recent examples of climate-caused ecosystem change, two widely publicized ones include coral reefs bleaching and dying as the oceans warm and become more acidic, and dramatic losses of summer ice cover on the Arctic Ocean as the poles warm.

Why should we care? Well, if you live in the Arctic, or if you live on a low-lying island in the ocean, or if you live in an area suffering from climate-caused drought, or if you live an an area where the forests are dead all around you (e.g., southern British Columbia and many areas in the Rocky Mountains), or if you fish for salmon in Alaskan rivers, you care. But for those of us living in temperate regions it is often hard to perceive, and thus to care about, the relatively slow incremental changes that are occurring due to rising levels of atmospheric CO2 and a changing climate. Scientists have only recently started to focus on impacts of climate change on a regional or local level in the temperate parts of the world.

A new study by Dr. Curt Stager and Mary Thill sheds light on climate impacts that have already occurred in the Lake Champlain Basin and what impacts are to be expected in the near future. Funded by The Nature Conservancy, the research was an effort to find out how climate change might affect the aquatic habitat in one relatively small region. Their research showed that average temperatures have risen 2°F in just the past 30 years and that winter ice cover is significantly less extensive than in the past. For example, in the 19th century the lake failed to freeze over only three times, while between 1970 and 2007 it failed to freeze over 18 times.

No one can precisely predict future climates, but a host of climate models do a demonstrably and increasingly good job of doing so. An on-line tool is available, Climate Wizard, which allows anyone to easily access leading climate change information from 16 leading climate models and visualize the impacts anywhere on the planet. Report authors Stager and Thill applied Climate Wizard to the Champlain basin to develop a deeper understanding of how climate change might impact the basin and what resource managers could do. The good news is that many of their recommendations are things that we are already doing or should be doing: reduce pollution inputs, monitor environmental conditions and vulnerable species, be flexible and adaptive and prepared for varying lake levels, and prevent alien species invasions. As the authors state, dealing proactively with potential climate change impacts in the basin will be less costly and more effective than trying to respond after the fact.

The same thought process applies at the global level where I began this commentary. Climate change is real. It is going to get much warmer within the next 50-100 years. There is strong scientific consensus (e.g., Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports) that the primary cause of the dramatically rising atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gases are human emissions. But this is good news, in a sense, as it means that unlike past episodes of climate change linked to volcanic eruptions and meteor impacts, we can control our future – if we take steps soon to reduce greenhouse gases before large areas of the planet become uninhabitable.

The steps we should be taking – reducing our dependence on foreign oil, eliminating the burning of coal until its combustion is clean and non-polluting, using renewable energy sources, eating locally grown food, driving hybrid and electric cars, and reducing our heating and electric bills – are things that we should do regardless, even if all the climate scientists are all wrong (inconceivable to me). These steps amount to taking out relatively cheap insurance to ensure that our grandchildren inherit a healthy planet – just in case the scientists are correct.

Curt Stager and Mary Thill’s full report is available here.

Graph: Lake Champlain ice dates, courtesy Curt Stager.


Friday, March 26, 2010

Going Solar:Another Way to Help Save the Adirondacks?

If global warming is ever to be reversed, or even slowed, Americans must consume less of the energy produced by coal fired power plants.

Wind and solar power are among the alternatives New York State is promoting, said Adele Ferranti, a Queensbury resident who’s a project manager at New York State’s Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA).

“Every little bit helps,” Ferranti said. “The potential for reducing emissions is tremendous; we can make a significant dent in the consumption of energy.”

More and more people are taking advantage of alternative technologies, Ferranti said.

“They’re doing it because it’s the best thing they can do for the environment,” said Ferranti. “They’re replacing the energy made by burning fossil fuels with clean, natural power.”

Among the Lake George residents reducing carbon footprints are Rebecca and Candida Smith. The daughters of the late sculptor David Smith, they live part time at the home and studio he created in the hills above Bolton Landing.

A few years ago, they contracted with GroSolar, a Vermont company recommended by author-turned-environmental activist Bill McKibben, to install solar energy systems in the property’s three buildings.

“Global warming caused by human activities was a problem I had been aware of for a long time but it was too big, complicated and scary for me to bear thinking about for long,” said Rebecca Smith.

But after recent visits to Australia (“where I was relatively close to the ozone holes in Antarctica and actually felt how much stronger the effect of the sun was down there — it burned into my eyeballs painfully at times”) and Great Britain (“where climate change was an accepted, observable reality that government was starting to do something about”) as well as extensive reading on the subject, Smith said she became “interested and excited about the new technologies and decided to see what could be done at my family’s home in Bolton.”

Smith adds, “One person can’t do much, but there are many, many people out there doing lots of things and I am inspired by being part of that effort.”

According to NYSERDA’s Adele Ferranti, New York State offers financial incentives to homeowners like the Smiths to encourage the use of alternative energy. “Our goal is to build an infrastructure that will not only make solar power more affordable but reduce the consumption of fossil fuels,” Ferrante said.

Eliot Goodwin of GroSolar says that New York State will pay 40 to 50% of the costs of installing a solar energy system in the form of a rebate. “The homeowner is also eligible for a 25% state income tax credit and a 30% federal tax credit,” said Goodwin. “This works out to be about 60 to 65% of the costs paid for by outside sources.”

Nevertheless, the initial investment is expensive. Whether an alternative energy system is cost-effective depends upon how one determines value, groSolar’s Eliot Goodwin suggests.

“Is a car cost effective? Is a marble countertop cost effective? Is a pool cost effective? Is a hot tub cost effective? Is it cost effective to have no mountain tops left from coal mining? Is it cost effective to no longer have clean air to breathe?” he asks.

Still, Goodwin said, “With solar, no matter what, the system will pay for itself in its lifetime. You can usually expect a 7-11% return on your investment and you can also expect the house to increase in value by as much as the system costs.”

Short-term costs are offset by long-term savings, and, of course, by environmental benefits, said Rebecca Smith.

“By my calculations, it will take about 9 years to pay for the solar panels (which are under warranty for 25 years).” said Smith. “I don’t regard this as a money-saving strategy in the short run but as an investment that will pay off in dollars and environmental benefit in the long run. The satisfaction of making a difference is a really great feeling and it inspires me to do more.”

According to Fred Brown, the property’s year-round caretaker, approximately 80 flat solar panels were installed on the roofs of three buildings last spring.

“The system is comprised only of solar panels and an inverter,” said Brown. “ The panels produce direct current (DC) electricity which is steered toward the inverter where it’s converted into the Alternating current (AC) electricity, the same kind of power you get from the power grid.”

The power is not stored, but, rather, either used immediately or sent backwards through the meter, creating dollar for dollar credits in a process known as net-metering.

“We send power to the grid and the meter runs backward,” said Brown.

“During the summer solar panels create more energy than the owner can consume and the utility is required by law to buy it from you and credit your account,” said Rebecca Smith. “The power companies now depend on the small percentage of solar owners to feed in a critical extra margin of energy during the peak summer months.”

For Rebecca Smith, the environmental benefits of using alternative energy are local as well as global.

“If warming trends continue, there won’t be maple trees in the Adirondacks for our grandchildren,” she says. “I decided that it was better to be part of the solution than part of the problem.”

Every year, more New Yorkers are adopting that attitude, said Eliot Goodwin.

“We have approximately 75 installations in New York under the current programs. There’s probably another 2-300 installations in the state divided amongst 30 other installers. People care about the world they’re leaving to their children.”

Photo: A solar-powered workshop on the David Smith estate in Bolton Landing.

For more news from Lake George, subscribe to the Lake George Mirror


Sunday, March 14, 2010

State of the Birds: 2010 Report on Climate Change

Climate change threatens to further imperil hundreds of species of migratory birds, already under stress from habitat loss, invasive species and other environmental threats, a new report released today by Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar concludes.

The State of the Birds: 2010 Report on Climate Change, follows a comprehensive report released a year ago that argued that nearly a third of the nation’s 800 bird species are endangered, threatened or in significant decline. The report is available online at http://www.stateofthebirds.org/

“For well over a century, migratory birds have faced stresses such as commercial hunting, loss of forests, the use of DDT and other pesticides, a loss of wetlands and other key habitat, the introduction of invasive species, and other impacts of human development,” Salazar said in a press relase issued last week. “Now they are facing a new threat–climate change–that could dramatically alter their habitat and food supply and push many species towards extinction.”

According to the reports authors, which included the collaboration of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and experts from some of the nation’s leading conservation organizations, climate changes will have an increasingly disruptive effect on bird species in all habitats, with oceanic and Hawaiian birds in greatest peril.

Key findings from the “State of the Birds” climate change report included in the media release include:

• Oceanic birds are among the most vulnerable species because they don’t raise many young each year; they face challenges from a rapidly changing marine ecosystem; and they nest on islands that may be flooded as sea levels rise. All 67 oceanic bird species, such as petrels and albatrosses, are among the most vulnerable birds on Earth to climate change.

• Hawaiian birds such as endangered species Puaiohi and ’Akiapōlā’au already face multiple threats and are increasingly challenged by mosquito-borne diseases and invasive species as climate change alters their native habitats.

• Birds in coastal, arctic/alpine, and grassland habitats, as well as those on Caribbean and other Pacific Islands show intermediate levels of vulnerability; most birds in aridlands, wetlands, and forests show relatively low vulnerability to climate change.

• For bird species that are already of conservation concern such as the golden-cheeked warbler, whooping crane, and spectacled eider, the added vulnerability to climate change may hasten declines or prevent recovery.

• The report identified common bird species such as the American oystercatcher, common nighthawk, and northern pintail that are likely to become species of conservation concern as a result of climate change.
White-tailed Tropicbird chick by Elena Babij

Birds are considered indicators of the health of our environment. The reports offers suggestions such as conserving carbon-rich forests and wetlands, and creating incentives to avoid deforestation and reducing emissions.

The report is the product of a collaborative effort as part of the U.S. North American Bird Conservation Initiative, between federal and state wildlife agencies, and scientific and conservation organizations including partners from American Bird Conservancy, the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Klamath Bird Observatory, National Audubon Society, The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, The Nature Conservancy, U.S.D.A. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the U.S. Geological Survey.


Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Tracking Adirondack Natural History Firsts

As spring works its way northward, at about sixteen miles a day, we start to take note of the changes around us: birds absent since last fall return, buds swell on trees, the first flowers push through the thawing ground and begin to open. Many nature enthusiasts keep lists of these seasonal events, recording the arrival of the first robin, the opening of the first pussy willows, the songs of the first frogs. This study of seasonal events, whether formally or informally done, is known as phenology.

The word phenology comes to us from the Greek word phainomai, which roughly translates as “to appear” or “to come into view.” » Continue Reading.


Friday, December 4, 2009

Commentary: Monetizing the Forest Preserve

Ever since 1894, when delegates to a New York State Constitutional Convention voted to keep the Adirondack Forest Preserve “forever wild,” conservationists have come up with any number of arguments in defense of wilderness. Some have been utilitarian, some populist, some historical, some spiritual. Those arguments have always been necessary, because the opponents of maintaining the Forest Preserve as lands forever wild have been many, and at times powerful.

In fact, one of the few valid reasons to oppose another constitutional convention is the political fragility of the state constitution’s Article XIV, the clause that prohibits the destruction of the Forest Preserve. The more astute politicians among the conservationists have always understood that it is the better part of prudence to avoid endorsing a single defense of wilderness, thereby retaining the support of proponents of all other possible arguments.

In part because of that catholic perspective, the Adirondack Park has been able to support “a multiplicity of visions,” as Dr. Ross Whaley, the co-editor of “The Great Experiment in Conservation: Voices from the Adirondack Park,” puts it. But new arguments in defense of wilderness can only buttress the cause, and here’s one that’s beginning to emerge: forests offset greenhouse gas emissions and thus play a valuable role in slowing climate change.

In a 2008 issue of BioScience, the journal of the American Society of Biological Sciences, researchers quantified the amount of carbon that Midwestern forests keep out of the atmosphere. They concluded that the forests could offset the greenhouse gas emissions of almost two thirds of nearby populations. While deciduous forests are very good at storing carbon, boreal forests are even better, says John Sheehan of the Adirondack Council, and, he adds, the Adirondack Park contains approximately 800,000 acres of those boreal forests. That’s reason enough for New Yorkers to support the preservation of even more land, if not by New York State, than by conservancies and land trusts.

But if the Adirondack Park has value as carbon storage, we asked Sheehan, could a price be attached to that value? Could the Adirondack Park, for instance, be awarded pollution credits that could be sold for the economic benefit of its residents? Here’s Sheehan’s response: “We are working with a few people right now to see what value could be placed on the global ecological benefits of lands on which we know the trees will continue to grow for centuries to come, that is to say, in the Forest Preserve and in wilderness lands on which New York State holds easements.”

As to whether the Adirondack Park could be awarded credits for storing carbon that would otherwise be sent into the atmosphere, Sheehan said, that’s conceivable. “We think we can seek and win federal credit for those Adirondack communities as part of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, or in a carbon trading program adopted by Congress.”

While our thought was that any funds derived from the sale of credits should somehow be apportioned among local governments to offset property taxes or to create jobs, Sheehan said, “We think the state should direct the money it receives into the Environmental Protection Fund, and the communities could use the money for planning or for grants to residents and businesses for energy conservation.” But however the funds were used, local governments might now have some financial incentive to support (or at least not oppose too loudly) the preservation of the Adirondacks.

Of greater importance, understanding the role that the Adirondack Park plays in slowing climate change can only deepen our appreciation of these woods – and of those who fought to make and keep them forever wild.

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


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

What Paterson’s Deficit Proposals Mean For The Adirondacks

Late last week Governor David Paterson announced a two-year, $5.0 billion deficit reduction plan that he claims would “eliminate the State’s current-year budget gap without raising taxes, as well as institute major structural reforms.” The plan includes a second raid on the state’s Environmental Protection Fund (EPF), which the Governor swept clean of $50 million at the end of 2008, and a raid on the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative’s (RGGI) carbon allowance auction proceeds. Those funds, amounting to about $90 million, had been slated for energy conservation and clean energy development.

“Energy conservation and clean energy development,” says Adirondack Council spokesman John Sheehan, “are two areas where the investment would have provided both real savings for the taxpayer and clear benefits to the environment and public health.” None of the money collected from the carbon auctions since the New York began participating in January has been spent on energy programs according to Sheehan, who added that “this may be the first time in history that a dedicated fund was actually raided for another purpose before one cent of it was spent on its intended purpose.”

The proposed $10 million dollar raid on the EPF is the second within a year. About $500 million has been diverted from the fund for non-environmental purposes since 2003. The EPF is supposed to fund major environmental projects and provide local tax relief for landfill closures, municipal recycling facilities, conservation agreements, and expansion of the state Forest Preserve.

“A month or so ago, we wondered aloud why the Governor wasn’t spending the Environmental Protection Fund money that had already been collected since April 1,” Sheehan wrote in a recent e-mail to the media, “Now we know why.”

The governor’s announcement comes just a week after he said he would cut ten percent from the budgets of the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and the Adirondack Park Agency (APA). The Governor’s plan announced late last year to cut state property tax payments to Adirondack municipalities that host state lands was rejected by the State Legislature this spring.

EXCERPT FROM GOVERNOR’S PRESS RELEASE:

Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI)/EPF Transfers
(2009-10 Savings: $100 million; 2010-11 Savings: $0 million)

This proposal would transfer $90 million in RGGI proceeds and $10 million from the Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) to the General Fund. It is currently expected that RGGI proceeds through the end of 2009-10 will total $220 million, allowing the state to meet its $112 million commitment to the recently passed Green Jobs legislation, as well as this $90 million General Fund transfer. Additionally, it is fully expected that after implementation of the DRP, the State would still be able to meet its original 2009-10 EPF cash spending plan of $180 million, which is equal to record 2008-09 levels.


Monday, October 19, 2009

Adirondack Events for Saturday’s Day of Climate Action

Several local events calling for drastic reductions in fossil fuel emissions are planned for Saturday, October 24. They’re all part of an international day of climate action organized by 350.org.

In the Adirondacks so far nine actions have been announced. People are invited to hike a High Peak, kayak Lake Champlain, carpool, attend seminars, stack firewood, make a mural, and gather at a ski area, among other things. They will stand together for group photos that’ll be displayed on 350.org’s Web site to send a message to policymakers. 350.org hopes grassroots activism will encourage world leaders to enact a meaningful global climate treaty this year at their meeting in Copenhagen. Below are in-park event locations with links to more information, including how to participate.
 
Blue Mountain Lake

Keene

Lake Champlain (Westport)

North Creek

Paul Smith’s College and neighbors

Saranac Lake

Tupper Lake

Parkwide (cool commute)

Also, the coordinator of the Adirondack High Peaks Summit Steward Program is planning a hike up Mt Marcy to take photos with a banner. Others are invited to participate, though pre-registration is necessary because of group-size limits in the High Peaks Wilderness. Contact Julia Goren via [email protected]

“As NY’s highest peak, Mt. Marcy seemed like an obvious choice of an iconic location for this event,” Goren e-mailed. “The Adirondack High Peaks Summit Steward Program is a partnership of the Adirondack Mountain Club, the Adirondack Chapter of the Nature Conservancy, and the NYS DEC. We work to protect alpine vegetation atop the highest peaks, so the effect of climate change on this special ecosystem is of particular concern. We will discuss some of these effects during the hike. ADK will also be participating in the 350 event on October 24th at the Heart Lake Property as well.”

Read here for information on why some scientists think 350 parts per million of atmospheric CO2 is an important threshold for all life on earth, or read here for an explanation of the number’s significance.

For more information see 350.org, founded by End of Nature author and former Johnsburg resident Bill McKibben. Late-breaking events may pop up on that site during the week, or you can organize and list your own action.


Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Commentary: Birding And Climate Change

An ornithologist visiting Oseetah Lake this summer thought he heard the call of a fish crow. Being a scientist he is a careful person, and when I contacted him he said he really couldn’t confirm his observation—there may be hybrids of fish crows and American crows out there.

The common American crow has been in the Adirondacks at least since colonization, in the mid 19th century. Fish crows, which are smaller and voice more of an awh than a caw, reside primarily in the coastal southeastern United States and were once restricted in New York State to Long Island and the tidal Hudson River, according to The Second Atlas of Breeding Birds in New York State (2008) and John Bull’s Birds of New York State (1974).

I was curious about the possibility of a fish crow near my home, but in a different way than I would’ve been a decade ago. If one were here as an “accidental,” a bird blown off territory by a storm, it would be a novelty, occasion for birders to go out with binoculars and add it to their lists. If, however, fish crows were establishing themselves near Saranac Lake and even breeding here, it would mark a milestone in a northward and inland expansion that began in the last third of the 20th century. » Continue Reading.


Friday, August 21, 2009

Bill McKibben on Why 350 is the Most Important Number

In the past month Bill McKibben has been in India, the Maldives, Lebanon, Oman and Dubai. And last weekend he seemed delighted to be in Newcomb, population 472, catching up with Adirondack friends. The writer told Nature Conservancy members gathered at the Newcomb school for the Adirondack Chapter’s annual meeting how new information on atmospheric carbon has made him a global activist, and why he’s spreading the message that we must do more than install low-watt bulbs if we are to keep climate change from spiraling entirely out of control.

Two years ago arctic ice began melting dramatically faster than computer models had predicted, McKibben said. Scientists had projected that the natural systems that gave rise to civilization and the current array of life on earth would be disrupted when carbon dioxide in the atmosphere reached 450 parts per million. A recent paper by NASA scientist James Hansen and others puts that tipping point at 350 parts per million. The planet is already at 390 parts per million.

McKibben referenced several places where life as people know it is changing, perhaps irrevocably: Glaciers that feed rivers supporting hundreds of millions of people in Asia are melting. The Maldives, a nation of coral islands preparing to be swallowed by the Indian Ocean, is essentially shopping for a new homeland. “Hundred-year” rainstorms are becoming routine. A problem that McKibben thought would manifest in the time of his children and grandchildren appears to be unfolding now.

“We need to make [the transition away from fossil fuels] happen quicker than is economically or politically comfortable,” McKibben said. And that means more than reducing personal carbon emissions; citizens must pressure government and industry to change, he argued. “We all need to play a role of some kind in that solution.” Action taken in the next couple of years will determine “whether we get out of it at all,” he said.

McKibben is trying to engrain the number 350 in the minds of policymakers and citizens worldwide. As director of 350.org, he’s organizing a day of global activism on Saturday, October 24, encouraging people to go public in support of the 350 ppm goal. So far, 1,323 actions in 91 countries are planned, including some in the Adirondacks.

The Adirondack Council, based in Elizabethtown, is looking for 350 or more people who will commit to an alternative commute to work or school the week before Oct. 24. Paul Smith’s College, which coincidentally will have an incoming freshman class of 350, is organizing an event, details still to come. The Adirondack Green Circle in Saranac Lake is planning to do something as well, and other communities are early in the planning stages. You can visit 350.org to find an action near you or to register your own.

If you missed McKibben’s talk last week and can’t catch him tomorrow at a Protect the Adirondacks benefit in Olmstedville, you can watch him surviving this interview on the Colbert Report Monday.

Also, here’s a little of what Bill had to say about the Conservancy’s Finch lands purchase, and here is an excerpt from his Newcomb talk, broadcast earlier this week on North Country Public Radio.


Thursday, August 13, 2009

Bill McKibben, Bat Expert Al Hicks in Newcomb Saturday

Bill McKibben, author of The End of Nature, has been rallying support from around the world to call for a fair global climate treaty. Wildlife biologist Al Hicks trying to prevent the extinction of bats in the Northeast. McKibben (left) will be the keynote speaker at the annual meeting of the Adirondack Chapter of The Nature Conservancy and the Adirondack Land Trust on Saturday, August 15, at the Newcomb Central School in Newcomb, NY. Hicks’s lecture, The End of Bats in the Northeast?, is one of three field trip/educational opportunities being offered before the meeting formally kicks off at 1:00. The event is free and open to the public. Participants are asked to register in advance.

McKibben is founder of 350.org, which according to the website, “is an international campaign dedicated to building a movement to unite the world around solutions to the climate crisis–the solutions that justice demand.” Their stated mission is to”inspire the world to rise to the challenge of the climate crisis–to create a new sense of urgency and of possibility for our planet.” The number 350 refers to parts per million, and represents the level scientists have identified as the safe upper limit for CO2 in our atmosphere.

The meeting will also feature a conservation update from Michael Carr, delivering the latest news on historic land protection projects involving the former Finch, Pruyn & Company lands and the Follensby Pond tract—175,600 acres in all. Attendees will find out how sustainable forestry fits into part of the conservation plan.

At 11:00 a.m. in the Newcomb Central School Auditorium, state wildlife biologist Al Hicks will give an up-to-the-minute account of “white-nose syndrome,” a mysterious affliction causing bat populations in the Adirondacks and at least nine northeastern states to plummet. Hundreds of thousands of bats, including animals from well-established colonies in the Adirondacks, have already died. Hicks has been on the frontlines of this environmental crisis since the outbreak was first discovered in 2007.

Participants should plan to arrive around noon for the annual meeting, or before 11:00 a.m. to attend the special lecture. Bring a bag lunch or call ahead to reserve an $8 lunch from Newcomb Central School students raising money for their trip abroad.

To register for this event, reserve a bag lunch, or obtain more information, contact Erin Walkow at (518) 576 – 2082 x133 or [email protected]


Sunday, August 2, 2009

Climate Change Talk at Adirondack Museum

“Fifty years from now we may have Adirondack winters without snow and ice and forests that are the biological analogues of the dying coral reefs seen in the tropics today: stressed, structurally altered, not reproducing, and unable to support the birds and animals that once lived in them” Jerry Jenkins wrote in the Adirondack Atlas (2004). On Monday, August 3, 2009, Jenkins, co-author of The Adirondack Atlas: A Geographic Portrait of the Adirondack Park, will offer a program entitled “Climate Change and the Adirondacks” at the Adirondack Museum at Blue Mountain Lake. Part of the museum’s Monday Evening Lecture series, the presentation will be held in the Auditorium at 7:30 p.m. There is no charge for museum members. Admission is $5.00 for non-members.

Jenkins, a researcher for the Wildlife Conservation Society, will discuss
the impacts of global climate change on the region. He is trained in philosophy and mathematics, and works as a botanist and geographer. He has thirty years of field experience in the North Country, working as a naturalist and natural resources geographer for government agencies and non-profit groups including the Nature Conservancy, the State of Vermont, and the Wildlife Conservation Society.

Together with Andy Keal, Jenkins co-authored The Adirondack Atlas a Geographic Portrait of the Adirondack Park, perhaps the most significant Adirondack book in a generation. Bill McKibben describes the atlas as a “great gift…that marks a coming of age.” Jenkins recently contributed to an anthology Acid Rain in the Adirondacks an Environmental History, which one reviewer called the “definitive work on the topic.”


Monday, July 20, 2009

DEC’s New Greenhouse Gas Review Policy

The State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has announced that Greenhouse gas emissions will be included in New York’s environmental review of large-scale projects under a new policy that becomes effective August 17th. The new policy will apply where DEC is the lead agency under the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA). SEQRA requires that a “lead agency” identify and assess actions for their potential adverse environmental impacts, and in certain cases, develop an environmental impact statement and propose mitigation strategies.

“This initiative builds on Governor Paterson’s commitment to continuing New York’s fight against climate change,” DEC Commissioner Pete Grannis said in a press release. “DEC anticipates that, more and more, the public will raise the issue of climate change in the SEQRA process, and this policy will ensure that climate change impacts are considered in a consistent and fair manner. It includes a menu of design measures that can mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, such as energy-efficient construction, use of renewable energy technology and waste reduction. While helping guide DEC staff, the policy also will help raise awareness of all the actions that can be taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

The policy, proposed in March, is available at www.dec.ny.gov/regulations/56552.html.

DEC has also started a process to redesign the environmental assessment forms which used in SEQRA reviews. The update of this form will include the addition of questions related to energy use and greenhouse gas emissions, among other issues according to Grannis.


Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Bloom Index, Part II

It’s a fresh new month and time for an update to our bloom-dates table. But first, my friend Gerry Rising, Nature Watch columnist for the Buffalo News, reports that phenologists are asking regular jamokes to share their observations of trees and wildflowers. You can become a citizen scientist by noticing when chokecherries or even dandelions bloom in your back yard.

Two Web sites collect this information: the National Phenology Network and Cornell University’s Project Budbreak. Plant and animal life cycles can be susceptible to climate variations, so phenologists (the people who study seasonal patterns) are interested in your observations.

Following are median bloom dates for June from Mike Kudish’s Adirondack Upland Flora. Mike says the dates are most accurate for 1,500-to-2,000-foot elevations (the “Adirondack upland”).

June 1: Jack-in-the-pulpit, chokecherry, Solomon’s plumes
June 2: Low sweet blueberry
June 3: Wild sarsaparilla
June 5: Clintonia, bog rosemary
June 6: Bunchberry and white baneberry
June 7: Canada mayflower and bog laurel
June 9: Starflower and black chokeberry
June 10: Fringed polygala, three-leaved false Solomon’s seal, nannyberry
June 12: Labrador tea, Indian cucumber, small cranberry
June 13: Pink lady’s slipper
June 14: Hooked buttercup (Earliest sunrise, 5:13 a.m.)
June 15: Blue-eyed grass
June 17: Wild raisin, common cinquefoil
June 20: Sheep laurel
(June 20-23: Longest days of the year, 15 hours, 41 minutes)
June 26: Bush honeysuckle and tall meadow rue
June 27: Wild iris
June 29: Wood sorrel

The late naturalist Greenleaf Chase made a list for the Nature Conservancy of rare blooms on some of its Adirondack protection sites. On alpine summits he found Lapland rosebay aflower in early June, Diapensia, Labrador tea, bog laurel and mountain sandwort in late June. Greenie would visit the Clintonville pine barrens in early June to see Ceanothus herbacea (prairie redroot). Viola novae-angliae (New England blue violet) also flowers in early June on the Hudson River ice meadows near North Creek; Listera auriculata (a native orchid called auricled twayblade) blooms there in late June.

Lastly is a list of plants that amateur botanist and hall-of-fame pitcher Christy Mathewson identified around Saranac Lake in June 1922: wild carrot, bunchberry, mountain laurel?, sheep laurel, wintergreen, trailing arbutus, labrador tea, star flower, moss pink, forget-me-not, heal-all, ground ivy, bluets, ox-eye daisy, dandelion, hawkweed, Canada hawkweed, spring beauty, yellow pond lily, live-for-ever, horsetails, blueberry, twin flower, red berry elderberry, hop clover, harebell, yellow wood sorrel, sundrop, dewberry, wild red raspberry.

Boys, take note: being good at sports is nice. Being good at sports and knowing your wildflowers? That’s hot. Special thanks to Adirondack Daily Enterprise columnist Howard Riley for finding Mathewson’s handwritten list in the Saranac Lake Free Library archives and sending me a copy.



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