Posts Tagged ‘DEC’

Sunday, January 9, 2011

DEC’s Great Stories from the Great Outdoors Contest

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is calling for writers to share inspirational stories of experiences in New York’s great outdoors by entering the “Great Stories from the Great Outdoors” contest. Stories can range from the simplest walk through the woods to meeting a challenge through an outdoor activity. The contest is open to all and runs through February 2011.

Each month, DEC will select stories and post them on the DEC website (www.dec.ny.gov). A prize will be awarded for the top story each month. Complete contest rules are available online.

Through the Great Outdoor Stories contest, students, sportsmen and women, outdoor enthusiasts, campers and hikers can reflect and share the importance of the natural environment in their lives.

Entries can range from a few sentences to a maximum 650 words. All story entries must be received by February 28, 2011. Submit stories online at GreatOutdoorStories@gw.dec.state.ny.us or by mail to:

Carole Fraser
NYS DEC Universal Access Program
625 Broadway, 5th floor
Albany, NY 12233-4255

Illustration: The Great Adirondack Pass 1837 by Charles Ingham.


Thursday, January 6, 2011

DEC Announces 2011 Tree and Shrub Seedling Sale

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s (DEC) Saratoga Tree Nursery has begun taking orders for its annual sale of tree and shrub seedlings. Schools across New York can also now receive free seedlings for spring planting through the DEC School Seedling Program, which will provide 50 tree seedlings or a mixed packet of 30 wildlife shrubs to any public or private school that would like to participate.

The Saratoga Tree Nursery produces more than 50 species of trees and shrubs for planting on public and private land. The objective of the program is to provide low-cost, native planting materials from known New York sources to encourage landowners to enhance the state’s environment for future generations.

Hand-picked New York seed provides the best characteristics for a lifetime of healthy and hardy plants. Trees and shrubs create excellent “green” structures; a row of cedar or spruce make attractive snow fencing, sound barrier, and songbird shelter. A row of shrub willow is a fast-growing and effective visual barrier.

Landowners can get planting advice from their nearest DEC forestry office or private forestry consultant. The brochure and order form “2011 Trees and Shrubs” can be found DEC’s website or by calling the nursery. To order seedlings by phone, call (518) 581-1439. Call early for best selection. Mail orders are also accepted and can be sent to the Saratoga Tree Nursery, 2369 Route 50, Saratoga Springs, NY 12866. Orders may be placed through mid-May. Seedlings are shipped from mid-April to mid-May.

To participate in DEC’s School Seedling Program, schools should contact (518) 587-1120, or the nearest DEC regional forestry office to request a “School Seedlings” brochure. The brochure contains all the information necessary to place an order. The information and application is also available online. Applications must be received at the nursery by March 31, 2011.

The seedlings can be planted on school grounds or other community spaces. Teachers and students are encouraged to plan the project ahead of time by discussing the value trees contribute to the environment and to determine the objectives of the planting. Trees are instrumental in helping control erosion, enhance wildlife, provide windbreaks, and support many other conservation practices.


Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Joe Martens Nominated to Lead DEC

There were hints last week that it would happen, but it’s official, Olympic Regional Development Authority (ORDA) Chair and Open Space Institute (OSI) President Joesph Martens has been nominated by Governor Andrew Cuomo to head the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).

Martens has quite a legacy already in the Adirondack region. Under his leadership OSI secured protection of the 10,000-acre Tahawus property and most recently the 2,350-acre Camp Little Notch in Fort Ann. Martens also spearheaded OSI’s involvement in the Nature Conservancy’s 161,000-acre Finch Pryun purchase. » Continue Reading.


Monday, January 3, 2011

Elk Lake: The First Adirondack Conservation Easement

The signing of an important conservation easement last week protecting a large percentage of the former Finch, Pruyn lands reminds me of a visit I paid to Paul Schaefer in March, 1990. At that time, Governor Mario Cuomo had proposed an Environmental Bond Act, which required legislative approval before going to the voters (it was ultimately voted down). How was the bond act being received in the legislature, Paul asked. I gave him the news that it was having a rough reception politically. Paul remained optimistic. The bond act was important because it would permit the purchase of conservation easements in the Adirondacks, and that should be enough to tip public support in its favor, he felt.

Later that year, Paul formed Sportsmen for the Bond Act. It was one of many highly focused organizations he created in his lifetime. This effort, one of the last he personally led, revealed an evolution in Schaefer’s approach to Park conservation. Since 1930, Paul had fought for any appropriation that would add more Forest Preserve, public land protected as “forever wild” by Article 14 of the NYS Constitution that would eventually be classified wild forest or wilderness. He persuaded many organized hunters to support his wilderness philosophy. But he also came to believe that many private holdings in the Park should be available for active forest management, which he viewed as complimentary, both ecologically and aesthetically, to adjacent “forever wild” Forest Preserve. » Continue Reading.


Friday, December 31, 2010

Paterson Approves 2010 APA Actions

NYS Governor David Paterson approved State land classifications recommended by the Adirondack Park Agency for State lands inside the Adirondack Park yesterday. According to a press release issued by the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) “the classification approvals promote traditional recreational activities imperative to the economic well being of Adirondack communities while protecting essential natural resources, critical wildlife habitat, and significant historic resources.” The Governor’s action also sets in motion the development and implementation of unit management plans by the DEC. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Chain Saws in the Adirondack Wilderness

When we needed to do an early-season ski tour for the Adirondack Explorer, we opted for the Hays Brook Truck Trail north of Paul Smiths, which needs only about six inches of snow to be skiable.

On December 7, four of us from the office spent a good part of the day gliding through fresh, fluffy powder on our way to the Sheep Meadow at the end of the truck trail and to Grass Pond via a side trail.

With snow adorning the tall pines, the forest was serene and beautiful, and we had a wonderful time. I’ll post a link to the story when it’s available online.

Apart from two fairly steep hills, the truck trail traverses gentle terrain suitable for novice skiers. It’s a fun outing anytime in winter.

The biggest difficulty we faced was getting past two nasty pieces of blowdown about three miles from the trailhead. In one case, we thrashed through the woods to get around a large tree fallen across the trail.

Blowdown is something skiers and hikers put up with in the Adirondacks. It’s not a huge deal. Still, when I skied to the Sheep Meadow again with my daughter the day after Christmas, I was glad to discover that someone had cut through the blowdown with a chain saw. Hat’s off to whoever did it.

As we continued down the trail, it occurred to me that the doer of this good deed would have broken the law if the blowdown had been in a Wilderness Area instead of a Wild Forest Area. (The Hays Brook Truck Trail lies within the Debar Mountain Wild Forest.) Generally, the state Department of Environmental Conservation forbids the use of chain saws in Wilderness Areas except from April 1 to May 24. DEC can grant permission to use them from September 15 to April 1 as well, but this is not usually granted for routine blowdown such as we encountered on the Hays Brook Truck Trail.

I understand the rationale. A Wilderness Area is supposed to approximate nature in its primeval state. No motor vehicles, no snowmobiles, no bicycles, no motorized equipment.

As much as I support this management objective, I couldn’t help wondering what harm would have resulted if someone had cut through this blowdown even if it had been in a Wilderness Area. If the job were undertaken on a weekday, it’s possible that no one would have been around to hear the chain saw other than the person running the saw. In any case, the short interruption of natural serenity would serve the greater good. Although a few people who happened to be nearby might be bothered briefly by the noise, skiers would benefit all winter from the clearing of the trail.

I am not suggesting that forest rangers and others be allowed to use chain saws in Wilderness Areas anytime and anywhere. I do wonder if the regulations should be loosened somewhat to permit more clearing of trails before and during the ski season. I don’t have a specific proposal. I’m not even sure the regulations should be loosened. I’m just throwing out the idea for discussion.

Photo of the Sheep Meadow by Phil Brown.

Phil Brown is editor of the Adirondack Explorer newsmagazine.


Thursday, December 23, 2010

DEC: Be Safe On The Ice This Winter

With winter in full swing, officials with the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) remind outdoor enthusiasts to practice safety on iced-over water bodies.

Hiking, snowshoeing, skiing, and skating on frozen lakes are among the many winter delights enjoyed by residents and visitors of the Adirondack Park.

Nothing can ruin a good pond hockey game like a crack in the ice. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, December 23, 2010

New Wood Boiler Regulations Approved

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).


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Snowmobile Trail Upgrades for Lewis, Jefferson Counties

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has announced that several upgrades have been completed on bridges and trails on state lands around Jefferson and Lewis counties in time for snowmobile season.

Many of these improvements provide essential linkages on primary and secondary snowmobile trail networks across the Tug Hill Plateau and through Lewis County, according to DEC officials. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, December 18, 2010

Anti-Poaching Initiative: 137 Violators Charged

A major operation to crack down on illegal deer poaching across New York State has led to charges against 137 individuals for more than 250 offenses, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has announced. Last year, a similar six week crack-down netted 300 charges against 107 individuals. Most of this year’s charges, 124 misdemeanors and violations, were filed in the Adirondack Park and surrounding North Country.

This year’s initiative, dubbed “Operation Dark Night,” focused on the illegal taking of deer by use of artificial light, known as “deer jacking.” This involves nighttime wildlife crimes where poachers shine a spotlight on a deer feeding in fields to “freeze” the animal long enough to shoot it – killing deer when they are most vulnerable. Typically, deer jacking occurs in remote rural areas, late at night. Due to these late hours and secluded areas, there are few, if any, witnesses to this crime. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, December 8, 2010

DEC: Be Prepared For Winter Conditions

Visitors to the backcountry of the Adirondacks should be prepared for snow, ice and cold, and use proper equipment, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) advised today. Winter is an opportune time to take advantage of all that the Adirondack Park has to offer, however, the season can also present troublesome – even perilous – conditions to the unprepared.

Snow cover in the Adirondacks is now several feet deep at higher elevations. Visitors to the Eastern High Peaks are required to use snowshoes or cross-country skis for safety. It is strongly recommended that visitors to other parts of the Adirondacks do the same.

Snowshoes or skis prevent sudden falls or “post-holing,” avoids injuries and eases travel on snow. Ice crampons should be carried for use on icy mountaintops and other exposed areas. In addition, backcountry visitors should follow these safety guidelines:

* Dress properly with layers of wool and fleece (NOT COTTON!) clothing: a wool or fleece hat, gloves or mittens, wind/rain resistant outer wear, and winter boots.

* Carry a day pack complete with: An ice axe, plenty of food and water, extra clothing, a map and compass, a first-aid kit, a flashlight/headlamp, sun glasses, sun-block protection, ensolite pads, a stove and extra fuel, and bivy sack or space blankets.

* Drink plenty of water — dehydration can lead to hypothermia.

* Eat plenty of food to maintain energy levels and warmth.

* Check weather before entering the woods — if the weather is poor, postpone the trip. The mountains will always be there.

* Be aware of weather conditions at all times — if weather worsens, head out of the woods.

* Contact the DEC at (518) 897-1200 to determine trail conditions in the area you plan to visit.

Visitors should also be aware that waters have begun freezing over, but are not safe to access. Ice that holds snow may not hold the weight of a person.

Adirondack trail information can be found on the DEC website and the Adirondack Almanack provides weekly local conditions reports as well each Thursday afternoon.


Wednesday, December 8, 2010

RGGI Carbon Auctions Not Meeting Expectations

The Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states participating in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) has released the results of their 10th auction of carbon dioxide (CO2) allowances, held Wednesday, Dec. 1. According to a press release issued by the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC): “As with previous auctions, states are reinvesting the proceeds in a variety of strategic energy programs to save consumers money, benefit the environment and build the clean-energy economies of the RGGI states.”

The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) is the first government-mandated carbon dioxide control program in the United States. It requires power plant emissions reductions in New York and nine other Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic States. Over a period of years, the 10 states are hoping to reduce their power plant carbon emissions through a “cap-and-trade” program. There are indications however, that the carbon cap may be too high to have any impact. Additionally, environmentalists hopes to retire significant numbers of carbon credits have also proved limited. » Continue Reading.


Monday, December 6, 2010

NYS Outdoor Writers Honor Pete Grannis

The New York State Outdoor Writers Association (NYSOWA) honored former Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Pete Grannis with its “Friends of the Outdoors Award: at its annual fall conference. Grannis was recognized for “his commitment to the enjoyment of outdoor recreational opportunities available throughout the state and his continued efforts to encourage sportsmen to enjoy the natural resources that New York State has to offer,” according to a press release issued by NYSOWA.

“The award is given periodically to someone who has gone beyond the call of duty to protect and promote the outdoor experience,” the announcement reads. “It recognizes the individual or organization that has made significant and long-lasting contributions to preserving and enhancing the outdoor experience.” NYSOWA is a group of professional outdoor writers and media personnel that regularly cover outdoor sporting opportunities and issues regarding the natural environment.

Among the changes credited to his tenure as DEC commissioner by NYSOWA was increased communication with DEC personnel and the media. “Ease of communications and access have contributed to greater information for the outdoors media and, consequently, for the sportsmen and women of the New York State,” the announcement said. “Scheduled press days and conferences have further increased information and understanding of the issues facing the DEC and the sporting community.”

The organization had high praise for Grannis, who was recently fired by David Paterson over DEC budget cuts: “Commissioner Grannis has proven himself as a friend of the sportsmen by his support, advice and encouragement on such issues as the Youth Hunting and Trapping bills and allowing the use of rifles in many Southern Zone counties. He has instituted a 10-year pheasant management program and has initiated new management plans for deer and bear. His willingness to work with various groups within New York State government and to facilitate solutions to crises is illustrated with the successful efforts to save the DEC pheasant farm and keep the Moose River Plains Recreational Area open in the face of state budget cuts.”


Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Commentary: Towns Have Authority to Build Better

I am dismayed by the level of development that many towns tolerate before anything actually gets permitted and built.

In my area outside of the Park in Saratoga County, you can drive by road frontage denuded of trees, with soil blowing in the wind and find out that the town had never issued any building permits or final site plan approvals. Instead, the town simply looked the other way while the developer engaged in so-called “preconstruction” activity, such as excavation for water, sewer, utilities, roads, or for so-called site investigation such as test pits for septic tanks.Years can go by, and nothing is done to remediate the soils, the waters, the landscape, while nothing gets built.

Towns are not mandated to look the other way while developers “preconstruct” before actually building under some kind of permit. They have plenty of legal leeway to say “no” to excavating lands where there is as yet no legal permission to build. The Town Law grants towns full rights to refine the conventional definition of a subdivision to include preconstruction activity, and thus to regulate that activity.

For about thirty-forty percent of development in the Park, at least, the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) will not allow developers to preconstruct before receiving a permit to develop. APA defines subdivision to include any “grading, road construction, installation of utilities or other improvements or any other land use and development preparatory or incidental to any such division.”

I thought of this with respect to the proposed Adirondack Club and Resort (ACR). Outside of the Park, an ACR-scaled development might still be under local permit review while all sorts of roads, excavations, and perforations of the land were actively underway for lack of any town regulation. One may be safe in presuming that the APA Act will keep graders and backhoes off the lands of Oval Wood Dish in Tupper Lake unless and until a permit is granted following the scheduled adjudicatory public hearing and review of the hearing record.

The levels of engineering scrutiny of an ACR-type development just increased. The Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has told the ACR applicant that individual stormwater prevention plans for all of the project’s components parts must be completed and must be more rigorous in order to meet new DEC standards which seek to protect smaller waterbodies from downstream sedimentation and pollution. Those standards are statewide, not Park standards, so I hope that they will be equally enforced elsewhere.

I was taught in school that urbanizing an area by hardening it, paving and sewering it resulted in some remarkable changes in the run-off, or discharge of storm water. “An average peak runoff rate for rural parts of basins …was about 30 percent of the rainfall intensity, while on the impervious areas it was approximately 75 percent,” with the precise effect dependent on the nature of soils and extent of impervious area (Water in Environmental Planning by Dunne and Leopold, 1978). Definitions of urbanization differ, but a majority of rainfall simply runs off when surfaces are paved, or even when they are hardened and grassed over.

Thus, DEC is requiring the ACR applicant to better define what is going to run off and what changes that will have on downstream water quality, since many surveys show that preserving natural ground cover significantly decreases the necessary amount of water treatment, and visa-versa. Preserving natural ground cover is the best and most economical way to prevent flooding and stormwater pollution. Even that great builder of levees the Army Corps of Engineers agrees. They studied the Charles River in Massachusetts and determined that the same flood prevention effect could be achieved by either buying $10 million worth of wetlands or spending $100 million for engineered flood control measures.

There are many other examples of permissive legal authority which are rarely exercised. Another part of the state’s Town Law (Article 16, Section 278) gives a Town Board authority to require its Planning Board to seek an alternative or clustered subdivision plan. A developer like Michael Foxman, for example, could be required by the Town and Planning Boards of Tupper Lake to present alternative ways to develop, including unconventional subdivision which minimizes the amount of cleared land, the number of roads, which clusters homes and which reserves large blocks of contiguous forest – thus minimizing development costs. It will prove interesting in the public hearing and afterward to see how aggressively APA pushes the applicant to present a true alternative design. The Town of Tupper Lake has that same power. Given the burdens this development is likely to pose for Tupper service providers it would seem wise to invoke it.

It’s questionable how many towns exercise this permissive authority to require an examination of smarter growth under the state’s Town Law. None have in my admittedly limited experience. My Town of Ballston, Saratoga County, has yet to respond to my suggestion that it invoke the Town Law to require the Planning Board to seek more creativity in a proposal to build 400 homes on old agricultural and beautiful swampy woods. When and if they do, I may have somewhat higher expectations for Tupper Lake.

Photos: APA staff and Preserve Associates lead a 2007 field trip to the site of the proposed Adirondack Club and Resort at Cranberry Pond below Mt. Morris; Below, Cranberry Pond’s beaver impoundment, where stormwater, sewage and snowmaking issues for ACR concentrate.


Tuesday, November 2, 2010

DEC Names New Wildlife Biology, Fisheries Chiefs

It’s been a good year for DEC wildlife biologist Gordon Batcheller. In October, weeks after he received a top honor from the National Trappers Association, Batcheller was appointed DEC’s chief wildlife biologist. Batcheller succeeds John Major, who retired earlier this year. Batcheller had been serving as acting wildlife chief since Major’s departure.

Batcheller, an avid deer and turkey hunter, said one of his priorities will be getting more people, particularly young people, outdoors hunting, trapping and bird-watching. “We want to eliminate barriers, and that could be complicated by regulations or an inability to find places to go hunting or (finding) parking areas,” Batcheller said. “We need to try to work to unify our stakeholders so that we’re all pulling together for the same purpose.”

He said he would like to see the age for big-game and small-game hunting lowered to 12. He said he also wants to take advantage of the “citizen scientists” who are outdoors and can help the DEC in this time of limited resources, getting them working together for common goals.

Batcheller has been with the DEC since 1981, starting as a wildlife biologist in Region 9 and working his way up the ladder. He’s led a number of major studies in recent years and been an active participant on several DEC teams responsible for managing furbearers, big game, and game birds.

DEC spokeswoman Maureen Wren said Batcheller has helped develop policies to reform DEC’s response to nuisance wildlife problems, including coyote, deer and bear conflicts. And as a regional biologist, he led a study to assess the status and management needs of threatened common terns; monitored contaminants in waterfowl and mink; and mapped and regulated freshwater wetlands, she said.

DEC has also announced the appointment of a new Bureau Chief of Fisheries, Phil Hulbert. Hulbert received his undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Maine at Orono in 1971 and 1973, respectively. His initial professional employment was as a Research Associate with the Migratory Fish Research Institute in the Maine Cooperative Fisheries Research Unit.

Hulbert started with DEC in 1977, working with the Coldwater Special Studies Unit in the Stamford sub-office. In 1986, he was appointed Coldwater Fisheries Unit Leader at DEC’s Central Office. Since 1996, he has served as Superintendent of Fish Culture, overseeing DEC’s 12 fish hatcheries and the Rome Fish Disease Control Unit (Rome Lab). He has worked on projects including evaluations of stream improvement structures, statewide creel and minimum length limits in trout streams, sea lamprey control, the statewide trout stream stocking system and manual, and the development and use of ultra-low phosphorus fish feed in DEC’s fish hatchery system.

A white paper Hulbert prepared on hatchery infrastructure needs in 2003 was instrumental in efforts to obtain Capital Budget appropriations for projects such as the reconstruction of broodstock ponds at Rome Lab and the construction of a new office/early rearing/visitor center building at Rome Hatchery.