Posts Tagged ‘DEC’

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Rare DEC Adirondack Forest Ranger Interview

We don’t often get an opportunity to hear from local Department of Environmental Conservation forest rangers, so yesterday’s interview with 26-year veteran DEC Forest Ranger Mark Kralovic by Gloversville Leader-Herald reporter Kayleigh Karutis is worth noting here on the blog.

Although Kralovic, who is stationed in Wells, Hamilton County, notes that he has not seen an Adirondack moose yet, he has seen some strange and dramatic things:

Kralovic said he has seen anywhere from five to over a dozen rescues a year, and each presents its own unique challenges. » Continue Reading.


Friday, August 15, 2008

Advocates Endorse DOT’s Adirondack Guidelines

The Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks believes the adoption of the new state Department of Transportation (DOT) Guidelines for the Adirondack Park – also called the “Green Book” – is a significant step for the protection and sound environmental maintenance of the park’s highways and greenways.

Completion of the Green Book and its revisions was one of the primary stipulations of a legal “Consent Order” that followed the unconstitutional cutting of several thousands of trees on Forest Preserve lands along the Route 3 scenic highway corridor between Saranac Lake and Tupper Lake in 2005. The Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks filed a civil violation of the Forest Preserve complaint against the cutting with the NYS-DEC at the time and then worked extensively to see the provisions of a strong “Consent Order” against DOT be brought to fruition.

Association Comments on the Draft “Green Book” include:

The Association commends the Department in the tremendous amount of work undertaken in compiling the Draft NYS-DOT Guidelines for the Adirondack Park. The document in and of itself represents a comprehensive compendium of state policy, regulations, design criteria and case studies regarding roadway and highway engineering, design and environmental controls.

The Department is making progress on the requirements of the 2006 “Order on Consent” between the DEC, DOT and APA which required inclusion of policies directing the DOT with regard to addressing hazard tree management within the Adirondack Park, verifying the specific requirements for the application of needed temporary revocable permits (TRPs) and designating accountable Department staff expertise needed to guide and monitor parkwide program implementation. The DOT parkwide engineer position held by Ed Franze was one of AFPA’s recommendations.

The Association is also pleased that the Department has produced the Appendix Q outlining the “Environmental Commitments and Obligations for Maintenance (ECOM) that includes the environmental checklist for NYSDOT maintenance activities in the Adirondack Park and the outline for the needed Adirondack Park Baseline Maintenance Training program.

However, the Association felt these sections require further consensus between the State departments and agencies and public stakeholders in order to fully protect Park resources and to prevent reoccurrences of the 2005 Route 3 tree-cutting which led to the Order on Consent.

Dan Plumley, the Association’s Director of Park Protection, also called on all three state agencies (DOT, DEC and APA) to develop unite around a joint mission to create a planning process for all highway and greenway corridors in the Park. Plumley outlined strategies the agencies should take for enhancing the Park’s scenic, natural character; support walkable communities; advance mass transit opportunities; and mitigate negative effects of roadways and traffic.

A summary of the Associations’ major comments on the Green Book are available online.


Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Grannis To Speak At Nature Conservancy Event

Via Press Release:

The Adirondack Chapter of The Nature Conservancy and the Adirondack Land Trust are holding their Annual Membership Meeting and Field Day on August 16, 2008, at Heaven Hill Farm in Lake Placid, New York. The event, featuring keynote speakers Pete Grannis, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner, and Charles D. Canham, Ph.D., Forest Ecologist, is open to the public. Preregistration is required.

Prior to becoming DEC Commissioner, Grannis was a NY State Assemblyman for 30 years. During that time, he was an active member of the Environmental Conservation Committee and received recognition from a variety of environmental organizations for his role in enacting laws addressing such issues as acid rain, clean air and water.

Now, under Grannis’s leadership DEC is making history in the Adirondacks with his Smart Growth initiatives and the integral part it is playing in protecting the ecologically and economically significant Finch lands.

Dr. Canham, Senior Scientist with the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook, NY, earned his doctorate in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from Cornell University (1984). Widely recognized as a leader in his field, Dr. Canham’s research papers have appeared in numerous scientific journals. His most recent, Neighborhood Models of the Effects of Invasive Tree Species on Ecosystems Processes (2008), can be found in Ecological Monographs, a publication of the Ecological Society of America.

Dr. Canham’s Adirondack research has taken him deep into the forests of the Five Ponds Wilderness and to hundreds of remote lakes and ponds. He is also a board member of the Adirondack Chapter of The Nature Conservancy and the Adirondack Land Trust and chairs the groups’ Conservation Committee.

Pre-registration is required for this event, which will run from 10:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. Cost per adult is $20, children under 12 are free. Heaven Hill Farm, not ordinarily not open to the public, is just west of the village of Lake Placid, with a magnificent view of the high peaks. To register, or obtain more information, contact Jeff Walton at (518) 576-2082 ext 166 or jwalton[AT]tnc[DOT ORG]

The Nature Conservancy is a leading international, non-profit organization working to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. Since 1971, the Adirondack Chapter has been working with a variety of partners in the Adirondacks to achieve a broad range of conservation results. The Chapter is a founding partner of the High Peaks Summit Stewardship Program, dedicated to the protection of alpine habitat, as well as the award-winning Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program, which works regionally to prevent the introduction and spread of non-native invasive plants.

The Adirondack Land Trust, established in 1984, protects open space, working farms and forests, undeveloped shoreline, scenic vistas, and other lands contributing to the quality of life of Adirondack residents. The Land Trust holds 45 conservation easements on 11,174 acres of privately-owned lands throughout the Adirondack Park, including 15 working farms in the Champlain Valley.

Together, these partners in Adirondack conservation have protected 556,572 acres, one out of every six protected acres park-wide.

Adirondack Almanack periodically forwards press releases like this one to our readers.


Sunday, August 10, 2008

Adirondack Mountain Reserve Through-Hiker Arrested

Here is a disturbing story from Glens Falls blogger (i am alive) who was arrested for trespassing after signing the register at the gatehouse at the Adirondack Mountain Reserve’s Lake Road entrance and attempting to hike to Dial and Nippletop mountains:

…we were approached by an armed man. other than his name tag, he was not dressed as a security officer, but he was carrying a silver pistol. he had a digital camera bag around his neck and had a small bleeding wound on his face. without explanation, he took out the camera and began taking pictures of us. as soon as he began speaking, we knew our hike was over…

…he proceeded to escort us back to the gatehouse and detain us. he called in another security guard from the Ausable Club and summoned a state officer by radio. we sat being totally cooperative, providing identification and surrendering adam’s weapons (he had a leatherman and his new kershaw knife). inside my head i am thinking, “this is just to scare us, he can’t really arrest us….right?”…

…here we waited for over an hour until a NYS Department of Environmental Conservation Officer could arrive to deal with all of our lawlessness. i actually felt bad for the EnCon officer. seriously, did he need to come all that way to deal with us? we would have quietly left the property if mr. cowboy said that we really couldn’t have the dog and had to turn around. he never gave us that chance.
so in his generosity, mr. cowboy decided only to “arrest” one of us. oh yeah, you guessed it…it was me.

Amazing. That should be good for regional economic development. I guess it’s not surprising, even their web page is off limits – that is, unless you want to serve them.

What does this say about Sandy Treadwell, who claims AuSable Club owner William Weld as his surrogate? Does Treadwell condone arresting his constituents for through-hiking?

UPDATE: Apparently this is not an uncommon experience. Check out what happened to Press Republican outdoors writer Dennis Aprill in June of this year here.


Thursday, August 7, 2008

New Northern Forest Institute Announced For Newcomb

The DEC has officially announced that the historic Masten House (at left), on the site of the former iron mines in Tahawus in Newcomb, Essex County, will be the site of “a new leadership and training institute that focuses on the research and management of northern forests.” Northern forests is intended to mean the area that “extends from Lake Ontario at Tug Hill, across the Adirondacks to northern Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine.”

Regular Almanack readers know that Eliot Spitzer’s budget called for $125,000 from the Environmental Protection Fund to be put toward SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry’s purchase and rehabilitation of the Masten House – that had apparently fallen through, late in the budget process, but was apparently found somewhere in DEC’s budget..

The DEC’s press release notes:

The project is a cooperative effort that will enhance forest preserve and wildlands management research and contribute to the local economy. ESF will run the Northern Forest Institute (NFI) on a 46-acre portion of a property owned by [Open Space Institute’s] Open Space Conservancy and leased on a long-term basis to the college for $1 a year. Establishment of the institute is being aided by a $1 million grant from Empire State Development to OSI and $125,000 from DEC to ESF. In addition, DEC has committed $1.6 million over the next four years to ESF scientists who will conduct three research projects on visitor demand, experiences, and impacts, as well as a training program for DEC employees responsible for managing recreational visits to New York State forest preserve lands.

The NFI will focus on meeting the educational and research needs of professional audiences, including representatives of state agencies, business leaders, and educators. The institute will also serve the general public, particularly college and secondary school students.

Here is some history of the Masten House from DEC:

Masten House is within the state historic district that encompasses the former town of Adirondack at the southern entrance to the High Peaks Wilderness area. The town was settled in 1826 and was home to one of the region’s first iron mines and early blast furnaces. The village was resettled in the late 19th century as the Tahawus Club…

The eight-bedroom Masten House was built in 1905 near secluded Henderson Lake and was used as a corporate retreat by NL Industries, which operated a nearby mining site. Masten House is within the state historic district that encompasses the former town of Adirondac at the southern entrance to the High Peaks Wilderness area. The town was settled in 1826 and was home to one of the region’s first iron mines and early blast furnaces. The village was resettled in the late 19th century as the Tahawus Club. Then-Vice President Theodore Roosevelt was staying at Tahawus in 1901 when he learned that President William McKinley had been shot. [Actually, as is noted by a commenter below, Roosevelt already knew McKinley was shot, he thought that the President would be OK and so went to Tahawus].


Friday, July 11, 2008

2008 Annual Adirondack Loon Census

The Zen Birdfeeder points us to the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Annual Loon Census, set to take place Saturday, July 19th:

The Annual Loon Census provides valuable data for the Loon Program to follow trends in New York’s summer loon population over time. Hundreds of residents and visitors throughout New York assist them each year by looking for loons on their favorite lake or river. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Environmentalists Sue Over Floatplane Use

Received from the Adirondack Mountain Club and forwarded for your information, the following press release:

ALBANY, N.Y. — The Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK), the Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks, the Sierra Club and the Residents’ Committee to Protect the Adirondacks filed a lawsuit in state Supreme Court in Albany on May 29. The suit asks the court to compel the state Department of Environmental Conservation to ban floatplanes on Lows Lake in the Adirondack Park.

The lawsuit was filed because DEC has failed to abide by legal commitments it made in 2003 to eliminate floatplanes on the wilderness lake. In January of that year, the DEC commissioner signed a unit management plan (UMP) for the area that committed DEC to phasing out floatplane use of Lows Lake over five years. The five-year window expired at the end of January, but DEC has not promulgated regulations to ban floatplanes. According to the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan, which is part of the state Executive Law, “preservation of the wild character of this canoe route without motorboat or airplane usage … is the primary management goal for this primitive area.”

“Lows Lake is a true wilderness within the ‘forever wild’ Forest Preserve,” said David H. Gibson, executive director of the Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks. “Eighty-five percent of its shoreline is bounded by designated wilderness. It is the true eastern border of the Five Ponds Wilderness Area. The public expects DEC to manage wilderness according to well established principles and legal guidelines, among which is the key provision that there shall be no public motorized use.”

“We take this action reluctantly and only after extensive discussions with DEC at the highest levels,” said Roger F. Downs, conservation associate for the Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter. “From the moment these lands and waters were acquired for the public in 1985, the state’s verbal and written intent was to treat this body of water as wilderness and to close Lows Lake to all public motorized use. Finally, in 2003, DEC committed in the UMP to doing just that over the ensuing five years, providing floatplane operators with a long time to adjust their business plans. Five years constitutes a very generous and lengthy public notice. We act today because DEC has failed to follow through on a very public commitment advertised far in advance and involving extensive public involvement and debate.”

At 3,122 acres, Lows Lake, which straddles the St. Lawrence-Hamilton county line, is one of the larger lakes in the Adirondack Park. The lake stretches about 10 miles east to west and is the centerpiece of a roughly 20-milelong wilderness canoe route. Floatplanes were rare on Lows Lake until recently. Sometime before 1990, non-native bass were illegally introduced into the lake, and as public awareness of the bass fishery grew, floatplanes and motorboat use increased. Motorboats, except those for personal use by the few private landowners on the lake, are now prohibited on Lows Lake.

A recent analysis by the Residents’ Committee shows that only 10 of the 100 largest lakes and ponds in the Adirondacks are “motorless,” and three of these are in remote areas that are not easily accessible. The vast majority of lakes and ponds in the Adirondacks are overrun with floatplanes, motorboats and personal watercraft.

“Motorboats have already been prohibited on Lows Lake, making this decision by DEC inconsistent as well as illegal,” said Michael P. Washburn, executive director of the Residents’ Committee. “The park should be the place where people know they can find wilderness. That will only happen if New York state follows its own laws.”

DEC’s proposed permit system would limit flights into the lake and allow DEC to designate specific areas for take offs and landings, but the plan creates a number of problems. For one thing, floatplane operators would be allowed to store canoes for use by their clients on Forest Preserve land designated as wilderness, an inappropriate and unconstitutional commercial use of public land. Floatplanes would also have to beach on the wilderness shore to drop off and pick up clients at the canoe storage sites.

During the peak paddling season, July through September, floatplanes would be prohibited from landing on and taking off from Lows Lake on Fridays and Saturdays and on Sundays before 2 p.m. This would increase pressure on the area because visitors coming in by floatplane would have to camp for at least three nights on weekends during the busy season. Floatplane customers would also be coming in on Thursday, allowing them to quickly fill up camping sites before weekend paddlers have a chance to get there.

DEC attempts to justify the proposal by manipulating the results of a survey of paddlers who visited Lows Lake in 2007. Generally, the survey results do not support continued use of floatplanes on Lows Lake. For example, 68 percent of the paddlers surveyed said they believe it is inappropriate for floatplanes to use the lake and 85 percent said floatplanes diminished their wilderness experience. These figures are consistent with the hundreds of letters the state received in 2002 supporting a floatplane ban.

“Lows Lake provides a rare wilderness paddling experience, but that experience is greatly diminished by the intrusion of floatplanes,” said Neil F. Woodworth, executive director of ADK. “It’s frustrating, after a hard day canoeing or kayaking, to discover that your favorite campsite has already been grabbed by someone who can afford to hire a plane.”

The suit is returnable on July 11 in Albany. Attorney John W. Caffry of Caffry & Flower of Glens Falls is representing the coalition in the case.


Saturday, April 26, 2008

The Biggest Threats to Adirondack Water Resources

The Adirondack Council has released a report that outlines eight major threats to Adirondack water resources. Titled Adirondack Waters: Resource at Risk [pdf], the 32-page booklet describes the threats and what can be done about them. The eight risks include: Acid Rain, Mercury Pollution, Global Climate Change, Aquatic Invasive Species, Inadequate Sewage Treatment, Suburban Sprawl, Diverting Adirondack Waters, and Road Salt.

Acid Rain – More than 700 bodies of water in the Adirondack Park have been damaged and native fish, amphibians, and other aquatic life are threatened. Although they may look clear and pristine, the appearance of water bodies damaged by acid rain is actually due to a lack of native life in the water. Recently, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized the Clean Air Interstate Rule (CAIR), which provides for the largest reductions in the pollutants that cause acid rain since the passage of the original Clean Air Act in 1963. Congress needs to put these new rules into law. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Pending Adirondack Related State Budget Items

Here is an e-mail recently received from the Adirondack Council’s John Sheehan outlining the pending Adirondacks related budget deals. According to Sheehan, this is the “Environmental Conservation budget plan agreed to by Legislative leaders, which is in the process of being passed by both houses. The Governor is expected to sign the bills.” At least some time soon, the budget is now a week late.

The big news for us is that it looks like the the money is available to finish the (Pataki initiated) Domtar land purchase, the Lake George West Brook money didn’t make it, but money to study the impacts of road salt did.

The Almanack reported in January Spitzer’s budget proposals relating to the Adirondacks. » Continue Reading.


Monday, March 24, 2008

$1 Million Awarded to 18 Adirondack Projects

Here is a press release that just arrived from Governor Patterson’s Office. The projects include wireless, historic preservation, affordable housing, tourism, beautification, and more.

GOVERNOR PATERSON ANNOUNCES SMART GROWTH GRANTS FOR ADIRONDACK PARK COMMUNITIES

Projects Link Sustainable Development, Environmental Protection and Community Livability

Governor David A. Paterson and Commissioner of Environmental Conservation Pete Grannis today announced “smart growth grants” for Adirondack communities to help counties, towns, villages and their partner organizations develop plans that link sustainable development, environmental protection and community livability.

A total of $1 million will be awarded to 18 projects – ranging from one proposing a new life for the Indian Lake Theater to another designing a better wireless communication network across the Adirondack Park. The initiative, announced last July, proved so popular that the DEC received more than $3 million worth of proposals from around the Park. The grants relate to a mix of local, regional and park-wide projects.

“The Adirondack Park is a unique American treasure, a special place for residents and the millions who visit each year,” said Governor David A. Paterson. “The Park serves as a model for how to merge environmental sensitivity with the pressing needs of development and expansion. By providing local planning assistance, we hope to meet the challenge of developing sustainable communities while protecting natural resources.”

“This program is dedicated to the belief that sustainable development and environmental protection go hand-in-hand,” said Commissioner Grannis. “Safeguarding the assets of the forest preserve and fostering sustainable development and a good quality of life for residents throughout the Park is in everyone’s best interest. This initiative provides the local planning assistance needed to accomplish both. The overwhelming response demonstrates the program struck a chord with Adirondack Park communities.”

Smart growth is sensible, planned growth that balances the need for economic development with concerns about quality-of-life, such as preserving the natural and built environment. Smart growth is also becoming a useful tool to attract businesses that value community quality-of-life.

The 2007-08 Environmental Protection Fund included $2 million in grants to promote smart growth initiatives; $1 million was earmarked for the Adirondacks. Smart growth can be useful in addressing land-use issues facing rural communities – workforce housing, aging infrastructure, water quality, economic development, open space protection and village/hamlet revitalization.

The grant winners include 12 projects that address local issues, four that are regional in nature and two that are park-wide in impact.

The grants include:

– $106,971 to the Town of Saranac to develop the “Wireless Clearinghouse” project to create a comprehensive plan for identifying potential structures for telecommunications infrastructure to bolster wireless networks in the Park. The State University of New York at Plattsburgh and the Adirondack North Country Association will assist the Town;

– $100,000 to the Town of Tupper Lake to produce a “Community Development Priorities” plan. Part of the plan includes developing a “visual identity” for the Town and Village of Tupper Lake, and concept designs for streetscape and waterfront projects;

– $42,600 to the Town of Indian Lake to plan the re-opening of the Indian Lake Theater. The 250-seat, Main Street venue has been closed for more than a year. Local officials want to explore re-opening the facility as a year-round community stage and screen, offering films and musical and theatrical performances, and a public space for schools, libraries and other organizations for meetings, lectures and seminars;

– $100,000 to Essex County to create an “Essex County Destination Master Plan” that will focus on communities beyond Lake Placid. It will explore opportunities to take advantage of recreational and natural resources in an economically sustainable way in locales such as Moriah, North Elba, Schroon Lake, Ticonderoga and Wilmington;

– $50,000 to the Town of Wilmington to conduct feasibility studies for a community center, municipal offices, historical society building and a fly fishing museum; and

– $35,000 to the Town of Chester to make plans for retaining existing affordable housing and establishing new affordable housing opportunities for working families.

Senator Betty Little said: “Balancing stewardship of the environment with the economic, housing and infrastructure needs of our Adirondack villages, towns and counties is critically important. I am pleased to see this partnership between the State and our local governments. I want to thank Commissioner Grannis for spearheading this initiative and congratulate the recipients for their successful applications.”

Assemblywoman Teresa Sayward said: “I applaud Commissioner Grannis and the DEC for addressing the needs of the North Country. These grants as well as collaboration among State and local officials, business leaders and concerned citizens are a good step toward a balanced approach to our economic development while sustaining the character of the Adirondack region.”

Assemblywoman Janet Duprey said: “I am pleased DEC has recognized the unique issues facing municipalities within the Adirondack Park. I congratulate the local governments that have been awarded smart-growth funding and look forward to working with these communities as they complete these projects. The large number of competitors for the grants points out the struggles facing Adirondack Park municipalities, and I encourage Commissioner Grannis and DEC to continue this competitive grant program.”

Adirondack Park Agency Chairman Curt Stiles said: “We were impressed by the innovative and comprehensive grant applications that were submitted by Adirondack municipalities. We extend our congratulations to the grantees and look forward to the successful implementation of their plans. This was a very competitive grant program and demonstrated a strong need for future support. Partnering with local governments and State agencies enables smart growth through synergy and shared values, and makes for stronger communities.”

Upstate Empire State Development Corporation Chairman Dan Gundersen said: “I look forward to seeing these projects enhance and shape the Adirondack communities in a way that invites economic development that is compatible with the Adirondack’s natural environment.”

Secretary of State Lorraine Cortés-Vázquez said: “The Adirondack smart-growth initiative represents a model for inter-agency and inter-governmental collaboration on some critical challenges and opportunities in the Adirondacks. With these grants, the State and the individual Adirondack communities have demonstrated an impressive commitment to economic and environmental sustainability in the region.”

Brian L. Houseal, Executive Director of the Adirondack Council, said: “It was a great pleasure to stand with Commissioner Grannis last summer as he announced in Lake George that half of the State’s smart growth grants would be awarded to communities and organizations in the Adirondack Park. Sound planning is a wise investment for municipalities, and it helps preserve open space, natural beauty, water quality, and wildlife habitat.”

Established in 1892, the Adirondack Park features world-class natural and cultural resources, including the Nation’s only constitutionally-protected wild forest lands. In contrast to America’s national parks in which no one resides, the Adirondack Park is home to 130,000 full-time residents and hundreds of businesses whose future depends on continued protection of the natural resources and a sustainable economy.

Many Adirondack communities lack the resources to comprehensively address the land-use challenges before them. The smart-growth grants program will provide communities with technical capabilities necessary to plan for the future.


Friday, February 29, 2008

Adirondack Snowmobiling: Resources, Conditions, and Controversy

This winter, after a number of years of lackluster snow conditions, Adirondack snowmobiling has once again made a resurgence. Here are a few things about Adirondack snowmobiling you should know:

Snowmobile Trails
The Adirondacks are criss-crossed by hundreds of miles of snowmobile trails. A free Adirondack Snowmobile Trail Map is available here. Trailsource is also an excellent resource for New York State snowmobile trails.

Snowmobile Conditions
Conditions throughout the region vary depending on elevation, nearness to large lakes, and latitude.

Current Northeast Snow Depths

Snowmobile Online Resources
Snowmobile forums offer sled fanatics discussions of videos, people offering sleds or parts for sale and other classifieds, snow tech, snowmobile politics, vintage snowmobiles, and any number of topics related to sledding. Some of the more popular are:

Trail Conditions.com
Snowmobile Forum
Snowmobile Fanatics
Net Sleds
Snowmobile World

Snowmobile History
Our post on the history of snowmobiling in the Adirondacks tracks the development of the snowmobile (or more generally, motorized snow travel) from the emergence of snow machines in the early 1900s, through the development of the personal sled that is so familiar today. The five part history continues into the explosion of makes and models and the spread of snowmobiling throughout the Adirondack region with races, clubs, and dealers taking advantage of the boon in snowmobile sales that occurred from 1965 to 1970. It concludes with the emerging conflicts over snowmobiles in the Adirondack Region.

Snowmobiling Controversy
The DEC and the Office of Parks Recreation and Historic Preservation are developing a Snowmobile Plan for the Adirondack Park. The plan will establish a baseline for creating a comprehensive and integrated Adirondack Park snowmobile trail system. It also establishes standards for developing and maintaining trails on DEC managed lands in the Adirondacks. Despite the excitement of some snowmobile clubs who have misrepresented the plan’s goals and effects by claiming that it will mean no new trails in the Adirondacks, the plan will likely call for the establishment of long-awaited new connector trails between towns.

The DEC press release on the snowmobile plan

Opposition from The New York State Snowmobile Association

Opposition from Winter Wildlands: Snowmobiles Stress Wildlife In Winter

New York Times Article Snowmobilers vs. Hikers in the Adirondacks

The APA is accepting comments on the plan until March 4, 2008.

Snowmobile Safety
Statewide there were nine people were killed on snowmobiles in December 2007. In January 2008 an ATV and two snowmobiles went through the ice on Lake Pleasant in Hamilton County and a snowmobile went through the ice on Lake George in Warren County. Worse news came in February 2008 however, with the tragic deaths of three snowmobilers within five days on Trail 7C connecting Boonville and Forestport.

The winter of 2007-2008 has claimed 18 snowmobilers lives so far (the deadliest sledding season was 2002-2003 when 31 riders died, their were 10 fatalities in New York in the 2006-2007 season and 14 the year before that). Snowmobiling can be dangerous. Use common sense and avoid thin ice on lakes and rivers, and high speeds on trails.

Take a minute to think about snowmobile safety and make others aware of the potential dangers:

Take the Safe Riders Online Quiz


Thursday, January 24, 2008

Spitzer’s Budget Proposals: Adirondack Edition

The latest on Governor Eliot Spitzer’s Budget Proposals courtesy of John F. Sheehan
Communications Director of The Adirondack Council:

Below is a summary of the NYS Budget as it relates to the Adirondack Park and the NYS Environmental Protection Fund.

Adirondack Park Agency

Budget same as last year ($6.2 million; $700,000 is federal money)

Staff remains the same at 72

$350,000 increase for computers and cars (located in DEC’s capital projects budget)

Olympic Regional Development Authority

– State Budget would rise to $8.6 million

– Total budget $32 million – they get most of their revenue from lift tickets

– $400,000 increase (benefits, retirement)

– staff level stays the same at 203

Department of Environmental Conservation

– Total budget $1.1 billion

– Decrease of $31 million from last year

– half of that decrease caused by reductions in federal aid

– DEC will eliminate some local and regional initiatives to compensate

– Total employees up by 4 to 3,752 (two of the 4 are likely to be assigned to invasive species control programs)

Environmental Protection Fund

Total of $250 million (guaranteed in statute) – $25 million could be added if the Bigger Better Bottle Bill is approved

Land

$66 million of the $250 is for open space protection statewide – that means purchases of new public lands and parks, conservation easements (development-limiting agreements with private landowners).

The other $184 million will go into the two other broad categories: Municipal recycling and solid waste projects and state parks, historic preservation and zoos/botanical gardens.

Additional Projects/Other Changes

Masten House – $125,000 from the EPF goes to SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry to purchase and rehabilitate the Masten House, on the site of the former iron mines in Tahawus, Town of Newcomb, Essex County. It will become a forestry research facility for the college, which owns nearby Huntington Experimental Forest. The college is based in Syracuse.

There are also three new categories in the EPF from which money may be drawn for specific purposes:

1. Air quality enforcement (only vague details available)

2. Renewable solar energy (community college tech training programs)

3. Farmland protection (plastic-waste and pesticide management programs)

Smart Growth Back at Department of State

This grant program to encourage environmentally sound community planning rises from $2 million to $2.5 million. It was transferred back to the Department of State, where the program started, after spending one year under DEC’s supervision in 2007.

The Sweep-Out

This is the worst news of the day, but not quite unexpected. Due to the $4.5-billion budget shortfall projected by the comptroller, the Governor will “borrow” $100 million of the unspent funds of previous EPFs. This is the largest sweep-out proposed since Governor Pataki started this distasteful practice more than five years ago.

Since the EPF was created in 1993, a total of $322 million in unspent EPF revenue has been diverted to other state purposes. If the Governor’s proposal is accepted, that amount would jump to $422 million in unredeemed IOUs. That would be nearly two years’ worth of missing revenues.


Thursday, January 10, 2008

2007 Adirondack Memorial – Remembering Those We Lost

This will be an annual series highlighting the careers of those who passed during the year who had important impacts on the Adirondack region.

Peter Berle, Environmentalist

Known to many as the long-time host of WAMC’s Environment Show, environmental lawyer Peter A. A. Berle had important impacts on the Adirondack region. He served three terms as a New York State Assemblyman (1968-1974), and three years (1976-1979) as Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Conservation. Under his tenure the state started action against General Electric for knowingly polluting the Hudson River with PCBs and began work to address Love Canal. Berle helped author New York’s first solid-waste plan which ended in the closing of many Adirondack landfills. He also helped write the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan and was appointed to the Task Force on the Future of the Adirondack Park. Berle was also President and CEO of the National Audubon Society (1985-1995) and was appointed by President Bill Clinton to the Joint Public Advisory Committee to the North American Commission on Environmental Cooperation under NAFTA. He died suddenly at the age of 69 when a barn at his farm collapsed.

Bill Frenette, Tupper Lake Historian and Outdoorsman

William Charles Frenette was a lifetime Adirondacker who spent his working career in the family business — Frenette Bros. Beer Distributors and Tupper Lake Coca-Cola Bottling Company. Bill was an avid outdoorsman who loved to hike, paddle, and ski. Although he travelled extensively the Adirondacks was his lifelong home. He was an early 46er, and climbed all 46 in both summer and winter. He was also a gold medalist in the prestigious Coureur de Bois ski marathon. Frenette was actively involved in organizing Sugarloaf Ski Hill, and helped layout the trails on Mount Morris for Big Tupper, for which he served as the resorts Ski Patrol founding chief and an early member of the Search and Rescue Team. Bill was also a founding trustee of the Wild Center (the Natural History Museum of the Adirondacks), a board member of the Adirondack Medical Center and served on the board of the Friends of Mount Arab. He served as the historian for the Town and Village of Tupper Lake. He died at his Tupper Lake home at the age of 80.

Paul Jamieson (From Nov 2006)

Paul Jamieson taught English at Saint Lawrence University for 36 years, but his longest lasting legacy for the Adirondacks comes from his 20 year fight to force New York’s Courts to recognize that free-flowing rivers are open to paddlers as public transportation routes, just as they were in the nineteenth century. Jamison was critical in initiating state purchases of two scenic stretches of Adirondack rivers: Lampson Falls on the Grasse and Everton Falls on the St. Regis. He has been recognized by innumerable accolades. Adirondack canoe builder Peter Hornbeck named a boat design Jamieson. Jamieson was honored in 2003 by the Adirondack Mountain Club with its Trail Blazer award. He was given an Honorary Life Membership to the Adirondack Mountain Club and was a founding member of its Laurentian Chapter. He received the Stewardship Award from the Nature Conservancy, the Navigable Rivers Award by the Sierra Club and a Founders Award by the Adirondack Museum. The Adirondack Council awarded him its Distinguished Achievement Award. Jamison was the author of Adirondack Canoe Waters: North Flow and an autobiography Uneven Ground. He edited The Adirondack Reader, Man of the Woods (a memoir by Wanakena guide Herbert Keith), and Adirondack Pilgrimage (a collection of his writings). He was also an Adirondack 46er and received honorary doctorates from St. Lawrence University and Paul Smith’s College. He was 103.


Monday, October 29, 2007

Is Another Adirondack Fire Disaster On The Way?

Next year marks the 100th anniversary of one of the most terrible Adirondack years on record. Forest fires ravaged the region in 1908 and led to a widespread system of fire detection. The recent California fires point up the danger Adirondackers face as global warming tends the region to increasing episodes of drought such as that that occurred this fall and contributed to the historically low levels at the Hinckley Reservoir.

According to the APA:

During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, fires raged out of control in the many of New York State’s vast wooded areas. The years 1903 and 1908 were particularly disastrous, and because of public outcry for protection from the devastation, the state began a rigorous fire and prevention and control program, including the building of fire towers. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Adirondack Snowmobile History, Part Five

In Part One of Adirondack Snowmobile History, we traced the emergence of snow machines in the early 1900s, in Part Two we looked at the development of the personal sled that is so familiar today. Part Three followed the explosion of makes and models and the spread of snowmobiling throughout the Adirondack region with races, clubs, and dealers taking advantage of the boon in snowmobile sales that occurred from 1965 to 1970. Part Four covered the emerging conflicts over snowmobiles in the Adirondack Region, a topic we’ll conclude this series with today.

As the the 1970s began, new snowmobile clubs and riders argued for more trails and Adirondack locals increased their investment in the industry. The New York Times, noted in an piece tilted “Snowmobiles in the Adirondacks” in 1972:

An economic boom is putt-putting into the remote fringes of the Adirondack Forest Preserve these days on the rubber tracks and diminutive skis of the snowmobile. Some restaurants, banks, gasoline stations, and grocery stores, long accustomed to depressingly quiet winters in this snowfast region, now are doing a volume of business that reminds them of days in July and August. Each weekend, some 11,000 snowmobilists fan out from . . . downstate areas for a day or two of picnicking and racing on the lakes and mountains.

The local residents of such villages as Speculator are happy to see the winter weekenders trundling along the highways with their snowmobiles cradled on trailers behind their cars. “Most winters we used not to make expenses,” said Howard Romaine, a restaurant proprietor here. “But with these snowmobile people coming in, the millennium has arrived.”

As snowmobilers talked about the economic impacts of their sport in the Adirondacks, the number of snowmobile being sold every year boomed to unprecedented levels. In the early 1970s there just over a hundred snowmobile makers. The most profitable were the big three – Bombardier / Ski Doo, Polaris, and Artic Cat – but motorcycle and outboard motor companies also branched out to take advantage of the increasing popularity in the sport.

From 1970 to 1973 more than 2 million sleds were sold but the popularity of the sport was at its peak. Never again would sled sales equal those golden years. The recession of 1973 and a declining economy throughout the 1970s helped slow outdoor sports sales at a time when other opportunities to ride – namely ATVs – were beginning to emerge.

Additionally, and perhaps most importantly, a new environmental awareness made it less desirable among many to run the trails on a noisy motor powered machine. Noise was a major factor in the first attempts to seriously regulate snowmobiles. The reason was explained by snowmobile historian Leonard Reich:

Snowmobiles were noisy for technical, economic, and social reasons. Technically, it was difficult to quiet their two-stroke engines without compromising power output. Baffled mufflers that worked well on four-stroke engines disrupted the two-stroke’s exhaust flow and robbed it of power. To be effective a muffler had to contain substantial quantities of sound-absorbing materials, which made it large, bulky, and expensive. Even if the exhaust could be quieted, the engine’s air intake created noise, and the entire drive system of clutches, gearing or chains, and track added even more. Shrouds and other enclosures helped, but they too added weight, bulk, and expense.

Even though noisy snowmobiles could have an adverse impact on riders’ hearing, many wanted loud machines. An article in Snow-Mobile Times commented, “For some snowmobilers, noise is a large part of the fun of the sport. The sound of that loud motor means power, speed, the thrill of being in control of a revved-up machine.” Snowmobile dealers knew their market. As one commented, “If it’s noisy and goes like hell, it will sell.”

By 1972, a number of state legislatures had acted to curb snowmobile noise, setting decibel limits for a full-throttle machine heard from 50 feet. When the maker of the Johnson Skee-Horse and Evinrude Skeeter committed itself to achieving 73 decibels within six years, the ISIA [International Snowmobile Industry Association, formed in 1965 by Bombardier] grudgingly went along, and several states wrote that limit into their legislation. It was not long, however, before the industry “recognized that it had spoken too quickly and had to backtrack when subsequent engineering and marketing analyses led most industry members to conclude that they could not produce a marketable machine meeting this noise standard.” What that statement meant, of course, was that the added expense and reduced “vroom” would significantly cut into sales.

In 1971 efforts to increase the miles of trails as a hedge to the rampant trespassing and misuse of cross-country ski trails began in earnest. By 1973 more than 40,000 miles of snowmobile trails had been built in North America. By the end of the 1970s the number had more than doubled. In 1980, an ad-hoc DEC survey of snowmobile trails in the Adirondacks estimated that there were about 850 miles of snowmobile trails in the region. When the DEC announced it 2006 Snowmobile Plan for the Adirondacks it noted that there were about 850 miles of snowmobile trails in Wild Forest and Primitive Areas alone and another 1,172 miles of funded snowmobile trails in the park as a whole not including perhaps more than a thousand additional miles maintained through lease agreements with private landowners by towns (particularly Webb and Inlet) and local clubs. The entire 2006 Snowmobile Report can be found here.

While the number of snowmobile trails in the Adirondacks has increased dramatically since the sled boom of the late 1960s and early 1970s, the number of sleds sold each year continues to slump.

According to Leonard Reich:

For the 1968 model year, an unpleasant statistic, called “carryover,” crept into the industry’s production and sales figures. That year, 170,000 machines were produced but only 165,000 sold to consumers. The remaining 5,000 awaited the following year in dealers’ hands. The next year carryover increased to 35,000, then shot up to 100,000 in 1971 on a sales volume of just under 500,000.

In 1971, snowmobile sales for the first time failed to increase substantially over the previous season, thus exacerbating the carryover problem. Whereas 1968’s 165,000 sales had become 1969’s 250,000 and 1970’s 460,000, sales fell short of 500,000 in 1971. In an industry accustomed to rapid growth, many producers soon faced bankruptcy, and the shakeout began. Sales remained in the 400,000-500,000 range through 1974, while carryover increased from 125,000 in 1972 to 315,000 in 1973, and to 500,000 in 1974, a colossal drag on the industry.

By 1997, sales had reached 260,000 sleds and have continued to drop ever since. With the advent of ATVs (which evolved in the 1960s and spread in the 1970s and 1980s) and the reduction of annual snow cover due to global warming, the snowmobile may be on its way to becoming a relic of the past.

Return to Part One. Read the entire series here.



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