Posts Tagged ‘economics’

Friday, April 22, 2011

Phil Brown: Is Tupper Lake Resort Realistic?

Tupper Lake is hurting. Logging no longer employs as many people as it once did. The Oval Wood Dish factory closed years ago. Young people leave because they can’t find work. Over the past decade, the community lost 7 percent of its population.

Enter the developers behind the proposed Adirondack Club and Resort. They want to build a year-round resort with 650 residential units in the vicinity of the Big Tupper Ski Area. They also plan to refurbish and reopen the beloved ski area. » Continue Reading.


Monday, April 18, 2011

Commentary: Oversight Needed for Conservation Easements

Conservation easements are real property arrangements designed for the insider. Specialists predominate before and after an easement is consummated in private, including the negotiators to the terms of the easement (the seller, donor, buyer, or grantor and grantee and their lawyers), the appraiser of the easement’s value, and an ecological specialist who conducts baseline surveys of the land in question. There is rarely, if ever, a public meeting to discuss the details of the easement. The public may learn about easements through after the fact press releases, but their specific provisions and public benefits may be unclear for years. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, April 16, 2011

Wood Products Mass Customization Workshops

Some of the nation’s top experts on Mass Customization for the wood products industry are coming to northern New England and New York to share their knowledge with owners and managers of the region’s wood manufacturing businesses in a series of one-day workshops.

Mass customization is a promising business model that uses advances in manufacturing and information technology to produce made-to-order items that fit a customer’s unique preferences, but which are manufactured with low cost and short lead times. The approach enhances the economic competitiveness of companies by helping them better serve their existing customer base, serve new market niches and protect against overseas competition.

The Regional Wood Products Consortium—an initiative of the wood products manufacturing industry in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and northern New York—will conduct specialized one-day innovation workshops on Mass Customization for the Wood Products Industry in late April and early May.

The Mass Customization Workshop is geared to leaders of small- and medium-sized wood products companies and will be repeated in five locations throughout the four-state region on the following dates:

April 26, 2011 – Augusta, ME
April 27, 2011 – Concord, NH
April 28, 2011 – Randolph Center, VT
May 10, 2011 – Utica, NY
May 11, 2011 – Glens Falls, NY

Each workshop will feature presentations by experts on the subject of mass customization as well as a local manufacturer who will share their personal experiences of using mass customization, overcoming the challenges and making it a key part of their business strategy.

Featured presenters include Dr. Urs Buehlmann of the Virginia Tech Department of Wood Science and Forest Products; Dr. Torsten Lihra of FP Innovations, Canada’s wood products research institute, and Russ Kahn of 20-20 Technologies.

The New York workshops will feature Lisa Weber, CEO of Timeless Frames, Timeless Décor & Timeless Expressions—the largest, single-site custom picture framing facility in the country.

Any wood products company in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont or northern New York is eligible to participate in any of the workshop sites at a special subsidized registration fee of only $25 per person. Full workshop details and online registration are available at www.foresteconomy.org.

All workshops are co-sponsored by the Wood Products Manufacturers Association (WPMA), Maine Wood Products Association (MWPA), New Hampshire Timberland Owners Association (NHTOA), Vermont Wood Manufacturers Association (VWMA), and Empire State Forest Products Association (ESFPA).

The workshops on Mass Customization are the fourth in an initial series of innovation workshop topics that the Regional Wood Products Consortium is conducting for wood product companies in the region. More than 90 companies have attended the previous workshops, including many that attended more than one topic. The final workshop in this initial series will be held in the fall of 2011 on “Enhancing Economic Competitiveness through Going Green.”

The Regional Wood Products Consortium is a collaboration between the region’s wood products manufacturing industry and Sustainable Forest Futures. Funding support for the Consortium is provided by the Neal and Louise Tillotson Fund of the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation, the U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities, the Northeast Utilities Foundation, and the Wood Education and Resource Center, Northeastern Area State & Private Forestry, Forest Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture.

More information about the Regional Wood Products Consortium and the Mass Customization Workshops can be found at www.foresteconomy.org or by contacting Collin Miller: 603-229-0679, ext. 110; or [email protected]


Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Keene Valley, Sabael Post Offices Slated for Closure

A list of post offices slated for permanent closure includes those at Keene Valley and Sabael (in Hamilton County). The list, titled “Post Office / Station/ Branch Suspensions” is dated February 28, 2011, but was released yesterday by the Postal Regulatory Commission (FRC) despite the desire of the U.S. Postal Service to keep the full list secret while they roll out the closures.

The Post Office in Sabael, located on Route 30, has been closed after it was destroyed by fire at the end of January. Despite a Postal Service announcement that it would be reopened, that is apparently no longer the case.

The Sabael mail is currently being handled by the Indian Lake Post Office, where the approximately 80 Sabeal PO Box holders now get their mail over the counter.

The Keene Valley Post Office closed in November 2010 when the building lease agreement was up. Keene Valley residents have been driving the five miles to the Keene Post Office. The Keene Valley Post Office was established in 1865, before that Orson Phelps carried the mail to Keene for six months for free.

An informational hearing held by Postal Service representatives in Keene Valley February 1st drew about 100 people concerned about local postal service.

“I’m hopeful that, as we move forward, we can find a solution,” Keene town Supervisor Bill Ferebee said at the time, according to a report in the Adirondack Daily Enterprise (ADE). “At least before the summer hits, because we all know what kind of problems this is going to cause.”

“No decisions have been made at this point,” Margaret Pepe, manager of customer relations for the Albany district of the Postal Service said at the meeting. “We’re here to listen to your concerns and gather feedback and input. We are not making a decision here tonight.” Pepe did say that there was no funding available for a new building.

Among the options floated at the meeting was to cluster mailboxes in centralized areas throughout the hamlet or a privately operated facility under contract with the Postal Service such as a Contract Postal Unit or a Commercial Mail Receiving Agency.

The ADE reported at the time that the Postal Service representatives would submit the community feedback they garnered and a decision would be made with 60 days, followed by a 30-day appeal process.

The Post Offices in Plessis, Jefferson County, and Kenwood, Oneida County, are also on the list. The Churubusco Post Office in Clinton County is not on the list, despite rumors that it was about to be closed on the heels of the slosure of the local border crossing.

The full list of Post Offices slated for close is located online [pdf].

Photo: The former Keene Valley Post Office, courtesy The Snow Goose Bed and Breakfast.


Monday, March 7, 2011

Adirondack Labor: New York’s Anti-Loafing Law

It’s interesting (sometimes) to listen to the multitude of political pundits, politicians, and talking heads as they inform us what our “founding fathers” intended, and the rules, ethics, and morals this country was founded on. In reality, they are often telling us what they WANT the founding fathers to have believed. History tells us they are often far off the mark, but the lack of accuracy doesn’t deter them from saying it publicly anyway.

The often muddled view of history offered by some commentators is troubling, and is usually, of course, self-serving. But the modern media has proven one thing: if you say something often enough, whether it’s accurate or not, people (and maybe even the speaker) will begin to believe it.

When it’s intentional, that’s just plain wrong. History is important. It can offer valuable perspective on possible solutions to some of our problems, and can play an important role in how we view the present and future. It can also tell us more about who we are, something that was brought to mind recently as I listened to a radio discussion about the current jobless rate.

The focus was on the nation’s high unemployment, which reminded me of how I annoyed my teachers long ago when that very same topic was discussed. Back then, we all learned how lucky we were not to live in other countries, an argument that was backed with plenty of scary facts.

For one thing, other countries allowed no choice when attacking certain problems. We were told that some countries didn’t even ALLOW unemployment. Idle men were conscripted into the military and/or put to work for the good of the nation. All male teenagers were required to begin military training. Those countries were said to be anti-freedom, but we had choices. That kind of thing couldn’t happen here.

And that was my cue to interrupt. I’ve always read a lot, and as a teenager, I was ready to challenge my teachers (and pretty much any authority). So, I thought I had a really good set of questions about those terrible practices, something I had learned on my own.

My teacher, a fervent military man who still seemed to be fighting World War II, was not amused when I said I knew of just such a place. I said that they made unemployment illegal and forced men to take jobs chosen for them by local authorities (unless the man chose one of his own). Each man was required to work a minimum of 36 hours per week.

Even worse, I added, the government passed another law ordering all teenagers 16 or older to attend military drills or perform military duties. Doing so earned them a certificate, and here’s the kicker: without that certificate, young men were not allowed “to attend public or private school or obtain employment.”

Right away the other students began guessing. Russia? Germany under Hitler? Cuba? (Cuba did outlaw unemployment at that time.) Who would order its citizens in such fashion? My classmates knew it had to be someplace evil. After all, we were in the midst of the Cold War.

At that point, I knew I was in trouble. The instructor was staring at me with cold, beady eyes, waiting for me … no, daring me … to say it. So I said it. It wasn’t intended as a criticism. I was just happy to know the truth, excited that I had learned something unusual on my own, and couldn’t wait to share the surprise (that is, until his stare began).

“New York State and the Anti-Loafing Law,” and that’s about all I was allowed to say. The teacher immediately launched into an explanation. It was true, he said, but it was nothing like the situations in other countries. We did those things, but it was different.

And he was right, maybe. But what bothered me was how he seemed to take it personally, how insulted he was. It seemed to suggest that this was HIS country. It was, but it was my country, too, so I fought back. As I soon learned, you might have the truth, but might makes right.

The Anti-Loafing Law was passed in New York State in 1918, less than a year after the US entered WW I. Maryland and New Jersey led the way, and we were next. I found it fascinating that in a democracy, the law could require all men between the ages of 18 and 50 to be “habitually and regularly engaged in some lawful, useful, and recognized business, profession, occupation, trade, or employment until the termination of the war.”

If a man didn’t have a job, a local authority was assigned to choose one for him. And no one could turn down a job because of the level of pay. Every man must work. It was the law.

“Useful” work had its implications as well. Already, by orders of the US General Provost, Enoch Crowder, men between the ages of 21 and 30 were “not permitted to be elevator conductors, club porters, waiters, pool room attendants, life guards at summer resorts, valets, butlers, footmen, chefs, janitors, or ushers in amusement places. Men of that age were needed for war.

New York’s government, indicating there would be few exceptions to the new law, fed the media a wonderful sound bite taken directly from the text: “Loitering in the streets, saloons, depots, poolrooms, hotels, stores, and other places is considered prima facie evidence of violation of the act, punishable by a fine of $100 or imprisonment for three months, or both.”

Still not clear enough? Charles Whitman, governor of New York, chimed in: “The purpose … is to force every able-bodied male person within the State to do his share toward remedying the conditions due to the present shortage of labor.” By signing the law after New Jersey passed theirs, Whitman had a handy reason: if we didn’t pass our own law, men from New Jersey would flood across the border into New York State to avoid being forced to either work or fight.

How would it sit with you today if you read this in your favorite online journal? “The State Industrial Commission will cooperate with the sheriffs, the state police, and other peace officers throughout the state to find the unemployed and to assign them to jobs, which they must fill. It will be no defense to anyone seeking to avoid work to show that he has sufficient income or means to live without work. The state has the right to the productive labor of all its citizens.”

Governor Whitman admitted “there may be some question as to the constitutionality” of the law, but enforcement began on June 1, 1918. Sheriffs across the state were required to act, and they did. Some, like Clinton County Sheriff John Fiske, made sure there were no scofflaws, scouring local establishments as the law instructed, looking for loiterers.

Those who were jailed in Clinton County had to pay a fine and serve their time, just like the law said, but they weren’t allowed to sit idle. Fiske put them to work full-time in the community, ensuring they would comply with both the letter and the intent of the law.

On the surface, those laws look absolutely un-American and undemocratic. The argument was, extreme times (WW I) call for extreme measures. Other states and countries (including Canada) passed similar laws. Maybe New Yorkers were lucky. In Virginia, compliance was extended from ages 16 to 60. And some people retire today at 55!

Learning all of that was interesting, but sharing it in school was less than wise, at least in that particular classroom. After that, my so-called “history teacher” saw me as nothing but anti-American, and he made life miserable for me. He caused me to dread that class every day.

I argued that protesting and speaking out were critical to America—it’s how the country was formed. But it didn’t matter to him, and after that, I didn’t care. I lost all respect for him. For the life of me, I couldn’t figure out why he wouldn’t just deal with the facts, and the truth. In my mind, that’s what every history teacher’s work should be based on.

I always hated those lame “George Washington cut down the cherry tree” stories. Making stuff up just means you have something to hide. Apparently they didn’t want us to know he owned slaves. As a teenager, I wanted the truth, and I could deal with it. It was far more interesting than some of the stuff they fed us.

Photo Top: NYS’s Compulsory Labor law.

Photo Middle: Clinton County Sheriff John Fiske.

Photo Bottom: NYS law ordering lawmen to search each community for able-bodied males.

Lawrence Gooley has authored nine books and many articles on the North Country’s past. He and his partner, Jill McKee, founded Bloated Toe Enterprises in 2004. He took over in 2010 and began expanding the company’s publishing services. For information on book publishing, visit Bloated Toe Publishing.


Wednesday, March 2, 2011

New Study: Who Uses The Forest Preserve?

Have you gone hiking recently in the Siamese Ponds Wilderness or canoed the Kunjamuk River? I’ve never met you, but I can guess a lot of things about you.

You probably live within fifty miles of the trailhead or put-in. You probably have a college degree. And you’re probably white.

These are statistical probabilities based on a survey of Forest Preserve users in the southeastern Adirondacks. For a year, researchers from the New York State College of Environmental Science and Forestry staked out trailheads and put-ins and interviewed more than a thousand people. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Forest Rangers: Ambassadors for the Wild

As the ice clogged rivers, streams and trails of the Adirondacks thaw, there are many things to look forward to. Wildflowers and spring migratory birds are tops on my list. The sound of running water is another.

Seeing a Forest Ranger in the woods may not top my list, but it’s pretty rare sight and very important to those woods and the public which recreates or works there.

Last year the NYS DEC Forest Rangers celebrated 125 years of care and custody of our wild lands like the NYS Forest Preserve in the Adirondacks and Catskills. It was an historic occasion far too few of us took note of. We may never need to depend upon a Ranger to get us safely out of a wild forest or off of a wild river but, as they say, you never know. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Phil Brown: Aristotle and the Land Purchase Debate

Recently, Adirondack politicians have intensified their effort to block the state’s acquisition of Follensby Pond and some sixty-five thousand acres once owned by Finch, Pruyn & Company.

In the past two weeks, the Adirondack Park Local Government Review Board and the Franklin County legislature adopted resolutions opposing the purchases. The Adirondack Association of Towns and Villages is expected to vote soon on a similar measure, and it stands an excellent chance of passing.

The opponents say the purchases would cost forestry jobs, force traditional hunting clubs to disband, and in general harm the local economy. But their ace in the hole is the claim that the state simply cannot afford to buy these properties. » Continue Reading.


Monday, February 7, 2011

Study: Three Local Colleges Generate $563 Million

Three Northern New York private colleges, Clarkson University, Paul Smith’s College and St. Lawrence University contribute an annual $563 million to the economy and are directly and indirectly responsible for an estimated 4,200 jobs and more than $208 million in payroll according to a newly released study.

The new economic analysis by the Center for Governmental Research (CGR) found that
New York’s independent colleges and universities are major private employers in all regions of New York State with total payroll exceeding $19.5 billion for 360,200 direct, indirect and induced jobs.

More than 6,500 students enroll each year at Clarkson, Paul Smith’s, and St. Lawrence; about 57% are drawn from New York, 35% from out of state, and 8% from outside the United States. Detailed figures can be found online.

In nine of the state’s counties, the study found, private higher education employment represents five percent or more of total employment and six percent or more of total wages. In 2009 two of the top employers in New York State were private higher education institutions: Cornell University and University of Rochester.

In total, the 100-plus independent colleges and universities in New York State are believed to have contributed $54.3 billion to the state’s economy in 2009. This is an increase of $6.8 billion (up 14%) since 2007 and more than $12.9 billion (up 31%) from 2005. In 2009, direct institutional spending was more than $46 billion and academic medical center spending more than $4.3 billion.

The release of these updated figures complements those released by State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli in October 2010. The Comptroller’s report, The Economic Impact of Higher Education in New York State, stated “New York has the largest private higher education sector in the nation, with 167,450 jobs in 2009 – more than 40 percent larger than second-ranked California.” That report also noted that “Most of the growth in higher education employment this decade has been at private colleges and universities.

Editor’s Note: By way of comparison, the Olympic Regional Development Authority is believed to contribute about $271 million to the counties of Franklin, Essex, Warren, and Clinton.

Photo: Matt Barkalow of Paul Smith’s College woodsmen’s team. Photo by Pat Hendrick.


Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Adirondack Impacts of Andrew Cuomo’s Budget

Here are some of the Adirondack Park related highlights from Governor Andrew Cuomo’s 2011-12 Executive Budget, his first plan for closing the state’s estimated $11 billion deficit.

Cuomo’s budget plan would maintain the state’s Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) at $134 million, the same spending level as in the current budget, but would further reduce the budgets of the Adirondack Park Agency, the Department of Environmental Conservation, close several prisons (possibly including some in the North Country), and disband the Tug Hill Commission.

“We have to consider this a victory,” said Neil Woodworth, executive director of the Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK) said in a statement about EPF funding. “Under the circumstances, it could have been much worse. Deep cuts in the EPF would have had a substantial and long-lasting impact on New York’s natural resources. Fortunately, Governor Cuomo had the wisdom and foresight not to do that.” » Continue Reading.


Saturday, January 8, 2011

Lake George Stewards Program Receives Some Funding

The Lake George Association (LGA) has been awarded a $25,000 grant from the Lake Champlain Basin Program for the 2011 Lake Steward program on Lake George. In previous years the LGA had received funds from New York State through the Lake George Watershed Coalition to run the aquatic invasives prevention program, but state budget cutbacks have made future funding unpredictable.

The Lake Steward Program provides invasive species education and spread prevention. Lake Stewards are trained and hired in early summer, then stationed at multiple boat launches around Lake George to educate boaters about the threats of aquatic invasive species, such as Eurasian watermilfoil, zebra mussels, curly-leaf pondweed, and most recently, the Asian clam. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Agreement Reached on Paul Smiths VIC

Adirondack Park Agency (APA) and Paul Smith’s College officials announced today that the transfer of the Paul Smiths Visitor Interpretive Center (VIC) facility is complete. Paul Smith’s College will now own and operate the over 24,500-square-foot main building and accessory structures. A long-standing lease of the College’s land by the APA was also ended.

The APA operated the Visitor Interpretive Centers at Paul Smiths and Newcomb since 1989 and 1990 respectively with a mission to “enhance public awareness of Park resources and the Agency’s role in their protection.” Paul Smiths VIC staff provided interpretive services to nearly 75,000 students participating in on-site school field trips since 1989 according to APA officials. The APA closed the Newcomb and Paul Smiths VICs late last year as New York State’s fiscal crisis worsened.

“This transfer is good news for both the community and the VIC,” according to Dr. John W. Mills, President of Paul Smith’s College. “We’re excited that this great resource has been preserved.” he told the press in a prepared statement, “We will continue to look for ways to integrate the center into our academic programs, and explore additional possibilities for community involvement at the VIC.”

The Adirondack Park Institute, a volunteer, not-for-profit group that supports educational programming at the VIC, has taken the lead role in those efforts and has already raised more than $40,000, a press release said, noting also that “the college intends to maintain public access to the VIC’s extensive trail network.” “The trails, which are on college-owned land, attract thousands of hikers, cross-country skiers, snowshoers and other outdoor enthusiasts to the area every year,” the release said.

Paul Smith’s is expected to announce plans for the VIC, including programming, staffing, hours of operations, public visitation, special programs for the community, groups and schools, off site programs and outreach, in the near future.

The transfer of the Paul Smiths VIC to Paul Smith’s College ends the APA involvement with the Visitor Interpretive Centers. In July 2010 the APA transferred the state-owned buildings and equipment at the Newcomb VIC to SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (SUNY-ESF). SUNY ESF plans to integrate the facility with the Adirondack Ecological Center and the Northern Forest Institute and maintain public access. You can read more about those plans here.


Monday, January 3, 2011

Former Newcomb VIC Reopens Under SUNY-ESF

The SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF) will reopen the former Adirondack Park Agency (APA) Visitor Interpretive Center in Newcomb tomorrow after taking over programming at the facility January 1st. The APA closed the Newcomb and Paul Smiths VICs late last year as New York State’s fiscal crisis worsened.

According to a press release issued today, the facility’s name has been changed to Adirondack Interpretive Center (AIC) “to reflect both its location and its mission to serve regional residents as well as visitors from beyond the park’s boundaries.”

The AIC, located at ESF’s Huntington Wildlife Forest, will remain open all winter, with 3.6 miles of trails, open dawn to dusk daily, to snowshoe or cross-country ski. The interpretive center’s main building is scheduled to be open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. “However, during this transitional period, the building might be closed occasionally during those hours,” ESF Director of Communications Claire Dunn told the press. “Visitors wishing to ensure the building is open when they arrive are advised to check in advance by calling 518-582-2000.”

“We want to carry forward the legacy of the Adirondack Park Agency’s interpretive program,” Paul Hai, an educator with ESF’s Adirondack Ecological Center, who is planning programs for the interpretive center, told the press. “We want the facility to be more than a nature center. We want to offer educational and recreational programs that are based on a foundation of natural history and science.”

Hai said he is finalizing plans for three programs that will be among those held next spring and summer and provided the following descriptions:

Fly-fishing: A series of workshops will explore the natural history of fish and the culture of fly fishing and teach fly-fishing techniques. Participants will have an opportunity to fish waters in the Huntington Wildlife Forest that are otherwise inaccessible to the public. Participants can choose to attend one session or all in the series, which will be held periodically through the spring and summer.

“Working Forests Working for You”: This series will bring experts to the center for programs and presentations on various aspects of forestry and the forest products industry, from silviculture to forest management and pulp and paper mill operation.

“Northern Lights”: This series on luminaries in the Adirondacks will include presentations on famous people whose work had a relationship with the Adirondacks. Subjects will include John Burroughs, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Winslow Homer.

Hai said that he’s also hoping to host professional development workshops, a series exploring the role the Adirondacks in modern philosophy, a book club, and canoe skills training.


Thursday, December 30, 2010

Lack of Funding Closes Northway Welcome Center

The official I Love New York Gateway Welcome Information Center, located near the Canadian border in Beekmantown, is closed to the public until further notice; another victim of New York State’s budget crisis.

Operated by the Adirondack Regional Tourism Council (ARTC) with funding from the State since it opened in 1991, the Center has welcomed millions of visitors to the Adirondack Region and New York State. Funding for the Center was eliminated from the State’s 2010 budget, and the ARTC can no longer afford to operate the facility, according to ARTC Executive Director Ron Ofner.

With the favorable Canadian currency exchange rate, visitors from Canada have been heading south in record numbers, Ofner said. “It’s certainly frustrating that no one will be at the center to help direct visitors to Adirondack destinations,” Ofner added. “Instead of pointing people to Plattsburgh, Lake Placid, and Lake George, visitors will pass through the region, and we miss the opportunity to have them stop and spend money in our area.”

Ofner remains optimistic that the Center will be able to provide services to visitors to New York State again in the near future.

“It’s a question of priorities, and obviously, keeping the Center open has not been a priority for the State at this time.” According to Ofner, some funding for the Center is making its way through the system, though when it will arrive is unknown.


Monday, December 27, 2010

Dave Gibson: Naturalists Help Keep the Lights On

It’s certainly getting frosty out there, and that’s particularly true for the state’s environmental centers, educators and interpreters.

I first wrote about the closing of the two Adirondack Park Visitor Interpretive Centers and the loss of their naturalist staff last June, and the good news that the State College of Environmental Science and Forestry (SUNY) would run programs at the Newcomb facility in 2011.

Comments back to me said, to summarize, “it’s nice, but get real. In this recession, we have no time to worry about frills and luxuries like environmental education.” I thought I could make a better effort at stating my case.

Most of these “retired” state naturalists are skilled environmental interpreters – meaning that they, to quote a classic definition of interpretation, are skilled at “revealing meanings and relationships through the use of original objects, first hand experiences and illustrative media, rather than simply conveying factual information” (Interpreting our Heritage, by Freeman Tilden).

In essence, these professionals relate parts of the natural world (or the historic or cultural worlds) to something deep within the personality or experience of the visitor, resident or student. What they reveal provokes people to respond, not to yawn. This provocation, in turn, causes visitors to the VICs, Wild Center, Adirondack Museum, or Five Rivers Center to appreciate what they are seeing or experiencing more intensely.

That intensity of appreciation can lead to a desire to understand the details, or a whole ecosystems. These people may develop into aware, informed, understanding, active environmental managers, conservationists, or historians. These activities can and do change the world in ways large and small, and it often begins through good interpretation at a State Park, Visitor Center, or Museum.

Like all layoffs, these at Christmastide are bad enough for the individuals and families involved, like the forced departure of naturalist Ellen Rathbone from the Newcomb VIC, from her park community and from Adirondack Almanack as she seeks new opportunities beyond New York State. We hope New York’s loss will be Ohio’s gain. But the loss of veteran naturalists and educators in NYS is felt statewide.

For instance, a veteran educator at NYS Parks was just laid off after 26 years of successful efforts to link environmental education to improved stewardship of all 150 State Parks. The response of officials in Albany is predictable. “It’s too bad, but we have to cut these naturalist jobs just to keep most Parks open next year.” Keeping the lights on, the golf courses open, the bathrooms plumbed, the roads cleared are a priority. So is keeping the lights on in our eyes, hearts and minds. What these educators do can have real-world, stewardship implications.

For example, this particular naturalist developed a Bird Checklist system for all State Parks back in the late 1980’s. That was considered a “nice” thing to do. A decade later, the awareness those checklists created helped activists to fight off a proposal to construct a large trucking haul road through breeding bird habitats and wetlands of Saratoga Spa State Park. Fifteen years later, these intact wetlands still feed Great Blue Herons, and Kayaderroseras Creek, which in turn has developed into a premier canoeing and kayaking destination.

Thinking ahead, the opportunities for future environmental education employment – and the services those people provide – are shrinking. The NYS Department of Environmental Conservation is closing two of their three Environmental Education Centers – Stony Kill Farm in Dutchess County, and Rogers EE Center in Sherburne, Chenango County.

The closing of these facilities is big deal for many families for whom these centers and their professional staffs represented learning opportunities, career advancement, family fun and happy memories – to say nothing of community meeting space – at no expense just miles from their front doors. As far as I can tell, the electric lights are still on at Five Rivers EE Center in the Capital District, but I’m not sure about the learning lights, meaning the staffing.

Who will provide those “provocational,” interpretive services to our young people and families in 2011, or 2021? More and more, we hear of the crisis of “wired” kids staying indoors, who are not exposed to the confidence-building, skills-building that outdoor experiences and unstructured playtime provide. We need more adults to share our outdoor heritage, not fewer.

The system of centers supporting this activity around the State is frayed. But there is hope. My hope is founded on the efforts of people who have picked up the fallen baton, such as SUNY’s Paul Hai, who is committed to keeping the Newcomb Interpretive Center open for continuing cultural and environmental interpretation under the auspices of the College of Environmental Science and Forestry.

It will take time for that facility and others in Newcomb and elsewhere to gain their footing after the loss of so many experienced staff. But there are people like Paul and institutions like ESF out in their communities who are determined not to lose a chance to change someone’s life, or to turn them on to the Adirondacks, or anywhere else with the potential to reveal both our landscapes and parts of ourselves. Let’s work with SUNY’s Paul Hai, or Paul Smith’s College and many others to keep the “lights on” for the fragile network of Adirondack learning centers, museums and interpretive facilities.

Photo: Paul Hai, right, of SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry with Tom Cobb, left, retired Preserve Manager with NYS Parks, former staff with the Commission on the Adirondacks in the 21st Century, and a director of Adirondack Wild: Friend of the Forest Preserve.



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