Posts Tagged ‘economics’

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

What Paterson’s Deficit Proposals Mean For The Adirondacks

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

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

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

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

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

EXCERPT FROM GOVERNOR’S PRESS RELEASE:

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

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


Thursday, October 15, 2009

Schroon Lake Resort, Gas Pipeline Get Stimulus Funds

Governor David Paterson announced this week (in Malone) that $17.5 million in Upstate Regional Blueprint Fund stimulus grants will be spent on 15 projects across the state. According to a press release issued by the governor’s office the funds are expected to support “projects that help provide a framework for future growth in regions with stymied development.” This first round of funding includes two Northern New York projects, one inside the Blue Line.

Schroon Revitalization Group, LLC received nearly a million dollars for “the initial development of an 81-room resort in Schroon Lake for year-round access to the Adirondacks and Lake Champlain.” The development is being put forth as a cornerstone of the revitalization of the Town of Schroon Lake, Essex County.

The St. Lawrence Gas Distribution Project received $2.5 million for the construction of a 48-mile natural gas pipeline from St. Lawrence County into Franklin County. According to the governor’s office the new line has the potential to benefit 4,000 North Country residents. Richard Campbell, President and General Manager of St. Lawrence Gas, said new line will was “vitally important.” “Bringing natural gas to this new market area will provide an economic and environmentally preferred fuel choice to residential, commercial and industrial customers,” he said.

State Senator Darrel Aubertine, Chair of the Senate Majority’s Upstate Caucus, says that the pipeline will create jobs, pointing specifically to expected growth at Fulton Thermal and MaCadam Cheese.

Grant applications and awards were overseen by Empire State Development (ESD). More information about the Upstate Regional Blueprint Funds and application forms can be found at www.nylovesbiz.com. Applications for round II funding are being accepted until October 15, 2009.


Thursday, October 15, 2009

Adirondack Mill Provides Paper for Al Gore’s Next Book

On November 3 a new solution-oriented climate-change book by Al Gore will be published. Our Choice will pick up where An Inconvenient Truth left off and, like everything Mr. Gore does, it will be scrutinized for its environmental integrity, right down to the paper it’s printed on.

Our Choice will use 100% recycled paper and be carbon neutral, according to a release from publisher Rodale Press. For North American editions, that paper will be produced in the Adirondack Park, at Newton Falls Fine Paper in St. Lawrence County.

“The Al Gore book is a very small percentage of our volume overall, about .5 percent of our total production,” says Scott Travers, president and vice chairman of the Newton Falls mill. “But it’s not the size of the order, if you will, it’s . . . that we were recognized by such an individual and such an effort for our environmental stewardship. The bigger issue is that the entire marketplace will recognize us for our environmental attributes.”

This is the mill’s first 100-percent recycled product, but it has been making partially recycled paper for decades, and since it was acquired and re-opened two years ago by the Canadian holding company Scotia Investments, which among other companies owns Minas Basin Pulp & Power and Scotia Recycling. The latter recovers paper all along the Eastern seaboard, Travers says. Scotia Recycling provided fiber to the Newton Falls mill for Our Choice.

“We hope that eventually all of the paper in the Newton Falls mill will have 100 percent recycled content,” he says. “It was an open, competitive bidding process for the Al Gore book. What excites people today is having a minimal impact on the environment or having an even better impact, to be able to improve the environment. If we’ve captured fiber that would have gone to the landfill, we’ve improved the environment.”

The mill is also working to have a “closed-loop” wastewater system on line by November, Travers says, eliminating the need to export waste such as sludge from the facility. One day managers also hope make steam for heat and papermaking from biomass instead of oil.

The Newton Falls story is improbable as well as inspiring. At a time when paper mills around the perimeter of the Adirondack Park were closing, this tiny one-industry hamlet rallied to recruit a new owner after the mill there was idled in 2000. The mill had a century-long history but adapted with the times and markets. Its last owner, Appleton Paper, had invested millions in upgrades. For seven years, potential buyers raised hopes and dashed them until Scotia Investments partnered with a former mill manager in 2006. The facility now employes 120 people and has been retooled. Travers says the mill will expand into recycled packaging as demand for publishing paper continues to decline.

“I applaud the people in Newton Falls and their desire to make a positive difference. The important thing is we have a dedicated workforce, we have a dedicated community, we have a dedicated holding company,” Travers says. “We’re fully committed to the success of that operation.”

Photograph of Newton Falls Fine Paper provided by Scotia Investments


Friday, September 25, 2009

Can Ralph Lauren Save the Adirondacks?

New York State’s Secretary of State had never been north of Albany until she visited Lake George, a village official told me recently.

State Senator Betty Little likes to tell a story about another state official, who grew alarmed when told that people were living in the park—the Adirondack Park, that is.

“People being forced to sleep in the park? How awful!” the official reportedly said.

No wonder the Association of Adirondack Towns and Villages decided to sponsor the Adirondack Park Regional Assessment Report.

At the very least, it reminds Albany that the Adirondack Park contains 130,000 people living in more than one hundred communities, which need viable economies (and perhaps some additional state aid or at least broad band) if they are to survive. Statistics about the park’s aging population and declining school enrollments are not, however, the only way to tell the story of the Adirondacks.

Walk into a Ralph Lauren Home store in New York or Milan this fall and you’ll see, displayed on a library table or console, portfolios of Lake George paintings and guidebooks by Seneca Ray Stoddard.

You’ll also see rustic Adirondack furniture and plaid fabrics given Adirondack names.
The rooms have been installed in stores throughout the United States and Europe to showcase Ralph Lauren’s new collection of furniture and home furnishings, which the company calls “Indian Cove Lodge,” after a mythical Adirondack camp.

It is, to be sure, an idealized version of the Adirondacks. It’s a backdrop for a story playing in Ralph Lauren’s mind, about what, one can only imagine – how Marjorie Merriweather Post spent August, perhaps.

Nevertheless, whoever created these backdrops wanted them to be as authentic as possible. They even contain copies of the Lake George Mirror to link the collection to the Adirondacks. (Last winter, I was told, Black Bass Antiques owner Henry Caldwell and rustic furniture impresario Ralph Kylloe were visited by a team from Ralph Lauren, who spent hours selecting items that would complement the new collection.)

“Snowshoes, antique skis, fishing creels, canoe paddles: they bought a truckload of things,” said Kylloe, who’s furnished Ralph Lauren’s private homes as well as his showrooms for years.

Attention from retailers like Ralph Lauren helps the Adirondack brand remain vital, said Kylloe.

Lisa Foderaro, who frequently covers the Adirondacks for the New York Times, made a similar contribution to that effort last week with a story about Jay Haws’ and Steve Pounian’s Dartbrook Lodge in Keene.

They’ve converted a roadside cottage colony into a retreat that is, Foderaro said, “at once rustic and hip.”

There may be, as Ralph Kylloe suggests, some economic benefits from this kind of exposure in the form of increased tourism.

Other effects may be more problematic, such as a renewed demand for second homes and hence the rising costs of housing for year-round residents.

Another potential effect – and whether it’s a negative or positive one will depend upon your perspective – is a new constituency for the protection of he Adirondacks.
But at the very least, campaigns like these broaden awareness of the Adirondacks, and if those anecdotes about Albany’s lack of awareness of the region are true, that’s as necessary now as it ever was.

Photo: Indian Cove Lodge bedside table.


Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Forever Wired: Small Adirondack Business 101

Here at the Forever Wired Conference at Clarkson University there are a lot of folks in suits and sporting bluetooth. Aside from some of the workers building what Clarkson President Tony Collins called “our stimulus project”—a new student center—there are few beards, and fewer bluejeans than an Adirondacker would normally like to encounter. Is it a mark of a changing local economy?

I just got out of a session with about 60 attendees entitled “My Adirondack Business 101” led by Marc Compeau, Director of Innovation & Entrepreneurship programs here at the university. Compeau’s presentation is designed to be given over four weeks but he covered the basics in about 45 minutes.

Compeau noted that even though the Adirondack region has limited access to the Internet, limited marketing channels, and mostly seasonal brick and mortar businesses, the Big Three of building a sustainable business are still important: building market share, maintaining growth / sustainability, and accessing capital.

Compeau stressed the importance of laying out a plan, marketing (even if you don’t have the Internet at home, your customer does), good people management (through building a workplace culture) and managing change.

I think the big lesson at the session was that just because we are not as wired as the rest of the state (or country, or developing world!) doesn’t mean that we should forget about the wired audience. According to Compeau, 78 percent of homes in the Untied States have a PC and 79 percent of adults use the internet.

www.helpmysmallbusinesstoday.com is Clarkson’s portal for local business people to get free help from the university to help sustainably grow their enterprises.

I’ll post again later today.


Monday, September 7, 2009

The Almanack Reports: Forever Wired Conference

Tomorrow, Mary Thill and I will be headed up to Clarkson University in Potsdam for The Adirondack Initiative’s Forever Wired Conference. According to the event’s organizers the conference’s goal is “to advance creative work and lifestyle choices by promoting technology and services that encourage commerce and entrepreneurship with negligible impact on the natural environment.” The general idea is to “preserve the unique character of the communities that share the Adirondack Park with wildlife and recreation enthusiasts alike” by fostering exsisting trends in wired work.

More than 200 telecommuters, entrepreneurs, business people, educators, economic developers, government representatives, news media and others will be there (including New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli) to encourage regional economic growth in green tech commerce. That means widespread broadband, professional development and educational opportunities geared toward entrepreneurs, telecommuters, working professionals and others interested in responsible and sustainable economic growth in the Adirondacks. The goal of the Adirondack Initiative is to add (by 2019) 2,019 “corporate telecommuters, mobile workers, and working wired entrepreneurs to the region in support of green tech commerce and new economic opportunities that will grow the base of regional residents.”

In a series of posts tomorrow Mary and I will consider some of the challenges, report on what we learn, and offer route suggestions for the path toward growing a technological future in the Adirondacks.


Monday, August 17, 2009

Making Your Land Pay Program at Cornell Cooperative Ext

Cornell Cooperative Extension of Warren and Saratoga Counties will be offering an educational program on Saturday August 22, 2009 – “Making Your Land Pay” for forest and farmland. Those looking for new income opportunities to offset some of the costs of owning land will find plenty of suggestions. Some of the topics that will be covered include the importance of soils, natural resource enterprises, and places to find additional resources for land owners. During the afternoon attendees will be going into the field. The cost is $15 per person. For further information and to register for this program, please call Cornell Cooperative Extension Saratoga County at 885-8995.


Monday, August 3, 2009

Opinion: ORDA Should Stop Giving Gore Mountain Short Shrift

Without announcement Gore Mountain has quietly shuttered their mountain biking facilities and reduced their already paltry off-season schedule – it’s a further sign to some in the North Creek area that the Olympic Regional Development Authority (ORDA) has been giving the Gore Mountain ski resort short shrift. For much of the last decade the Gore Mountain schedule has changed frequently and been sporadic. Plans to cut back summer operations in 2002 prompted a vigorous lobbying effort by North Creek businesses.

“Our off season schedule has always been weekends in the fall,” Gore Mountain General Manager Mike Pratt told me by e-mail, “We have often tried to extend season into the summer, when we think there is an opportunity.” Last year Gore operated weekends in August, and in September through Columbus Day, but with only scenic rides and a bar-b-que according to Pratt, who is responsible for the Gore Mountain schedule. This year’s schedule will be shortened by ten days (Labor Day through Columbus Day) but will also include lift service for mountain biking. “This year’s schedule is our traditional schedule,” Pratt told me, “Although we have tried various schedules to extend our off-season operation, we have consistently reduced the season back to our traditional times of operation, the fall foliage season.”

Pratt says that Whiteface’s Veterans Memorial Highway drives business at Whiteface. “At Gore Mountain, we only have a scenic ride and a bbq. We are making many improvements, are on a tremendous growth curve, are thankful for our gondola, but are not a summer destination.”

Pratt called the notion that Gore Mountain was being shorted by ORDA “the perception… not the reality.” He noted that Gore Mountain is busy with construction projects now including “modernizing the base lodge, building a new lodge at the Ski Bowl, installing snow making pipe on the Sagamore Trail, and working on building trails and installing a triple chair that will complete the interconnect project between Gore and the Ski Bowl.” “I am certain the venues around Lake Placid wish that they were able to invest as much in their facilities as we are,” Pratt says “This is a very exciting time at Gore.”

It might be an exciting time at Gore, but this summer’s rains have surely meant diminished business at North Creek – Gore Mountain could have offered a boost to the sluggish tourist economy. Gore Mountain, like Whiteface, needs to offer summer activities, events, and programs to better utilize the mountain – owned by all New York taxpayers – to fire another cylinder of North Creek’s regional economic engine.

What’s more, Gore needs to have an equal footing with Whiteface in promotions. Gore is almost never mentioned in ORDA press releases, while Whiteface is continuously promoted at the end of each ORDA release with the words: “For more information on ORDA venues and events and for web cams from five locations, please log on to www.whitefacelakeplacid.com.” Those going to the site can choose between two destinations – Lake Placid (last time I checked, not run by ORDA) and Whiteface.

Gore? Nowhere to be found.

There are more then 40 events on the ORDA summer schedule, but Gore is not mentioned until “Mountain Day,” September 12th and the link to that event is bad. Gore has plans for just one additional weekend worth of events until the ski season begins. By way of contrast, Whiteface has Gondola rides, mountain biking, a new disc golf course, guided nature tours, and a weekend-long Octoberfest.

By anyone’s standard, ORDA is falling down on its obligation – and its legislative mandate to manage Gore Mountain. All while claiming, as it did in its 2008-2009 Annual Report, that “during the non-winter months, Gore offers mountain biking, hiking and other summer activities.”

That’s not true, but the management of ORDA and Gore Mountain need to work to make it so – not next year, not next month, but now.

 


Tuesday, July 21, 2009

What’s On Your Adirondack Stimulus Money Wish List?

The Herkimer County Progressive blog’s post A Local Stimulus Wish List got me wondering what folks in the Adirondacks would want to do with stimulus money. It’s a question our politicians didn’t bother to really ask – so here’s your opportunity to sound off.

New or improved trails?
Light rail?
Sewer system installations or upgrades?
Educational upgrades?
Rooftop highway?
Invasive eradication?
Property tax relief?
Additions to the Forest Preserve?
Energy projects?

The question is basically if you had unlimited money, but had to prioritize, where would you put it?


Thursday, July 16, 2009

ADKCAP Reports On Local Energy, Jobs And The Green Economy

The Adirondack region’s local energy bill is more than $600 million a year. Add in gasoline and the number soars past $1.5 billion a year. A new initiative seeks to cut that cost, and use the savings to help the region’s economy. The details of the region’s energy use are included in a new report, entitled the Adirondack Energy & Greenhouse Gas Inventory, that breaks down energy production and consumption. It details how money spent on energy flows out of the Adirondacks, draining resources from the local economy. The report, documenting the entire Adirondack region, is one of the largest regional energy and carbon audits ever produced in the United States.

“We’re interested in getting our hands on these numbers because we want to see how we could use the projected major changes in national and state energy policies to help build our regional economy,” said Ross Whaley former President of SUNY ESF. “If we could save just 10 percent of what we spend importing the energy we use locally we’d have $60 million more dollars a year that we could invest in the Adirondacks.”

The report was supported in part by The Wild Center and ADKCAP, a new initiative that says its goals are to channel federal and state efforts into the region to improve energy efficiency, support regional programs formed to help cut energy costs and waste, and create or save higher-value jobs that could have a lasting impact on the Adirondack economy. A year in the making, the final report that its backers say could lead to tackling energy waste and carbon pollution in the Adirondacks, is now available online http://www.adkcap.org/?q=audit.

Highlights? The report shows some big collective numbers. Almost 490 million gallons of gasoline are used to power vehicles in the region, more than 35 million gallons of fuel oil and kerosene and over 10 million gallons of LPG are used to heat area homes and hot water. Residential users inside the Adirondacks spend more than $25 million a year on electricity to heat their homes and $135 million a year on electricity for things other than heat, like running refrigerators and lights.

“When you become cognizant of the energy dollars being spent in the Adirondacks each year, one quickly realizes that we need to find an approach to keep some of those dollars here,” said Brian Towers of the Adirondack Association of Towns and Villages. “Obviously community leaders from around the region need to investigate every avenue from small hydroelectric, solar and wind projects to looking at ways of reducing municipal energy costs with bio-fuels. Any way that we can cut public energy costs has a correlating effect on property taxes.”

The report was prepared by leading research firm Ecology and Environment, Inc. of Lancaster, NY. It was commissioned to create a baseline for looking at energy consumption in the area and dovetailed with the strong interest of a number of area groups who were looking at the Adirondacks as a potential large-scale example of how a region could address carbon dependence and grow its economy. “The national conference held here was about how the United States needs to transition away from carbon as our main energy source. With this transition comes opportunity if we act fast,” said Stephanie Ratcliffe of The Wild Center. “It started people talking about putting the idea of aggressively implementing energy efficiency and developing new renewable energy sources here in the Adirondacks. This is one of the few times that environmental concerns and economic opportunities share the same goals from the outset.”

The Adirondacks as an Example for the Nation

“We think we have a chance to set an example for the nation,” said Kate Fish of ADKCAP. “If we can show that you can cut energy costs in a big way, and use the money to grow your economy, others can learn from what we do. We are a region of 103 living, breathing and working towns and villages with challenges a lot of other places can relate to. Making this happen here could mean a lot for people all over the U.S. who are wrestling with high costs of energy, and the need to rebuild their economies.”

Fish and others say the Adirondacks’ New York location and high visitation make it an attractive place for other organizations, including power companies, who are looking to test efficiency and renewable ideas. “We can be the first place to take on energy independence across a large area. If we can show that 103 regular towns and villages can break the grip of energy dependence and build our local economies in a sustainable way we could demonstrate something important to others,” said Fish.

ADKCAP

ADKCAP, an umbrella group, formed after the ‘American Response to Climate Change Conference -The Adirondack Model’ held in November of 2008 at The Wild Center, is working with partner organizations and individuals to build on a variety of plans to turn energy savings into local benefits. Based on data in the report that shows that one third of all the energy used locally in the Adirondacks comes from home heating, a number of partners are focusing on getting effective region-wide access to programs designed to cut home heating and utility costs, including training a skilled energy audit and retrofit workforce. The initial actions being considered would also include logical uses of renewable sources including testing of new low emissions wood gasification systems that could use sustainably harvested local forest products. The development of a forest products-based energy system could also mean local jobs. Other local energy sources could include sun, wind and hydro, including small-scale hydro that could take advantage of standing local dams.

Groups involved with ADKCAP say that new job creation could encourage younger families to stay in the area, reversing the aging-population trend in upstate New York. “It has been demonstrated conclusively that one of the greatest home energy savers is preventing air infiltration. This can be a low-cost, high yield effort. Next, is improving the efficiency of the furnaces and boilers. Green home energy saving really is possible for everyone,” said Alan Hipps, Executive Director of Housing Assistance Program of Essex County. “Those are simple examples of how we can cut energy costs and create jobs at the same time.”

The renewable energy industry generated about 500,000 jobs and $43 billion revenue in the U.S. in 2007. The much broader energy-efficiency industry generated 8.6 million jobs and $1 trillion in revenue, according to a report issued in January by the American Solar Energy Society. The national study projected that the renewable and energy efficiency businesses could employ 16 million to 37 million people by 2030, depending on government policy.

“We need new jobs here, good jobs, and jobs that let us keep our natural character,” said Ann Heidenreich of Community Energy Services of Canton, NY. “We’re going to need to solve energy challenges one way or another, and this report gives us some of the basic tools to do the smartest thing, and be more in control of our future.”

Mike DeWein, an expert on regional energy issues and a member of the ADKCAP and Energy $mart Park Initiative (E$PI) steering committees, says the Adirondacks could do well by getting out ahead on energy efficiency issues. “We know the energy world is going to change in significant ways in the next 20 years, particularly because of national trends and policies going into effect in current state and Federal legislation. Places that get ahead of the curve will benefit, and the report sets the groundwork for the Adirondacks by moving initiatives and programs and being ready to benefit from those policies, as well as be ready for funding opportunities.” DeWein cited the internet revolution as an example. “Often when something big is happening it pays to “start the train down the track” to be ready for the opportunities rather than sit on the rail siding waiting for the train.”

The report was prepared for The Wild Center and ADKCAP, in consultation with The Adirondack Energy $mart Initiative (E$PI), by Ecology and Environment, Inc and with key contributions from Dr. Colin Beier of SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry. The report was funded by the Adirondack Community Trust – Master Family Fund.

NOTE: This post is a reprint of the ADKCAP and Wild Center’s press release.


Monday, June 15, 2009

Adirondack Park Regional Assesment Conclusions

A long awaited report sponsored by the Adirondack Association of Towns and Villages (AATV) that profiles all the 103 municipalities that comprise the Adirondack Park was released on June 3rd. My copy was provided by Fred Monroe (Town of Chester Supervisor, Chair of the Warren County Board of Supervisors, Executive Director for the Adirondack Park Local Government Review Board, and an Executive Board Member of the Adirondack Association of Towns & Villages).

It’s quite a tome, about 125 pages, that compliments in many ways the 2004 Adirondack Atlas and the 1990 The Adirondack Park in The 21st Centuryreports. Suffice it to say the region has been studied over the last 20 years – probably more carefully than any other in the nation. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, June 7, 2009

Cornell Offers Green Jobs Forum in Warrensburg

Cornell Cooperative Extension of Warren County is working with Cornell University and the Workforce Development Institute of New York to host a Green Jobs forum on Thursday, June 25, 10:00am to Noon. The forum will be broadcast to Cornell Cooperative Extension Associations located in 14 counties across New York State via Cornell’s distance learning network. The forum is free and open to the public. Information on the following topics and issues will be addressed:

* what is meant by the term “green jobs”
* where and in what sectors of the economy do they exist
* information on available training programs
* what does the future look like for the “green jobs sector”

General information about the workforce development institute and information about what services are available to the public will also be discussed.

The Green Jobs Forum will also provide information on starting a home performance / home energy audit business. New York State currently has training programs in place and some financial incentives available to entrepreneurs and home improvement contracting firms that want to expand into the home energy audit field.

Seating for the Green Jobs Forum is limited so if you are interested in attending, please phone Cornell Cooperative Extension of Warren County at 668-4881 or 623-3291 to reserve a seat.


Thursday, May 28, 2009

2009 Environmental Bond Act Pitch From Adk Council

I’m reprinting below a press release issued on the proposed $5 billion 2009 Clean Water, Clean Air and Green Jobs Bond Act by John Sheehan, Director of Communications for the Adirondack Council. The bond act is also being pushed by businesses like Caterpillar and Nova Bus, and the American Cancer Society, Audubon New York, Citizen’s Campaign for the Environment, New York League of Conservation Voters, New York Public Transit Association, New York State Laborers, Scenic Hudson, and The Nature Conservancy. The hope is that the targeted spending in this time of economic crises will encourage a green economy and provide more jobs. Projects include wastewater infrastructure, energy efficiency, transit, public health protection and economic development projects. Although details are scarce (bond act organizers are waiting for the Legislature to suggest projects), I have a copy of a slightly more detailed pdf fact sheet outlining the bond act, if anyone is interested. More later today. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, May 16, 2009

Saw-Timber Economics and Timber Sales

Deciding whether to log or not and how is complicated by a number of factors according to Master Forest Owner Program Director Gary Goff and Cornell Cooperative Extension Forester Peter Smallidge. Most private forest land in New York State will eventually be logged and sold for saw timber; the question is when and how. Goff and Smallidge reviewed the details at the 2009 Master Forest Owner Training.

Stumpage is the price offered by a logger for a standing tree. DEC issues Stumpage Price Reports twice a year that can serve as a guide (if you know what you’re looking at) for landowners wondering how much their timber is worth.

A basic rule of thumb: A 20-inch diameter tree at breast height (dbh) generally contains two 16-foot merchantable logs. The same tree, cut down to four inch pieces, will yield about one cord of firewood (a cord is 4-feet tall, 8-feet long, and 4-feet wide).

Timber quality is the most important factor affecting the value of standing timber, but there are a number of other factors, including things like the volume per acre, the terrain, market demand, time of year, costs of harvesting, size, species, insurance, etc.

Another rule of thumb: a 12-14 inch tree can be graded to a 2-3 grade; 16 inches, 2 grade; 18-20 inches, 2-1 grade; 24-28, 1 grade. The bottom 16 feet on a tree holds two-thirds of the value of tree.

Other impacts on the decision to log include the rate of inflation, potential damage, rate of growth, market trends, changes in tax law, other goals and owner objectives (trails, wildlife improvement, etc.), social license (do I care what my neighbors think?), municipal ordinances (town, county, APA, DEC, etc.), supervision (do I need a forester?), state of stand (maintaining biodiversity and good regeneration, in other words, a stewardship plan).

Expenses to consider when logging include fixed costs like your mortgage, taxes, and insurance and variable costs like surveys, inventory, management plan, timber stand improvement, stand access improvement, and timber sale expenses. The bottom line is: management matters and can provide as much as twice the value.

Always have a contract between logger, forester, and landowner. Contracts should include who is selling what to whom and for how much, when, where, and with what restrictions. Payment options could include up-front stumpage, pay as you cut (certain dollar per thousand board feet), roadside (you haul ’em to the landing), or percentages. Contracts could also include best management practices, penalties for damaging residual stands, cutting of non-merchantable trees, a performance bond, non-transferability.

i won’t cover it here, because it’s complicated and really requires a forester, but those thinking about logging should understand what high-grading is and how to avoid it (of course the best way is to hire a professional forester).

Land owners should visit www.forestconnect.com for more about saw timer sales (and a lot more), and then begin thinking about a forest management plan.


Saturday, May 16, 2009

Agro-Forestry: Making Money From The Forest

At MFO training, agro-forestry expert Bob Beyfuss talked about income opportunities for forest owners that don’t include logging. Here are a few things folks can do according to Bob:

Recreation: hunting leases, cabins, and cottages for various seasons. Take a look at www.aplacetohunt.net and www.woodlandowners.org.

Silvapasture is leasing for grazing or browsing. Although now somewhat limited for elk and deer due to Chronic Wasting Disease and it’s not for sheep or cattle (they cause too much forest damage), there are opportunities for goats. Goats love burdock, beech, and especially poison ivy. They still may need to be fed if they are grazing in strictly forested lands.

Maple syrup production – I’ve already covered that here.

Ginseng, goldenseal, bloodroot, black cohosh, ramp/wild leeks, and fiddleheads are just a few of the botanicals that can be managed on forest lands for profit. Contrary to popular belief, while nothing can be taken from state land, only ginseng and goldenseal are regulated on private land. Old ginseng can sell for $1,700 a pound. Other opportunities include native ornamental plants like foam flower, maidenhead fern, and a lot more. In 1900, there were 5,000 ginseng farms in New York State and New York was the leading producer.

Mushrooms: chanterelles and morelles can be gathered, but oysters and shitakes can be grown at home (shitakes can bring $16 a pound).

Bob recommends two books:

Growing & Marketing Ginseng, Goldenseal & Other Woodland Medicinals

Wildflowers, (The New England Wild Flower Society)

Also check out Marketing Special Forest Products in New York State