Posts Tagged ‘Forest Preserve’

Monday, May 31, 2010

Celebrating the Life of Clarence Petty

On Sunday morning, the Wild Center hosted a memorial celebration of the life of Clarence Petty, the ardent conservationist who died last fall at 104.

The Wild Center showed two films about Clarence. After a brunch, several longtime friends and colleagues spoke about Clarence’s passion for protecting Adirondack wilderness.

As serious as Clarence was about preservation, anyone who met him was struck by his sense of humor and friendly manner.

Clarence had lots of stories from his long, rich life. He spent the first years of his life in a squatter’s cabin on the Forest Preserve. He grew up in the tiny hamlet of Coreys on the edge of the woods, a virtual frontier in those days, and went on to become a manager in the Civilian Conservation Corps, a forest ranger, a state pilot, and an indefatigable defender of the Adirondacks.

Most of the speakers at the memorial celebration, such as Michael Carr, Barbara Glaser, David Gibson, and Peter O’Shea, had known Clarence for decades and regaled the audience with one humorous anecdote after another. I particularly enjoyed Carr’s story about the time Clarence mistakenly air-dropped a load of trout over a fisherman. Thinking he may have killed or injured the fellow, Clarence flew back over the pond and saw him raising his hands in thanks.

I didn’t know Clarence as well as those folks, but as the editor of the Adirondack Explorer, I had the chance to speak with him many times in the last decade of his life. Every two months, I interviewed him for a feature called “Questions for Clarence,” which the Explorer published from 2004 until Clarence’s death.

The questions covered just about every topic under the sun, but often I would try to get Clarence to reveal what bit wisdom he would like to pass on to posterity. He kept on returning to his faith in democracy. He believed that if the people were allowed to vote on the important issues facing the Adirondack Park, they would opt to protect it.

By “the people,” he meant the people of the whole state, since the Forest Preserve is owned by all of them. The difficulty is that many of the Park’s residents don’t like outsiders making decisions that affect their lives. Hence, the continuing animosity toward the Adirondack Park Agency.

To this, Clarence had an answer. He described the Park’s wild lands, especially the Forest Preserve, as “the magnet” that draws tourists to the Adirondacks. The more wildness that is preserved, the greater the appeal to tourists. And tourists are money.

In short, protecting the Park is good for the economy–and hence good for the people who live here.

Despite his best efforts, Clarence failed to convince everyone of that point of view. But the argument will be carried forth by those he did reach.

You can find out more about Clarence Petty’s life in this remembrance by Dick Beamish, the founder of the Adirondack Explorer.

Photo by Phil Brown: Clarence Petty memorabilia at the Wild Center.

 


Thursday, April 22, 2010

Thinking Adirondack Birds On Earth Day

On this Earth Day of 2010 I find myself thinking. First, thinking of the abuses this planet has taken and is still taking. Then I think of some of the more positive things that we have witnessed, as we slowly bring about the changes this planet needs…”Be the change that you want to see in the world”-Gandhi

I recently “rediscovered ” a book I have entitled Important Bird Areas of New York
and as I paged though it I came to a map depicting all the Important Bird Areas(IBA) of northern New York. Looking closely at the map it shows all the IBA’s in small gray circles. Some bigger, some smaller. Each one designating a large IBA or a smaller IBA.

Then I got out my calculator and started adding up the number of acres each IBA contained. To my surprise, in an area that runs north of the NYS Thruway and bound by Lake Champlain on the east, Lake Ontario on the West, and the St Lawrence River to the north, I count over 902,000 acres designated as IBA.

Now this is just an estimate-it could be greater. But smack dab in the middle of all these gray circles of IBA’s sits our Adirondack Park. Some areas within the Blueline are IBA’s but looking at the big picture we can take a calming breath knowing that over 2 million acres are protected for birdlife (and other forms of wildlife of course) in our “park”.

This was truly an eye-opener when I recently looked at a map showing all the IBA’s in the United States. If you look at the upper right corner of the map you see a large green blob. That’s the protected Adirondack Park with all it’s avian inhabitants. Pretty cool when you consider the size of the blob in relation to all the other blobs on the map.

But what does this afford us? Well for one thing it gives recognition that we have something unique here in our own backyards. We have a Park that encompasses over 12 different critical habitats that wildlife need, ranging from endangered alpine summits to precious peatland bogs and wetlands that provide habitat to millions of organisms.

Birds have depended on these habitats of the Adirondacks for thousands of years. Bicknell’s thrush can safely raise young in the thickets of spruce-fir forest on our mountains; spruce grouse may get a second chance at survival in our carefully managed forests; olive-sided flycatchers can seek out protected wetlands as they return from a 2,000 mile spring journey from a tropical rainforest; and rusty blackbirds, though numbers severely depleted, can still find habitat in our acreage.

We may never see the day when all the “green blobs” on the IBA map will meld into one big blob, but it’s nice to know that we are trying.

Photo credit: Savannah Sparrow-Brian McAllister


Monday, March 29, 2010

NYS Comptroller Reports on Economic Benefits of Open Space Conservation

NYS Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli released a report late last week that argues for the economic benefits of open space conservation [pdf]. According to John Sheehan of the Adirondack Council, “this is the first attempt ever by the state’s top elected financial officer to quantify the value of undeveloped forests and open farm lands.”

The report comes at a time when the Legislature is negotiating the 2010-11 state budget, including the Environmental Protection Fund and its Open Space Account. This year’s budget contains $212 million for the EPF and $59 million for open space protection — land acquisition and conservation easements (purchase of development and recreational rights on private lands).

The Senate has proposed a $222-million EPF for the fiscal year that begins April 1, with little detail yet available on specific categories. The Assembly yesterday proposed an EPF of $168 million, with $44.3 million for land. The Governor — whose proposal came out first, back January, had proposed a $143-million EPF, with zero for land.

“Open space can provide a variety of public benefits, including storm water drainage and water management,” DiNapoli said. “Open spaces also provide a more direct economic benefit through tourism, agriculture and the forestry industry. All these benefits should be a factor in land use decisions from Montauk to Massena.” Here is an excerpt from Dinapoli’s press release on the report:

Agriculture is among New York’s largest and most vital industries, encompassing 25 percent of the state’s land and generating more than $4.5 billion for the state’s economy each year. In 2007, the income generated directly by farms, combined with income generated by agricultural support industries and by industries that process agricultural products, totaled $31.2 billion.

The study noted that open space contributes to the state’s economy by providing opportunities for outdoor recreational activities. DiNapoli also noted that open space often requires fewer municipal services than lands in other use and tend to generate more in municipal tax revenue.

Open space helps control storm water runoff, preserves surface water quality and stream flows, and aids in the infiltration of surface water to replenish aquifers. When lands are converted to other uses, the natural benefits provided by open space often must be replaced through the construction of water treatment facilities and infrastructure to control storm water, all paid for through local tax revenue. A series of studies have found the preservation of open space to be a more economical way to address storm water requirements.

DiNapoli’s report recommends that New York State consider:

* Allowing municipalities to establish community preservation funds
* Evaluating the adequacy of protections for lands providing benefits for municipalities
* Improving state-level planning for open space to address long-term funding needs
* Improving the administration of funds for open space programs
* Encouraging private land conservation

Map: 2009 APA Land Use Map


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

State Land Moratorium and Pending Adirondack Sales

Governor David Paterson’s budget would zero-out money for land acquisition and impose an apparent two-year moratorium on state land purchases. Other components of the Environmental Protection Fund would also be reduced (33 percent across the board), but land conservation is the only category proposed for elimination.

This would leave the Adirondack Chapter of the Nature Conservancy extended on many millions of dollars worth of land that the state has agreed to buy for the Forest Preserve. The tracts involved are 65,000 acres of former Finch Pruyn land spread across 27 towns, and 14,600 acres surrounding Follensby Pond, mostly in the town of Harrietstown. State payment on an easement on 92,000 acres of former Finch land is also pending. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Cool Map: Proposed State Land Classifications

Much has been written about the Adirondack Park Agency in the past two weeks, none of it by the Almanack. But we’ll add this: the agency’s cartographers continue to make handy maps. The latest is an interactive online map of new state land classification proposals. (Click here to see and use.)

There are 91 points on the map, each one describing a proposed category for new state lands (from most restrictive to least: wilderness, primitive, wild forest, intensive use, state administrative—definitions here, current acreages here.) Collectively the parcels amount to 31,000 acres.

The smallest are fractions of an acre, some of them little pieces of land that never got classified because the state wasn’t aware of them until improvements to tax maps. Some parcels are for DOT garages or adjacent to prisons. Others are recent state Forest Preserve acquisitions. The largest is 17,000 acres of former Domtar land surrounding Lyon Mountain, in Clinton County, which the APA is proposing to classify as Wild Forest, where motorized recreation is permitted on designated roads and trails.

Five public hearings are scheduled on the classifications in the next two weeks. The APA is also proposing to reclassify four parcels (468 acres) of existing state land. The APA makes these recommendations in concert with the Department of Environmental Conservation; they must ultimately be approved by the APA board and the governor. Here’s the public notice for more information.

Hearing schedule:
January 25, 2010
Fire Hall
5635 Route 28N
Newcomb, NY
7:00 pm

January 27, 2010
Park Avenue Building
183 Park Ave
Old Forge, NY
7:00 pm

January 28, 2010
Town Hall, 3662 Route 3
Saranac, NY
7:00 pm

February 2, 2010
St. Lawrence County Human Services Center
80 SH 310
Canton, NY
7:00 pm

February 5, 2010
NYDEC, 625 Broadway
Albany, NY
1:00 pm


Thursday, January 14, 2010

Groups Sue To Protect SLMP, Wilderness Water Routes

The Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK) and Protect the Adirondacks! (PROTECT), filed a lawsuit Tuesday in state Supreme Court in Albany to force the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) to classify the state-owned Lows Lake-Bog River-Oswegatchie wilderness canoe route in the heart of the Adirondacks.

The move comes on the heels of Governor David Paterson’s signing off on the classification and reclassification of about 8,000 acres (the Lows Lake Primitive Area, a portion of the Hitchins Pond Primitive Area, and additional acres south of Lows Lake) to wilderness their addition to the Five Ponds and Round Lake wilderness areas and also creating a new Eastern Five Ponds Access Primitive Area. » Continue Reading.


Monday, January 11, 2010

Guilty Pleasures: Skiing Adirondack Backcountry Glades

There’s plenty of good powder in the woods these days. It’s an ideal time for skiing glades.

Good luck finding one. Most backcountry skiers would sooner give out their bank PINs than reveal the locations of their favorite glades.

In the decade I’ve lived here, I’ve stumbled upon a few glades while exploring the woods and learned about others through word of mouth. I ski three or four glades fairly regularly.

It’s a guilty pleasure, though. Many glades are surreptitiously maintained by skiers who cut saplings and underbrush—which is illegal in the forever-wild Forest Preserve.

I’ve talked to skiers who insist that the grooming doesn’t harm the forest. As much as I enjoy skiing glades, I am a tad skeptical. Certainly, it changes the natural environment. Then again, so does just about everything we do in the wild—whether it’s cutting a hiking trail, driving a polluting snowmobile over a marsh, or stocking a stream with hatchery fish. The question is how much alteration of the environment is acceptable.

Recently, I happened to meet a well-respected environmental scientist at a trailhead, and I asked him if thinning glades damaged the forest. His off-the-cuff answer: not much.

An article in Vermont Life takes a hard look at the issue of cutting bootleg trails and thinning glades. One critic argues that cutting saplings creates a forest of even-aged trees and when these trees die, gaps in the forest will emerge. Yet the article also quotes an expert suggesting that glades can be managed to minimize the environmental impact.

Many resorts, including state-run facilities at Whiteface and Gore, have created glades to satisfy their patrons’ desire to ski in a more natural environment. Some backcountry skiers would like to see the state authorize the creation of managed glades in wild portions of the Forest Preserve. Frankly, I see that as a long shot, but it’d be neat if Paul Smith’s College or the state College of Environmental Science and Forestry looked at the impact of ski glades. As a long-term experiment, students could thin a glade on their own, study it over the years, and come up with suggestions for glade management. This information could be useful to resorts and perhaps to backcountry outlaws as well.

Backcountry skiers need to watch what they wish for. If the state did permit maintained glades in the Forest Preserve, everyone would know their locations.

I have a feeling, though, that hard-core enthusiasts would be skiing elsewhere.

Photo by Phil Brown: A skier in an Adirondack glade.

For more stories about backcountry skiing and snowshoeing, visit the Adirondack Explorer website.


Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Cool Map: Lakes and Ponds in Forest Preserve

An Almanack reader who likes maps called our attention to one posted last week in the Adirondack Park Agency’s online map room. It shows lakes and ponds encompassed entirely by Forest Preserve. (Click here to see larger map.)

The tally of those lakes and ponds is 1,838, and a series of clickable sidebar charts sorts them by variables. The largest? Lake Lila, at 1,461 acres. (Little Tupper Lake at 2,305 acres would’ve been the largest but there are a couple of small private inholdings. Follensby Pond, at 1,000 acres, would become third largest when New York State acquires it.) But most Forest Preserve waters are little: 1,728 of them are between 1 and 250 acres in surface area. A pie chart shows that there are almost exactly the same number of lakes fully within Wild Forest (862) as Wilderness (860) state land classifications. » Continue Reading.


Monday, December 21, 2009

Clarence Petty’s Last Words of Wisdom

As editor of the Adirondack Explorer, I interviewed Clarence Petty before every issue over the past five years for our “Questions for Clarence” feature. Several times before his death, at age 104, I asked what piece of wisdom he would like to impart to future generations.

His answer: Let the people vote. He argued that since the Adirondack Park is a state treasure, the residents of the whole state should vote on matters of importance to the Park. He had no doubt that the statewide electorate would favor preservation of the Park’s natural beauty and wild character.

We didn’t discuss the nuts and bolts of how these referendums would work, but it’s an interesting idea. Surely Clarence is right that people in Buffalo, Syracuse, Long Island, and other distant places would be inclined to favor state land acquisition and other measures intended protect the Park’s natural resources.

Of course, in-Park officials would fight tooth and nail to prevent such outside influence on the region. But Clarence often found himself at odds with his fellow Adirondackers.

I got to know Clarence only in the last decade of his life. The Explorer’s founder and erstwhile publisher, Dick Beamish, knew him for nearly forty years. For the newsmagazine’s January/February issue, Dick wrote a lengthy article about Clarence’s life and contributions to the Park. It’s the most comprehensive piece on Clarence I’ve seen since his death in November. You can read it here. You’ll also find a selection of Questions for Clarence.

Photo of Clarence on top of Giant Mountain, at age 70, courtesy of the Adirondack Council.


Monday, December 7, 2009

Pharaoh Lake Wilderness: The Battle of Crane Pond Road

Two decades ago, some Adirondackers forced the state to back down from a decision to close Crane Pond Road inside the Pharaoh Lake Wilderness.

A few weeks ago, I went to Crane Pond Road to take photos for a story that will run in the next issue of the Adirondack Explorer.

The dirt lane became a cause celebre two decades ago when the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) tried to close it. » Continue Reading.


Friday, December 4, 2009

Commentary: Monetizing the Forest Preserve

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Thursday, November 12, 2009

Adirondack Council Opposes Snowmobile Trails Plan

The Adirondack Council is asking the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) to reject a NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) proposed snowmobile trail plan saying that it would allow mechanical groomers on Forest Preserve land and also what the council called the “illegal widening of snowmobile trails on state owned land.”

The APA is considering today and tomorrow in Ray Brook whether the plan, known officially as Management Guidance: Snowmobile Trail Siting, Construction and Maintenance on Forest Preserve Lands in the Adirondack Park, is consistent with provisions of the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan. The proposed changes include the building of mechanically groomed “Community Connector” trails nine feet wide (12 at curves). » Continue Reading.


Thursday, October 29, 2009

Adirondack Park Re-emerging on Google Maps

The Adirondack Park has not quite returned to Google Maps, but something is taking shape: the Adirondack Forest Preserve.

On October 8 we noticed that the green shape representing “Adirondack State Park” was reduced to a little slice over the Cranberry Lake area. Users let Google know about the error through its “Report a Problem” link. As it incorporates user data, Google is apparently trying to restore the park, but it’s not all there yet.

One commenter suggested that the map distinguish between public and private land, which Google is now doing. It’s good to see state land shaded green, though not all tracts are labeled and Google apparently can’t tell Wilderness from Wild Forest. Also missing is the park boundary and the words “Adirondack Park.” (The boundary in the image above was drawn by Adirondack Almanack for context.)

This is a complicated place. Some private landowners and Adirondackers say the “park” label makes the uninitiated think that nobody lives here, or that all land is open to the public. Niki Kourofsky of Adirondack Life had some funny anecdotes in this fall’s Collector’s Issue (“Your Place or Mine?”) about residents who’ve found people picnicking on their lawns, and visitors who ask rangers, “What time does the park close?” Even though it’s not all government land like Yellowstone, this region is still distinct and has been designated a park for 117 years. Tourism-dependent businesses that promote the Adirondack name and conservationists who have invested more than a century in the ecological integrity of both private and public lands would surely like to see “Adirondack” somewhere over this part of the map.

It was also suggested that Google show conservation easements, as this Adirondack Park Agency map does. Conservation easements are voluntary restrictions on use of private land, usually preventing development to retain natural conditions. But since every easement is different and public access is determined tract by tract, another land designation might just confuse things even more. The state and private conservation organizations have acquired hundreds of thousands of acres of easements in the Adirondacks over the past three decades. While so far the legal agreements seem to be keeping timberlands intact and are working well for landowners, from a public recreation standpoint they are a tangle. The writer Neal Burdick put it well a few years ago when he said that instead of the old metaphor of a “patchwork quilt” of public and private lands, the Adirondack Park might better be called a “bowl of spaghetti.”

Map from a Google screen capture; park boundary drawn by the Almanack


Thursday, October 22, 2009

Two Adirondack Almanack Debates You May Be Missing

We often have some outstanding discussions here at Adirondack Almanack, debates that carry on long after the story has left the main page. I thought I’d take a moment to point readers to two active and interesting debates that have recently slipped off the main page.

The first involves Mary Thill’ s October 8 post “Posted Signs Do’s And Don’ts” which has 21 insightful comments on navigation law, trespass, private property and paddlers.

A second post also generating a lot of discussion is the recent announcement I made about a planned North Creek to Tahawus Rail Trail on October 14. There you’ll find nearly a dozen comments on the subject of abandoned railway easements and the Forest Preserve. Both discussion are enlightening—take a moment to check them out.


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

A 2017 Constitutional Convention And The Adirondacks

There has been a lot of public discussion about the potential for a constitutional convention in 2017 (as allowed by the current state constitution every 20 years), one that could influence the future of the Adirondack Forest Preserve and the Adirondack Park.

The New York State Constitutional Convention of 1967 (the last State Constitutional Convention) was held in Albany April 4 – September 26, 1967 and the revisions submitted to the voters that November; all of the convention’s proposals were rejected. Among the proposals that failed during the process were those to establish the forerunner of the Department of Conservation and to make it easier for the legislature to take land from the Forest Preserve (with voter referendum).

Wilderness preservation issues are likely to be hotly debated in the run-up to a constitutional convention—in fact, former Governor Mario Cuomo recently called for a chance to revise the constitution using, in part, these words:

A constitutional convention is a peoples’ meeting to design or redesign the peoples’ government. The legislature has traditionally not favored calling such a body to life. It feared that a convention might take steps to diminish the legislature’s institutional power or incumbents’ chances of re-election.

Others with particular interests to protect have also been skeptical. For example, environmentalists worry—needlessly, we think—about a convention altering the present constitution’s commitment to keeping our parks in the Adirondacks and Catskills ‘forever wild.’

This is short-sighted. Environmentalists might make gains at a convention by convincing us to constitutionalize positive rights to clean air and clean water.

Sure, it seems a long way off, but the idea that a new constitution might either abolish the forever wild clause, or “constitutionalize positive rights to clean air and clean water” is something Adirondack residents take seriously.

The New York State Library has recently digitized and made available online a treasure trove of documents relating to the 1967 convention. The current NYS Constitution can be found in pdf form here.



Wait, before you go,

sign up for news updates from the Adirondack Almanack!