According to a report issued by the Environmental Protection Agency, the Finch, Pruyn paper mill generated the most pollution of any manufacturing plant in New York last year, 31 percent more than the second heaviest polluter in the state.
The Glens Falls mill discharged some 3.8 million pounds of chemicals in 2009.
Finch’s emissions were less than 1.1 million pounds as recently as 2007, meaning that their pollution has nearly quadrupled since the long-time locally owned company was sold to a pair of outside investment groups in mid-2007. » Continue Reading.
A few days ago I went paddling with two other guys in Newcomb. We started at Rich Lake and canoed through Belden Lake and Harris Lake to the Hudson River and then down the Hudson for a mile, turning around at the first rapid.
We took out at Cloudsplitter Outfitters, conveniently located at the Route 28N bridge over the Hudson. Click here for a detailed description of the route. It’s a fun seven-mile excursion, but paddlers will have more to do in Newcomb if and when the state buys a tract of former Finch, Pruyn & Co. lands from the Adirondack Nature Conservancy. The purchase would lead to more tourism for Newcomb. » Continue Reading.
Monday I was walking along the shores of the Hudson River in search of a particular orchid. The sun was out, the wind was blowing, and lots of flowers were in bloom. A few frogs hopped away from the clumsy thud of my boots, and damselflies darted here and there. There was a sudden rustle in the vegetation and something slithered across my path. I watched as the tail disappeared into the greenery, only to reappear on the other side as the snake slid into the waters of the Hudson: a northern watersnake, Nerodia sipedon. This is a serpent that, as its name suggests, is equally at home in the water and on land. A rather robust animal, it is described in the literature as being “relatively large and heavy bodied.” In other words, this is no slender slitherer like our common garter snakes, nor is it cute in its tininess, like the red-bellied, brown or green snakes.
Northern watersnakes, to the untrained eye, might make one think immediately of water moccasins, or cottonmouths, both common names for the same venomous snake found in more southerly states. But we live in the Adirondacks where the only aquatic snake we have can be startling, can give a memorable bite, but is completely non-venomous.
Most of the snakes found in the Adirondacks are small to moderate in size, but the northern watersnake can grow upwards of four and a half feet long. Color can vary, but in general these reptiles are brown, or tan, with brown or reddish-brown bands or blotches. The animal I saw had a coloration very much like a milksnake, lighter in shade than I am used to seeing on these animals, although that could have partly been thanks to the water in which it was submerged when I took its photo. The older the animal, the darker its coloration. This is attributed to the tannins of the water in which they reside, which darken their scales over time. Perhaps my snake was fairly young, despite its size.
According to the authors of The Amphibians and Reptiles of New York State, many New York specimens have red stripes on their faces. Sadly, I wasn’t close enough to this one’s face to see any such markings.
Found in almost any body of freshwater, northern watersnakes tend to prefer habitats that have some good vegetative cover nearby, like cattails or wet meadows. This explains why it made a run for the water as I blundered along the shoreline looking for my orchid (which I never did find). The Ice Meadows are quite verdant now that high summer is in full swing; between the heat and the rain of recent weeks, the vegetation has become quite lush – perfect for hiding cunning hunters.
Because they are excellent swimmers, it is not surprising to learn that these snakes commonly catch and eat fish and frogs. I remember watching one choke down a rather large sunfish along the banks of the Passaic River down in the Great Swamp in New Jersey. It was an impressive feat, considering the size of the fish, but down it went, leaving a fish-like bulge in the snake’s throat as it slid back into the water to avoid our curious stares.
The rest of this reptile’s diet is filled with birds, small mammals, young turtles, and even insects. In other words, if the snake can catch it and get its mouth around it, anything is fair game; this includes carrion, which occasionally makes it into the diet.
When I was a youngster and just learning about animal classification (back in ’72 it was), we were told that the only animals that gave birth to live young were mammals – it was part of what set us apart from the rest of the critters. Then I learned that there are mammals that lay eggs! And later on, I learned that some snakes have live birth. The world was not as simple as I had been led to believe.
As it turns out, there are quite a few snakes that give birth to live young, and the northern watersnake is among them. While gestating, the female will often bask in the sun, warming up her internal offspring to make them develop faster. When the time comes, she gives birth to 15 to 30 babies. Better her than me!
I hadn’t given it much thought, since northern watersnakes have been a regular part of my outdoor experiences, but it seems that while once commonly found throughout New York State, this hefty reptile has disappeared from part of the St. Lawrence River Valley and from much of the Adirondacks. Southern slopes in the southeastern part of the park (Lakes Champlain and George) seem to be where they hang out these days. Warrensburg fits into this geographical range, so it’s not too surprising that I found this specimen.
Like many a child, I’m not averse to picking up the occasional snake that crosses my path, but I do limit my snake handling to small and more docile species. I’d never attempt to grab a northern watersnake. For one thing, it will put up quite a fight. While striking and biting, it will also release copious amounts of various bodily substances, like feces and musky secretions. All of this stuff smells as bad as it sounds. And even though it is a non-venomous snake, the bite can be nasty. Not only will it hurt when the animal sinks in its teeth, but the wound will bleed like a son-of-a-gun because the animal’s saliva is laced with anticoagulants – all the better to subdue its prey with, eh? In other words, this is a snake better left alone and admired from afar.
So, if you see a northern watersnake on your journeys through or around some of the Park’s wetlands, rest assured that it won’t harm you if left alone. Watch it for a while. Who knows, maybe, like the one I spotted, it will turn its head and watch you back. Interesting animals, snakes are, and well-worth the time to get to know.
The group of students was heading to Lake George for a barbecue, and then rafting on the Hudson River. But before that, I had volunteered to take them caving near Albany.
It was the second year I would guide a group from this school. But these kids had never been in a cave before. Nor had they been to the Adirondacks.
They were a group of nine Orthodox high-school students from Brooklyn, led by a rabbi who was a friend of a friend. The boys were a combination street-tough wise guys and Yeshiva-trained scholars. Which meant they asked a lot of questions and they wanted the answer now. When I met them at a local rock-climbing gym and introduced myself as their guide, the first one I met said: “About time. This place sucks.”
Not a patient crowd. But at least open-minded. When we arrived at the parking lot for the cave, they milled about, asking me questions: How wet would they get? How dark was it? Could they wear Crocs? Should they bring their cell phones? Should they wear a jacket?
And what about after the caving trip? Had I ever rafted the Hudson River before? Was it dangerous? Could they fall out of the boat? How deep was the water? I tried to keep up.
One kid pulled me aside: “Do we have to go through a deep section? How deep is it? I don’t want to go. Can I go a different way?”
Their comments continued as we began our descent, crawling through the entrance hole and tramping through ankle-deep running water. They turned to screams as they felt the cold water enter their shoes. “My feet are wet!” “Watch your head!” “My flashlight is broken!” “Hurry up!” “Wait up!”
Eventually, we reached the end of the passage, at a small underground pond. There Rabbi Fischer asked everyone to turn off their flashlights and be quiet. It took a while, for teen-age boys don’t like darkness and don’t like silence, and tend to fill it with light or noise.
Eventually, though, they settled down, and the rabbi spoke. “I want you to think about where we are,” he said, to the sound of dripping water. “I want you to think about the fact that we could only be here, in this amazing place, because we did this together, as a group. In September, we didn’t know each other, and today — I mean this sincerely — each one of you has a place in my heart.”
There was silence for a moment, and then one boy spoke up: “You guys are like family to me.”
They talked some more, and then it was time to go back to the van. Each boy shook my hand and thanked me for helping to give them such a great experience.
The rabbi took me aside. “The group you took last year? They talked about that caving trip for months. They still talk about it. This is something they’ll keep with them the rest of their lives.”
I thought about that, and the power of wilderness. The kids reacted to this new situation with the only tool that teen-age boys have — big talk, questions, audacity, brashness. They used loud talk to cover up their fear, but they did what was asked of them and came out smiling, if a little wet and muddy.
And tomorrow, when asked for the first time in their lives to step into a rubber raft and paddle down the Hudson River, they would probably be the same way. Perhaps their guide would be annoyed, or perhaps merely amused.
Either way, they would take a little taste of the wilderness back with them to the city, and keep it for the rest of their lives.
Saying the agency was “acting to protect natural resources and to curtail illegal and unsafe activities,” the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has announced it has relocated six campsites closer to main roads and will not reopen the gates at the Hudson River Special Management Area (HRSMA) of the Lake George Wild Forest. The gates, only recently installed to limit the area’s roads during spring mud season, will remain closed until further notice. “Unfortunately, due to funding reductions resulting from the state’s historic budget shortfall, DEC is, as previously announced, unable to maintain many of the roads in HRSMA and must keep the gates closed until the budget situation changes,” a DEC statement said. Also known as the “Hudson River Rec Area” or the “Buttermilk Area,” the HRSMA is a 5,500-acre section of forest preserve located on the eastern shore of the Hudson River, straddling the boundary of the towns of Lake Luzerne and Warrensburg in Warren County. Designated “Wild Forest” under the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan, HRSMA is a popular location for camping, swimming, picnicking, boating, tubing, horseback riding, hiking, hunting and fishing. The Hudson River Rec Area has been a popular spot for late-night parties, littering, and other abuses.
Six campsites (# 6-11) have been relocated due to vandalism and overuse. Campsites #6, 7, 8, and 10 and 11 are relocated in the vicinity of the old sites and just a short walk from the parking areas. Parking for each of these sites is provided off Buttermilk Road. Site 9 has been relocated to the Bear Slide Access Road providing an additional accessible campsite in the HRSMA for visitors with mobility disabilities. Site 11 is located off Gay Pond Road, which is currently closed to motor vehicle traffic.
Signs have been posted identifying parking locations for the sites and markers have been hung to direct campers to the new campsite locations. Camping is permitted at designated sites only – which are marked with “Camp Here” disks.
Gay Pond Road (3.8 mi.) and Buttermilk Road Extension (2.1 mi.) are temporarily closed to all public motor vehicle access. Pikes Beach Access Road (0.3 mi.) and Scofield Flats Access Road (0.1 mi.) may still be accessed by motor vehicle by people with disabilities holding CP3 permits. As in the past, the Bear Slides Access Road and Darlings Ford are closed to motor vehicle use by the general public but will remain open for non-motorized access by the general public and motorized access by people with disabilities holding a CP-3 permit.
Currently eight campsites designed and managed for accessibility remain available to people with mobility disabilities. All of the designated sites are available to visitors who park in the designated parking areas and arrive by foot or arrive by canoe.
DEC Forest Rangers will continue to educate users, enforce violations of the law, ensure the proper and safe use of the area, and remind visitors that:
* Camping and fires are permitted at designated sites only;
* Cutting of standing trees, dead or alive, is prohibited;
* Motor vehicles are only permitted on open roads and at designated parking areas;
* “Pack it in, pack it out” – take all garbage and possessions with you when you leave; and
* A permit is required from the DEC Forest Ranger if you are camping more than 3 nights or have 10 or more people in your group.
Additional information, and a map of the Hudson River Special Management Area, may be found on the DEC website.
Trustees for the Hudson River dredging project have announced their support for the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) plans to continue to remove PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) from the Hudson River. The overall environmental benefits of the dredging greatly outweigh any short-term PCB impacts of the work, they said.
The announcement came in the wake of several days of presentations in Glens Falls by EPA and General Electric before a panel of dredging experts reviewing Phase I of the project, completed last year. The panel will offer recommendations and propose changes that could be incorporated into the second phase of the project, set to begin in 2011. The natural resources trustees for the Hudson River dredging project are the:
* New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). * U.S. Department of the Interior, represented by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). * U.S. Department of Commerce, represented by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
The trustees’ role is to perform an assessment of injuries to natural resources resulting from the release of PCBs into the river by GE. DEC also supports EPA with technical advice and oversight for the project.
Although the Phase I dredging stirred up PCBs in the river and raised the PCB level in fish near the work, the trustees have said that they had expected these short-term effects from the dredging. Similar short-term effects have occurred during past dredging in the river.
PCB levels in the river and in fish decreased downstream from the dredging work, with no significant increase found farther downstream in the lower Hudson River, the trustees said in a recent press release.
PCB levels in the water and the fish adjacent to the Phase I work will decrease within a few years, they said. The trustees expect a similar result after the entire dredging project is completed. Overall levels will be lower because a large amount of PCBs will have been permanently removed from the river.
“Over the next several years, we have a unique opportunity to permanently remove significant amounts of PCB contamination from the Hudson River for the benefit of future generations of New Yorkers,” said DEC Commissioner Pete Grannis. “A comprehensive remedial dredging project is an integral step in the restoration of this iconic river, and we fully support EPA in its efforts to get the job done right.”
“We disagree with many of the conclusions presented by GE in the peer review process,” said Northeast Regional Director Marvin Moriarty of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “We agree with EPA that the overall environmental benefits of the dredging greatly outweigh any short-term impacts associated with the work.”
“Restoration of the Hudson River begins with a robust cleanup” said Dr. Robert Haddad, Chief of NOAA’s Assessment and Restoration Division. “GE’s proposal will further delay the recovery and restoration of this nationally historic river, which has been contaminated since the 1940s.”
Highlights: The trustees also expressed their position on the following issues:
The trustees believe it is important to focus on project quality, even if this means the project takes longer.
Depth of contamination
PCBs extend deeper into the riverbed than originally believed. The trustees believe that capping sediment is not an acceptable solution. Capping has potential long-term consequences, including risk of cap failure.
Containing PCB oil
The trustees believe that PCB oil on the river surface during Phase I was a major contributor to PCB release into the river. They recommend containing and collecting PCB oil to reduce the short-term effects from dredging.
The trustees support dredging in shallow areas, allowing barges better access to dredge areas. Increasing the amount of sediment on barges will improve productivity and reduce re-suspending contaminated sediments.
Funding reductions to New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) resulting from the state’s historic budget shortfall will limit the agency’s ability to maintain roads in the Adirondack Forest Preserve, delay construction of recreational facilities on easement lands, and prevent the hiring of Assistant Forest Rangers this season according to media materials distributed late last week.
“Due to the inability to maintain or patrol roads and nearby recreational facilities, a number of roads will remain temporarily closed to public motor vehicle access,” the DEC announced. “These roads have already been closed for mud season, as they are each year. While gates on these roads will remain closed and locked to prevent access by motor vehicles, the roads and surrounding lands will be open for authorized recreational use by the public.” Each of the roads that will temporarily remain closed has parking available near the gate. The public is asked not to block the gates or the roads, as DEC may need to access the roads for routine maintenance and emergencies. Road maintenance tasks generally include gravel placement to maintain road surfaces, road grading, culvert replacement and removal of road hazards such as leaning or downed trees. Maintenance of campsites along and near these roads also requires a significant effort by DEC staff, including the removal of trash.
The following DEC roads will remain temporarily closed to all public motor vehicle access:
* Moose River Plains Road System (all roads) in the Moose River Plains Wild Forest, the Towns of Inlet, Arietta, Lake Pleasant and Indian Lake, Hamilton County;
* Lily Pond Road in the Lake George Wild Forest, Town of Horicon, Warren County;
* Jabe Pond Road in the Lake George Wild Forest, Town of Hague, Warren County;
* Gay Pond Road in the Hudson River Special Management Area (aka the Hudson River Recreation Area) of the Lake George Wild Forest, Town of Warrensburg, Warren County;
* Buttermilk Road Extension in the Hudson River Special Management Area (aka the Hudson River Recreation Area) of the Lake George Wild Forest, Town of Warrensburg, Warren County;
* Dacy Clearing Road in the Lake George Wild Forest, Town of Fort Ann, Washington County.
The following DEC roads will remain temporarily closed to general public motor vehicle access, but may still be accessed by motor vehicle by people with disabilities holding CP3 permits:
* Scofield Flats Road, in the Hudson River Special Management Area (aka the Hudson River Recreation Area) of the Lake George Wild Forest, Town of Lake Luzerne, Warren County; and
* Pikes Beach Access Road in the Hudson River Special Management Area (aka the Hudson River Recreation Area) of the Lake George Wild Forest, Town of Lake Luzerne, Warren County.
As in the past, the Bear Slides Access Road will be closed to motor vehicle use by the general public but will remain open to people with disabilities holding CP3 permits.
In addition, ongoing parking lot, road, trail, and public facility projects in the following areas will be suspended pending funding becoming available:
* Black Brook Easement Lands in the Town of Black Brook, Clinton County;
* Kushaqua Easement Lands in the Towns of Brighton and Franklin, Franklin County; and
* Altamont Easement Lands in the Town of Tupper Lake, Franklin County.
The Department says it will provide “reasonable accommodation to individuals with disabilities upon request for access to programs on state lands where roads are closed.” For instance, people with disabilities holding a DEC Motorized Access Permit for Persons with Disabilities (CP3 permit) will be allowed to access recreational programs by motor vehicles on two of the roads that will otherwise be closed to the public. Those with disabilities who wish to access recreational programs in the Warrensburg/ Lake George area should contact Tad Norton in the Department’s Warrensburg Office at (518) 623-1209, and those with disabilities who wish to access recreational programs in the Northville/Raquette Lake area should contact Rick Fenton in the Department’s Northville office at (518) 863-4545.
Questions regarding the temporary road closures, should be directed to the regional DEC Division of Lands and Forests at (518) 897-1276 or the Region 5 DEC Office.
O swallows, swallows, poems are not The point. Finding again the world, That is the point….
From “The Blue Swallows,” Howard Nemerov
In the mid-fifties, when I was four or five, I started visiting an old bootlegger’s hideout in the woods of Thurman with my friend Dinah, Dinny, who was a year and a century older than I was, and infinitely wiser, and whom I admired and adored. » Continue Reading.
Asian carp are all over the news and will soon be all over Lake Michigan unless the Chicago canal that links the Mississippi and Great Lakes watersheds is re-engineered. It’s looking unlikely, but if the Obama administration decides to turn this dilemma into a major public works project—keeping a particularly nasty invasive species from upending the remnants of native Great Lakes fish life—there’s a canal on Lake Champlain that could use a lift too. » Continue Reading.
Several questions arose after last month’s post regarding carries on private land and interpreting gauge readings. A number of concerns noted situations where paddlers were on a LAKE and then got out of their boats on privately owned shores or docks. From everything I have read or heard, the discussions regarding the public’s rights of passage are focused on RIVERS. If a river is navigable—and it’s not always clear how this is defined—and it flows through private lands, the issue is when and in what manner a paddler can carry around obstructions that are encountered. » Continue Reading.
The other day I skied the Jackrabbit Trail from end to end, a twenty-four-mile journey starting in Saranac Lake and ending at the Rock and River lodge in Keene. When I got to Rock and River, I told owner Ed Palen of my heroic feat. “Oh, yeah,” he said. “I do that every year.”
OK, I’m a far cry from Herman “Jackrabbit” Johannsen, the legendary skier for whom the trail is named. But for me, it was an epic day. And it got me thinking about other epic adventures in the Adirondacks.
What’s an epic adventure? First off, it must be long, arduous, and exciting. The best give you a quintessential Adirondack experience—one that can’t be topped.
The Jackrabbit qualifies as there’s no other ski trail like it in the Adirondacks. It traverses wild landscapes while connecting human communities. Tony Goodwin and the Adirondack Ski Touring Council deserve our thanks for creating and maintaining it.
Following are a half-dozen other Adirondack epic adventures that can be done in a day. If you have other suggestions or comments, please let us know.
Mount Marcy Ski. If you’re a backcountry skier, it’s hard to beat schussing down the state’s highest mountain. Of course, you have to climb seven and a half miles before the descent begins.
Eagle Slide. A number of High Peaks are scarred by bedrock slide paths. Many climbers regard the Eagle on Giant Mountain as the best. It’s wide and steep. I’ve done it in hiking boots and rock-climbing shoes. I felt much more comfortable in rock shoes.
Trap Dike. The deep gash in the side of Mount Colden, first climbed in 1850, is a classic mountaineering route. It’s steep enough in spots that some people bring ropes. After exiting the dike, you climb a broad slide to the summit.
Wallface. The largest cliff in the Adirondacks. To get there, you must hike several miles to Indian Pass in the High Peaks Wilderness. You don’t have to be an expert climber to scale the cliff—if you have a good guide. The Diagonal is the most popular route to start on.
Hudson Gorge. Several outfitters offer rafting trips through this wild, scenic canyon, but if you have the whitewater skills to canoe or kayak, go for it!
Great Range. Backpacker magazine describes a trek over the entire Great Range as “possibly the hardest classic day hike in the East.” Starting in Keene Valley, you summit seven High Peaks, ending on Marcy. Total ascent: 9,000 feet. Distance: 25 miles. You’ll need lots of daylight, water, and stamina.
Isolation was a recurring theme in this quadricentennial year of Samuel de Champlain’s arrival in the valley that now bears his name. In October, in synchrony with the crumbling fortunes and impending collapse of the North Country GOP, the Crown Point Bridge spanning Lake Champlain was condemned by state inspectors. Before the year ended, the bridge was brought down by explosives, the direct descendant of the black powder Champlain first introduced to the Crown Point shore in 1609. » Continue Reading.
Parks & Trails New York, an Albany-based advocacy group, has joined an effort to develop a rail-trail between North Creek and Tahawus.
The group Friends of the Upper Hudson, which seeks to build a 29-mile multi-use trail along an old railroad bed, recently announced the partnership. Parks & Trails will provide help with technical issues, planning, public outreach, grant writing, fundraising and other activities. The trail would follow the railway formerly used to haul ore from the NL Industries mine, passing through the towns of Johnsburg, Indian Lake, Minerva and Newcomb. The trail would provide easy access to the scenic Upper Hudson and Boreas Rivers, as well as a dramatic crossing of the Hudson over a long trestle.
When complete, the trail could lure tens of thousands of users to a part of the Adirondacks that is not visited by many hikers. But there are concerns about the project. First is the cost, estimated at $4.4 million for a stone-dust trail, or $7.3 million for paved. And there are also access questions, as the right-of-way (across both private and state land) will expire with the removal of the tracks. However, backers say a federal law to encourage the reuse of rail beds may solve the complicated land issue.
The project backers have completed a feasibility study and are working with partners to acquire and preserve the corridor for trail use.
Trains haven’t run on this section of rail for decades. To the south, a tourist line called The Upper Hudson Scenic Railroad operates in warmer weather on the same line between North Creek and Riparius. That railroad faces an uncertain future: the section is owned by Warren County, which is seeking proposals from new operators for a scenic railroad. The rail-trail would ave no impact on the tourist line.
The Friends of the Upper Hudson Rail Trail maintain a website here. To find out more about the Healthy Trails, Healthy People program, contact Parks & Trails New York at 518-434-1583 or [email protected] or visit the Parks & Trails New York website here.
For several years I have been a contributor to the Hudson River Almanac, a publication put out by the Department of Environmental Conservation’s Hudson River Estuary Program that follows the changes of the seasons all along the 315 miles of the Hudson River, from its headwaters here in Essex County to the Atlantic Ocean. It’s an impressive collection of natural history observations made by scientists and laypeople alike. For a naturalist, this is a fascinating journal. If these waters could talk, what a tale they could tell! » Continue Reading.
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