In one of his last acts as the state’s environmental conservation commissioner, Joe Martens overturned a predecessor’s finding that part of the Jackrabbit Ski Trail was still a town road and therefore could be open to snowmobiles, ATVs, and other vehicles.
Martens, who left his post last week, wrote in a July 22 decision that the road had long been abandoned and so the state had the power to close it to vehicular use. The road in question — known as the Old Mountain Road — cuts through the Sentinel Range Wilderness between Keene and North Elba.
Facts are stubborn things. So are traditions, and patterns of use. These all lay at the heart of the recent Lows Lake court decision in Albany County Supreme Court which upheld a Wilderness classification for Lows Lake and the Bog River Flow.
Verplanck Colvin, the great Adirondack explorer and surveyor, came to what is now Lows Lake in the late 1890s, just before inventor A.A. Low dammed the Bog River in two places as part of extensive industrial enterprises that lasted less than 15 years. Colvin’s survey of 1898-1899 was his last (published by the Adirondack Research Center of the Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks in 1989). » Continue Reading.
The New York State Outdoor Writers Association (NYSOWA) honored former Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Pete Grannis with its “Friends of the Outdoors Award: at its annual fall conference. Grannis was recognized for “his commitment to the enjoyment of outdoor recreational opportunities available throughout the state and his continued efforts to encourage sportsmen to enjoy the natural resources that New York State has to offer,” according to a press release issued by NYSOWA.
“The award is given periodically to someone who has gone beyond the call of duty to protect and promote the outdoor experience,” the announcement reads. “It recognizes the individual or organization that has made significant and long-lasting contributions to preserving and enhancing the outdoor experience.” NYSOWA is a group of professional outdoor writers and media personnel that regularly cover outdoor sporting opportunities and issues regarding the natural environment. Among the changes credited to his tenure as DEC commissioner by NYSOWA was increased communication with DEC personnel and the media. “Ease of communications and access have contributed to greater information for the outdoors media and, consequently, for the sportsmen and women of the New York State,” the announcement said. “Scheduled press days and conferences have further increased information and understanding of the issues facing the DEC and the sporting community.”
The organization had high praise for Grannis, who was recently fired by David Paterson over DEC budget cuts: “Commissioner Grannis has proven himself as a friend of the sportsmen by his support, advice and encouragement on such issues as the Youth Hunting and Trapping bills and allowing the use of rifles in many Southern Zone counties. He has instituted a 10-year pheasant management program and has initiated new management plans for deer and bear. His willingness to work with various groups within New York State government and to facilitate solutions to crises is illustrated with the successful efforts to save the DEC pheasant farm and keep the Moose River Plains Recreational Area open in the face of state budget cuts.”
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation appears willing to give way on its plan to discontinue the collection of campers’ garbage from the islands of Lake George.
After meeting on September 17 in Bolton Landing with state legislators, county supervisors, the Lake George Park Commission and the heads of lake protection organizations, DEC staff agreed to seek an increase in camping fees large enough to cover the costs of collecting garbage from three locations and transporting it to Glen Island.
State Senator Betty Little and Assemblywoman Teresa Sayward, who proposed the alternative to the state’s planned “Carry in/Carry Out” policy at the meeting in Bolton, said they would sponsor an item in next year’s state budget designating the new revenues as fees for removing garbage from the Lake George islands. The agreement, however, must win the endorsement of DEC Commissioner Pete Grannis. According to Doug Bernhard, DEC”s general manager of Forest Parks, approximately $50,000 would need to be raised every year to maintain the policy of picking up garbage and recycleables from three locations in the Lake George Narrows, Glen Island and Long Island campsite groups.
Last year, DEC issued 6,680 permits for 387 campsites on 44 islands, said Gary West of DEC’s Warrensburg office. By raising the fee for a daily camping permit by as much as $5, Senator Little said, enough funds would be raised to pay for garbage collection. “It will be understood that it is an increase in fees to keep the lake beautiful,” said Little.
If the fee hike is approved, the cost of a permit could rise to $30 for New York State residents and $35 for non-residents. “These campers have expensive boats; they won’t object to a few extra dollars for a permit, and it’s still an incredible deal,” said Bill Van Ness, a Warren County supervisor and a Lake George Park Commission marine patrol officer.
“There’s broad support from business owners, environmentalists and local governments for this fee hike,” said Peter Bauer, the excutive director of the Fund for Lake George.
The decision to abandon the policy of collecting garbage and to rely instead upon campers to carry their garbage with them when they leave was made after the DEC’s budget for non-personnel expenses was cut by 40%, said Bernhard.
“Asking campers to take their garbage to the recycling centers was a highly successful program, winning 90% compliance, but we no longer have the resources to support it,” said Bernhard, who added that other popular campground programs, such as nature education activities, had also been abolished.
Opposition to the plan to terminate garbage collection services, however, surfaced almost as soon as it was announced. The Towns of Bolton, Hague and Lake George, as well as the Warren County Board of Supervisors, adopted resolutions opposing the plan. “The end result will be garbage in the roadway and in the lake,” said Bolton Supervisor Ron Conover, who organized the meeting. “If we fail the lake, we fail ourselves.”
Members of the Lake George Park Commission also opposed the plan, said chairman Bruce Young, who argued that discontinuing the collection service would diminish the experience of camping on the islands, thus costing the state in revenues and harming the local economy. “This is the goose that lays the golden egg,” said Young. “The Lake George Island campsites generate $700,000 a year in revenues to DEC. I hate to see you shortchange this asset in order to take care of others.”
While a carry in/carry out policy is used at other island campsites in the Adirondack Forest Preserve, Young and others argued that it could not be successfully applied to Lake George. “Not picking it up is not an option, it won’t work,” said Young. “Lake George island campers are not backpackers.”
The Lake George Association’s executive director, Walt Lender, said, “While we agree the campers should be responsible for their own garbage, we know that island camping is not wilderness camping; these boats are floating Winnebagos.”
“Their coolers, their children, their barbecues, they boat it in as though they were going to a land-based campsite,” said Ron Conover. According to DEC officials, 231 tons of garbage was removed from the islands last year.
The Lake George Island Campers Association supports the recommendation, with some reservations, said Cindy Baxter, a New Hampshire resident who helped establish the advocacy group. “We would prefer to see all the funds generated by the Lake George islands be returned to Lake George for the care and maintenance of the campsites. But if that’s not possible, a fee increase is a price we’re willing to bear if that’s what it takes to protect Lake George,” said Baxter.
The State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has announced that Greenhouse gas emissions will be included in New York’s environmental review of large-scale projects under a new policy that becomes effective August 17th. The new policy will apply where DEC is the lead agency under the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA). SEQRA requires that a “lead agency” identify and assess actions for their potential adverse environmental impacts, and in certain cases, develop an environmental impact statement and propose mitigation strategies. “This initiative builds on Governor Paterson’s commitment to continuing New York’s fight against climate change,” DEC Commissioner Pete Grannis said in a press release. “DEC anticipates that, more and more, the public will raise the issue of climate change in the SEQRA process, and this policy will ensure that climate change impacts are considered in a consistent and fair manner. It includes a menu of design measures that can mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, such as energy-efficient construction, use of renewable energy technology and waste reduction. While helping guide DEC staff, the policy also will help raise awareness of all the actions that can be taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”
DEC has also started a process to redesign the environmental assessment forms which used in SEQRA reviews. The update of this form will include the addition of questions related to energy use and greenhouse gas emissions, among other issues according to Grannis.
A week ago today, state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Pete Grannis effectively reopened Old Mountain Road between North Elba (Route 73) and Keene (Shackett Road / Route 40) in Essex County. According to surveys made in 1893-1894 (here, and here), the road had been abandoned since the 19th century; it was believed to have been officially closed when the Sentinel Wilderness Area UMP was ratified in 1974. Beginning in 1986 part of the road has been maintained as the popular 35-mile long Jackrabbit Trail by the Adirondack Ski Touring Council. The Grannis decision was forced by Lake Placid Snowmobile Club President James McCulley who drove his truck down the trail in May of 2005 and was ticketed (he previously beat a 2003 ticket for doing the same thing with his snowmobile). An agency administrative judge later found that the road had never been closed properly (it required public hearings). » Continue Reading.
An Adirondack hotel that has gone all out to go green and educate guests, a Capital Region college that has taken big steps to reduce its ecological footprint, and a Hudson Valley school district effort to protect the water supply, reduce waste and run an organic garden are among the winners of the 2008 Environmental Excellence Awards announced today by New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Pete Grannis. The fifth annual New York State Environmental Excellence Awards ceremony took place in Albany today to acknowledge the winners and their projects. There were more than 40 applicants, with submissions coming from industry, local governments, advocacy groups, educational institutions, and the hospitality sector. A committee of 20 representatives from the public and private sectors selected the winning submissions.
“The projects selected are outstanding examples of how we can solve environmental challenges by using innovative and environmentally sustainable practices or creative partnerships.” Grannis said. “By recognizing New York’s environmental and conservation leaders, we hope to inspire stewardship so that others can make significant positive impacts and protect New York’s natural resources.”
Energy efficiency. Water conservation. Recycling. Green grounds. Environmental education. The Golden Arrow Resort has instituted green programs on a variety of fronts to reduce the environmental impact not only of the hotel, but also of the traveler. It features a “green roof” – a rooftop expanse of native plants that provides wildlife habitat, reduces water runoff and helps keep the inn warm in the winter and cool in the summer. A limestone beach reduces the impacts of acid rain. In-room recycling, insulated windows, energy-efficient lighting and low-flow plumbing fixtures are also part of the mix. The hotel offers incentives for guests that travel by foot, ski, bike or hybrid car. The Golden Arrow also assists others in the hospitality industry find ways to reduce their carbon footprint.
Brewster School District, Putnam County
Through its multi-faceted “Environmental Education/Sustainable Practices Project,” the Brewster Central School District has demonstrated leadership in protecting the environment and in promoting environmental education. This project includes significant capital improvements and managerial processes to save energy and to protect the region’s water supply by preventing excessive plant growth, loss of oxygen and fish kills in the receiving waters. The project also includes educational activities that have developed students’ awareness of environmental issues and have empowered them with opportunities to participate in meaningful, innovative, hands-on activities that have measurable environmental impacts. Accomplishments have already included a 50 percent district-wide reduction in solid waste production, a student-run organic garden, and a technologically advanced wastewater treatment facility built in 2007. Improvements have resulted in more than 17 percent in annual energy savings, 1,724,388 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions prevented, and 250,000 cubic feet each of paper and plastic waste diverted from landfills.
Union College has instituted the U-Sustain initiative – an innovative, campus-wide program that involves faculty, staff, students and administrators with the goals of reducing the ecological footprint of the college, increasing environmental awareness on campus and in the community, and making the college more sustainable. Accomplishments thus far include the renovation of student apartments to be an eco-friendly house, energy reduction strategies, dining options that include student volunteers working with dining services to provide fresh, local and organic meals, initiatives to offset energy consumption, and increased recycling/waste reduction opportunities.
These public agencies worked together to develop an innovative guide, “Stream Processes: A Guide to Living in Harmony with Streams,” that describes how streams work and why functioning floodplains are integral parts of the stream system. The guide contains dramatic photographs that help promote the need for sound management practices. The lessons learned can be applied to stream channels, floodplains, stream corridors, and watershed activities that do not trigger regulatory actions. The guide has already begun having a positive effect on decisions made by Chemung County landowners and local highway departments and its reach is expanding as a result of more than 30,000 guides being distributed to a variety of audiences throughout New York State.
The City of Kingston partnered the Aslan Group to develop a new and innovative system – the first of its kind in the world – for managing wastewater treatment plant residuals in an economical and environmentally sound manner. Waste “biogas” is captured from the plant’s digesters and utilized as the only required fuel to turn 10 wet-tons-per-day of municipal wastewater sludge into one ton-per-day of an EPA-recognized pelletized usable “biosolid.” The biosolid is distributed free of charge for use as a lawn fertilizer or furnace fuel, which costs less than the previous practice of landfill disposal. Also, methane gas is efficiently utilized within the process as a fuel and since very little methane is flared, oxides of nitrogen and other pollutant emissions have been reduced.
New York State Soil and Water Conservation Committee, Albany County
The committee’s Agricultural Environmental Management (AEM) – Farming New York Cleaner and Greener program serves as a national model of how a voluntary, incentive-based approach to agricultural management can successfully protect and enhance soil and water resources, while preserving the economic viability of a diverse agricultural community. AEM assists farmers in making practical, cost-effective decisions that result in the sustainable use of New York’s natural resources. Recently the program has expanded efforts to assist vineyards. Currently 52 growers have completed a new self-assessment workbook, which has resulted in the development of 16 action plans that implemented an average of nine improved farming practices at each location. While AEM supports voluntary environmental stewardship, it is also a vehicle by which changes in environmental regulations have been effectively implemented at over 600 Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs). Plans have been successfully developed for all 147 large CAFOs and 92 percent of the state’s 472 medium sized CAFOs. More than 10,000 New York farm families participate and receive information, education and technical assistance so that farmers are able to operate cleaner and greener while competing in today’s global market.
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Pete Grannis announced today that grant applications are now being accepted for projects proposing to eradicate terrestrial invasive species. Terrestrial invasive species is defined as a plant or animal that lives or grows predominately on land. Applications will be accepted until October 31, 2008 DEC is making up to $1 million in state grants available to municipalities and not-for-profit organizations for projects to eradicate and/or permanently remove infestations of terrestrial invasive species throughout the state. The funding for these grants was secured in the 2008-09 enacted state budget, through the Environmental Protection Fund. State funds can be used to pay for up to one-half of the cost of selected projects. Individual grants for terrestrial eradication proposals will be awarded for projects that range from $2,500, up to $100,000. » Continue Reading.
The Adirondack Chapter of The Nature Conservancy and the Adirondack Land Trust are holding their Annual Membership Meeting and Field Day on August 16, 2008, at Heaven Hill Farm in Lake Placid, New York. The event, featuring keynote speakers Pete Grannis, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner, and Charles D. Canham, Ph.D., Forest Ecologist, is open to the public. Preregistration is required. Prior to becoming DEC Commissioner, Grannis was a NY State Assemblyman for 30 years. During that time, he was an active member of the Environmental Conservation Committee and received recognition from a variety of environmental organizations for his role in enacting laws addressing such issues as acid rain, clean air and water.
Now, under Grannis’s leadership DEC is making history in the Adirondacks with his Smart Growth initiatives and the integral part it is playing in protecting the ecologically and economically significant Finch lands.
Dr. Canham, Senior Scientist with the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook, NY, earned his doctorate in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from Cornell University (1984). Widely recognized as a leader in his field, Dr. Canham’s research papers have appeared in numerous scientific journals. His most recent, Neighborhood Models of the Effects of Invasive Tree Species on Ecosystems Processes (2008), can be found in Ecological Monographs, a publication of the Ecological Society of America.
Dr. Canham’s Adirondack research has taken him deep into the forests of the Five Ponds Wilderness and to hundreds of remote lakes and ponds. He is also a board member of the Adirondack Chapter of The Nature Conservancy and the Adirondack Land Trust and chairs the groups’ Conservation Committee.
Pre-registration is required for this event, which will run from 10:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. Cost per adult is $20, children under 12 are free. Heaven Hill Farm, not ordinarily not open to the public, is just west of the village of Lake Placid, with a magnificent view of the high peaks. To register, or obtain more information, contact Jeff Walton at (518) 576-2082 ext 166 or jwalton[AT]tnc[DOT ORG]
The Nature Conservancy is a leading international, non-profit organization working to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. Since 1971, the Adirondack Chapter has been working with a variety of partners in the Adirondacks to achieve a broad range of conservation results. The Chapter is a founding partner of the High Peaks Summit Stewardship Program, dedicated to the protection of alpine habitat, as well as the award-winning Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program, which works regionally to prevent the introduction and spread of non-native invasive plants.
The Adirondack Land Trust, established in 1984, protects open space, working farms and forests, undeveloped shoreline, scenic vistas, and other lands contributing to the quality of life of Adirondack residents. The Land Trust holds 45 conservation easements on 11,174 acres of privately-owned lands throughout the Adirondack Park, including 15 working farms in the Champlain Valley.
Together, these partners in Adirondack conservation have protected 556,572 acres, one out of every six protected acres park-wide.
Adirondack Almanack periodically forwards press releases like this one to our readers.
The DEC has officially announced that the historic Masten House (at left), on the site of the former iron mines in Tahawus in Newcomb, Essex County, will be the site of “a new leadership and training institute that focuses on the research and management of northern forests.” Northern forests is intended to mean the area that “extends from Lake Ontario at Tug Hill, across the Adirondacks to northern Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine.”
Regular Almanack readers know that Eliot Spitzer’s budget called for $125,000 from the Environmental Protection Fund to be put toward SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry’s purchase and rehabilitation of the Masten House – that had apparently fallen through, late in the budget process, but was apparently found somewhere in DEC’s budget.. The DEC’s press release notes:
The project is a cooperative effort that will enhance forest preserve and wildlands management research and contribute to the local economy. ESF will run the Northern Forest Institute (NFI) on a 46-acre portion of a property owned by [Open Space Institute’s] Open Space Conservancy and leased on a long-term basis to the college for $1 a year. Establishment of the institute is being aided by a $1 million grant from Empire State Development to OSI and $125,000 from DEC to ESF. In addition, DEC has committed $1.6 million over the next four years to ESF scientists who will conduct three research projects on visitor demand, experiences, and impacts, as well as a training program for DEC employees responsible for managing recreational visits to New York State forest preserve lands.
The NFI will focus on meeting the educational and research needs of professional audiences, including representatives of state agencies, business leaders, and educators. The institute will also serve the general public, particularly college and secondary school students.
Here is some history of the Masten House from DEC:
Masten House is within the state historic district that encompasses the former town of Adirondack at the southern entrance to the High Peaks Wilderness area. The town was settled in 1826 and was home to one of the region’s first iron mines and early blast furnaces. The village was resettled in the late 19th century as the Tahawus Club…
The eight-bedroom Masten House was built in 1905 near secluded Henderson Lake and was used as a corporate retreat by NL Industries, which operated a nearby mining site. Masten House is within the state historic district that encompasses the former town of Adirondac at the southern entrance to the High Peaks Wilderness area. The town was settled in 1826 and was home to one of the region’s first iron mines and early blast furnaces. The village was resettled in the late 19th century as the Tahawus Club. Then-Vice President Theodore Roosevelt was staying at Tahawus in 1901 when he learned that President William McKinley had been shot. [Actually, as is noted by a commenter below, Roosevelt already knew McKinley was shot, he thought that the President would be OK and so went to Tahawus].
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