Master Forest Owner volunteer training is now over, and I can say that if there is one thing I learned, it’s that forest owners need to be familiar with the resources available to them. A free visit from one of Cornell Cooperative Extension’s Master Forest Owner (MFO) volunteers is a great place to start [a pdf list]. An MFO can sit down with landowners and help them consider the issues land owners face that might include agro-forestry, maple syrup production, logging and timber sales, pest and invasive species management, understanding wetlands, soil and water quality, developing a management plan, or just understanding a little more about the land they own. Those with a keener interest in their forested property should consider becoming a volunteer themselves. The next training will be held at the Arnot Teaching and Research Forest, September 9-13, 2009. Here is a list of the stories I wrote while taking part in the training. We covered a lot more, but these stories provide some information, and more importantly, links to resources:
An Introduction to SUNY-ESF’s Adirondack Ecological Center at the Huntington Forest.
Well, I’m here at the Huntington Research Forest / SUNY-ESF Adirondack Ecological Center (AEC), checked in, bag unpacked, and we’ve already made some general introductions and had dinner together at the dining hall. Laurel Gailor, Natural Resources Educator for Warren County Cornell Cooperative Extension and Cornell Department of Natural Resources Program Director Gary Goff (who is primarily leading the training) welcomed me with internet access and a map and schedule. There are twenty folks here for the training including large landowners and small representing 3,400 combined acres in Warren, Essex, Hamilton, Tioga, and even Broome County. Most are retirement-age men, but we have a handful of women. The group looks pretty diverse as far as experience. Several have been foresters or in the forestry industry for many years, one dairy and maple producer, three engineers, two corrections officers, one college administrator, one principal, two teachers, an anthropologist and a superintendent of highways. One trainee working on his town’s comprehensive plan.
The highlight of tonight’s session (yes, I said tonight, the schedule runs to 8 or 9 pm each night) was an introduction to the Huntington Forest and the Adirondack Ecological Center by the center’s program director Paul Hai. Hai reviewed the history of the Huntington Forest, so I thought I’d relate some of what he said here.
SUNY-ESF is the oldest college in the US solely dedicated to the study of the environment. It was founded in 1911 as the College of Forestry at Syracuse, although Cornell University actually established the first New York State College of Forestry in 1898 under Bernhard Fernow. It was the first professional college of forestry in North America but didn’t last long. Fernow established a research forest near Saranac Lake (I’ve written about that in the past), but opposition from local wealthy landowners and pressure applied to the state legislature forced the closure of both the research forest and Cornell’s Forestry School in about 1909.
Syracuse took up the mantle in 1911 and in 1932 the Huntington family (famed for their connection to the trans-continental railroad and first owners of the Pine Knot Great Camp) donated some 15,000 acres to the College of Forestry. The Huntington Forest allows “research on a landscape scale,” according to Hai, largely because it is private land and therefore outside the constitutional “forever wild” clause. The goal at Huntington is to study the wildlife and biology of the Adirondack / Northern Forest Ecosystem, but also the dynamics of a healthy forest products economy. The AEC has been conducting one of the longest whitetail deer studies in America, and more recently they have been studying how road salt affects amphibians.
In the 1950s cutting-method blocks were established in the Huntington Forest, and later this week we’ll be able to walk through a half century of forestry methods in just a few miles.
I’ll be reporting regularly this week beginning Wednesday evening from Cornell Cooperative Extension’s New York Master Forest Owner (MFO) training at SUNY ESF Adirondack Ecological Center in Newcomb. The program, which is being held in the Adirondacks for the first time, combines classroom and field experience in general forestry. My goal is to simply learn a little more about the variety of local forestry issues we cover here at the Alamanack. Forest ecology, wildlife management, water quality issues, timber harvesting and management, invasive species, sugar bush management, and more are all on the schedule. The MFO website explains why the program is valuable:
Over 14 million acres of woodland in NY State are privately owned by approximately 500,000 nonindustrial forest owners. That’s over 3/4 of New York’s total forest area! It is estimated that less than 1/4 of the state’s private forest holdings are purposefully managed despite the educational programs and technical services available. In order to reap the benefits of this vital resource, sound stewardship is necessary. Stewardship objectives involve management practices that ensure ecologically sound forest productivity. Forests represent a precious commodity that, if wisely managed, can generate a variety of economic, ecological, and aesthetic values to forest owners and their communities, generation after generation.
I’ll regularly report my experiences and some of what I learn here at the Almanack, as I did with the Wild Center’s climate conference in November 2008.
You can find out more about the program and training schedule here.
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.”
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].
This weekend The Wild Center in Tupper Lake is hosting a special symposium that will look at the global and local health of amphibians (frogs, toads, salamanders, newts, etc) and what it means for the Adirondacks and our planet (details below, along with a full list of Adirondack amphibians).
Probably because they lived in two polluted worlds – they are cold-blooded animals that metamorphose from a water-breathing juvenile to an air-breathing adult – amphibian populations around the globe are threatened or extinct. Some scientists believe it’s related to environmental pollutants, development that reduces their habitat, and global warming (which exacerbates pathogen outbreaks) are to blame. This brings up the DEC’s Amphibian & Reptile Atlas Project (known as the Herp Atlas), a ten year survey (1990-1999) documenting the distribution of New York State’s herpetofauna. Using more than 1,200 volunteers, the project hoped to count 20 species in each survey block (based on 7.5′ topographic quadrangles) – that number was lowered by the end of the project to 15 species in each block – the data is lame, and hasn’t been exploited as far as I can see.
What data there has been made available is here, although I’m not sure why it hasn’t been included in the USGS North American Amphibian Monitoring Program. Records prior to 1989 were also supposed to be compiled for a historic database, but the online data doesn’t even include 1999’s findings, let alone any historic data or analysis. So all the public really has to work with is a simple map and a series of fact sheets on the state’s amphibians and reptiles.
We have to wonder (no we don’t, we already know) why the Whitetail-deer management effort is so comprehensive, when the the herps are given short-shrift. The fact is that amphibians are experiencing an obvious and serious decline that suggests they may be “toads in the coal mine.” How about at least a Landowner’s Guide for Managing Amphibians?
Here are the details for the Wild Center’s Amphibian Weekend, which is free for members or with paid admission:
July 26 – 11am-12pm: “Amphibians of New York State” in the Flammer Theater with Dr. Glenn Johnson, Professor Biology at SUNY Potsdam and co-author of Reptiles and Amphibians of New York State 12pm-12:30pm: Amphibian encounter with a Wild Center naturalists in the Great Hall. 1pm-2pm: Lecture in Flammer Theater Why Amphibians Matter with Dr. Kevin Zippel, Program Director of Amphibian Ark, a scientific initiative sponsored by the Chicago Zoological Society . The Chicago Zoological Society is leading zoos worldwide in the globally coordinated public awareness campaign entitled “2008 The Year of the Frog.” 2-2:30pm: Amphibian encounter with a Wild Center naturalists in The Great Hall. 3pm-4pm: Children’s Program in The Great Hall with Wild Center naturalists called “Cyclin’ Around the Pond: The Life Cycles of Amphibians in Blue Pond”.
July 27 – 11am-12pm: Get “Up Close with Wild Center Amphibians” in the Flammer Theater with our own amphibian biologist, Frank Panaro. This program will cover the biology of Adirondack amphibians with special glimpses of them under the camera. 12-12:30pm: Amphibian encounter with a Wild Center naturalists in the Great Hall 1pm-2pm: Lecture in Flammer Theater entitled “Conservation of Kihansi Spray Toad” with Dr. Jennifer Pramuk, Curator of Herpetology at The Bronx Zoo. Other topics covered will be global amphibian health and zoo initiatives to protect and conserve amphibians worldwide. 2pm-2:30pm: Amphibian Encounter with a Wild Center naturalists in the Great Hall 3pm-4pm: Family Art Program- “Flippin’ Frogs and Slithery Salamanders”- Origami frogs and salamanders (the frogs can actually flip!).
When some folks prattle on about conservation and environmentalist ideas being forced on us from outside the Adirondack region, they simply get it wrong. Take this quote from blogger Dave Scranton, calling himself Adirondack Citizen:
The fact is that the NON-Residents Committee to “Protect” the Adirondacks and the Adirondack Council do not speak for all New Yorkers and in fact, they speak for damn few real Adirondackers (those of us that live and work here.) Elitist such as Sheehan, Beamish and Bauer are nothing more than professional lobbyists who peddle misinformation to advance their extremist Enviro-Nazi agendas at the cost of our Adirondack communities. Their claims of supporting “healthy Adirondack communities” are hypocritical beyond belief and APA & DEC need to stop giving their whines so much weight.
From the Keene Valley the Adirondack Chapter of The Nature Conservancy and the Adirondack Land Trust have recently announced the hiring of summer intern Meghan Johnstone of Saranac Lake.
An Adirondack native, Johnstone graduated from Saranac Lake High School in 2006. She just finished her sophomore year at the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry where she majors in Environmental Studies with a concentration in Environmental Communication and Culture.
“Growing up in the Adirondacks has given me a deep appreciation for the environment. Now I’m working with a highly respected organization helping to protect the place that I know and love,” Johnstone recently said (that’s her at top left on a visit to recently purchased OK Slip Falls). It’s statements like those that show local anti-environmentalist like Dave Scranton for what they really are – hate mongers with a political agenda. The internship Johnstone is pursuing this summer was established in part by Clarence Petty (now there’s an “enviro-nazi” for ya!) – who probably has a few more years of “real” Adirondack living than the so-called Adirondack Citizen does.
And what is Meghan Johnstone’s primary goal this summer? It’s to work with the Conservancy’s director of communications starting with improving the pages relating to the recent purchases of ecologically and economically significant lands in the heart of the Adirondacks.
Nature Conservancy interns like Johnstone – raised in our own backyard – are gaining the practical skills to help equip them to address environmental challenges and public threats from folks like Adirodnack Citizen.
Money is being raised for an endowment to ensure funds are available well into the future to keep this program going. Everyone who deplores the divisive and hate-filled attitudes of some of our neighbors should contribute.
It’s time some of the folks around us stop trying to turn the rest of us into public enemies – donating to the fund is an appropriate way to send a message that those of us who live here are determined to protect our way of life, which includes protections for our surroundings and the economic opportunities our environment affords us.
For More Information
“Friends in Conservation,” a ten-minute video about the Adirondack Conservation Internship Program, featuring Barbara Glaser and Clarence Petty, is available by contacting Connie Prickett at 518-576-2082 x162 or email@example.com.
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. On the Web at nature.org/adirondacks.
According to a media release we received last week, the SUNY College of Environmental Science & Forestry’s (ESF) Adirondack Ecological Center (AEC) and the Adirondack Park Agency Visitor Interpretive Center (VIC) in Newcomb will feature a presentation on climate change during the Huntington Lecture Series at 7 p.m. this Thursday, July 10th at the Newcomb VIC.
Colin Beier (that’s him at left) is a research associate at the AEC. He will present a program titled “Changing Climate, Changing Forests: from Alaska to the Adirondacks.”
Beier will demonstrate that the impacts of climate change in the far north are much more than disappearing sea ice; the boreal forests are changing dramatically, due to increased fire, insect outbreaks and tree diebacks. These are all are linked to climatic changes in the last century. » Continue Reading.
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