The Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks believes the adoption of the new state Department of Transportation (DOT) Guidelines for the Adirondack Park – also called the “Green Book” – is a significant step for the protection and sound environmental maintenance of the park’s highways and greenways.
Completion of the Green Book and its revisions was one of the primary stipulations of a legal “Consent Order” that followed the unconstitutional cutting of several thousands of trees on Forest Preserve lands along the Route 3 scenic highway corridor between Saranac Lake and Tupper Lake in 2005. The Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks filed a civil violation of the Forest Preserve complaint against the cutting with the NYS-DEC at the time and then worked extensively to see the provisions of a strong “Consent Order” against DOT be brought to fruition. Association Comments on the Draft “Green Book” include:
The Association commends the Department in the tremendous amount of work undertaken in compiling the Draft NYS-DOT Guidelines for the Adirondack Park. The document in and of itself represents a comprehensive compendium of state policy, regulations, design criteria and case studies regarding roadway and highway engineering, design and environmental controls.
The Department is making progress on the requirements of the 2006 “Order on Consent” between the DEC, DOT and APA which required inclusion of policies directing the DOT with regard to addressing hazard tree management within the Adirondack Park, verifying the specific requirements for the application of needed temporary revocable permits (TRPs) and designating accountable Department staff expertise needed to guide and monitor parkwide program implementation. The DOT parkwide engineer position held by Ed Franze was one of AFPA’s recommendations.
The Association is also pleased that the Department has produced the Appendix Q outlining the “Environmental Commitments and Obligations for Maintenance (ECOM) that includes the environmental checklist for NYSDOT maintenance activities in the Adirondack Park and the outline for the needed Adirondack Park Baseline Maintenance Training program.
However, the Association felt these sections require further consensus between the State departments and agencies and public stakeholders in order to fully protect Park resources and to prevent reoccurrences of the 2005 Route 3 tree-cutting which led to the Order on Consent.
Dan Plumley, the Association’s Director of Park Protection, also called on all three state agencies (DOT, DEC and APA) to develop unite around a joint mission to create a planning process for all highway and greenway corridors in the Park. Plumley outlined strategies the agencies should take for enhancing the Park’s scenic, natural character; support walkable communities; advance mass transit opportunities; and mitigate negative effects of roadways and traffic.
A summary of the Associations’ major comments on the Green Book are available online.
The Wild Center in Tupper Lake is holding a national climate conference [details pdf] opened today with an admonishment from conference Co-chair Carter Bales: “We know the risks from climate change are immediate and serious. We know that we have to cut emissions now to cut those risks. It is time to stop talking about what we can do, and start to do it.” Conference organizers released this note today: The two day conference has attracted leaders from industry, science and policy organizations to the Adirondacks because its organizers promised the event would focus on solutions that would place the United States in a leadership position in a global effort to move away from carbon-based economy. But before the conference attendees started to hash out solutions two speakers took the stage to update the audience on the latest climate science.
John Holdren, a world renowned expert and director at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, and President of Woods Hole Research Center spoke first. Holdren warned that climate change was not a future event, but “causing significant harm now.” In graphic detail he presented statistics that showed a speeding up of changes in weather patterns around the world, including new data from China linking droughts in Asia to changes in climate. “This is not some radical group,” he said, “this is coming out of the Chinese government, and it is causing them to act.” Holdren told the gathered leaders that the odds were growing worse each day that the world temperature would reach a level not seen in 30 million years, “a time,” he said, “that crocodiles roamed in Greenland.”
Holdren was followed by Thomas Lovejoy, president of the Heinz Center for Science, Economics and the Environment. Lovejoy echoed Holdren’s calls for swift action. He cited global reports of major shifts in species locations, showing that “nature is already on the move everywhere.” Lovejoy said that based on current science, 20 to 30 percent of all species on Earth are likely to be extinct by 2030 as a result of traumatic system shifts caused by changes resulting from climate change. He pointed to locations all over the globe, using models that consistently predict drought in the critical Amazon region in South America and rising sea levels that would alter vast habitats and force large human migrations. Both Lovejoy and Holdren spoke about the complexity of the natural world, and the difficulty of understanding how each change would impact other parts of the system. They both agreed that the pace and scale of changes would cause, as Lovejoy put it, “ecosystems as we know them to fall apart.”
Lovejoy cited the heat wave that took 35,000 lives in Europe in 2003 as an example. The spike in temperature was then thought of as a one in a hundred year event. Lovejoy said that based on current projections that same heat wave would occur every other year by 2020, and would be considered a cool summer by 2050.
The economists and business presenters followed Lovejoy and Holdren. Dimitri Zenghelis, Chief Economist at Cisco’s climate change long-term innovation group and a special advisor to the British government on climate, who had flown in from London for the conference, reiterated that this was not “tomorrow’s story, this is happening now.”
Zenghelis said that a reduction of emissions across the globe of 6-10% every year for the next ten years would produce a 50/50 chance that global temperatures would stabilize at only 1.2 degrees hotter than today, a level that is projected to lead to severe disruptions in natural systems, including those responsible for food and water supplies.
Zenghelis ended by saying that the solutions that were available to cut emissions could result in a cost of only 1 to 2 percent of global GDP, a number he related to the 5 percent of U.S. GDP dedicated to military expenditures or the 15 percent spent on healthcare.
Ken Ostrowski, who is the head of a major climate initiative at McKinsey & Company, one of the world’s leading consulting firms, presented an outline of the McKinsey Report on greenhouse gas reductions that describes ways the U.S. could reduce emissions. The report also helped form the basis for the conference’s solution-oriented structure. In one example he said that a move to use existing energy efficient products would eliminate the need for $300 billion dollars in new power plant investment freeing up money for other uses.
Ostrowski described a series of ways that the cuts could be made in a way that benefited the economy. He used examples as simple as consumers changing to fluorescent lighting that would cut electric use, reduce overall costs for consumers and cut pollution associated with manufacturing and shipping dozens of old-style incandescent light bulbs that a single long-lasting fluorescent bulb would replace. More complex examples included the challenges posed by the need to move quickly and in an organized way across many parts of the economy.
Each attendee at the conference was supplied in advance with reports outlining options that would collectively help move the United States sharply away from carbon dependence. The eventual goal is an 80 to 90 percent reduction in emissions by 2050. Conferees broke up into three groups, one to hammer out recommendations for power generation, another for forestry and land use, and the last for buildings and appliances. More than 60 leaders from each sector sat around tables and began to shape their group’s recommendation. The gatherings were closed to outside observers to allow what conference director Kate Fish said would be a completely open discussion. “What they are trying to do here could be historic,” said Fish. “We wanted everyone to feel that they could take risks, and take positions without concern that they might be quoted in something they said years from now.”
Fish said that the conference was filled to overflow, with more than 200 total attendees for an event that organizers planned for 125. All of the main presentations are being prepared for internet broadcast by the Wild Center. “We filmed all the Plenary sessions,” said Fish. “We will post the presentations and speeches as soon as possible on the conference website.” She said that the entire conference plan, and all the advance reports were already posted in the website the Wild Center created for the Conference at www.usclimateaction.org. She said that all the presentations and speeches would be available on that site within three weeks.
Attendees will reconvene Thursday to complete work for each sector, and to convene as a group to work toward a first draft of the conference’s “Message to the Nation,” which will be widely circulated once it has been completed. The conference concludes Thursday at 5:00.
On the heels of the lawsuit against DEC trying to force the state agency to uphold the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan by phasing out floatplane use on Lows Lake, and formation of a DEC and APA sponsored “Quiet Waters Working Group for the Adirondack Park” – comes the Adirondack Museum’s Second Annual No-Octane Regatta (Sat., June 14, Little Wolf Lake in Tupper Lake).
The No-Octane is an emerging annual event that celebrates the ideas behind the Adirondack Quiet Waters Movement to set aside a place for quite, old school paddling in canoes, guideboats, kayaks, and rowboats. Here are the details from the museum’s press release:
Races, demonstrations, workshops, and family activities will begin at 11:00 a.m. and continue until 5:00 p.m. Food, restrooms, changing areas, and ample parking are all available.
The Adirondack Museum at Blue Mountain Lake, N.Y., Traditional Arts in Upstate New York (TAUNY) in Canton, N.Y., the Town of Tupper Lake, and the Adirondack Watershed Alliance have jointly planned the No-Octane Regatta.
No-Octane Regatta races have intriguing names and are as much fun for spectators as participants. Look for the Hurry-Scurry Race, the Bang-and-Go-Back Race, and the Doggy Paddle Race. There will be separate races for kayaks, guideboats, canoes, war canoes and sailing craft. A total of seventeen races are planned for a variety of categories and distances. The on-the-water activities will end with a Grand Parade of Boats.
Demonstrations will include Seat Caning by Pauline Villeneuve of Tupper Lake, Paddle Making by Caleb Davis of Long Lake, N.Y., and Boatbuilding and Restoration by Chris Woodward of Saranac Lake, N.Y. and Rob Frenette, also of Tupper Lake. Guide Boat Realty of Saranac Lake, N.Y. will sponsor the demonstrations.
As part of the No-Octane Regatta, Wooden Canoe Heritage Association will sponsor a Youth Boating Workshop with Adirondack Connections Guide Service, a fully insured guide, trip planning & outdoor education service. The goal of the workshop is to get kids on the water and into canoes, kayaks, and guideboats.
Children ages 8 – 13 are invited to participate. Instruction will include boating safety before the young boaters learn basic paddling and rowing techniques. There will be opportunities for youngsters to try a variety of boats. All participants must wear personal floatation devices at all times during workshop. Three New York State licensed guides will provide boating instruction.
Youth Boating Workshops will be held at 12:30 p.m., 1:30 p.m., and 2:30 p.m. Each session will be 45 minutes in length and is limited to ten participants per session. Please register on the beach at Little Wolf Lake the day of the No-Octane Regatta. Parental permission and signature are required.
In addition, the Regatta will feature activities just for younger children and “paddling primers” – paddling workshops for adults.
Also on June 14, 2008 – but not on the Little Wolf Lake Beach — the Adirondack Watershed Alliance has organized a “9-miler” race on the Raquette River. A great solo, family, and novice event, the race starts at 10:00 a.m. at the Route 30 fishing access site, “The Crusher.” Paddlers follow the Raquette River to Simond Pond. The finish line is at the Tupper Lake Rod & Gun Club. Paddle, race, finish, and head for the No-Octane Regatta for the rest of the day!
This will be an annual series highlighting the careers of those who passed during the year who had important impacts on the Adirondack region.
Peter Berle, Environmentalist
Known to many as the long-time host of WAMC’sEnvironment Show, environmental lawyer Peter A. A. Berle had important impacts on the Adirondack region. He served three terms as a New York State Assemblyman (1968-1974), and three years (1976-1979) as Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Conservation. Under his tenure the state started action against General Electric for knowingly polluting the Hudson River with PCBs and began work to address Love Canal. Berle helped author New York’s first solid-waste plan which ended in the closing of many Adirondack landfills. He also helped write the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan and was appointed to the Task Force on the Future of the Adirondack Park. Berle was also President and CEO of the National Audubon Society (1985-1995) and was appointed by President Bill Clinton to the Joint Public Advisory Committee to the North American Commission on Environmental Cooperation under NAFTA. He died suddenly at the age of 69 when a barn at his farm collapsed.
Bill Frenette, Tupper Lake Historian and Outdoorsman
William Charles Frenette was a lifetime Adirondacker who spent his working career in the family business — Frenette Bros. Beer Distributors and Tupper Lake Coca-Cola Bottling Company. Bill was an avid outdoorsman who loved to hike, paddle, and ski. Although he travelled extensively the Adirondacks was his lifelong home. He was an early 46er, and climbed all 46 in both summer and winter. He was also a gold medalist in the prestigious CoureurdeBois ski marathon. Frenette was actively involved in organizing Sugarloaf Ski Hill, and helped layout the trails on Mount Morris for Big Tupper, for which he served as the resorts Ski Patrol founding chief and an early member of the Search and Rescue Team. Bill was also a founding trustee of the Wild Center (the Natural History Museum of the Adirondacks), a board member of the Adirondack Medical Center and served on the board of the Friends of Mount Arab. He served as the historian for the Town and Village of Tupper Lake. He died at his Tupper Lake home at the age of 80.
Paul Jamieson (From Nov 2006)
Paul Jamieson taught English at Saint Lawrence University for 36 years, but his longest lasting legacy for the Adirondacks comes from his 20 year fight to force New York’s Courts to recognize that free-flowing rivers are open to paddlers as public transportation routes, just as they were in the nineteenth century. Jamison was critical in initiating state purchases of two scenic stretches of Adirondack rivers: Lampson Falls on the Grasse and Everton Falls on the St. Regis. He has been recognized by innumerableaccolades. Adirondack canoe builder Peter Hornbeck named a boat design Jamieson. Jamieson was honored in 2003 by the Adirondack Mountain Club with its Trail Blazer award. He was given an Honorary Life Membership to the Adirondack Mountain Club and was a founding member of its Laurentian Chapter. He received the Stewardship Award from the Nature Conservancy, the Navigable Rivers Award by the Sierra Club and a Founders Award by the Adirondack Museum. The Adirondack Council awarded him its Distinguished Achievement Award. Jamison was the author of Adirondack Canoe Waters: North Flow and an autobiography Uneven Ground. He edited The Adirondack Reader, Man of the Woods (a memoir by Wanakena guide Herbert Keith), and Adirondack Pilgrimage (a collection of his writings). He was also an Adirondack 46er and received honorary doctorates from St. Lawrence University and Paul Smith’s College. He was 103.
At 11:20 p.m. last night, the NYS Senate confirmed the nominations of three commissioners to the Adirondack Park Agency’s 11-member board of commissioners. The confirmations fill the existing vacancies, including the position of chairman.
Curt Stiles, Tupper Lake, was appointed chairman of the Adirondack Park Agency. Stiles is currently president of the Upper Saranac Lake Foundation, which recently hired the first Waterkeeper to guard an interior Adirondack water body. Lake George and Lake Champlain are the only other Adirondack lakes with Waterkeepers. The foundation has been active in protecting water quality, while fighting pollution and invasive plant species.
Curt is also vice chairman of the Adirondack Council Board of Directors, although stepped down from that role upon his confirmation as APA Chairman by the Senate. He joined the Adirondack Council’s board in 2005. Stiles is also on the board of the Trudeau Institute, a medical research facility in Saranac Lake. He is a past board member of the Adirondack Medical Center (Saranac Lake) and Paul Smith’s College. His a former member of the Harrietstown Planning Board, so he has some local government experience and is familiar with the task of reviewing land-use plans, a chief duty of the APA. He is a retired senior executive with Xerox.
He replaces acting chairman Cecil Wray, Manhattan, who had stepped into that role following the resignation of chairman Ross Whaley in September. Wray was a member of the Adirondack Council board of directors until his appointment to the APA by Governor Pataki more than a decade ago. He is an attorney.
Richard Booth, Ithaca, was appointed commissioner to hold one of three seats reserved for non-Park residents. Booth is a Plattsburgh native. He has experience in both Ithaca City government and the Tompkins County Legislature. More importantly, he is an environmental law professor at Cornell University and one of the most respected environmental legal experts in the nation. Booth served on the Adirondack Council board of directors from 1982 through 1992. He was initially nominated as chairman by Governor Spitzer, but a handful of local government officials and state Legislators complained that he was not a Park resident. Spitzer withdrew Booth’s name as a chairman nomination, but resubmitted him as a regular commissioner on the APA board.
Frank Mezzano, Lake Pleasant, was reappointed to a four-year term. His current term ran out earlier this year. Frank joined the board early in the Pataki Administration over the objections of the Adirondack Council and other environmental groups, who objected to the fact that Mezzano was a sitting local government official. The groups argued that as Town Supervisor and a member of the Hamilton County Board of Supervisors, Mezzano was being put in a position of conflicting interests. How, we asked, could he impartially judge the merits of development projects that might affect the finances of the community for which he is chief financial officer? This conflict still exists. Mezzano left the board briefly at the end of his third term, then came back to take the remaining term of another local representative who had left before her term had expired (Deanne Rehm of Bolton, Warren County).
The APA Board of Commissioners has 11 members. Five must be full time Park residents, while three seats are reserve for non-Park residents. The remaining three belong to the commissioners of Environmental Conservation and Economic Development and to the Secretary of State. No more than five of the eight citizen members may be from the same political party.
The APA’s staff still lacks an Executive Director, following the retirement of Richard Lefebvre of Caroga Lake, Fulton County, this summer.
The Adirondack region is home to a variety of summer music festivals. Tomorrow, bluegrass legend Ralph Stanley will be playing at the Wild Center’s second annual WildFest – which also marks the opening of the Natural History Museum of the Adirondacks‘ “Wings over the Adirondacks bird-themed experience.” Here are the details:
The free, day-long WildFest ‘07 celebration is scheduled to begin at 10:00 a.m. and conclude at 4:00 p.m. so visitors can get home in time for evening fireworks. The live music begins at 10:30 a.m. and the ceremony to open Wings over the Adirondacks at 11:00 a.m. There will be an entire tent on the campus dedicated to bird presentations. Visitors will be treated to a preview of the Wild Center’s planned Bird Skywalk and Skytowers, and tours of what is now the ‘greenest’ building in the Adirondacks. When the Skywalk is complete in 2008, it will showcase nearly 100 bird exhibits, and will take visitors up to the top of the tree canopy.
WildFest’s musical headliners include legendary musician Ralph Stanley & the Clinch Mountain Boys and the great live performer Martin Sexton. Other bands will feature music from the places Adirondack birds migrate to, including the Caribbean.
There will be a children’s tent featuring the Zucchini Brothers, a musical group lauded as “the Beatles of kid music,” and a Bird Tent where birding organizations will help visitors see the world of birds. The day will include free flight bird shows with live birds.
This year’s moe.down (the 8th annual) promises to be a quite a festival:
Nearly 20 acts, including Ryan Adams and the Cardinals, The Roots, Medeski Scofield Martin & Wood, Amos Lee and Meat Puppets have signed on for this year’s moe.down.
The August 31 to September 2 festival will be held at the Snow Ridge Ski area in Turin, N.Y., at the edge of the Adirondack Mountains. Festival founders moe. will perform a total of six sets throughout the weekend.
Other acts on the roster for the three-day shindig include Uncle Earl, Strangefolk, State Radio, Al and the Transamericans, Rolla, Ryan Montbleau, Lotus, Ra Ra Riot, Ha Ha the Moose, The Brakes, VietNam and Acoustic Forum.
A limited number of tickets are available at $95 until they run out or until August 12, after which tickets will be $110. Full details on the festival and tickets can be found at www.moe.org/moedown.
This is the eighth year for the event, which promises three days of music, camping and all around fun. Ski lifts will be open during the festival, and fans are encouraged to bring their mountain bikes.
The Glens Falls Post Star recently came under fire from Brian over at MoFYC for their removal of anonymous reader comments to letters to the editor on the web. According to the PS website:
The Post-Star has decided to remove all commenting on letters to the editor at this time. Our letter writers are held to a standard that requires them to sign their letters. The commenting feature online does not require the respondent to be identified. We don’t feel that is fair. If anyone would like to respond to a letter, they must be held to the same standard as the letter writer and be identified. They can do this by writing their own letter to the editor through the Web site or responding directly to the editor.
Brian notes that:
1) editors already approve comments before they appear 2) the paper has it’s own anonymous “Don Coyote” feature 3) the paper encourages anonymous comments in it’s “It’s Debatable” feature
Meanwhile, the Adirondack Daily Enterprise in Tupper Lake has turned on one of its opinion cartoonists – Adirondack local Mark Wilson, a.k.a, Marquil – after THE PAPER ran his cartoon critical of the recent New York State Police standoff that ended in the death of one of the troopers (above left). The cartoon elicited a pile of letters to the editor from people who apparently didn’t agree with the OPINION. The paper’s response, as noted in the Daily Cartoonist, was a gem:
In hindsight, we think it was the wrong decision, and we apologize to all those who were hurt by it. At the time, we felt a certain obligation to publish this opinion despite our aversion to it, but we feel no such obligation now. A syndicated cartoon — even one by a local cartoonist — is not the same as a letter to the editor written by someone whose sole motive is to be heard. It’s a service we pay for, drawn by a cartoonist who draws them for a living. As a customer, a newspaper has no obligation to publish a cartoon that will damage its relationship with its readers.
There’s still a fine line between finding something disagreeable and finding it unacceptable. Looking back, we think this cartoon crossed that line.
What really gets under the skin about this one is that the paper’s editors actually had the guts to say:
We normally find Mr. Wilson’s cartoons insightful, and we respect the intelligence of his opinions whether we agree with him or not.
Really? Then why fire him over one comment you disagreed with?
We’ve defended the ancient right to write anonymously a number of times in our stint here at the Almanack. We’re proud to be part of a long history of anonymous writings from people like George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and Benjamin Franklin whose Poor Richard’s Almanack this blog derives it’s name from.
Like Franklin, Samuel Langhorne Clemens (Mark Twain) wrote using various names to protect his job and make political commentary. Lewis Carrol and Bill O’Reilly have both used false names for their work. The respected British weekly The Economist prints articles without by-lines. The American Federalist Papers, without which the American Constitution may not have been ratified (at least in a timely manner), were written anonymously. Voltaire never publicly admitted to having written Candide; he used the name Monsieur le docteur Ralph. Besides, Voltaire was a pen name itself for Francois Marie Arouet, the man behind the defense of civil liberties and opposition to censorship that helped form part of the enlightened movement that led to the American Revolution.
Some women, like Mary Ann Evans (a.k.a.George Eliot) and Charlotte Bronte (a.k.a. Currer Bell) published under false names to assure that their work would be accepted by male publishers. The science fiction writer Robert A. Heinlein’s earliest stories were set in a single future he created; he then used false names for stories set in other times and places.
Fear from retribution over unpopular views expressed at work, in the press, and in the polling booth is one of the most important underlying principles of our liberal democracy.
Luckily, the old media patriarchs we have suffered under for so long now are quickly finding themselves more and more irrelevant in our new media world, slowly pushed aside by the increasing relevance of blogs and citizen journalism.
All of the staff here at MTBC are truly biased and opinionated. To paraphrase Amy Goodman, we are “advocacy editorialists”. Rather than hide any of this from you, we are awfully proud of it (just ask any of our friends). We believe in democracy, open and civil discourse, Ralph Nader, third party politics and less consumerism. Beware that there will be occasional bursts of intellignet thought mixed with angry knee-jerk repsonses to the insanely misguided actions of all kinds of people … mostly Democrats, Republicans and journalists. There will be much railing against the lapdog media, the ruling class felons who call themselves our “leaders” and the thieves and welfare cheats who comprise corporate America. Be careful not to get blood on your shoes. Banging your head against these brick walls can get pretty messy!
A regular reader of the Almanack sent us this article from the Chronicle writer Gordon Woodsworth with the following note:
Although I suppose I agree w/ the rational for the charge – it saves innocent victims trouble, time and expense,and I assume he’s guilty of breaking and entry and burglary. There is something a bit dark and sinister that he’s charged with the felony of cutting the State’s trees and brush to make himself a shelter in the wild. Sounds like Robin Hood’s Merry Men who were mostly criminalized for “hunting the King’s Deer.”
We couldn’t agree more. Unfortunately, the heavy hand of our new-found police state isn’t above charging people for unrelated crimes to save a DA’s time. Four years is in no way an appropriate sentence for cutting $250 worth of trees.
It should be noted by the way, that no one even considered a jail sentence for whoever at DOT was responsible for cutting some 5,000 trees in the State Forest Preserve along Route 3 between Saranac Lake and Tupper Lake in the summer of 2005. Our guess is no one even got a reprimand in that case.
We’re certainly not condoning a hermit’s theft of minor items from isolated camps. That’s a crime that should be punished. But the Beaver Pond Hermit case is a clear signal that if you choose to live outside the boundaries of mainstream society, you may find yourself a target for the police state.
If it wasn’t painfully obvious before, weather for this early January week that stretched into the sunny 60’s at some Adirondack locations should serve as a reminder that global warming is going to have serious impacts on the Adirondack region. Unfortunately, few here in the mountains seem to understand the gravity of the situation for our local economies.
Our friends working at Gore Mountain Ski Resort have been hardly working at all and consequently spending a lot less on dinners out, winter gear, and even beer and other important winter supplies. The few trails open on Gore are so crowded (with even the small crowd that’s there) that the die-hards refuse to make runs for fear of being run-over. Whiteface in Lake Placid has been forced to cancel its annual World Cup Freestyle competition (now being held at Deer Valley, Utah) and has virtually no beginner trails open.
Meanwhile, two of the largest developments in Adirondack history are expected to be rammed through the Adirondack Park Agency by pro-development George Pataki appointees. The most bizarre part of these projects is that they, believe it or not, have relied on development of two area ski resorts to appease locals and persuade some that the good they’ll provide for the local economy by way of skiing will outweigh the damage to the park.
[Tupper Lake project] developer Michael Foxman’s mega-vision to create the high-end Adirondack Club and Resort, which would include 700 expensive units on 6,400 acres, much of it in back country, has been highly controversial since it was proposed three years ago. Part of the plan, a sop to the locals, is reopening Big Tupper Ski Center as an economic engine.
In North Creek (Warren County), local politicos and real estate agents are pushing (with the help of newly appointed APA member, Warren County Board of Supervisors Chair, and Johnsburg Town Supervisor Bill Thomas) a project called – get this – Ski Bowl Village at Gore Mountain that would include exclusive trailside housing, an equestrian facility, retail shops and restaurants, a major hotel, two smaller inns, a spa, a private ski lodge, and a 9-hole golf course, on 430 acres, some of which on what was a town-owned park and before that the historic North Creek Ski Bowl where downhill skiing an early start in New York State.
Folks – skiing in the Adirondacks in the future will be all but dead. If there hasn’t been a proper ski season for Adirondack resorts in at least four years, and the experts agree that the coming year will be the warmest on record (again), it’s time to see the forest for the trees – no project tied to the ski season has a hope of being successful on that basis in the long run.
In the Northeast, the climate may be changing even more rapidly, particularly in winter. Compared to 1970, there are now 15 to 30 fewer days of snow on the ground in the Northeast, one study found. Some regional models also show an increase in average temperatures of 1.4 degrees over 102 years, but a spike of 2 to 4 degrees over the past 30 years.
“Climate has always been changing, so we can’t talk about climate change as something new,” said Art DeGaetano, director of the Northeast Climate Data Center at Cornell University. “Clearly, the temperatures we’re seeing today … are much warmer than we’ve seen for the last 1,000 years. Clearly, there’s warming almost everywhere.
“Climate change is upon us,” he said. “Climate is going to warm, so we do have to act and we do have to prepare.”
If there are any segments of the Adirondack economy that you can count on to take a nose dive in the next 20 years it’s winter sports. It doesn’t take a genius to understand “15 to 30 fewer days of snow on the ground” means that investing hundreds of millions in Adirondack skiing and snowmobiling industries is not a good idea. Despite the ignorant claim by Mike Halpert, head of forecast operations at the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center that there is “No cause for alarm. Enjoy it while you have it,” you might also forget large investments in ice fishing shanties and winter carnival concessions in case you needed to be told.
So why – oh please tell us why – are state and local governments spending so much money on these debacles?
The [Tupper Lake] developer is calling for the Franklin County Industrial Development Agency to come up with $50 million to $60 million for infrastructure costs. In essence, that would require the county taxpayers to guarantee the bonds for his private venture. That is a stupefying request. Even more mind-boggling is that there are those in the town and county who are ready to go along with the developer.
And add a dose of misguided Republican cronyism:
Gov. George Pataki, down to his final weeks in office, announced plans Friday for a $7 million expansion of the state-run Gore Mountain Ski Center that will enable the Johnsburg attraction to boast having the eighth-largest vertical drop in the eastern United States.
The state will spend an additional $3 million to complete the railroad line connection between [Republican] Saratoga Springs and [Republican] North Creek.
Skiers from Saratoga Springs, as well as the Albany and New York City areas, will be able to take the train to North Creek and leave their personal vehicles at home, Pataki said.
“You’re not going to have the traffic; you’re not going to have the pollution, and you’re not going to have the congestion. But you are going to have the economic growth,” he said during a press conference at the North Creek train station.
Bill “Snow Is All We Have” Thomas:
When completed, skiers from New York City and elsewhere could take a train up to North Creek, delivered within a half-mile of the ski bowl area, Thomas said. “It’s very important to tourism in Johnsburg,” Thomas said of the resort plans. “I see it as a big catalyst for Main Street businesses.”
“Gore Mountain is a tremendous asset for the state and for our region. All of us here today share the desire and realize the importance of making an already great skiing experience at Gore Mountain even better. That requires sizable investments by New York State.”
Ahhh… Betty… New York State doesn’t make “sizable investments,” the people of New York State do.
Since 1995, the state has poured $70 million into the Olympic Regional Development Authority. If we assume about 100,000 year-round residents, that’s $700 per person! And that doesn’t count state and local tax discounts, increased costs of services for local communities serving ski resorts, the higher costs of goods and services priced for the tourist market, county funds (like the Tupper Lake 50 or 60 million), and who knows what else. According to NCPR, “This year, Lake Placid’s sports and tourism venues received more than $40 million in state subsidies. That’s roughly $15 thousand for every man, woman and child living inside the village limits.”
Developers, local politicians, ill-informing media – go outside! See, that there is no snow, and not likely to be regular snow at anything near historic levels in our lifetimes. Stop pushing fantasies that hide your real motive – unlimited development of the last great wilderness area east of the Rockies.
And while we’re at it – we received an e-mail from Bill McKibben today announcing a “a day of demonstrations for April 14” – a great idea (info at Stepitup2007.org).
It’s going to be an unusual day. People will be rallying in many of America’s most iconic places: on the levees in New Orleans, on top of the melting ice sheets on Mt. Hood and in Glacier National Park, even underwater on the endangered coral reefs off Key West and Hawaii. But we need hundreds of rallies outside churches, and in city parks, and in rural fields. It’s not a huge task — assemble as many folks as possible, hoist a banner, take a picture. We’ll link pictures of the protests together electronically via the web—before the day is out, we’ll have a cascade of images to show both local and national media that Americans don’t consider this a secondary issue. That instead they want serious action now.
If you are planning to organize an event, please let us know – we’ll list events as they’re organized – wouldn’t events at local closed ski resorts be something?
UPDATE: Pam Mandrel, over at BlogHer, has linked to this post and included some other posts about global warming’s impact on the American ski industry. Thanks Pam for a great follow-up.
We just received this press release from the Adirondack Council and thought it was worth sharing, in light of our last post. Also, Adirondack Base camp has an interesting post on the APA and what needs to be done.
Timing of Pataki APA Appointments to Park Agency Could Boost Chances of 800-lot Tupper Lake Subdivision
Governor Pataki has appointed (and the Senate confirmed at 2:15 p.m. today) two Adirondack Town Supervisors to serve on the 11-member Adirondack Park Agency Board of Commissioners. The board has regulatory authority over all major development projects in the six-million-acre Adirondack Park.
The Adirondack Council is disappointed by these two appointments at this time, for two related reasons. First, both gentlemen are being asked to serve two masters. Both are the chief financial officers for their towns, as well as being representatives of their towns on their respective County Board of Supervisors. How, then, can they be impartial judges of development projects that might bring needed revenue into their communities, but would also harm the environment?
Worse, the two are from Warren and Hamilton counties, which together comprise more than one-third of the entire Adirondack Park, making a conflict of interest more likely. The Park Agency has no formal rules or guidelines to clarify what commissioners should do when faced with such conflicts. In some cases, commissioners have recused themselves, while in others they have not.
More curious is the timing of the appointments, one day before the Adirondack Park Agency is set to rule on whether it will accept as complete the application of failed savings & loan executive Michael Foxman for a sprawling 800-lot subdivision on the slopes around Big Tupper Ski Center. We are very much opposed to the project. However, the co-applicant for the project is the Town of Tupper Lake, causing us some worry that the appointments were made to grease the skids for the Tupper mega-development.
The appointees are Frank Mezzano, Supervisor of the Town of Lake Pleasant, Hamilton County, and Bill Thomas, Supervisor of the Town of Johnsburg (North Creek is the biggest community) in Warren County.
There are two more interesting twists here. One: We and many other environmental advocates think Bill Thomas will, over time, be a good commissioner. He’s a smart guy and a dedicated public servant. We had suggested his name to the next administration, but cautioned that they wait until his tenure as Town Supervisor had ended in January 2007 (to avoid pressure and conflicts as commissioner). His appointment fills the seat vacated by Deanne Rehm of Bolton, who resigned at the end of her term this summer. Thomas’s term will run until 2010.
Two: Frank Mezzano resigned from the APA Board of Commissioners in the summer of this year, stating he would not serve out his term. He said some bitter things about the APA and the way commissioners made decisions. Yet, here he is again. He has been appointed to fill the vacancy left by his own resignation. This appointment is good only until June.
Thus, our suspicion that the Pataki Administration is scrambling to pack the APA board of commissioners prior to the Thursday/Friday vote to determine the fate of the Tupper mega-development. If the APA says the application is complete and sets a date for the first public hearing, the entire project could be ready for a final decision on the permit before June.
Keep in mind that Governor-elect Spitzer will have the authority to appoint his own chairman of the APA board, but cannot remove a sitting commissioner without just cause (proof of malfeasance, misfeasance or nonfeasance). He will have to await new vacancies to appoint his own commissioners.
John F. Sheehan Communications Director The Adirondack Council
Associated Press reporter Michael Virtanen is now offering a nice piece on the Adirondack Public Observatory:
The not-for-profit Adirondack Public Observatory in its first year has raised about $40,000 toward a $500,000 goal, according to board members. They have chosen a site in Tupper Lake, about 110 miles north of Albany. The parcel, at 1,600 feet in elevation, overlooks the town beach and campground at Little Wolf Pond.
“We are in what’s called a dark puddle here,” Staves said, noting the contrast in nighttime satellite images of the Earth. “We can actually see the Milky Way, which is something you can’t actually see most places now.”
Great planning folks… the lights from a hospital reduce the overall impact of having both facilities within walking distance. Imagine the draw for something like that – now imagine how many visitors to the new museum will leave the museum, climb into their car, and drive to the observatory – we’ll guess not too many.
Apparently some planners in Tupper Lake neeeds a lesson on light pollution.
MSNBC has a nice image (on a screwy web page) of light pollution in New York.
By the way, the Natural History Museum construction is well under way.
We normally keep our post here at the Adirondack Almanack to regional concerns. But it’s time for Governor Pataki’s State of the State Address – and while the Pataki Administration has been piling it high and deep, a more sober assessment, relevant for those of us inside the Blue Line, comes from the People’s State of the State. A rally is planned in Albany for tomorrow to urge New York lawmakers to do something about poverty in New York including its “skyrocketing heating bills, lack of access to affordable quality health care, and high housing costs.”
Some highlights from their press release:
Food lines at food pantries and soup kitchens remain at historically high levels and expect the situation to worsen following federal budget cuts and changes in the federal TANF program.
If we look back in time 25 years, a few of our local churches were beginning closet pantries. Today we have 43 food pantries and 22 soup kitchens in Albany and southern Rensselaer County alone, serving more than 2 million meals each year. Programs do not have the resources to do what they are being asked to do,” noted Lynda Schuyler, Director of the Food Pantries of the Capital District.
Anti-hunger advocates are seeking an increase in state funding for the Hunger Prevention and Nutrition Assistance Program from $22.8 million to $30 million. State funding is down $2 million from four years ago. Groups are also concerned about Congress’ elimination of all funding for the Community Food Nutrition Program, the main federal funding for anti-hunger organizations.
Unfortunately, there is probably no one monitoring the poverty situation in the Adirondacks (one of the poorest regions in the state) and no visible advocates for working poor families. There’s more here.
Another disturbing trend for our area is the effective elimination of the DEC ability to monitor our environment and deal with corporate polluters and exploiters. From Inside Albany this week we learned that nearly 800 staff positions have disappeared from the agency since the mid-1990s:
[Environmental Committee Chair Thomas DiNapoli, a Nassau county Democrat] invited DEC commissioner Denise Sheehan to answer questions about how the agency was coping with its severely reduced staff. However, she faxed her testimony, saying she was unable to appear. Sheehan gave no reason and didn’t send an assistant commissioner to read her testimony.
DiNapoli asked Assembly staffer Rick Morse to read Sheehan’s statement. It ran down a list of nearly a dozen examples of Governor Pataki’s “leadership” on the environment. They included the governor’s greenhouse gas initiative to cap carbon dioxide emissions. Also on the list were Pataki’s open space acquisitions. He counts 932,00 acres of land toward his goal of preserving a million acres. The statement did not mention the department’s decline in staff.
Not only were the numbers down, [Environmental Advocates] Tim Sweeney said. Governor Pataki’s general hiring freeze combined with early retirement incentives had stripped the agency of valuable knowledge. Valuable expertise and institutional memory had been lost in the retirements. The trend is likely to get worse. A comptroller’s report estimated that 38% of the department’s staff will be retirement-eligible by 2007. About a thousand more could go by then.
Worse indeed. More large scale developments like those at North Creek and Tupper, enormous development pressures on Warren and Essex counties, proposed wind farms in the park, roads being turned over to ATVs, snowmobile trails expanding every year, more visitors every year, all while year round residents deal with a serious lack of affordable housing, generations of local poverty, closing public schools, low-wage tourism jobs – the one state agency that should be taking a lead role on life in the Adirondack Park is asleep at the wheel.
In North Creek the Gore Mountain – Little Gore Ski Bowl connection is moving forward and there are big plans afoot for the ski area in Tupper Lake as well.
Also in Sunday’s Adirondack news: The APA is cracking down on a rich guy in the Town of Webb who apparently doesn’t think he has to follow the same rules as the rest of us – and the search for the Adirondack League Club arsonist continues.
The Adirondack Almanack's contributors include veteran local writers, historians, naturalists, and outdoor enthusiasts from around the Adirondack region. The Almanack is the online news journal of Adirondack Explorer. Both are nonprofits supported by contributors, readers, and advertisers, and devoted to exploring, protecting, and unifying the Adirondack Park.
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