Posted on April 30th, 2012 3 comments Add a comment >>
U.S. Senator Charles Schumer has come out in favor of reopening the rail line between North Creek and Tahawus, which some environmentalists argue would violate the forever-wild clause of the state constitution.
In a letter to the Federal Surface Transportation Board, Schumer said the line would provide “much needed economic development and jobs in the Adirondack Region.”
Iowa Pacific Holdings bought the line last year from NL Industries and wants to use it to transport waste rock from the closed NL mine in Tahawus at the foot of the High Peaks.
The green group Protect the Adirondacks contends that reopening the line would violate Article 14 in the state constitution, which decrees that the public Forest Preserve “shall be forever kept as wild forest lands.” Fourteen miles of the tracks run through the Preserve.
Iowa Pacific has applied to the Federal Surface Transportation Board for common-carrier status, which would give it the flexibility to carry passengers and service other businesses along the route. However, the rail company insists it doesn’t need the board’s permission to transport the waste rock.
As reported in the May/June issue of the Adirondack Explorer, both the state Department of Environmental Conservation and Department of Transportation also support the application for common-carrier status. The Explorer also ran a debate on the issue. Links to the debate and the news article be found at the end of this post.
Following is the text of Schumer’s letter to Daniel E. Elliott III, the board’s chairman:
“I write in support of Iowa Pacific Holdings’ reapplication to the Federal Surface Transportation Board to receive common carrier status on the Tahawus line of the Saratoga and North Creek Railway between North Creek and Newcomb, New York. This project will support much needed economic development and jobs in the Adirondack Region of New York.
“Recommissioning the Tahawus Line represents an opportunity to support the transportation needs of multiple businesses along the railway while reducing unwanted truck traffic through New York’s Adirondack Park. The decrease in truck traffic would reduce dust and pollution within one of our states great natural treasures. Reconstruction of the rail line and ensuing economic activity from its completion will generate economic activity that will benefit the region for years to come.
“I urge you to quickly move ahead with the approval process for this critical infrastructure project, as the application has garnered significant local support. I thank you for your attention to this request. Please don’t hesitate to contact my office with any questions.”
In a news release accompanying the letter, Schumer says Iowa Pacific would employ fifteen to twenty people during reconstruction of the rail line. Once the line reopens, the company expects to haul 100 million tons of waste rock a year.
Charles Morrison, a retired DEC official and member of the board of Protect the Adirondacks, said Schumer’s letter–as well as a similar one sent by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand–are the result of an intense lobbying campaign waged by Iowa Pacific.
“As public officials serving the people of the State of New York, both Senator Shumer and Senator Gillibrand are sworn to uphold the state constitution,” Morrison wrote us in an e-mail. “It is certain that if they had been given the full facts about this matter … about how the State went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court about the Tahawus rail spur in the 1940s in defense of the Forest Preserve and Article 14 of the State Consitution, they might have written a different letter, or none at all.”
Posted on April 26th, 2012 Add a comment >>
How bad was this winter for backcountry skiers? It ranks as one of the worst, according to the Adirondack Ski Touring Council, which maintains the twenty-four-mile Jackrabbit Trail between Saranac Lake and Keene.
Tony Goodwin, the group’s executive director, says the entire Jackrabbit was skiable for only twenty-five days this winter—by far the worst season since the trail was created in the 1980s.
Previously, the worst season was 1989, when the full Jackrabbit was skiable for forty-eight days.
“Our best season was 1998 when the Jackrabbit Trail was covered for 132 days,” Goodwin writes in the ASTC’s spring newsletter.
But Goodwin recalls worse winters before the Jackrabbit came into being.
“As recently as 1982-83 there was even less snow,” he says. “A lot of shoveling eked out about twenty-five days of skiing at Van Ho [the state-owned Nordic center], but I doubt the Jackrabbit Trail would have ever been skiable that season.”
Goodwin also points out that in 1932 and 1980—when the Winter Olympics were held in Lake Placid—“there was literally no snow.” And in 1950 the World Nordic Championships had to be moved from Lake Placid to Maine for lack of snow.
It’s not much of an upside, but the dearth of snow meant little blowdown along the Jackrabbit this winter and few washouts this spring.
Posted on April 25th, 2012 5 comments Add a comment >>
This summer W.W. Norton plans to publish Classic Hikes of North America: 25 Breathtaking Treks in the United States and Canada. Judging by the publicity materials, it should be a magnificent-looking book, with detailed maps and more than two hundred color photos.
Adirondack hikers may be disappointed to learn that no hikes in the Park made the cut. In fact, only four of the twenty-five hikes are east of the Mississippi.
The hike closest to the Adirondacks is the Presidential Range Traverse in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. The other eastern hikes are the Art Loeb Trail in North Carolina, the Sentiers International des Appalaches in Quebec, and the Long Range Traverse in Newfoundland.
The 224-page hardcover book was written by Peter Potterfield, the author of Classic Hikes of the World. It will sell for $39.95. Click here for more details.
With so many great hikes to choose from in the United States and Canada, perhaps Potterfield can be forgiven for ignoring our part of the world. But if you were to choose one hike from the Adirondacks, what would it be?
Posted on April 25th, 2012 Add a comment >>
Notice to rock climbers: the state Department of Environmental Conservation has confirmed that peregrine falcons are nesting on Upper Washbowl Cliff near Chapel Pond and on the Nose on the main face of Poke-o-Moonshine Mountain. The nesting location of falcons on Moss Cliff in Wilmington Notch has not been determined.
To protect the nest sites, all climbing routes on Upper Washbowl, Moss Cliff , and Labor Day Wall and fifty-four routes on Poke-o will remain closed until further notice. Routes on Lower Washbowl and all other routes at Poke-o will reopen on Friday.
Following routes are the closed routes at Poke-o (the numbers are from the guidebook Adirondack Rock).
28 Junior Varsity
29 The Snake
30 Roof of All Evil
31 Slime Line
32 Firing Line
35 Creaking Wall
36 Blinded by Rainbows
37 Forget Bullet
39 Freedom Flight
41 Remembering Youth
42 Sound System
44 Autumn Flare
47 Superstition Traverse
49 The Howling
50 Salad Days
51 Climb Control To Major Bob
59 Snake Slide
63 Summer Break
64 Wild Blue
65 God’s Grace
66 Home Run Derby
67 Karmic Kickback
68 The FM
69 Nose Traverse
70 Sky Traverse
71 Silver Streak
72 Spectacular Rising Traverse
73 The Body Snatcher
75 The Snatch
76 Knights in Armor
77 Great Dihedral
78 Half Mile
79 Sea of Seams
Posted on April 19th, 2012 Add a comment >>
Little brown bats were once the most widespread .bat species in New York State, but its population has declined about 90 percent since the discovery of white-nose syndrome in a cave south of Albany several years ago.
Now there may be a bit of good news: the latest survey of caves in the Albany region detected an increase .in the number of little browns.
“While we remain cautiously optimistic of encouraging trends for some species seen more recently, it will likely take several years before we fully know how to interpret this,” said Kathleen Moser, assistant commissioner of natural resources for the state Department of Environmental Conservation.
DEC’s full news release follows.
DEC REPORTS: 2012 WINTER BAT SURVEY RESULTS
The results of the winter survey of hibernating bats in New York are now available, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) announced today. This survey was a cooperative effort among state wildlife officials, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and numerous volunteers to monitor the effects of white-nose disease, a fungal infection that has devastated regional bat populations since it was first documented in New York in 2006.
The most encouraging observations came from surveys of the five hibernation caves in the greater Albany area where the disease was first discovered. Previous reports have suggested that little brown bat counts at these sites seem to be stabilizing in recent years. This year’s surveys saw substantial increases in little brown bats at three out of five of these caves. The largest and best documented of these sites saw an increase from 1,496 little brown bats in 2011 to 2,402 this year. It is premature to conclude that population recovery is underway for this species, however, because of the small number of hibernation sites that have experienced increases and the fact that alternate explanations are plausible. Bats are highly social animals and observed increases could be the result of consolidation of individuals from other hibernation sites, for example.
“While we remain cautiously optimistic of encouraging trends for some species seen more recently, it will likely take several years before we fully know how to interpret this,” said Kathleen Moser, DEC’s Assistant Commissioner of Natural Resources. “DEC is assisting in national bat research and with those seeking solutions to the effects of the white nose disease. As a preventative measure we can take now, we encourage the public who enter caves recreationally, to refrain from entering hibernation sites while bats are there.”
Based on this year’s survey, total observed declines in population attributed to the disease for tri-colored bats have been revised upward. Prior to the arrival of white-nose disease in 2007, a total of 2,285 tri-colored bats were counted at 37 representative hibernation sites in the state. Since that time, a total of 112 bats were observed during surveys of those same sites, suggesting a statewide decline of 95 percent for the species. Northern long-eared bats have also been affected with a 98 percent observed decline (18 individuals observed in 36 sites compared to a pre-disease total of 911 bats at the same sites). Although neither bat was considered a threatened species prior to the arrival of white-nose disease, both species are now extremely rare in New York.
No surveys were performed this year for the federal and state endangered Indiana bat. Previous surveys indicate that losses for this species have totaled 71 percent statewide (15,650 individuals remaining, down from a high of 54,689). The population status of Indiana bats in New York will be reassessed in 2013.
Records of small-footed bats, a rare species even prior to the disease, show only a relatively small decline of 13 percent. This species is difficult to count due to its secretive habits when hibernating, but focused survey efforts this season have bolstered previous observations that the impact of the disease is far less severe for small-footed’s than for most other hibernating bats.
Prior to the arrival of white-nose disease, the little brown bat was the most common bat species in New York State and has been observed hibernating in more than 100 caves and mines here. Statewide losses for the species attributed to white-nose disease remain at approximately 90 percent. For more information on white nose syndrome in New York, visit the DEC website at http://www.dec.ny.gov/animals/45088.html.