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Entries from March 18th, 2011

The Notch is still Pretty Wild

March 18th, 2011 · No Comments · News

The announcement of the Public Meeting about the Hoffman Notch Wilderness Area – Draft Unit Management Plan didn’t really catch my interest until I had a look at the documents. The thing that’s notable is the lack of anything.

The DEC’s Unit Management Plans are a huge source of information about the various places in the NYS Forest Preserve. Particularly the maps.

Relatively remote, few access points, currently one main-trail, and few “facilities”. Plus, they’re not really planning on doing much else in the future. Check it out (Large Image):

Hoffman Notch Wilderness Area Map

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Commissioner Martens Reminds Small Communities of High Fire Risk Season and State Ban on Brush Burning

March 17th, 2011 · No Comments · Adirondack News

Residential Brush Burning Prohibited March 16 – May 14

NYSDEC LogoState Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Joe Martens today reminded New Yorkers who reside in smaller communities that all residential brush burning is prohibited during the state’s historically high fire risk period beginning March 16 through May 14.

“Since the open burning regulation passed in 2009, we’ve already seen results in fewer number of fires reported in New York State this time of year, known as the highest fire risk time,” Commissioner Martens said. “It’s our responsibility to protect the health and safety of our children, families and our natural environment, therefore, we remind all New Yorker’s that this is a time of risk and the statewide ban is now in effect through mid-May.”

In 2009, New York toughened restrictions on open burning to reduce harmful air pollutants and help prevent wildfires. While the new regulation allows residential brush burning for most of the year in towns with a population of less than 20,000, it prohibits open burning in all communities during early spring when the bulk of New York’s wildfires typically occur. The new regulation prohibits the burning of garbage at all times and places.

Several factors enable wildfires to start easily and spread quickly at this time, including the lack of green vegetation, abundance of available fuels such as dry grass and leaves, warm temperatures and wind.

Open burning is the largest single cause of wildfires in New York State. Data from DEC’s Forest Protection Division show that debris burning accounted for about 40 percent of wildfires in the state between 1986 and 2006 – more than twice the next most-cited source. In addition, from 2000 to 2007, New York’s fire departments responded to an average of 2,600 wildfires each year during the period of March 14 through May 16.

DEC Forest Ranger data for 2010 indicated a 33 percent reduction in wildfires caused by debris burning during the burn ban period last year when compared to the past 10 years, including weather considerations. In addition, based on information provided by statewide fire departments, 70 percent of the smaller communities across the state had a reduction from overall number of wildfires.

Some of the comments received from Emergency Services and Fire Departments across the state include:

“We certainly appreciate the support from the public on this new regulation,” said Matthew Beckwith, Fire Coordinator/ Director of Emergency Management for Chenango County Bureau of Fire. “The effort of this ban is not to penalize people from burning, as much as it is to protect people’s property from fire damage that may not be intentional. Since the burn ban was in effect, we have cut our number of grass fires by nearly 98 percent from the previous year. Together working with the DEC our area Fire Departments will continue to promote the burn band in an effort to conserve life and property.”

“The burn ban was very successful in reducing the number of brush fires last year here in Broome County,” said Brett B. Chellis, Director/Fire Coordinator for Broome County Office of Emergency Service.

“Franklin County Fire Departments reported significant reductions in the number of wild-land fire responses during the statewide burn ban in 2010,” said Rick Provost, Franklin County Emergency Services Manager. “We believe that the burn ban regulation will continue to reduce wild-land fire responses in the spring fire weather season. Wild-land firefighting can be very dangerous and when a regulation reduces the number of response it directly impacts Firefighter safety in a positive way.”

“Every year in Onondaga County, a large number of brush fires occur during early Spring before the greening up period,” said Joseph W. Rinefierd, Fire Bureau Director with Onondaga County Department of Emergency Management. “As a reminder, please note that burning yard waste is prohibited in almost every Town and Village in Onondaga County.

During this higher risk time, please make sure you dispose of all smoking material properly and never leave barbecues/ outside fireplaces and grills unattended. Let’s prevent fires and practice fire safety, so our firefighters can spend more time with their families this Spring.”

“I expect this year to follow in last year’s decreased number of calls and runs made for brush fires during this historically busy time of year and we do attribute the decrease to the state’s burn ban,” said Charlie Mutz, Ulster County Fire Coordinator. “We definitely support the efforts put forth by the ban.”

Violators of the open burning state regulation are subject to both criminal and civil enforcement actions, with the minimum fine of $375 for a first offense. To report environmental law violations call 1-800-TIPP DEC (1-800-847-7332), or Report an Environmental Violation Online.

Also: Questions and Answers Regarding Open Burning.

Some towns are designated “fire towns” primarily in and around the Adirondack Park and Catskill Park. Under Environmental Conservation Law, open burning is prohibited in these municipalities without a written permit from DEC. Open burning is prohibited at any time in these municipalities. To find out whether a town is a designated “Fire Town” and/or to obtain a permit, parties should contact a DEC regional office. Online at: DEC Regional Office Directory

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Mercury Standard Will Reverse Damage to NY Lakes

March 17th, 2011 · No Comments · Adirondack News

US EPAThe U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed mercury standards for power plants are a major step in reversing the contamination of New York’s lakes, particularly in the Adirondacks.

In response to a court-ordered deadline, the EPA has proposed the first-ever national standards for mercury, arsenic and other toxic air pollution from power plants. The new standards would require many power plants to install state-of-the-art pollution control technologies to cut harmful emissions of mercury, arsenic, chromium, nickel and gases that cause acid rain and smog.

“After 20 years of uncertainty, the federal government will now have the authority to regulate these toxic chemicals that have had such a devastating impact on the Adirondacks, Catskills and other natural areas,” said Neil Woodworth, executive director of the Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK). “Because of the technology required to meet this standard, it will not only cut mercury contamination by 91 percent, it will also reduce fine particulate matter, low-level ozone and acidic precipitation.”

1,350 coal and oil-fired units at 525 power plants emitting mercury, arsenic, other toxic metals, acid gases, and organic air toxics including dioxin.

The proposed standard is the result of a 2008 U.S. Court of Appeals decision that threw out EPA’s Clean Air Mercury Rule (CAMR), a cap-and-trade program that allowed polluters to buy pollution credits and emit mercury without pollution controls. CAMR resulted in regional mercury “hot spots,” and recent studies have linked coal-fired power plants to mercury hot spots in the Adirondacks and Catskills. The appeals court ruled that CAMR conflicted with the clear language of the federal Clean Air Act, which requires each power plant to install the best pollution-control technology available to reduce mercury emissions.

The lawsuit was brought by a coalition of national health and environmental organizations. ADK was the only New York environmental group to participate in the lawsuit.

The Adirondacks and Catskills are downwind of numerous coal-burning power plants, whose mercury emissions contribute significantly to mercury pollution in these regions. A 2007 independent study by the Charles Driscoll and the Hubbard Brook Research Foundation estimated that mercury emissions from U.S. coal-fired power plants are responsible for 40 percent to 65 percent of mercury deposition in the Northeast.

Current levels of mercury deposition in the Northeast are four to six times higher than the levels recorded in 1900. Ninety-six percent of the lakes in the Adirondack region and 40 percent of the lakes in New Hampshire and Vermont exceed the recommended EPA action level for methyl mercury in fish.

Because of high mercury levels in fish from a number of reservoirs in the Catskills, state health officials have warned that infants, children under 15 and women of childbearing age should not eat any fish from these reservoirs. Mercury is also present in two-thirds of Adirondack loons at levels that negatively impact their reproductive capacity, posing a significant risk to their survival.

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