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The Nature of Things

A blog about nature and the environment

Archive for July, 2007

Friendly flies


These flies are not from the government, but they are here to help you. Or they were, if their short lives haven’t already expired. I heard a quick mention of friendly flies on the radio the other day and had to look up more information. Turns out their numbers are tied to the population of tent caterpillars — the caterpillars that spin gauzy cocoons in your trees and then eat all the leaves.

Anyway, a rumor seems to persist that the government releases friendly flies to control tent caterpillar populations. To dispel that bit of misinformation, the state Department of Environmental Conservation puts this on their Web page about the flies: The DEC did NOT release these flies.

The flies attack the cocoons. More cocoons means more flies, which, probably, results in fewer adult caterpillars the next year.

Here’s a newspaper story about the whole thing.

Posted by Mike Risinit on Tuesday, July 31st, 2007 at 2:06 pm |

Reviving the American chestnut tree


The American chestnut tree once accounted for about 25 percent of all the trees found from Maine to Florida and west to the Ohio Valley.

They were 100 feet tall and five feet in diameter. The species was a favorite with American colonists and immortalized in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem, “The Village Blacksmith,� which begins, “Under the spreading chestnut tree, the village smithy stands.�

But a fungus that arrived from Asia around 1900 devastated the species. By 1950, about 3.5 billion American chestnut trees had been killed, most of them in the United States, according to the U.S. Department of the Interior.

The agency’s Office of Surface Mining and Reclamation Enforcement is now working with the American Chestnut Foundation to bring the species back. They’re planting seedlings at coal mines that were reclaimed under the agency’s oversight throughout Appalachia.

So far, more than 3,000 trees have been planted. Because the reclaimed mine sites are surrounded by forests, the Interior Department said wildlife will spread tree to neighboring forests, allowing nature to repopulate the Alleghenies with the American chestnut.

Learn more about the <a href=“http://www.doi.gov/issues/chestnut.html� target=�_blank�>American chestnut tree.</a>

Posted by Laura Incalcaterra on Saturday, July 28th, 2007 at 7:30 am |

New parkland added


The effort to conserve the Highlands has gotten a boost with the announcement that the state will purchase the 149-acre McNeil Farm, connecting Goosepond Mountain State Park and Chester Commons Town Park in nearby Orange County.

The Highlands is a region stretching from Pennsylvania through New Jersey and New York into Connecticut. It includes parts of Rockland and Westchester counties, and all of Putnam County.

The heavily forested area helps protect drinking water sources and provides habitat for plants, trees and wildlife.

State Parks Commissioner Carol Ash said the farm will be acquired for $2.8 million, with Orange County kicking in about $400,000 toward the purchase.

The Trust for Public Land helped negotiate the sale.

Posted by Laura Incalcaterra on Friday, July 27th, 2007 at 3:34 pm |


Testing water faster


A new water quality test will be demonstrated for the media today, but everyone has a stake in knowing whether it’s safe to swim in the ocean or other waterways as quickly as possible.

Alan J. Steinberg, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s region 2 director, will host the demo at the agency’s Edison Laboratories in Edison, New Jersey.

The new test yields results in as few as three hours, a significant improvement over the current 24-hour test. Both tests check for the presence of bacteria that cause disease.

The possibility of the presence of such bacteria has led to the shutdown of beaches and the imposition of no-swimming bans following heavy rain storms and when pollution is suspected in the water.

If the new test shows no worrisome bacteria sooner, beaches can remain open and swimmers can stay in the water, both of which can aid local economies and keep your vacation enjoyable.

Posted by Laura Incalcaterra on Thursday, July 26th, 2007 at 7:00 am |

Environmental justice hearing


The U.S. Senate’s Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Superfund and Environmental Health holds a hearing today into the EPA’s oversight of environmental justice programs, according to Sen. Hillary Clinton.

In a statement, Clinton said that recent reports from the Government Accountability Office and the Inspector General of the Environmental Protection Agency had raised “serious concerns about the EPA’s current commitment to environmental justice.�

She noted that a study, <a href=“http://www.ucc.org/assets/pdfs/toxic20.pdf� target=�_blank�>“Toxic Waste and Race at Twenty,�</a> issued earlier this year by the United Church of Christ, found that five million out of the nine million Americans living in communities with one or more hazardous waste facilities were people of color.

Clinton chairs the <a href=“http://epw.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Subcommittees.Subcommittee&Subcommittee_id=103b2505-610f-4f02-9004-7917c159b4aa� target=�_blank�>committee,</a> which includes Democrats Max Baucus, Montana; Frank Launteberg, New Jersey; and Benjamin Cardin, Maryland; and Republicans Larry Craig, Idaho; David Vitter, Louisiana; and Christopher Bond, Missouri.

Posted by Laura Incalcaterra on Wednesday, July 25th, 2007 at 7:00 am |
| | 1 Comment »

See 200 live frogs


The best way to learn about frogs? Try viewing more than 200 frogs representing 25 species.

That’s what awaits visitors to the American Museum of Natural History, Central Park West and 79th Street in Manhattan, where the exhibit, <a href=”http://www.amnh.org/exhibitions/frogs/?src=h_h” target=_blank”>”Frogs: A Chorus of Colors”</a> remains on view until Sept. 9.

When the exhibit first opened in 2004, fewer than 5,000 species were known, but now, 5,380 have been identified.

Unfortunately, all the news is not good, according to the museum.

The spread of chytrid (pronounced KIH-trid) fungus, habitat degradation and global warming has taken a toll. Studies have shown that nearly 33 percent of the world’s amphibians are now threatened with extinction. Frogs account for 88 percent of the overall amphibian population, the museum said.

The exhibit teaches about the different species of frogs, their life cycle, threats and other interesting stuff.

The museum has been working to learn more about frogs. One tool it uses is the Global Amphibian Assessment Database, a comprehensive online resource for scientists that is managed by one of the curators of the “Frogs” exhibit, Darrel Frost.

Frost and lead curator Christopher Raxworthy, along with other scientists, recently co-wrote a Science journal article calling for the creation of The Amphibian Survival Alliance to coordinate research and conservation efforts worldwide.

Posted by Laura Incalcaterra on Tuesday, July 24th, 2007 at 4:10 pm |
| | 1 Comment »


Vacation by video


Need a vacation? Well, you can head to the coast of Maine for a few minutes and check out a live view of puffins, the little seabird that is, according to the National Audubon Society, as tall as a quart of milk and as heavy as a can of soda.

The society’s camera set-up is pretty cool. You can watch the birds in real, puffin time. The Web site says the best viewing is between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. For more information about puffins, go here.

Posted by Mike Risinit on Tuesday, July 24th, 2007 at 12:32 pm |
| | 1 Comment »

“Yucka” Mountain – Hillary wants an alternative to store nuclear waste


Here’s a recent Associated Press story that some may have missed. I ran into it looking through some political Web sites:

Associated Press – July 20, 2007 9:55 PM ET

RENO, Nev. (AP) – Repeating her vow to kill Yucca Mountain if elected president, Senator Hillary Clinton is calling for an immediate halt to the federal licensing process. She also is asking for Senate hearings to consider alternatives to the proposed nuclear waste repository in southern Nevada.

The Democratic presidential hopeful from New York told reporters during a teleconference today it is past time to start exploring alternatives to Yucca Mountain.

She says the Bush administration is ignoring science and — in her words — “pushing forward recklessly with this license application without having protective standards in place.”

Clinton is a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. She says she will ask the panel’s chairman, California Democrat Barbara Boxer, to schedule the hearing.

The committee has jurisdiction over the Environmental Protection Agency, which is setting radiation standards for the project. It also oversees the Nuclear Regulatory Agency, which will decide whether to approve the Energy Department’s application for a license to operate the waste dump 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Posted by Greg Clary on Monday, July 23rd, 2007 at 7:09 pm |

ID that tree


The National Arbor Day Foundation wants to help the average person identify trees with ease.

A 72-page pocket guidebook, “What tree is that?,” helps distinguish different characteristics of many species of trees in New York state, as well as the Eastern and Central regions of the nation.

The booklet also offers dozens of detailed drawings that accurately illustrate the specific shapes and textures of different leaves, needles, acorns, berries, seed pods, cones and other features, the foundation said.

Get a guide by sending your name and address along with $3 per guide to “What tree is that?,” The National Arbor Day Foundation, 100 Arbor Ave., Nebraska City, NE 68410. Log onto www.arborday.org to order online.

Posted by Laura Incalcaterra on Monday, July 23rd, 2007 at 4:57 pm |
| | 1 Comment »


Aiding bee recovery


A new appropriations bill that includes $1.5 million to study the collapse of bee colonies is headed to the full Senate for a vote in coming days, New York’s federal senators said today.

Colony Collapse Disorder is a new and unexplained condition that has caused a serious reduction in the number of bees for commercial pollination around the nation and in New York state.

Senators Charles Schumer and Hillary Clinton said in a statement today that New York’s honey production dropped to 3.84 million pounds last year from 4.38 million pounds in 2005, a decrease of about 12 percent.

More than 100,000 bee colonies have disappeared around the nation, Schumer and Clinton said. In New York, some studies have shown that all major beekeepers have lost more than 30 percent of their colonies, with some local farmers reported losses as high as 80 percent.

The money included in the Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies FY08 Appropriations Bill regarding bees will go toward a pollinator recovery project.

The nation’s beekeepers — and their bees — provide pollination services for more than 90 different food, seed and fiber crops, Schumer and Clinton and stated. Among the crops depending on or benefitting from honey bee pollination are almonds, apples, avocados, blueberries, cantaloupes, carrots, cherries, cotton, cranberries, plums, pumpkins, soybeans, squash and watermelons.

Posted by Laura Incalcaterra on Monday, July 23rd, 2007 at 4:48 pm |

About this blog
The Nature of Things provides a chance to talk about the wild denizens that share the Lower Hudson Valley with us and the natural settings that make this place home for everyone. From Long Island Sound to the Hudson River to the Great Swamp and beyond, almost anything related to the environment is fair game in this blog.


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About the authors
SBenischekJournal News staff writer Greg Clary writes Earth Watch, reporting on environmental issues in the lower Hudson region. Clary has been a reporter, editor and columnist at the Journal News since 1988 and has covered police and courts, transportation, municipal government, development and the environment in the Lower Hudson Valley, among other topics.
Laura IncalcaterraLaura Incalcaterra covers the environment, open space and zoning and planning issues for The Journal News. A Boston College graduate, Laura grew up in Rockland, attended East Ramapo schools and has worked for The Journal News since 1993. Laura has written features and covered North Rockland, crime, government and a host of other issues.
SBenischekMike Risinit covers Patterson and Kent in Putnam County, as well as environmental topics touching on the Hudson River and the Great Swamp. Risinit has been a reporter at The Journal News since 1998.
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