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The Nature of Things

A blog about nature and the environment

Archive for October, 2007

Barred owl news


Got to appreciate a researcher with a word-play, sense of humor . . . especially a rodent-related one. Witness Rob Bierregaard at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, who posits that you “can’t swing a dead rat” without hitting a barred owl in suburban North Carolina.

Mentions of barred owls always catch my attention because there are at least two hanging around my neighborhood. Barred owls have the “who-cooks-for-you” hoot. It’s been a few years since I first heard one. Knowing it was an owl, I headed to the Internet to look up various calls. To hear it, go here and click on “Song.”

We hear them almost anytime throughout the year. Sometimes it’s one calling. Other times, there’s a hoot and then a reply from another owl. A few times this summer, the owl was so close to the house that it woke me up.

Posted by Mike Risinit on Monday, October 22nd, 2007 at 1:46 pm |
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Indian Point relicensing panel set


The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has named a three-person panel to review Indian Point’s request to continue operating in Buchanan until 2035.

The Atomic Safety & Licensing Board will be chaired by Lawrence McDade, a former military criminal judge who also spent more than 25 years at the U.S. Department of Justice.

He is joined by Richard Wardwell, a PhD in civil engineering and college professor who spent five years as chairman of Maine’s governor’s environmental protection board. Wardwell’s primary areas of expertise are waste disposal and groundwater movement.

The third member is Kaye Lathrop, a PhD and graduate of the United States Military Academy who worked on nuclear reactors at the Los Alamos National Laboratory and taught physics at Stanford University. He also assisted the University of California in overseeing Los Alamos and other laboratories after retirement from Stanford.

For more on the members and others who serve the NRC in this capacity, log onto the agency’s “Web site”:http://www.nrc.gov/about-nrc/organization/panel-members.html

Posted by Greg Clary on Friday, October 19th, 2007 at 5:17 pm |
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More on the Greenway


Imagine hopping on your bike in White Plains, riding onto the Bronx River trail and heading straight to the tip of the Florida keys.

On the way, you’d hug the rim of Manhattan (on either side), pass natural areas and ride by the Washington Monument as you pedal along the National Mall in Washington.

Or you could shoot north through New England to the Maine-New Brunswick border.

If the East Coast Greenway gets its way, you’ll be able to do that mostly on trails through parks and along rivers, hardly touching roadways meant for cars and trucks.

That’s the dream, and the challenge, of the Greenway organizers. They want to link major cities, like Charleston, St. Augustine, Fla., and Bangor, Me., but keep the path off the roads as much as possible.

In Westchester, it looks like the shoulder of I-287 and the trails along the Bronx River will be the main route of the Greenway. You can read about that in my story on it in The Journal News today. Find it here.

In many areas, it’s difficult, and the East Coast Greenway organization, based in Rhode Island, has given up the idea of creating the 3,000 mile path entirely off of vehicle roads. Their goal now is 80 percent off-road. So far, they’ve got almost a quarter of it done, Michael Oliva, the Mid-Atlantic region liaison to the project told me at the conference in the Bronx on Thursday.

Some other things to come out of the meeting:

Manhattan already has pathways good for cycling along its west side and a good portion of the east side. One problem is near the United Nations building.

New Jersey organizers of the trail are coming out with a guide to the route through that state. Oliva expects a similar guide for New York sometime next year.

For now, New York City’s portion of the route is mostly in the Bronx and Manhattan, but it’s expected to eventually include off-shoots in Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island.

Jon Orcutt, senior policy advisor for the New York City Department of Transportation, told the group Thursday that the Big Apple will be a major stop along the route.

“There’ll be side trips that can keep you hear for days,” he said.

Posted by Ken Valenti on Friday, October 19th, 2007 at 10:49 am |
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This just in…


Terry Backer, head of the Soundkeeper environmental group, says things are looked a little better in Stamford Harbor this past summer.

The Norwalk, Conn.-based group tested the oxygen level throughout the summer and found that it wavered on either side of the Connecticut state minimum water quality standard for oxygen. (That’s 6 parts per million of oxygen, for those keeping count.) That’s better than in the past, Backer notes, reporting “the fish breathed easier” over the summer.

Fish, lobsters and other creatures need oxygen to survive, just like we mammals do.

Once over the summer, when oxygen can become a problem, the level dipped to 4 ppm in the harbor, but never did they find that it hit 3 ppm, a condition called hypoxia, when “everything in the Sound is in deep trouble,” as Backer reports in his latest newsletter.

Backer had more good, if unsavory, news: His pumpout crew removed vacuumed a total of just about 62,000 gallons of sewage from boats in the area. The pumpout service is free; boat owners can sign up on line and don’t have to be there when the crew comes to pump the sewage tank.

That sewage then gets sent to the sewage treatment plants on land.

In one sense, it’s a matter of convenience. In Connecticut waters, boat owners are not allowed to dump their waste, even treated by onboard systems, which are not as thorough as municipal treatment plants. Boaters can dump treated waste in most of New York’s side of Long Island Sound.

Dumping untreated waste is a no-no anywhere anywhere in the Sound or within 3 miles of the nation’s coast.

Keep an eye out for more news from Soundkeeper, particularly in our area. Backer’s newsletter promises the group will do more work on restoring wetlands and treating polluted stormwater runoff around the Bronx River and Hutchinson river.

We’ll be watching for it.

Posted by Ken Valenti on Friday, October 19th, 2007 at 9:56 am |
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A report card


Want to see how your state lawmakers fared environmentally speaking? Environmental Advocates released their report card today, ranking Assembly members and state senators on their greenness.

Posted by Mike Risinit on Thursday, October 18th, 2007 at 5:54 pm |
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Keep your eyes peeled


If you see a deer with a “swollen head, neck, tongue or eyelids; erosion of the dental pad or ulcers on the tongue; hemorrhaging of the heart, lungs, rumen and intestines; peeling of hooves; and high fever,” the state Department of Environmental Conservation wants to know.

Such symptoms could mean the deer has Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease. Warning:the link will take you to a .pdf brochure with some rather graphic images. And, just to be clear, DEC’s request is aimed more at hunters and other outdoors people rather than the general public. No need to pull over on the parkway and give a deer a physical.
The DEC tested several deer carcasses found in Albany County and found them positive for the disease. “It’s the first confirmed detection of EHD in New York State, according to DEC’s announcement, and “EHD does not present a threat to human health.”

Posted by Mike Risinit on Thursday, October 18th, 2007 at 1:31 pm |
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Sounds like a recipe


Stinky squid. Witch’s toothpaste. Fairy cups. Destroying angels. That isn’t a characters’ list from, say, Lord of the Rings meets the Transformers but rather what can be expected on the Family Fungi Stroll sponsored by the Putnam County Land Trust. The stroll is Sunday.

You can read about some of those fungi here and here.

(And, apologies for the lack of a blog for the past few days. We were experiencing technical difficulties.)

Posted by Mike Risinit on Wednesday, October 17th, 2007 at 12:42 pm |
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Westchester pedaling


If you’re riding a bicycle from Maine to Florida, what’s the best route through Westchester?

The cyclists and planning people trying to piece together the East Coast Greenway will tackle that question Thursday, Oct. 18, at Lehman College in the Bronx.

An organizer, Mike Oliva, tells me that all interested people — that means members of the public — are “strongly encouraged to attend.

The Rhode Island-based organization will host a four-hour summit sarting at 3 p.m., and the route through Westchester is one of the major topics on the agenda.

They have been looking at two general routes. One would follow the Boston Post Road corridor, coming through the communities along Long Island Sound. The other would travel along the service road to Interstate 287 and then would run down along the Bronx River.

What’s at stake?

Well, there are the bragging rights that come with being part of something this large, billed as an urban counterpart to the Appalachian Trail. What’s more, local delis, bike shops and other businesses would benefit from having distance cyclers directed through their areas.

As one solution, Greenway organizers have talked about designated both routes through Westchester as part of the trail. Either way, Thursday’s meeting should take them closer to resolving the question.

Find directions to Lehman College here.

The agenda to the meeting is below:

Read more of this entry »

Posted by Ken Valenti on Tuesday, October 16th, 2007 at 6:26 pm |

Clearer skies?


Maybe the skies over the Hudson Valley will be a bit clearer now that an Ohio company agreed to reduce emissions blamed for smog and acid rain in the region. The settlement was announced yesterday and stems from a lawsuit brought in part by New York state. From the Baltimore Sun:

The EPA, a dozen environmental groups and eight states — Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont — brought the lawsuit against AEP in 1999 during the Clinton administration. They accused the energy company of rebuilding coal-fired power plants without installing pollution controls as required under the Clean Air Act.”

American Electric Power agreed to spend $4.6 billion to install controls to reduce those emissions.

Read more about the settlement in my colleague Greg Clary’s story, which speaks to the Hudson Highlands, the Catskills and the Adirondacks being affected by acid rain.

More on acid rain here.

Posted by Mike Risinit on Wednesday, October 10th, 2007 at 3:02 pm |


Stop junk mail at the source


Tired of finding nothing but catalogs in your mail, mostly from retailers who aren’t selling what you want to buy? I just ran across something that might be a help for anyone who wants to lessen their daily mail intake and help the environment at the same time.

It’s called “Catalog Choice”:http://www.catalogchoice.org/ and is a FREE online service that allows you to sign up and then log the different catalogs you receive that you’d like to terminate. When you put in information from the mailing label into your e-mail account, Catalog Choice will get that catalog delivery stopped.

It’s been developed by a group of environmental organizations, including the Natural Resources Defense Council, as a means to reduce repeat and unsolicited mailings.

“Every day, millions of unwanted catalogs clog consumers’ mailboxes and are immediately tossed in the trash. More than just an annoyance, they are overflowing municipal waste systems, devouring precious natural resources, and contributing to pollution and global warming,” says Laura Hickey, senior director for Global Warming Education at the National Wildlife Federation, which joined the NRDC and the Ecology Center to launch the new service. Hickey notes that unlike other do-not-mail services, a unique feature of Catalog Choice is that it is free.
How about this for the tale of the tape?

– 19 BILLION catalogs are mailed to American consumers annually.

– 53 million trees cut down

– 3.6 million tons of paper used

– 38 trillion BTUs, enough to power 1.2 million homes, used to power their production and distribution

– 5.2 million tons of carbon dioxide emitted, equal to the annual emissions of two million cars.

– 53 billion gallons of waste water discharges from this volume of paper – enough to fill 81,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools

Posted by Greg Clary on Tuesday, October 9th, 2007 at 5:51 pm |
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