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The Nature of Things

A blog about nature and the environment

Archive for March, 2008

Civilian Green Corps


An army of workers, thousands, maybe, insulating “American homes and stick(ing) solar photovoltaic panels on their roofs. They could achieve, within a year or two, easily noticeable effects on our energy consumption.”

That’s the thinking of author and scholar Bill McKibben in this opinion piece that ran in the Hartford Courant. McKibben is advocating an organization similar to the Civilian Conservation Corps. The CCC, as you may recall, was a work-relief program during the Great Depression that focused on conservation projects.

In his piece, McKibben is arguing for a similar venture, where workers can make a difference with projects impacting America’s energy consumption. He points to the Green For All campaign as a starting point.

Posted by Mike Risinit on Monday, March 31st, 2008 at 5:39 pm |
| | 1 Comment »

Shad news


American shad are working their way up the coast. In New Jersey, some have already swum up the Delaware River. The fish spend most of their life in the Atlantic Ocean and swim up their natal rivers each spring to spawn. As you may recall, the numbers of shad returning to the Hudson River are so low and fewer younger fish are surviving each year that state regulators have enacted some stringent rules this year in an effort to help the population rebound. americanshad.jpg

The numbers seem to tell a somewhat similar story in the Delaware River, where researchers are finding more young being produced but fewer adult fish returning. In New Hampshire, the fish are fondly recalled.

“Shad is a fish you seldom hear of and not many New Hampshire anglers target it. But in earlier days, shad used to swarm our coastal streams during the spring spawning run.”

(The shad illustration is courtesy of TJN graphic artist Aaron Porter.)

Posted by Mike Risinit on Monday, March 31st, 2008 at 10:06 am |
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Bear Mountain, West Point, Bannerman Castle captured in new books


The authors of several new books highlighting some of the best places of the Lower Hudson Valley will attend a signing Wednesday at the carousel at Bear Mountain State Park.

With the exception of one, each book is part of Arcadia Publishing’s “Images of America” series. You’ve probably seen previous selections at the bookstore: each features a sepia-toned cover and is filled with scores of black and white images of the subject.

The event will run from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. The parking is free; each book costs $19.99.

Here’s a look at the selections:


• “Bear Mountain,” by Ronnie Clark Coffey, a longtime Highlands resident who is a historical researcher, teacher and lecturer. She is also a member of the New York/New Jersey Trail Conference and former executive director of the Constitution Island Association at West Point.

• “West Point,” by Maureen Oehler DuRant and Peter E. Carroll. They tell the story of the United States Military Academy using more than 200 historical postcards, and include not only the military stuff, but the social angles, such as flirtation walks and dance hops.

DuRant is a writer and teacher who lives on the academy’s grounds and gives tours of “The Point.” She is also co-president of the West Point Ladies’ Reading Club and a board member of the West Point Women’s Club. Carroll is a lifelong are resident who is a member of the Highland Falls Historical Society and the Fort Montgomery Battle Site Society.

• “Bannerman Castle,” by Thom Johnson and Barbara H. Gottlock. Both give tours of the island and are members of the Bannerman Castle Trust, which works with the state to protect the island, which is now part of the Hudson Highlands State Park.


• “Hudson River Bridges,” by Kathryn W. Burke, includes a look at bridges and famous folks associated with them, such as FDR and Eleanor Roosevelt, Nelson Rockefeller and the Harrimans. The book also explains the political process, economic structure and decisions involving construction of the bridges, according to the press materials. Hmmmm. Kinda timely info considering the Tappan Zee needs updating or replacing.

Burke is an educator and author who has lived most of her life in the Hudson River Valley.

• “New York’s Palisades Interstate Park,” by Barbara H. Gottlock and Wesley Gottlock. The retired educators are both active docents at Bannerman’s Island, as was previously noted for Barbara. The book chronicles the creation of the PIP system, and doesn’t skip over the fact that scores of people were forced to leave their communities so that Harriman and Bear Mountain state parks could be created.

• “New Jersey’s Palisades Interstate Park,” by E. Emory Davis and Eric Nelsen. Davis volunteered to work for the PIP while in high school and has since spent her summers volunteering as she pursues a degree in linguistic anthropology. Nelsen has served as a historical interpreter at the park since 1992, and as director of the PIP’s historic Kearney House since 1998. He sered as project coordinator for “A New Deal for the Palisades” documentary in 2001.

Posted by Laura Incalcaterra on Friday, March 28th, 2008 at 6:58 pm |


Ramapo Watershed Conference set


The annual Ramapo River Watershed conference will take place this year from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. April 25 at the Ramapo College of New Jersey, just over the Rockland border in Mahwah, N.J.

The sponsors include the Ramapo River Committee, the Institute for Environmental Studies at Ramapo College,  and the Rockland County Conservation Association.

Geoff Welch, who organizes the event each year, said he was still working out the details. Check back for the full schedule as the event nears.

Posted by Laura Incalcaterra on Friday, March 28th, 2008 at 6:08 am |
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Opening Day . . . for trout


The Yankees and Mets will have theirs but Tuesday is for trout, as in opening day of trout season. The state this year plans to stock some 2.3 million brook, brown, and rainbow trout in almost 300 lakes and ponds and about 3,100 miles of streams across New York for your taking. tjndc5-5basipd4h1s1xa6r6bw_layout-1.jpg

A lot of that work is done with the help of volunteers. The top photo by TJN photographer Joe Larese shows Tom Crescitelli of Mount Kisco placing 2-year-old brown trout into Stone Hill Brook in Bedford in 2006. You can find out where the fish are going in Westchester, Putnam and Rockland.

For more information on New York’s trout, check out this page.

And, here’s the state Department of Environmental Conservation’s announcement about opening day. Back in 2005, Victor Giacometti pulled these brown and rainbow trout out of the East Branch of the Croton River in Southeast (credit again to Mr. Larese).


Posted by Mike Risinit on Thursday, March 27th, 2008 at 4:56 pm |

Bird real estate


With no leaves on the trees or shrubs, now is the best time to spot bird nests – albeit ones left from last year. These avian leftovers are miniature bits of complicated, wondrous architecture, as the current issue of Audubon magazine points out.

“Somehow a small bird knew how to gather the myriad materials for this structure. Somehow this bird arranged scores of small pieces of twig and grass and weed and bark, weaving them together with such precision that the nest is still sturdy and secure after being exposed to the winter’s rain and wind. Considered in the proper light, this little bundle of dried vegetation is really a small miracle.”

The article looks at photographer Sharon Beals’ effort to make nest portraits and includes a lot of up-close photos of nests. nest.jpg

The nest in this photo sits right next to the parking lot at the paper’s Mount Kisco office. It’s a woven-together mass of litter and twigs, plastic and mud. A plastic strap or two, the kind used to bundle together stacks of newspapers, are part of the nest. Beals’ photos are a much better.

Posted by Mike Risinit on Thursday, March 27th, 2008 at 1:50 pm |


Spring cleaning the right way


Spring cleaning season is almost here, and so are almost daily opportunities for proper disposal of your household hazardous waste in Rockland County.

Everything from old paint, pool chemicals and pesticides to gasoline, antifreeze and driveway sealer can be brought to the Household Hazardous Waste Drop-off Facility, off Firemen’s Memorial Drive, in Pomona.

The facility also accepts mercury thermometers, batteries, computers, printers, fax machines, TVs, telephones and small Freon appliances, including air conditioners, smaller refrigerators and dehumidifiers.

For the first time, the facility will also accept your CFLs or Compact Fluorescent Lightbulbs, which contain mercury.

So after cleaning out the garage or shed, or even under the kitchen sink, you’ll have the option of properly disposing of materials that are best left out of landfills, where they can leach into underground drinking water supplies.

The facility is open 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on weekdays, and on Saturdays, May 17, July 12, Sept. 13 and Nov. 1; and on Sundays, April 6, June 15, Aug. 17, Oct. 12 and Dec. 7.

Get more information about what can be dropped off here or by calling 845-364-2444.

Posted by Laura Incalcaterra on Thursday, March 27th, 2008 at 6:30 am |
| | 1 Comment »

Climate change casualties?


Maple syrup and Antarctic ice shelf aren’t two things you usually see mentioned together. But when the underlying link is climate change, anything’s possible.

First, the ice. A piece of ice shelf seven times the size of Manhattan has cracked apart and fallen off of Antarctica. Global warming is to blame, according to one scientist. Video here explains what happened.

As for maple syrup, the changing temperature patterns by 2080 may cause maple-syrup makers in northern New York to begin collecting sap and making syrup two months earlier than they do now. A study is underway by Cornell University researchers to evaluate the effects of climate change on syrup making.

Posted by Mike Risinit on Wednesday, March 26th, 2008 at 8:11 pm |
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Stewart’s GM is guest at planning dinner


Diannae Ehler, who became general manager of Stewart International Airport in November, will be the guest speaker when the Rockland Municipal Planning Federation holds its 20th annual dinner Monday.

Ehler will discuss some of the changes that have taken place at Stewart, as well as the airport’s future.

The Port Authority of New York-New Jersey took over the airport from a private operator last year and has converted it into a regional facility.

More changes appear likely, and some could have environmental and other impacts.

The cost to attend the dinner is $35 per person. Advanced registration is requested, but some tickets will be available at the door.

Call Arlene Miller, the federation’s executive director, at 845-364-3448 for tickets or more information.

Posted by Laura Incalcaterra on Wednesday, March 26th, 2008 at 6:49 am |
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Wetlands, wine and dinner


What goes best with wood frogs and salamanders, red or white? Find out Saturday at the Putnam County Land Trust’s Vernal Pool Walk and Wine. It’s a chance to learn about the temporary pools tjndc5-5baosgjnq6a5h2296bw_layout.jpg that appear each spring and provide vital homes to amphibians and a place to rest and feed for birds. The land trust’s program starts at 3 p.m. at 254 Horsepound Road in Kent and is free and open to the public. The wine, I’m told, comes after the walk.

(An update/clarification of sorts from the PCLT president: The walk and following wine and pot luck is by reservation only and is limited in number. Anyone wishing to attend must call 228 5635 to make reservations and sign up to bring something for the gathering. Once capacity is reached people will be wait listed.)

The pool in the photo to the right is at the Teatown Lake Reservation in Yorktown, as is the spring peeper below dwarfed by Teatown executive director Fred Koontz’s fingers. Both photos are by TJN photographer Stuart Bayer. The two of us were on a peeper search a couple of years ago.

tjndc5-5baolbr7ch4dl3py6bw_layout.jpgGetting back to the Putnam County Land Trust, the organization is holding its annual dinner and auction on Saturday, April 19. Details can be found through the preceding link. At the dinner, the group will be honoring three Kent residents for their “exemplary care and advocacy for the environment in Putnam County.” The honorees are George Baum and Jim and Wilma Baker.

George is being recognized for his work with the county Environmental Management Council and the Kent Conservation Advisory Committee. He served as chairman of both. During his tjndc5-5b5eern7og21kf2tsezi_layout.jpg tenure, the CAC restored the Mt. Nimham Fire Tower. The photo to the right shows Baum and Jim Baker in the fire tower (courtesy of TJN photographer Joe Larese).

The Bakers are being honored for opening and operating the Kent Recycling Center.

To read more about the honorees, click here for a write-up by PCLT president Judy Terlizzi and PCLT members Beth Herr and Bill Buck. (Right click and choose “Open in a new window.”)

Posted by Mike Risinit on Tuesday, March 25th, 2008 at 12:49 pm |
| | 1 Comment »

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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