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The Nature of Things

A blog about nature and the environment

Archive for April, 2009

Westchester Land Trust’s new leader

April
30

The Westchester Land Trust this week announced that it found a new executive director: Ben Spinelli, the executive director of the State of New Jersey’s Office of Smart Growth.

Ben will come on board in Bedford Hills June 1 and take over for acting Executive Director Tom Andersen. Tom (full disclosure – a former TJN colleague) has been sitting in the big chair since last summer, when former executive director Paul Gallay headed to the Maine Coast Heritage Trust.

Read about Spinelli’s current job here.

Posted by Mike Risinit on Thursday, April 30th, 2009 at 11:05 am |
| | 705 Comments »

Mitten crabs keep coming

April
28

29. That’s the number of Chinese mitten crabs, an invasive crustacean from Asia that is on a federal most-unwanted list, found in the Hudson River.

The latest was found on April 14 just into the Catskill Creek, a Hudson tributary in Greene County. The other 28 have been found between the Catskill Creek and Haverstraw Bay.

From the state Department of Environmental Conservation:

The Chinese mitten crab, a non-native species from East Asia, is a costly and environmentally damaging invader in Europe and San Francisco Bay. The first one was caught in early June, 2007 in the Hudson River Tappan Zee section 27 miles upstream from the mouth.

Why be concerned? These crabs are aggressive and may compete with our popular native blue crab in the Hudson River. Their burrowing habits may threaten stream bank and earthen dam stability and promote erosion and habitat loss.

Read the latest CMC alert.

Previously on TNOT: More Mitten Crabs

Posted by Mike Risinit on Tuesday, April 28th, 2009 at 10:37 am |
| | 4 Comments »

Rock snot found again

April
27

The state Department of Environmental Conservation this morning announced the third confirmed location of didymo, a.k.a rock snot, an invasive algae, in New York. The unwanted algae was discovered in the Esopus Creek in Ulster County.

Unlike many other aquatic invasive plants, didymo (Didymosphenia geminata) grows on the bottom of both flowing and still waters. It is characterized by the development of thick, gooey mat-like growths – which can last for months – even in fast flowing streams. In addition to making footing difficult, didymo can impede fishing by limiting the abundance of bottom dwelling organisms that trout and other species of fish feed on.

“The presence of didymo in another popular New York waterway highlights the crucial need for people to be diligent in preventing the spread of invasive species,” DEC Commissioner Pete Grannis said. “Invasives can have a devastating impact not only on the environment but also the economy. I urge all outdoor enthusiasts to help out by adopting the ‘Check, Clean and Dry’ method for limiting the accidental transport of didymo and other invasive species from infected waterways to other water bodies.”

Up until now, the invasive algae had only been found in NY in the Batten Kill in Washington County near the Vermont border and in the East and West branches of the Delaware River. A photo of rock snot can be found here.

Previously on TNOT: More on rock snot and other invasives.

After the break, find tips on how to prevent the spread of this stuff. Read more of this entry »

Posted by Mike Risinit on Monday, April 27th, 2009 at 11:45 am |
| | 32 Comments »

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Thirteen makes 1970s environmental series available

April
26

“Our Vanishing Wilderness”, an eight-episode expose on the environment that originally aired in 1970, can now be viewed on the Web.

The half-hour films were shot by renowned nature photographer Shelly Grossman, and written by environmental writer Mary Louise Grossman. The footage of animals in the wild is spectacular, the tone of the program unflinching. The series was based on the 1969 book of the same name.  Thirteen had each tape digitized to make the program available for the first time ever since its original broadcast as an online exclusive at the newly redesigned Thirteen.org.

Our Vanishing Wilderness was a landmark program for National Educational Television and public broadcasting (pre-PBS).  It originally aired in 1970 and reflects the nation’s growing interest at the time in pollution and environmental issues.

The series, eight half-hours, may be the very first TV series dealing with environmental issues. Each episode analyzes an ecosystem that was (and some still are) being threatened as the result of humans and industry.

To view the episodes, go here.

Posted by Mike Risinit on Sunday, April 26th, 2009 at 5:14 pm |
| | Comments Off on Thirteen makes 1970s environmental series available

Keeping it “eel”

April
23

About 60 students, teachers, college interns, and community volunteers from the Hudson Valley are helping research how young eels migrate through local tributaries.

The volunteers are checking nets at sites such as the Indian Brook in Cold Spring, Furnace Brook in Cortlandt and Minnisceongo Creek in West Haverstraw from now through late May.

The research is being conducted under the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s Hudson River Estuary Program and the Hudson River National Estuarine Research Reserve.

The American eel has one of the most unusual life cycles of any fish. Its young are born in the Sargasso Sea, over 1,000 miles from the Hudson River, and arrive here as nearly transparent, two-inch long “glass eels.”

On a daily basis, the students check a ten-foot cone-shaped “fyke net” designed to catch these tiny fish, counting and releasing the glass eels back into the water and recording environmental data on temperature and tides.

As part of their work, the students also look for and count river herring that migrate into tributaries at this time of year. The Cortlandt site is in its second year and already is showing significantly greater numbers of migrating eels.

The goals of program include involving citizens in hands-on exploration of their local ecosystems.

This type of fish has existed for millions of years, yet eel numbers have declined at many East Coast sites without a
clear reason. Student-level research can help answer some basic questions about this very mysterious animal and the habitats the eels use throughout their far-reaching lives.

Posted by Greg Clary on Thursday, April 23rd, 2009 at 6:36 pm |
| | Comments Off on Keeping it “eel”

Southeast eagles update

April
23

When you’re a young eagle – just weeks old — you’re nothing but bill, along with some gray fuzz. That’s what the two young eagles visible in the nest in Southeast looked like this week when I stopped by for a peek.

The last time I looked was April 5 and mom was still sitting on the nest. This Monday, an adult was sitting above the nest in the pine tree and the young were poking their heads up and down.

I’m almost positive three eaglets were in the nest, but the third one refused to show his head during the few minutes I was watching. Peter Nye, head of the state Department of Environmental Conservation’s endangered species unit, said he’s heard the Southeast pair did have three young this year. He said it will be easier to confirm once the birds are a bit bigger and more visible.

Previously on TNOT: They’re back.

Posted by Mike Risinit on Thursday, April 23rd, 2009 at 10:50 am |
| | 3 Comments »

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Mr. Macaroni and Cheese wins a big cheese award

April
22

A popular Westchester County employee who has mesmerized thousands of local school children while teaching them to recycle has won a national conservation award.

John J. Scaramuzzo of Scarsdale goes by “Mr. Macaroni and Cheese” to the little visitors at the Westchester County Materials Recovery Facility in Yonkers. He knows they have a little trouble remembering his name and wants them to concentrate on fun instead.

To watch Scaramuzzo in action, it’s easy to see why he has been awarded a Garden Club of America Conservation Commendation.

The kids are so busy answering his questions they forget they’re learning how to protect the environment and everyone leaves with a smile on their face, including Scaramuzzo himself.

In recommending Scaramuzzo, local GCA chapter president Karen Thomas said:
“From the moment John met us at the door, we were engaged, entertained and educated. He is charming and witty with a wealth of knowledge about recycling. John has a passion for his subject and he is making positive changes to improve our county’s recycling habits.”

The club has funded bus trips for over 150 third graders from Rye elementary schools over the last two years to visit the facility and take Scaramuzzo’s tour.

“Each group has been accompanied by Rye Garden Club members, so we know firsthand that John has never failed to connect with each group of children, helping them to absorb great quantities of knowledge about the importance of recycling and the correct ways to recycle,” said Thomas.

County employees were proud to plug one of their own.

“It is an honor for John and all of us here in the department that our efforts to educate residents on the importance of recycling is recognized and appreciated,” said Environmental Facilities Commissioner Thomas Lauro.

The GCA (Garden Club of America) is a national organization comprised of more than 17,000 members in 197 individual clubs, including Rye

Posted by Greg Clary on Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009 at 5:11 pm |
| | 52 Comments »

Ride along with DEC cops

April
22

CNN recently spent some time with state environmental conservation police, riding along with them in New York City. Here’s a link to the report.

Here’s more information on the state Department of Environmental Conservation’s law enforcement efforts.

Posted by Mike Risinit on Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009 at 11:14 am |
| | 35 Comments »

Ramapo River Watershed Conference

April
21

The 14th annual Ramapo River Watershed Conference will be held from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Friday in Student Center Room 136 at Ramapo College of New Jersey, 505 Ramapo Valley Road in Mahwah. Ramapo Valley Road is also known as Route 202.

We’ll have a short story about the conference tomorrow in The Journal News.

But here are the details on the presentations:

• 10 a.m. to 10:20 a.m., welcome and greetings.

• 10:25 a.m., “Major Threats and Stressors to the Regional Highlands,” William Schuster, Black Rock Forest Consortium.

• 11 a.m., “Wood, Spotted and Box Turtles in Harriman and Bear Mountain: Lessons Learned and Plans for Year Two,” Matthew Shook, Highlands Environmental Research Institute, Marnie Miller-Keas, Student Conservation Association, and Edwin McGowan, director of science for the Palisades Interstate Park Commissions.

• 11:30 a.m., “Evidence for Multiple Holocene Impact Events: Have They Changed the Climate or Produced Regional Tsunamis,” Dallas Abbott, research scientist, Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.

• noon – 1 p.m., lunch. Bring your own or bring money to buy from the college cafeteria.

• 1 p.m., “Ramapo River Watershed GreenPrint,” Don Steinmetz, Highlands Environmental Research Institute.

• 1:30 p.m., “Recent Land Acquisitions and Open Space Issues in the Torne Valley Area of the Ramapo River Watershed,” Tom Gravel, project manager, The Trust for Public Land.

• 2 p.m., “Wetland Restoration and the Ramapo River,” Debora Fillis, senior environmental associate, F.P. Clark & Associates, Inc.

• 2:15 p.m., “Creative Stormwater Solutions,” John F. Lange, senior associate for planning, F.P. Clark & Associates, Inc.

• 2:30 p.m., “Tuxedo Reserve,” Steve Gross, Hudson Highlands Environmental Consulting.

• 2:45 p.m., “Western Ramapo Wastewater Treatment Plant,” Dianne Philipps, executive director, Rockland County Sewer District No. 1.

• 3 p.m., “A Tale of a Dam on the Ramapo River,” Mark Newel, adjunct professor, Ramapo College.

• 3:20 p.m., “Artists of the Ramapo River and Mountains,” Geoff Welch, curator, Harmony Hall.

• 4 p.m., wine, cider, cheese reception.

MORE INFO: Organizers would prefer to have you register in advance so they know how much wine and cheese to buy, but it’s not a requirement. Get more information or register by emailling geoffwelch@gmail.com or calling 845-712-5220.

ABOVE: I took this photo of a portion of the Ramapo River near Flat Rock County Park in Hillburn last year.

Posted by Laura Incalcaterra on Tuesday, April 21st, 2009 at 6:16 pm |
| | 209 Comments »

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If you hear gunshots near the nuclear plant on Earth Day, don’t panic

April
21

Indian Point will be conducting security training drills starting tomorrow, continuing at various times during the next several weeks, using simulated weaponry that sounds like gunshots.

The work is to prepare for a Nuclear Regulatory Commission-evaluated force-on-force security exercise
that will take place over several days during the week of May 18.

“We are informing the public now about these events so there is no undue alarm
caused by what they may hear around the site,” said site VP Joe Pollock. “Local officials and law
enforcement agencies have been informed of the events.”Indian Point will be conducting security training drills starting tomorrow, continuing at various times during the next several weeks, using simulated weaponry that sounds like gunshots.

The work is to prepare for a Nuclear Regulatory Commission-evaluated force-on-force security exercise scheduled to take place over several days during the week of May 18.

“We are informing the public now about these events so there is no undue alarm caused by what they may hear around the site,” said site VP Joe Pollock. “Local officials and law enforcement agencies have been informed of the events.”

Entergy was among the first nuclear-power sites in the country to participate in a “force-on-force” exercise that the NRC was conducting in 2003 as a pilot project.

The NRC was developing at that time an ongoing security program to evaluate security enhancements that were added after 9/11 to protect against an expanded terrorist threat.

“The exercises provide our security team the opportunity to demonstrate to the federal regulator our security and defense capabilities and look for areas to improve,” Pollock said.

Force-on-force exercises involve attempts to gain access to plants in a simulated terrorist attack, and the response of defending security forces.

Entergy will be using a technical innovation for the exercise known as “MILES” gear, or Multiple Integrated Laser Engagement Systems. Participants using MILES gear are connected wirelessly to a central computer

They use laser “bullets” and vests with laser-detection equipment, and duplicate the effects, including the sound, of live ammunition.

The movement and shooting accuracy of the security officers and other exercise data are collected by the computer for analysis. MILES gear is used for military and counterterrorism training across the country to be as realistic as possible without using real bullets.
Entergy was among the first nuclear-power sites in the country to participate in a
“force-on-force” exercise that the NRC was conducting in 2003 as a pilot project.

The NRC was developing at that time an ongoing security program to evaluate security enhancements
that were added after 9/11 to protect against an expanded terrorist threat.
“The exercises provide our security team the opportunity to demonstrate to the
federal regulator our security and defense capabilities and look for areas to improve,” Pollock said.
Force-on-force exercises involve attempts to gain access to plants in a simulated
terrorist attack, and the response of defending security forces.
Entergy will be using a technical innovation for the exercise known as “MILES”
gear, or Multiple Integrated Laser Engagement Systems. Participants using MILES gear are
connected wirelessly to a central computer

They use laser “bullets” and vests with laser-detection equipment, and duplicate the effects, including the sound, of live ammunition. The movement and shooting accuracy of the security officers and other exercise data are collected by the computer for analysis. MILES gear is used for military and counterterrorism
training across the country to be as realistic as possible without using real
bullets.

Posted by Greg Clary on Tuesday, April 21st, 2009 at 5:39 pm |
| | Comments Off on If you hear gunshots near the nuclear plant on Earth Day, don’t panic

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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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