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The Nature of Things

A blog about nature and the environment

Archive for March, 2010

A plan for a greener Westchester

March
31

Concerns about the environment may take a back seat to worries about high unemployment and high taxes. To avoid that, the New York League of Conservation Voters Education Fund is working to make sure local governments can balance environmental leadership with economic improvements.

“A healthy environment and strong economy are keys to Westchester’s future,” said Marcia Bystryn, president of the New York League of Conservation Voters Education Fund. “By implementing the steps in our Blueprint for a Greener Westchester County, local officials can help achieve the county-wide goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions while encouraging economic growth and protecting Westchester’s high quality of life.”

The fund this week released its “2010 Blueprint for a Greener Westchester County.”  The blueprint “offers detailed transportation, energy efficiency and planning guidance that will help villages, towns, cities and the county government meet their environmental challenges.”

The document tackles issues such as transportation, energy conservation and open space preservation.

Posted by Mike Risinit on Wednesday, March 31st, 2010 at 12:27 pm |
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Open space has economic benefits, too.

March
30

Sure, open space is good for recreational activities and also carries environmental benefits. But land preservation also comes with economic benefits that are often overlooked, the state comptroller pointed out in a recent report.

“For example, benefits provided by open space, such as water preservation and storm water control, are often significant. In many instances it is less tjndc5-5rb6jvys3kyzgk2adfc_layoutexpensive for a community to maintain open space that naturally maintains water quality, reduces runoff, or controls flooding than to use tax dollars for costly engineered infrastructure projects such as water filtration plants and storm sewers,” according to a report issued this month by state comptroller Thomas DiNapoli.

According to the announcement about the report, the state should consider:

Allowing municipalities to establish community preservation funds

Evaluating the adequacy of protections for lands providing benefits for municipalities

Improving state-level planning for open space to address long-term funding needs

Improving the administration of funds for open space programs

Encouraging private land conservation

Scenic Hudson, a Poughkeepsie-based environmental group, welcomed DiNapoli’s report.

“This report is timely because it will enhance awareness that even in economically challenging times, investing in land pays big dividends. The comptroller’s research powerfully conveys the deep and broad benefit that open space provides through the state’s tourism and agriculture industries. These job-creating, tax-paying industries are greatly underappreciated for their economic power. In the 10-county Hudson River Valley region, tourism spending is $4.7 billion annually and is responsible for 80,000 jobs. This tourism spending contributes $298 million in taxes that valley residents don’t have to pay. Farms too provide a great tax benefit because they pay much more in taxes than they consume in tax-paid services. Cows and crops don’t go to school, drive on publicly maintained roads or use other social programs,” Scenic Hudson president Ned  Sullivan said.

The photo by TJN photographer Tania Savayan shows Michael Barnhart, president of the Somers Land Trust and co-chairman of the Somers Open Space Committee, in the Angle Fly Preserve last year. In May 2006, the Westchester Land Trust helped broker a deal that saw Somers, Westchester County, the New York City Department of Environmental Protection and the state Department of Environmental Conservation put up $20.6 million to buy the 654 acres, which were slated for development.

Posted by Mike Risinit on Tuesday, March 30th, 2010 at 11:32 am |
| | Comments Off on Open space has economic benefits, too.

Earth Day events at Beacon Institute

March
25

The following comes from the Beacon Institute of Rivers and Estuaries in honor of this year’s 40th anniversary of Earth Day.

Beacon Institute today announced that it will celebrate the 40th anniversary of Earth Day and kick off its 2010 season with events headlined by internationally renowned environmentalist John Cronin and legendary musician and activist Pete Seeger.

John Cronin internationally renowned Hudson River environmentalist and Time magazine “Hero for the Planet,” opens Beacon Institute’s new Third Thursday Series on Thursday, April 15 at 7 p.m. at the Center for Environmental Innovation and Education (CEIE) at Denning’s Point in Beacon, NY.

Cronin’s compelling call to action about the emerging water crisis is titled Brains vs. Brawn: The Future of the World’s Water. Cronin will explore the causes and downstream effects of the water crisis – from the era of industrialization that caused blatant pollution of waterways, to the spectacularly failed Clean Water Act, to finally, a new paradigm for cooperation and imagination in environmental science that marries the genius of technological innovation with the passion of environmental advocacy.

Cronin leads Beacon Institute as Director and CEO and is Senior Fellow for Environmental Affairs at Pace University. He lectures nationally on our environmental future. “If the 20th century was the era of environmental brawn, the 21st century has to be the era of environmental brains,” he tells his audiences. “One billion people are without safe water. We have the know-how and compassion to correct that tragedy, and harmonize forever the human and natural worlds. This is the greatest challenge of the 21st century.”

On Sunday, April 18 at 4 p.m. at the CEIE, Beacon Institute proudly presents legendary musician and activist Pete Seeger for a very special Sunday Author Series featuring Seeger’s newly revised and expanded sing-along memoir and musical autobiography “Where Have all the Flowers Gone.”

According to publisher Sing Out!, “From the 1940s, when Seeger began playing with Woody Guthrie and Lead Belly, through his fifty-plus years of activism, he has held the belief that everyone should be able to participate in making music. This book is a celebration of that spirit, and a thoughtful examination of a life well lived.”

The songbook includes more than 200 songs, and is infused with Seeger’s erudite commentary on topics ranging from songwriting to politics, supported by stories, anecdotes, photos and drawings, as well as directions for musicians and audience participation. A data-CD with 267 MP3 song samples accompanies this fully-indexed edition.

“We worked on this book for 25 years. I’m genuinely proud of this new edition, in which we got some old mistakes corrected and added 14 new songs,” Seeger explains. “The songs [in the book] are very different from one another and some of these songs, like the one about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., turned my thinking around 180 degrees.”

Due to anticipated audience size, guest are strongly encouraged to pre-register for one or both events . Select the event from the calendar and click on the link inside to register.

Posted by Mike Risinit on Thursday, March 25th, 2010 at 10:55 am |
| | 2 Comments »

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Bedford Audubon’s monthly programs

March
22

Bird walks, field trips and lectures sponsored by the Bedford Audubon Society.
April 2010

Field Trip to Jones Beach With Bedford Audubon’s expert birders, Joan and Richard Becker, Saturday, April 3. If carpooling, meet at Bylane Farm, 35 Todd Road, Goldens Bridge at 7:30 a.m. Be at the Jones Beach Marina/Coast Guard Station at 8:30 a.m. Return to Bylane by about 4:30 p.m. Bring a morning snack plus lunch. Register with Joan E. Becker, jebecker@bedfordaudubon.org or by telephone at (914) 232-4806. Level of difficulty: Easy to Moderate.

Excursion to Edwin B. Forsythe (Brigantine) NWR, Oceanville, NJ With Bedford Audubon Naturalist Tait Johansson, Sunday, April 11, 8:30 a.m.–5:00 P.M. Carpool from Bylane Farm, 35 Todd Road, Goldens Bridge at 6:00 a.m. Return to Bylane at 7:30 P.M. A guided trip to one of the premier year-round birding locations on the Eastern Seaboard. Bring food and drinks for the day. Please register with Joan E. Becker, jebecker@bedfordaudubon.org or by telephone at (914) 232-4806. Level of difficulty: Easy to Moderate.

“A Supremely Bad Idea: Three Mad Birders and Their Quest to See It All” With Luke Dempsey, Wednesday, April 14, 7:30 p.m.
Katonah Memorial House, 71 Bedford Road, Katonah
The Bedford Audubon Society is pleased to sponsor this illustrated lecture with Luke Dempsey, who will discuss his newly published book, A Supremely Bad Idea. Dempsey will recount his more or less haphazard introduction to birdwatching, which turned into a passion, an all out birding mania, and a quest to find the rarest birds of America. The book is the hilarious account of that quest, and those birds, and the three obsessive maniacs (Dempsey among them) who crisscross the country in search of their birds. Along the way, Dempsey narrates an amazing sequence of encounters with nature and humanity, including a man who is building a 40-foot ark in his Seattle backyard and a beautiful woman who shows him how to get rid of cowbirds.
Dempsey’s narrative style and comic timing has been compared to that of Bill Bryson. At the same time, he clearly demonstrates why so many millions of birders care so much about birds.
Luke Dempsey is the Editorial Director for Ballantine Books, a division of Random House. A graduate of Oxford University, he moved to the United States in 1995. Since then he has held a number of editorial positions in the publishing industry. He is the proud father of twin girls, both of whom love birds, too; he is also a member of the modern beat combo The Railbangers. A Supremely Bad Idea: Three Mad Birders and Their Quest to See It All will be for sale at the lecture and can be signed by the author.
This program is free and open to the public.
Katonah Memorial House is wheelchair accessible.
Please do not block the Fire Department access.

The Third Annual “Walk for Drew” Nature Hike at Franklin-Fels Sanctuary, North Salem With Bedford Audubon Society Naturalist Tait Johansson, Saturday, April 17, 9:30 a.m.–11:30 a.m. Carpool from Bylane Farm at 9:15 a.m. or meet at Franklin Fels entrance on Lakeview Road at 9:30 a.m.
This walk is in memory of “Drew” Reynolds, who died unexpectedly on February 7, 2008. Drew, a long-time friend, member, and supporter of BAS, surveyed and marked the trail system in the Franklin-Fels Sanctuary. Bring binoculars. Please register by calling Bedford Audubon at 914-232-1999. Level of difficulty: Easy to Moderate.

Pre-Earth Day Nature Walk at Bedford Audubon’s Bylane Farm, 35 Todd Road, Goldens Bridge With Tait Johansson, Followed by an Optics Show, Sunday, April 18, 8:30 a.m.–12 noon. Come celebrate Earth Day with a leisurely one-hour walk at Bylane. Afterwards, join Jerry Connolly, owner of the Audubon Shop, Madison, CT, who will display an assortment of binoculars, spotting scopes, accessories, and books at Bylane. Products will be available for sale. Refreshments will be served. No registration required. Level of difficulty: Easy to Moderate. .

Early Morning Spring Bird Walk With Bedford Audubon Naturalist Tait Johansson, Tuesday, April 27, 7:30 A.M.–9:30 A.M.
Starting at Maple Avenue, Katonah (intersection with Reservoir Road, off Route 22). Rain will cancel the walk. Please register by calling Bedford Audubon at 914-232-1999. Level of difficulty: Easy.

Early Morning Spring Bird Walk With Bedford Audubon Naturalist Tait Johansson, Thursday, April 29, 7:30 A.M.–9:30 A.M.
Starting at Bylane Farm. 35 Todd Road, Goldens Bridge. Rain will cancel the walk. Please register by calling Bedford Audubon at 914-232-1999. Level of difficulty: Easy-Moderate.

Posted by Mike Risinit on Monday, March 22nd, 2010 at 10:00 am |
| | 1 Comment »

No more shad fishing

March
18

The state this week banned all shad fishing – commercial and recreational – in the Hudson River and also set limits in the Delaware River. This comes AmericanShadafter scientists for years have been watching shad numbers in the Hudson decline. Efforts to just curtail fishing, implemented in 2008, didn’t seem to do the trick.

“Unfortunately, the Hudson River shad stock has declined dramatically for more than a decade and even the restrictions enacted in 2008 have not triggered a rebound,” Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Pete Grannis said in a statement. “As a result, closing the fishery for now is the best way to try to prevent this historically important species from permanently vanishing from the Hudson River ecosystem. It’s not a step we take lightly and we will continue to work on a process for reopening the fishery if and when the shad population recovers to sustainable levels.”

The decision, according to fishermen in this Poughkeepsie Journal story, won’t solve the problem. They blame the overabundance of striped bass in the river for eating all the shad.

I’ve seen a big decline of shad (in the river), and something has to be done about it — that’s certainly true,” said Leo Wojciehowski, a former commercial shad fisherman from Saugerties. But he pointed to the overpopulation of striped bass as the problem.

The DEC’s shad recovery plan, though, dismisses both striped bass and the river’s water quality as causes of the shad decline.

Two hypotheses for causes of shad decline were discounted in the recent ASMFC (2007a) analyses. They were striped bass predation on mature shad and poor water quality. Crecco et al (2007) reported that adult striped bass preyed on small mature American shad in the
Connecticut River. The authors speculated that the recent increase in striped bass abundance may have affected shad abundance in other Atlantic Coastal rivers. However, extensive analyses of Hudson River striped bass gut contents concluded that this was not an issue in the Hudson (ASMFC 2007a). Moreover, abundance data for adults from several East Coast Rivers suggested no relationship between striped bass abundance and shad abundance. Declines in water quality in shad spawning and nursery areas have been suggested as a cause of shad decline in some east coast estuaries. However, this is not so in the Hudson where water quality has improved over the last 30 years.

Posted by Mike Risinit on Thursday, March 18th, 2010 at 2:07 pm |
| | 1 Comment »

Clearwater lineup

March
16

If you’re ready to start thinking about a June weekend, here you go:

Clearwater Announces Initial Lineup and Web Ticketing Launch for 2010 Festival

Steve Earle, Shawn Colvin, Pete Seeger, David Bromberg Quartet, Keller Williams, Joan Osborne and Buckwheat Zydeco to Headline at Historic Gathering

POUGHKEEPSIE, NY – Famed singer-songwriters Steve Earle and Shawn Colvin, contemporary music star Joan Osborne, sizzling accordion player Buckwheat Zydeco, “newgrass” sensations Railroad Earth, plus the David Bromberg Quartet, Keller Williams, the subdudes, Donna the Buffalo and Pete Seeger are among the headliners announced as part of the initial lineup for Clearwater’s Great Hudson River Revival, which will take place on Saturday and Sunday, June 19 and 20 at Croton Point Park in Croton-on-Hudson, NY.
Tickets for the Revival, which is a fundraiser for Hudson River Sloop Clearwater and also the country’s oldest music and environmental festival, are now on sale at www.ClearwaterFestival.org <http://www.ClearwaterFestival.org> .
Earlier this year, Clearwater welcomed new festival director Steve Lurie on board, and he has programmed a remarkable lineup of acts, while longtime festival coordinator and musician Will Solomon has signed on as assistant festival director.
“I’m very honored to be working with Clearwater and all the volunteer coordinators on this year’s Revival,” said Lurie, a successful concert producer who founded a consulting business, Music Without Borders, in 1998. “To be part of Pete Seeger’s important legacy and help raise environmental awareness with inspiring music means a great deal to me.”
Among first-time festival performers this year are acclaimed singer-songwriters Steve Forbert and Dan Bern, Sara Watkins of Nickel Creek, Old 97s frontman Rhett Miller, Celtic fiddle virtuoso Eileen Ivers, indie music stalwarts Ryan Montbleau Band, Felice Brothers and Jonatha Brooke, Angel Band, Milton, Mike Doughty from Soul Coughing and more.
Clearwater founder  and folk music icon Pete Seeger will be performing at various times during the two-day festival, as usual, and also appearing will be Revival favorites like Toshi Reagon, the Walkabout Clearwater Chorus, Kim & Reggie Harris, Rick Nestler, Dog on Fleas, Jay Mankita and Paul Richmond. This year, the festival is featuring a World Dance Tent, where you’ll find C. J. Chenier, contra dance group Nightingale, Jay Ungar & Molly Mason, Brother Joscephus and the Love Revival Revolution Orchestra, Folklore Urbano, Hazmat Modine and Slavic Soul Party. More performers will be announced in the coming weeks.
The Clearwater Festival will also feature storytellers and family-oriented entertainers, as well as juried crafts, a Green Living Expo, a small boats exhibit, rides on the sloop Clearwater and schooner Mystic Whaler, hands-on environmental education and the Circle of Song, where audience participation is the focus. The entire festival is wheelchair accessible and most stage programming is staffed with American Sign Language interpreters.
Inspired by Pete Seeger’s desire to clean up the river over forty years ago, the Great Hudson River Revival initially helped raise the funds to build the sloop Clearwater, which has since become a world-renowned floating classroom and a symbol of effective grassroots action. Today, Hudson River Sloop Clearwater is a non-profit organization that sails at the forefront of the nation’s environmental challenges. The revenue raised by the Revival goes to support Clearwater’s numerous educational programs and its work toward environmental and social justice—as well as keeping the sloop Clearwater afloat.

Posted by Mike Risinit on Tuesday, March 16th, 2010 at 3:49 pm |
| | 2 Comments »

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One herring, two herring, three herring more

March
15

OK, maybe counting herring doesn’t make a good Dr. Suess book. But the state Department of Environmental Conservation is looking for volunteers to help it monitor the river herring population in the Hudson River and its tributaries. tjndc5-5b3g99tm9cicpe456jt_layout

The fish spend most of their lives in the ocean but return each spring to the Hudson and its tribs to spawn. The play an important economic and ecological role in the river, becoming prey for larger fish and a sought-after quarry for commercial and recreational fishermen.

“Although a valuable resource, river herring stocks along the East Coast are declining. No single cause has been identified, but it is likely a combination of dams (which restrict their migrations into tributaries to spawn), invasive species such as the zebra mussel, over fishing, bycatch losses (caught in fisheries that target other species), and increases in predator populations,” according to the DEC.

Volunteers are needed to watch specific sites and get a sense if herring are using the tributary.

Information on the volunteer program is here, as well as on this flier. For those who want to get involved in Westchester, the info session is 3/25 at the Croton library.

(TJN photo)

Posted by Mike Risinit on Monday, March 15th, 2010 at 3:51 pm |
| | 1 Comment »

2009 was good for peregrines

March
10

Peregrine falcons had a successful year last year across New York, according to the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

DEC surveys found that there were 73 territorial pairs of state endangered peregrine falcons present in the state in 2009, with 42 pairs recorded upstate. That’s a slight increase from 2008, when 67 pairs were recorded statewide.

Also in 2009, 61 pairs bred and produced 132 young, also slightly up from 2008.

You can read the entire announcement here.

Previously on TNOT: Look! A peregrine falcon

Posted by Mike Risinit on Wednesday, March 10th, 2010 at 1:26 pm |
| | Comments Off on 2009 was good for peregrines

Ssss means spring and snakes

March
9

tjndc5-5b3xn6xtqtvf0l5i6m5_layoutSpring is here. I say that because the garter snakes at home are on the move. On the move both in the closet and our bedroom. Starting at about 4 this morning.

The cat discovered the first snake, who appeared under the baseboard heater in the closet in the pre-dawn darkness. We live in an old, 1800s-era house that has a lot of openings through which snakes can slither and other critters, such as crickets, occasionally appear.

A snake or two has made an appearance in the dining room at times. Today was the first time one was discovered upstairs. The cat was beside herself with joy and, perhaps, a bit perplexed at these creatures that appeared seemingly from nowhere and were tantalizingly like a piece of string. She was also covered in dust bunnies from squeezing behind the dresser in pursuit of snake No. 2.

(TJN photo)

Posted by Mike Risinit on Tuesday, March 9th, 2010 at 11:26 am |
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2009 Deer Harvest

March
8

Hunters harvested approximately 222,800 deer in the 2009 season, about the same number as were harvested statewide the previous season, tjndc5-5s71i0603qh1ag9yugyn_layoutaccording to the state Department of Environmental Conservation. The photo, by TJN photographer Frank Becerra, shows a deer in Southeast.

Read more about 2009’s deer harvest here.

Posted by Mike Risinit on Monday, March 8th, 2010 at 12:22 pm |
| | 1 Comment »

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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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