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conservation

EDITORIAL: The Right Leader, At The Right Time?

Editorial, May 11, 2018

WERTENBAKER LAND

TRUST PRESIDENT

The Right Leader,
At The Right Time?

From the fields at the end of Graves Road, Cherry Valley, recently acquired by Caleb Wertenbaker’s Glensfoot farm, no human habitation is visible.

People generally recognize Otsego County’s geographic schizophrenia. (Schizophrenic, in the best possible way, of course.)
To the south, there are 10 Interstate exits – 11 if you count Sidney’s – largely undeveloped (except Exits 14-15, at Southside Oneonta), ideal for commerce, manufacturing, distribution and other job-creating uses.
To the north is the pristine Glimmerglass watershed, a national environmental icon, surrounded by pretty hamlets and villages, most of them in sad states of deterioration. (Wouldn’t Westford and Westville, to pick two, be delightful with an influx of young families and new incomes?)
Jobs on the highway. Homes amid lovely hills and valleys. An ideal future to contemplate.

The Otsego Land Trust, which achieved its goal of bringing 10,000 acres under conservation easements by 2010 (a little late, but no matter), is an important piece in achieving the happy equation: When the jobs inevitably arrive (fingers crossed), entities like the Land Trust, it is to be hoped, will have ensured sufficient protections are in place to avoid ruination.
So how nice, on the one hand, is it to reflect on Princeton, N.J., developer Harry Levine’s successful conclusion of 12 years as Land Trust president, and his succession by Caleb Wertenbaker, a ninth-generation member of a family that has tended Glensfoot farm in Cherry Valley since the 1790s. (Currently, Todd Gohde is managing production of certified organic hay there.)
Glensfoot now encompasses some 1,200 acres, and Wertenbaker underscored the importance of the Land Trust’s mission the other day during a walk on rolling hills at the top of Graves Road, the latest 500 acres added to the family’s holdings, now being placed under conservation easement.
At the top of a meadow, less than two miles from busy Route 20, and half that from the Village of Cherry Valley, there was no sign of human habitation in any direction, only fields, forest and blue sky.
“It’s always been here and will always be here,” said Wertenbaker, who since graduating from Oberlin in 1996 has made a living in set design in New York City and Boston, escaping up to these parts whenever he can.

Levine
Szarpa


Harry Levine, by all accounts, has been an activist Land Trust president. Foremost, he raised staffing from a sometimes half-time executive director to five professionals, including the latest executive director, Pat Szarpa, about to mark her first anniversary. She served for six years as executive director of the Western New York Land Conservancy, based in East Aurora, the Buffalo suburb, before moving to Cooperstown in 2012.
To the heartfelt thanks of many, Levine and the Land Trust board stepped up and saved Brookwood Gardens, 23 acres on Otsego Lake a mile north of Cooperstown, from falling into private hands and, thus, lost to the public forever. A businessman, though, he was particularly concerned about the P&L.
Making Brookwood financially sustainable requires $25,000-40,000 a year, depending what Land Trust overhead is assigned to it, Wertenbaker said. Shortterm, Levine had lined up a handful of donors to keep Brookwood going.
But it’s no surprise that Szarpa, when asked for her three top priorities, listed Brookwood as one of them. Some of that will be generated by giving a franchise to Brent Baysinger’s Canoe & Kayak Rentals of Portlandville to enable canoe rentals at Brookwood.
Additionally, the northern half of the property, the deteriorating home there razed, the two bridges over Leatherstocking Creek repaired, will soon be reopened, enhancing weddings and other uses on the southside – and, meanwhile, available for birding and other passive uses.
For the Land Trust to flourish, the general public has to care, and Szarpa is working with the national Land Trust Alliance “to create strong images so we can tell our story,” an outreach effort in its early stages. Plus, she is preparing for reaccreditation and taking other steps to make sure the organization is as strong as it might be.
(Plus, expect additions to the “Blueway,” a trail of publicly accessible sites from Deawongo Island in Canadarago Lake to where Oak Creek meets the Susquehanna, (near the site of David “Natty Bumppo” Shipman’s cabin.)

Whereas Levine, out of necessity, took the lead, Wertenbaker inherits a more mature organization, and sees his role as helping the Land Trust work. “I’m not going to be the driver. I’ll play a leadership role, but ‘leading from behind’,” he said. “The day-to-day business is 100 percent in the hands of the staff.”
As a set designer – and, mostly recently, as creative services director for productionglue, a New York City events company – Wertenbaker as manager helps “creative projects and creative people” accomplish their goals, rather than his agenda. “What I want (in the Land Trust) is a group of people to work together on a common goal.”
The right leader at this particular time, wouldn’t you say?

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EDITORIAL: If We Want Solar Energy, Let’s Get Serious About It

Editorial, May 5, 2018

If We Want Solar Energy,
Let’s Get Serious About It

If we care about solar energy, it’s time to get serious about it, don’cha think?

Happily, Otsego 2000 may be doing just that, having taken a leadership role among local environmental groups on this matter. On Feb. 24, its board adopted a resolution that reads, in part:
“Climate change, driven in large party by fossil-fuel use, is a significant threat to our region and way of life.

“We call for and support energy conservation and efficiency to reduce reliance on fossil fuels and the necessity or expanded fossil-fuel infrastructure and delivery systems.
“In addition, we call for and support smart development for renewable energy sources to meet the goals adopted by New York State for greenhouse-gas reductions.”
Caveat (conservation first), then support.
The resolution continues in the same vein. It supports rooftop solar panels. And solar farms, but again with caveats: Put them on “previously disturbed areas,” protect farmland, “protect historic, cultural and scenic resources,” maintain conserved lands. This is fine, and clearly in synch with Otsego 2000’s overarching mission – to protect, not develop.

But if, in fact, we want solar energy around here, a more affirmative strategy is necessary.
The most significant solar project proposed so far in Otsego County – thousands of panels on 50 acres north of Morris – is on hold, according to Chet Feldman, spokesman for Distributed Solar, Washington D.C. As he explained it, a PSC ruling last year on economical proximity to power lines, and federal tariffs made the project “not conducive,” at least for the time being.
Promisingly, Feldman said “We’re always looking forward to doing business in New York.” So it, or another project, may still happen.
So far though, solar power locally is limited to boutique uses: People who can afford it equipping their homes with panels. Otherwise, the Solar City installation near Laurens, by county government for county government, is the only functioning solar farm in the county. (Thank you, county Rep. Jim Powers, R-Butternuts, now retired, for pioneering it.)
If Otsego 2000, Sustainable Otsego, OCCA and other environmentally focused entities – goodness, even the Clark Foundation – really wants solar power widely used here, they need to say so and go after it, without the caveats.

Ed Lentz, Butternuts Valley Alliance chair (now New Lisbon town supervisor), surveys the 50 acres where Distributed Solar planned a solar farm. It is off the table for now.


If it chose to be, muscular Otsego 2000 certainly has the clout to get it done.
Meanwhile, Otsego 2000’s executive director, the able Ellen Pope, has taken the new policy seriously, attending a forum March 27 organized by Scenic Hudson, and – she reports – well attended by municipal officials from around the state.
It’s complicated. Large installations – 25 megawatts and up – fall under state Article 10 regulations for siting electric-generating facilities, signed into law by Governor Cuomo in 2011. Below that, a good town plan can guide where things happen, or don’t.
Attendees were advised, “plan for the town you want.” Of course, we all know that means: Keep everything the way it is. If we really care about global warming, about renewables, about humankind’s survival, that probably won’t fill the bill.
The Otsego 2000 policy dwells on what needs to be protected. But let’s turn it around. Let’s identify appropriate sites – sure, brownfields (Shur-Katch in Richfield Springs, maybe), former landfills, acreage shielded from public view – those black panels are ugly – and so on.
It might make sense to rule solar farms out, period, in the extra-protected Otsego Lake watershed. It makes sense to extra-protect a national environmental icon. But that leaves plenty of space elsewhere in Otsego County.
The Morris installation, tucked in the beauteous Butternut Creek Valley, would have been an eyesore, and perhaps polluted the creek, too. The county’s Solar City site is in a former gravel pit – ideal.
If Otsego 2000 could identify ideal spots for solar farms – a half dozen, a dozen, even more – and put the regulations in place to enable them, it would be doing our 60,094 neighbors (as of last July 1, and dropping) a favor. When a solar developer shows up, no problemo, with enhanced tax base and jobs to follow.
Plus, an itty bit, we might even help save Planet Earth.

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ZAGATA: Audubon Now Says: Young Forest Desireable

Column by Mike Zagata, April 13, 2018

Audubon Now Says:

Young Forest Desireable

 

Mike Zagata

You’ve just read the Spring 2018 issue of “Living Bird” magazine published by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and were startled, and excited, to read: “Overall, specialists say a healthy forested landscape should include roughly 10 percent of young woodlands.” (Right now, that number for our forestland hovers around
2 percent.)
That’s a dramatic shift from just a few years ago when Audubon was adamantly protecting mature forests at the expense of young forests. In other words a few years back, it wasn’t OK to cut a few trees, even clear-cut five or 10 acres, but it is now.
Why the shift in policy – you already know the answer having read the previous articles in this series. Now the questions become what to do about it and how?
You own 50 or so acres and you’d like to harvest it to generate some cash, and you also want to benefit those wildlife species, including many songbirds, American Woodcock, ruffed grouse and deer, which rely on young forest (grasslands and brush) for their habitat.

Basswood Pond in Burlington Flats is one of Otsego County’s state forests.

To whom do you turn for help? You’re now aware of the risk associated with trying to manage the timber sale yourself: risk of not getting what you should for your trees; risk of not knowing which trees to cut and which ones to leave; and the risk of not knowing how to manage the logger so that he or she does what you want done.

There are some places to turn to for advice.
Your regional office for the DEC (ours is located in Stamford) has a regional forester on staff who can walk you through the process and maybe even put you in touch with the consulting foresters who service this area.
The National Resource Conservation Service (part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture) has an office on Route 33 just south of Cooperstown and can assist you.
Cornell’s Cooperative Extension Program offers forest-related workshops and has a Master Forest Owner Program (MFO), providing forest landowners with a free visit by a MFO who listens to what you want to accomplish and then explains how to go about doing it.
Another good source of information is the state Forest Owners Association. (www.NYFOA.org). They have 10 chapters located around the state that host “Woods Walks” to help explain how to manage a forest and many of their members participate in the MFO Program and volunteer as MFOs.

What do you do if you forest has been logged repeatedly using the high-grading approach where they took “the best” and now you’re left with “the rest”?
There traditionally has not been a strong market for low-grade wood (“the rest”) in New York. Landowners who wanted to re-invigorate their forest or manage it for wildlife via techniques that allow light to reach the

forest floor again have had to bear the burden of the cost.
However, with Governor Cuomo’s stated goal of having 50 percent of our electricity come from “renewable” (like trees) by 2030, the future market for low-grade wood or “biomass” seems much brighter.
If my memory serves me right, Oneonta had an opportunity to capitalize on that trend, but it, along with so many other options, was rejected. Colgate University, on the other hand, chose to take advantage of the opportunity and heats with biomass.

Mike Zagata, DEC commissioner in the Pataki Administration and a former environmental executive with Fortune 500 companies, resides in West Davenport.

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HAPPENIN’ OTSEGO for SATURDAY, JUNE 3
HAPPENIN’ OTSEGO for SATURDAY, JUNE 3

Family Fun At The Duck Derby

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DUCK DERBY – Noon-3 p.m. Family Fun Day with duck racing, free pony rides, and a surprise princess guest. Neahwa Park, Oneonta. Info, call (607)432-0001 or visit www.facebook.com/FamilyRN/

TRAIL HIKE – 9-11 a.m. Hike the Blue Trail of the Basswood Pond State forest with OCCA program director Jeff O’Handley. Meet in the parking area of the park. Basswood Pond State Forest, 500 Conservation Rd., Burlington. Info, occainfo.org/calendar/blue-trail-basswood/

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HAPPENIN’ OTSEGO for SUNDAY, APRIL 23
HAPPENIN’ OTSEGO for SUNDAY, APRIL 23

State Gymnastics Championships

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GYMNASTICS CHAMPIONSHIPS – 9 a.m. 225 gymnasts from across New York State meet to show their skills. SUNY Oneonta. Info, call Oneonta YMCA (607)432-0010 or visit www.oneontaymca.org/programs_pages/gymnastics/ymca-nys-gymnastics-championships.html

MUSIC – Noon. The Binghamton Morris men and friends welcome spring back to the northeast with a live performance. The Major’s Inn, 104 Marion Avenue, Gilbertsville. Info, www.facebook.com/binghamton.morris/

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HAPPENIN’ OTSEGO for SATURDAY, APRIL 22
HAPPENIN’ OTSEGO for SATURDAY, APRIL 22

Honoring Our Legacy Of Inclusion

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INTERFAITH COMMUNITY GATHERING – 3 p.m. Program titled “With Malice Toward Non: Honoring America’s Legacy of Religious Inclusion.” Affirming America’s principles of democracy, religious freedom, compassion, and unity for people of all faiths. Temple Beth El, 83 Chestnut St., Oneonta. Info, Ken Sider, ksider@hotmail.com or visit www.templebetheloneonta.org/2017/04/with-malice-toward-none/

EARTH FESTIVAL – 10:30 a.m.-2 p.m. 13th annual festival featuring interactive exhibits, activities, vendors, and entertainment. Milford Central School, 42 W. Main St, Milford. Info, occainfo.org/calendar/earth-festival-2017/

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HAPPENIN’ OTSEGO for WEDNESDAY, APRIL 19
HAPPENIN’ OTSEGO for WEDNESDAY, APRIL 19

‘Peter And The Starcatcher,’ SUNY-O

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THEATER – 8 p.m. “Peter and the Starcatcher” presented by SUNY Oneonta. Tells the backstory of JM Barrie’s ‘Peter Pan’ as imagined by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson. Goodrich Theater, SUNY Oneonta. Info, oneonta.universitytickets.com/user_pages/event_listings.asp

AMAZING AMPHIBIANS – 10 a.m.-11:30 a.m. Get your elementary aged children out and learn about the amphibians that are waking up from winter and explore Thayer farm to learn which ones live there. Meet at Upland Interpretive Center at Thayer Farm, 7027 State Highway 80, Springfield. Info, occainfo.org/calendar/get-kids-amazing-amphibians/

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HAPPENIN’ OTSEGO for WEDNESDAY, APRIL 5
HAPPENIN’ OTSEGO for WEDNESDAY, APRIL 5

Poetry Reading

With Ishion Hutchinson

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POETRY READING – 7 p.m. Reading by Jamaican poet Ishion Hutchinson. Author of 2 collections, “Far District” and “House of Lords and Commons.” Martha Daniel will open the event by reading her poem “On the Table.” Celebration room, Shineman Chapel Hall, Hartwick College, Oneonta. Info, email David Lubell at lubelld@hartwick.edu

EGG DECORATING – 6:30 p.m. Pysanky, Ukranian egg decorating workshop using traditional materials and designs to create a folk patterned easter egg. Material fee, $5. Registration required. Huntington Memorial Library, 62 Chestnut St., Oneonta. Info, hmloneonta.org/adult-programs/#crafts

ART DISCUSSION – 12:30-2:30 p.m. Join director of exhibitions Chris Rossi for this weeks Food for Thought discussion “50 Years, 50 Works, 50 Reasons. Maurice Sendak: The Memorial Exhibition.” Registration required. Cost, $25 members, $30 non-members. The Fenimore Art Museum, Cooperstown. Info, www.fenimoreartmuseum.org/lectures or call (607) 547-1461

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HAPPENIN’ OTSEGO for SATURDAY, APRIL 1
HAPPENIN’ OTSEGO for SATURDAY, APRIL 1

‘Empty Bowls’ Benefit Today

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EMPTY BOWLS – Noon-2 p.m. Serving homemade soup in your choice of bowl crafted and donated by local potters. Cost, $15 to benefit the local food pantry. Christ Church Parish Hall on Fair Street, Cooperstown. Info, cooperstownchamber.org/calendar-of-events/#!event/2017/4/1/empty-bowls. To volunteer or donate call (607)547-2627

SOUTH AFRICAN BANQUET – 6-9 p.m. The Mali Education project presents a South African benefit bazaar, dinner and documentary fill titled “Taking Root: The Vision of Wangari Maathai,” about the founder of the Green belt Movement in Kenya and winner of the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize. Tickets, $15 adults, $10 children over 5. Unitarian Universalist Society of Oneonta, 12 Ford Ave, Oneonta. Reservation, call (607)434-3303 or email cswolfgould@gmail.com. Info, uuso.org

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HAPPENIN’ OTSEGO for SATURDAY, FEB. 25
HAPPENIN’ OTSEGO for SATURDAY, FEB. 25

Conservation Training

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CONSERVATION TRAINING – Noon-3 p.m. Learn to map stands of Eastern Hemlock to volunteer with conservation services in the effort to counter the spread of the Hemlock Woolly Adelgid. Free, registration required. Mohican Farm, 7195 State Route 80, Cooperstown. Info, occainfo.org/calendar/hemlock-woolly-adelgid-finding-hemlock-stands/ or call (607) 282-4087

OPERA – 12:55 p.m. “Rusalka.” The Met streaming live in HD. Foothills Performing Arts & Civic Center, 24 Market St., Oneonta. Cost $18/seniors, $20/adults, 10/students. Season pass $200. Box Office: (607)431-2080, foothillspac.org/index.php/shows/metropolitan-opera-in-hd/

PLAY READING – 6:30 p.m. Reading of “Memorial Night” by local playwright Jonathon Ward. Fenimore Art Museum Auditorium, 5798 NY-80, Cooperstown. Info, www.fenimoreartmuseum.org

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21 Railroad Ave. Cooperstown, New York 13326 • (607) 547-6103