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Mike Zagata

ZAGATA: What Can Be Done About Deer Overpopulation?

Column by Mike Zagata, August 3, 2018

What Can Be Done About

Deer Overpopulation?

Mike Zagata

Most of us enjoy watching and/or hunting deer. They seem harmless enough – that is, until one runs in front of your shiny new car. However, the 650,000 or so forest landowners in the state may have a different perspective.
Each year they pay taxes on forest property with an expectation to recreate there and possibly even harvest some timber to help pay the taxes.
When they visit their woodland and look closely at the understory beneath the forest canopy, they expect to find the seedlings – the next generation, called “regeneration” – of the mature trees that produce mast (acorns, nuts fruits) for wildlife and either sawlogs for lumber or pulp for paper.
What they expect to find isn’t what they
actually find.
Deer are decimating the forest understory. Because we have made it socially unacceptable to cut trees for a long time, about all that is left in the forest is mature trees – the brush and other young forest species that deer browsed are gone.

What is left are the species that can grow in the shade of the adult trees and, unfortunately, deer have a preference for the species like oaks that produce mast and sawlogs for lumber and maple and ash that also produce wood products.
Thus, deer over-browse those species and leave less desirable, invasive species.
In other words, deer, like beaver, can alter their own habitat. On average, a deer eats about 8½ pounds of vegetation per day – that’s a lot of twigs being eaten by an estimated statewide population of one million deer.
This isn’t a hypothesis. It is a real, scientifically validated phenomenon. In fact, scientists are concerned that this over-browsing will have a “legacy effect” – there may not be a next generation of the forest as we know it today.
Those of you who live in Oneonta have seen the consequences – deer in the middle of Chestnut Street or Ravine Parkway on their way to eat your shrubs.
The problem is real. The question is what to do about it? Because we have removed the large predators, with the possible exception of the coyote and black bear, that once controlled the number of deer, we rely on hunting to keep their numbers in check.
The number of hunters continues to decrease and the hunting access to private property and local towns and villages is also declining.
Thus hunting, as we practice and regulate it now, may no longer be an effective management tool.
Do we need to re-examine how to more effectively harvest deer? That may be easier said than done. There are animal rights groups that oppose hunting altogether. There are sportsmen’s groups that are pro-hunting and may view any tinkering with the status quo as a threat.

Jim Kevlin/HOMETOWN ONEONTA & The Freeman’s Journal – You may have noticed, deer are bolder and everywhere this summer. These crossed Glen Avenue in Cooperstown in the middle of a Saturday afternoon.

Then there are conservation groups that have an interest in maintaining healthy forests that produce abundant wildlife of all species. The DEC’s Lands & Forests Division is tasked with doing what it takes to protect forest regeneration. Another Division, Fish & Wildlife, may favor keeping the deer population at a “huntable” level.
Like most natural-resource-related issues, this one is complex and efforts to address it are likely to spark controversy. Pennsylvania attempted to address the issue of over-browsing about a decade ago without success as the various interest groups couldn’t agree on a workable solution.
If we care about the next generation of New York’s forests, we can’t afford to let that happen. We must listen to what the science tells us and learn to work together for the common, long-term health of both the forest and the deer.

Mike Zagata, a DEC commissioner in the Pataki Administrator and a former environmental executive for Fortune 500 companies, lives in West Davenport.

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ZAGATA: Face-To-Face Is Better. But If You Communicate Electronically…

Column by Mike Zagata for July 20, 2018

Face-To-Face Is Better.

But If You Communicate Electronically…

Mike Zagata

When thinking about the joys and pitfalls of communicating electronically, I’m reminded of these words from a John Denver song: “She sang to me in silence with her eyes”. How beautiful is that!
Those of us who began communicating before the advent of e-mail and texting with our cell phones understand what’s behind those words. The “millennials” may, through no fault of their own, lack an appreciation for what’s behind John’s words.
I really didn’t think about how easy it is to miscommunicate with e-mail and texts until a close friend sent me a guided missile via a text message. I had inadvertently done something to offend him and he was letting me know it.
Once the incoming missile hand landed, my immediate reaction was to launch one back in his direction. Texting works well when the waters are calm and you’re communication about things where you agree. It does not, however, work very well for resolving differences.
The truth is that trying to resolve differences via texting is a recipe for failure and usually makes matters worse. The same is true for e-mail. Success is much more likely if you meet in person or, at a minimum, have a phone conversation to resolve differences.
What John Denver was saying in those lovely words is that, by being able to see her, he was able to read her expressions, her body language and maybe even the inflections in her voice had she spoken.
Texting and e-mail are sterile in that regard. All we get to “see” are the words and, as we all know, they are subject to interpretation. If things have been going well recently with the author of those words, we are more apt to look at them in a positive light.
If there is tension between the author and the reader, those same words can instill anger. The party on the other end has no way of knowing which way they have been interpreted until he or she receives either a warm response or a guided missile.
While on the topic of cell phones, let’s look at how they have affected the norm for what is courteous and what is rude. If I’m sitting with someone and having a conversation, is it polite to answer my cell phone?
If you say it is, then is it more polite to answer it and tell the person I’ll call them back or engage in a conversation with the caller? What about if it’s a call you’ve been expecting? You may know that, but the person sitting next to you may not. That could lead to one of those incoming missiles
landing in your e-mail or
text box.
The means by which we communicate are rapidly changing and the social mores associated with those means are having difficulty keeping pace. A good rule of thumb might be to consider how you would react and act accordingly.
If you do inadvertently offend someone, all you can do is hope they will take the time when it happens to let you know in person. If not, it is likely to fester and then show up later as an incoming missile as a text or e-mail.
As baby-boomer struggling with these changes, I would like to apologize if I have inadvertently offended you.

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

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ZAGATA: Is There No Way To Stop Child Separations?

Column by Mike Zagata, July 6, 2018

Is There No Way To

Stop Child Separations?

Mike Zagata

Most of us are the descendants of immigrants who legally entered the country via
Ellis Island.
As Americans, we should be proud that people want to come to our country. However, there are laws that control the rate of entry and processes to follow in adhering to those laws.
Today we’re besieged with a media blitz focused on the separation of children from adults caught entering illegally while they are subjected to our legal system.
Instead of jumping to the child separation issue, maybe we should stop and ask what it is that caused the separation, i.e. what are the adults
being processed for?
It turns out they have broken the law by illegally entering the country. Thus, it seems logical that any debate about immigration should begin there.
There are already at least two laws on the books that address these illegal border crossings, but they have, by several past presidents, largely been ignored.
Those presidents all took an oath to uphold the Constitution and laws of the land so they bear some of the responsibility for our current dilemma.
Congress passed the current laws and therefore they have the Constitutional authority to either amend them or pass new ones to address illegal immigration. Where is the media when it comes to asking Congress why it has been unwilling to fix the problem?
Now let’s address the topic of children being separated from their accompanying adults. Why did I say “adults” and not “parents”?
The answer is really quite simple – we have no easy way of determining if the adults are the actual parents of the children they are with.
We say that should be easy, and then are confronted with the fact that 50,000 people illegally cross the border each month. It takes months to do a background check on a U.S. citizen who was born here. We don’t have “months” to determine if the accompanying adults are the actual parents and if they have a criminal record.
However, we do have a legal process for deciding how to handle these illegal immigrants, but that process takes time. What do we do with the children in the meantime?
Do we put them in with other adults for whom we have no background information? Would doing so increase the likelihood of real child abuse?
Do we build, at taxpayer expense, holding facilities for the “families” – remember, there are 50,000 new ones each month. That would require a massive infrastructure to build and staffing it would be very expensive.
Do we simply put those caught illegally crossing the border on a bus and send them back – where is “back”?
Why not just release them at the border until their hearing date? That’s what’s been done in the past and about 80 percent don’t show up at the appointed court date. One could say they are the smart ones and soon after they blend into the overall population and the issue just goes away – or does it?

Because of our heritage and compassion, we all want those who wish to immigrate to our country to have the opportunity to do it legally. No one wants to see children entering a new country separated, even for a short time, from adults who may be their parents.
To address that concern, a broken immigration system needs to be fixed – not a tinkering, but a comprehensive overhaul.
If you, like me, want that done, please let your congressman and senator know that you understand it is them, not the President, who makes the laws and thus they have the power and responsibility to get it done.

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

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ZAGATA: Doctor-Patient Discussions Private? Little By Little, Confidentiality Goes

Column by Mike Zagata, June 8, 2018

Doctor-Patient Discussions

Private? Little By Little,

Confidentiality Goes

Mike Zagata

Are there circumstances where it’s OK to violate your privacy? It might be OK if you make an informed decision to allow that to happen – but what if you don’t?
Have you heard of HIPPA – the Health insurance Portability & Accountability Act of 1996? If you have, you probably have a sense of comfort that it protects conversations your doctor has about your care or treatment with nurses and others.
Does it really do that, and are there times when it’s OK for your doctor, now known as your primary-care physician, to divulge information learned about you during a visit to law enforcement officials?
Does the doctor face an obligation to do so? It’s not your doctor’s fault if they do as they didn’t volunteer to assist your government.

Why these questions? If you’ve had a recent doctor’s appointment, the following questions might sound familiar: “Do you feel secure at home?” and, “Are you depressed?”
What is likely to happen if you answer “no” to the first question and “yes” to the second?
If you’re a firearms owner, you’re likely to receive a visit from the state police and see your firearms depart with them. You may also receive a visit from the folks at Social Services in an effort to determine if you’re the victim of spousal abuse.
The goal is to reduce the likelihood of domestic or other forms of violence, e.g. school shootings. That’s a laudable goal. However, does it, at the same time, violate your right to privacy and lead to the breakdown of the doctor-patient relationship? Is it the best way to achieve the goal?
As with most issues like this, there will likely be opinions on both sides of the issue. That’s one of the many benefits of living in America. The fact that we are losing our privacy right at an alarming rate is just that – fact.
The debate has already been held – by someone somewhere – and the decision made to allow that to happen.
Do you want your driving habits to be recorded each time make a trip to the grocery store or church? Do you want your location recorded each time you dial a number or utter a voice command on your cell phone? Do you wonder why you receive certain e-mails from marketers who seem to know your buying habits?

Yes, our cars and mobile phones offer convenience – but at what cost? To those of us who are older, this cost represents change and thus we are likely to be aware that it is happening. But what about the next generation?
This is life as they know it and therefore not perceived by them as a threat. You can be certain there will be more change – change they may then perceive as a threat because it’s different from that to which they are now accustomed.
It will happen incrementally over time and, at some later date, those of us still alive will awaken to the fact our lives are no longer recognizable and ask: “What happened?”

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

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issue & debate — o’donnell, zagata

ON WAMC

Natural Gas Debate Heating Up

asdfIn his weekly “Morning Headlines” segment on WAMC Public Radio, Albany, Hometown Oneonta & Freeman’s Journal Editor Jim Kevlin this morning discussed op-ed pieces on natural gas and the Constitution Pipeline that appear in this week’s print editions, AND ARE REPRINTED BELOW. 

CLICK HERE TO HEAR THIS MORNING’S REPORT

 

ISSUE & DEBATE

New Pipeline Won’t Cure

Otsego County’s Poverty

Editor’s Note: Kate O’Donnell, Ph.D., is a professor of sociology at Hartwick College.  This is reprinted from this week’s Hometown Oneonta & Freeman’s Journal editorial page.

By KATHERINE O’DONNELL

Katherine O'Donnell
Katherine O’Donnell

Rural poverty is widespread and persistent in the U.S. Rural labor options, mass centralized industrialization, and urbanization cause rural people, usually the young, to migrate to urban areas for better paying jobs in more diverse labor sectors.

These structural forces have produced outmigration from U.S. rural areas since the 1800s. In our area, the existence of the railroad and subsequent educational and healthcare developments diversified our local economy and created more job opportunity than in more solely agriculture-dependent areas…

READ DR. O’DONNELL’S FULL OP-ED PIECE

 

Life Without Fossil Fuels?

Careful What You Wish For

Editor’s Note:  Mike Zagata, Ph.D., who lives in Davenport, is a former commissioner of the state Department of Environmental Conservation.  This is reprinted from this week’s Free

By MIKE ZAGATA

Mike Zagata
Mike Zagata

There is virtual agreement that we must move away from fossil fuels to energy sources that are renewable.

First, fossil fuels are non-renewable, i.e. at some point we will run out of them.  Second, there are scientists and politicians that believe the burning of fossil fuels contributes to climate change.

No matter which reason one chooses to support, there is a legitimate need to begin now to seek energy sources that are renewable and increasingly more environmentally friendly…

READ DR. ZAGATA’S FULL OP-ED PIECE
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Life Without Fossil Fuels? Careful What You Wish For

Life Without Fossil Fuels?

Careful What You Wish For

Editor’s Note:  Mike Zagata, Ph.D., who lives in Davenport, is a former commissioner of the state Department of Environmental Conservation.  This is reprinted from this week’s Free

By MIKE ZAGATA

Mike Zagata
Mike Zagata

There is virtual agreement that we must move away from fossil fuels to energy sources that are renewable.

First, fossil fuels are non-renewable, i.e. at some point we will run out of them.  Second, there are scientists and politicians that believe the burning of fossil fuels contributes to climate change.

No matter which reason one chooses to support, there is a legitimate need to begin now to seek energy sources that are renewable and increasingly more environmentally friendly.  It is also important to recognize early on that there is no such thing as a “free lunch” when it comes to energy.  Each alternate we seek, be it solar, hydro-power, tidal power, wind power, etc., will have environmental impacts.

For example, with wind power there is an issue with the impact of the vanes on birds.  With hydro-power there are fisheries impacts like the declines of Western salmon runs.  In the long run, it will become a matter of trade-offs and political will.

There are those who argue we should cease producing and burning fossil fuels right now.  There are others who favor using them as a bridge to provide our energy until we have feasible alternatives.  A mere year ago there were people who argued that the problem would take care of itself as fossil fuels would price themselves out of the market.  As we now know, just the opposite has happened and gas is now less than $2 at the pump.

Let’s take an honest look at what life in the US would be like if the government banned the use of fossil fuels tomorrow.

Those fortunate enough to be able to afford to install solar panels on their roof or in their yard would appear to have an advantage over the rest of us.  Is that really the case?  They might well have enough electricity to heat or cool their home during the daylight hours.  However, solar panels don’t generate electricity at night.  What would happen then?  They would be like the rest of us and freeze during winter and swelter during summer.

If they drove their electric car to work expecting to recharge it overnight guess what – they’re out of luck.  You see that wall outlet or fancy recharging station formerly got its electricity from a coal-fired plant.  Coal is a fossil fuel and thus can no longer be burned to generate electricity.  If they’re going to recharge their electric vehicles, it will have to be done at work if they have enough of a charge to get there.

Those of us who awaken to the aroma of bacon and eggs would need to awaken much earlier to stoke up the wood stove (wood consists of the same ingredients as coal, but it’s not yet “fossilized” so it might be legal to burn).  Our gas stove or electric stove that gets its electricity from generating plants that burn coal or gas (God forbid we use nuclear energy!) would no longer have a fuel source as fossil fuels are banned.

Wood stoves emit particulates that, when conditions are right, may cause inversions where polluted air is trapped near the ground and people are forced to breathe it.  That’s not good for people with emphysema or other lung issues.  Air quality in Denver, Colo., got so bad as a result of wood-burning stoves, that the city banned their use during certain weather patterns.  Having to cut our own wood might provide an unexpected health benefit as we would likely become more fit.  Cutting more trees might even benefit certain songbirds that rely on openings in the forest for food.

For those of us who like to drive to meetings so we can plan our strategy for protesting something, we would be in for a shock.  As previously discussed, electric vehicles would likely be home-bound.  Our cars and trucks definitely would be.  Gasoline is a fossil fuel; burning it would be banned.  Not only would our freedom to travel via the car be restricted – so would our ability to travel via the airplane as jet-fuel is also derived from fossil fuel.  There went those mid-winter breaks to Florida.  What about overnight mail via FedEx or UPS?  The Post Office would need to revert back to the pony express.

Even if we could burn the gas, diesel or jet fuel, we wouldn’t have a car, truck or plane to burn it in.  Cars and trucks are mostly steel and plastic and, you guessed it, natural gas is used in the manufacture of steel and petroleum products are used to make plastic.  Airplanes are mostly aluminum and manufacturing aluminum is very energy intensive.  Even more surprising is that petroleum is used to make synthetic rubber and 70 percent of our rubber today is synthetic.  It takes about seven gallons of petroleum to make one typical tire.  What happens when we run out of the existing stock of tires if fossil fuels are banned?

Our clothing would also undergo a dramatic change.  Synthetic fibers are petroleum based.  Cotton fields and sheep would again dot the countryside as we would be forced to use “natural” fibers like cotton and wool.  Packaging, as we know it today, would be a thing of the past.

Instead of bacon and eggs we could eat cereal – or could we?  Petroleum is a key ingredient in fertilizer and pesticides/herbicides.  Instead of going to the local grocery store, we would be maintaining our own garden and that can be labor intensive – especially without a way to control pests.  The examples are real – just as the need to continue using fossil fuel as a bridge to the future is real.  Please take a minute and reflect on all the things you use every day that require fossil fuels.  Without them our lifestyle would undergo a dramatic change for the worse.  With them we have a window of opportunity to find alternatives that will both enable us to maintain our lifestyle and protect the quality of our environment.

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Oneonta Unity

Eventually, Unity Will Help Grow Greater Oneonta

By JIM KEVLIN

It wouldn’t be cheaper right now, but the town and city of Oneonta should eventually form a “single entity” to provide municipal water in “the most cost-efficient and cost-effective manner.”

That’s the conclusion of an ad hoc citizens group – former interim school superintendent David Rowley, former DEC commissioner Mike Zagata of Davenport and Roger France, a former state Health Department engineer – who took it upon themselves to delve into the much debated matter.

The resulting report, written by France, has been provided to Mayor Dick Miller and Town Supervisor Bob Wood.
Both Rowley and Zagata are active in Citizen Voices, the pro-business group. France is a neighbor of Rowley’s in West Oneonta.

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