Every year the growth, and non-growth, of a variety of areas of interest—such as the economy, the population, bird migrations, immigration, wildfires, utilities, stocks, violence, college rankings, China and the like—are subject to intense research and interpretation. Inevitably, the results are published far and wide just after the last drop of the New Year’s ball.
One such fast-developing aspect of our life is our carbon footprint (CO2e), the total greenhouse gas emissions that trap and release heat, causing global warming. GHG is caused, directly and indirectly, by individuals, events, organizations, services, places or products. As these emissions enter the atmosphere they give rise to extreme precipitation, acidification and the warming of the oceans. Think climate change.
ONEONTA – The Christmas “Side Hunt” was a holiday tradition around the turn of the 20th century, in which people would shoot as many birds as possible. In 1900, ornithologist Frank M. Chapman proposed a new holiday tradition, to count birds rather than kill them. Twenty-seven participants counted birds in locations around North America that year.
Thus was born the National Audubon Christmas Bird Count, now the longest running citizen science program in the world, spread across more than 20 countries.
The Delaware-Otsego Audubon Society Oneonta CBC was begun in 1969, with the 54th count taking place on December 17. This year, the count seemed doomed from the beginning, with several team leaders having to bow out for other commitments. Substitutes were found, but then a snowstorm hit, continuing into the early hours of the count date, leaving a couple of teams snowbound until the early afternoon. Three more teams and a FeederWatcher dropped out due to illness or other unexpected events.
The Unadilla Community Farm in West Edmeston, established in 2014, is a nonprofit whose mission is providing space for the teaching and practice of sustainable skills in agriculture, natural building, and food equity.
The farm was an abandoned corn field, now transformed into an edible food forest. It grows 200 varieties of annual and perennial products, using sustainable techniques. It uses a diversity of conservation practices, such as rainwater collection, multi-story and alley cropping, no-till management, wildlife habitat planting, heavy mulching, on-site composting, crop rotation, and high tunnels.
New York State communities are seeking action from Governor Kathy Hochul to allow them to opt-out of the newly adopted Holiday Deer Hunt, in order to ensure safe outdoor access to multiple user groups during the Christmas holiday break.
The state legislature acted by passing Senate Bill S6510 and Assembly Bill A07785, giving counties the ability to prohibit hunting during a seven-day special late bow, special long bow and muzzle loader season in the state’s Southern Zone. S6510/A07785 allows each county to decide whether to participate in the new deer hunting season—from December 26 through January 1, opened for the first time in 2021—in order to maximize outdoor recreational access for New Yorkers during this time.
While deer season is open, other user groups avoid disturbing hunters and the deer for both tradition and safety’s sake.
WESTFORD – This past summer, Otsego Lake and surrounding area water bodies saw an influx of harmful algal blooms, posing a threat to biodiversity, water potability and recreational activities. HABs, caused by an overabundance of Microcystis, a harmful strain of cyanobacteria, represent one of the biggest environmental threats to area water bodies since the introduction of zebra mussels, and more recently quagga mussels. The latter two species are biofouling agents that actually cause increased levels of Microcystis, as suggested by a long-term National Science Foundation study published last year. Luckily, one area ecology expert has proposed a way forward.
ONEONTA – The City of Oneonta’s Quality of Life and Infrastructure Committee recently heard findings from a commissioned report on the various impacts of increasing deer populations in the area. Carried out over two months, the Deer Management Task Force report named overabundance, Lyme disease and an increasing number of deer-related accidents as driving forces behind their investigation.
“Our goal is not to eliminate deer. It’s to reduce the population to a sustainable level and mitigate the problems surrounding the issue right now,” explained Betsy Holland, an Oneonta resident who led the special task force and presented at the meeting on Monday, November 28.
The final version of the New York State Climate Action Scoping Plan will be made available January 1, 2023. In its statement on this topic in this paper last week, Otsego Electric Cooperative (OEC) made very clear the shortcomings of present versions of this plan, particularly as regards the needs of the population served by OEC. I am grateful for OEC’s thoughtful analysis, which illuminates the true costs of keeping the lights on in New York City, not to mention of keeping on our own lights. Let’s hope the final Scoping Plan addresses some of these issues.
COOPERSTOWN—James Andrews Melrose Johnston, Jamie to family and friends, crossed the bar on November 14, 2022, following a prolonged battle with multiple ailments. He was 68.
Born on December 20, 1953, in New Haven, Connecticut, into a family of educators, naturalists, poets, historians, sailors and adventurers, Jamie never missed an opportunity to gleefully embrace novel experiences, such as when, as a toddler, he astonished his mother when she removed his rain hat in a New Haven store only to find a mouse cheerfully nestling in his hair.
During my father’s last hospital stay, as he was being treated for lung cancer that had spread to the brain, an attending physician asked him, “What’s your life’s plan?” The doctor wanted to talk about brain surgery, and Dad was having none of it. “What’s my life’s plan?” he replied. “Pushing up daisies, that’s my life’s plan.”
This was in the spring of 2006, and my father died shortly after. Since then, though, “pushing up daisies” has become a real option for those making end-of-life plans. The National Funeral Directors Association reported last year that 55.7 percent of people surveyed in an NFDA Consumer Awareness and Preferences Report would be interested in green funeral options because of their potential environmental benefits, cost savings or other reasons.
Recently, we at The Freeman’s Journal have become aware that some of our readers, and others who may not be our readers, still have questions about the toxic algae blooms that of late have been creeping up on us from the depths and edges of our beloved Otsego Lake. So here goes an effort to get it right.
According to NOAA, whose satellites, along with those of the EPA, NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey, are picking up images of them, these blooms have been found in 2,300 lakes in the contiguous U.S., and in another 5,000 bodies of water in Alaska.
The algae, often — but not strictly — of a blue-green color, is cyanobacteria, which grows naturally in fresh water, though it also also been spotted, although less frequently, in brackish and salt water. The bacteria can also be red, neon or brown, and when it dies it exudes a rotten smell. When the water is warm, stagnant and nutrient-rich, as it presently is here, the algae can burst into blooms, which is what we are seeing along the shores of the Lake. The blooms can, and do, produce a toxin, called cyanotoxin, which can enter the mouth, nose and eyes, or be inhaled with water vapor. They can also keep blooming into the early fall, until the temperature drops.
The Biological Field Station (BFS) collected samples for toxin analysis around Otsego Lake yesterday, 22 August 2022. All sites had detectable levels of the toxin microcystin, though concentrations lake-wide were generally less than last week. Results for each location are below. We provide these results for informational purposes and to aid in decision-making; these results represent a snapshot in time. Bloom conditions are known to change rapidly with weather. When there are visible accumulations on the shoreline or the water surface, caution is warranted. A link to DOH guidance is below. The cyanobacteria causing the bloom is called Microcystis aeruginosa.
Sample Collection Notes: Collection began at 10:00am at Three Mile Point; we proceeded clockwise around the lake. Weather conditions: overcast, occasional light rain, Air temp 70° F. No surface accumulations were visible where samples were collected. Small accumulations were observed in protected areas around boats and docks at both BFS properties.
Last December, an unidentified hunter in Central New York killed a coyote — or so he thought. The hunter posted the picture of his prize on Facebook and, frankly, it looks a lot like a wolf. But there are no wolves in New York State, right?
This post was spotted by a member of the Northeast Ecological Recovery Society and the hunter was contacted for a tissue sample submission. He complied and the DNA results are in; 100% wolf. The sample tested as a mix of “Great Lakes Wolf, Northwest Territories Grey Wolf, and Eastern Wolf. The purity of this DNA sample is consistent with a wild wolf ‘dispersed’ from Canada where wild wolves are known to intermingle”.
The discovery that the animal was a pure wolf came as a surprise to the organization due to the assumption that wolves, which thrive in the Canadian and Alaskan territories, are prevented from traveling into the Adirondacks by the Saint Lawrence River acting as a natural barrier.
The beach at Glimmerglass State Park has been closed for swimming due to a Harmful Algae Bloom which is affecting the north end of Otsego Lake.
The other local beaches such as 3 Mile Point and Fairy Springs remain open at this time. Jenna Utter, Cooperstown Village Clerk, says “Village Parks remain open at this time and we are monitoring the situation closely.”
[Editor’s note: We’ve been following the story of the James Fenimore Cooper murals in Mamaroneck doomed to a future hidden from view or lost forever to school reconstruction. There’s good news to report this week, and we asked Carol Bradshaw Akin, Board Member and former President of the Mamaroneck Historical Society, to give us a first-person, on-the-ground report. It’s a wonderful story with a happy ending — something nice for a change — and a real connection between Otsego and Westchester counties. Thank you, Carol!]
There’s good news to report, thanks to the superhuman efforts of the Co-Presidents of the Mamaroneck Historical Society, John Pritts and Gail Boyle, who turned their lives inside out for the past two-plus months to save eight murals of James Fenimore Cooper’s scenes from “Leatherstocking Tales” painted 81 years ago. Ninth grade classes at Mamaroneck Junior High fund-raised from 1936 to 1941, then hired artists from Yale Art School, one of whom, Mimi Jennawine, was a Mamaroneck High graduate. Her other works include a painting in the Smithsonian — and most all of the other muralists went on to become prominent artists.
With GoFundMe contributions, and a couple of generous large donors, the figure needed was reached, and John and Gail began. They threw themselves into this almost impossible task, researching information, and contacts, searching for mural-removal companies (found one), hired an art conservator, wrote and followed up on hundreds of emails, spent hours and days on phone calls, tried (in vain) to be in touch with the School Board and Superintendent, (eventually found the school’s Director of Facilities who was supportive and cooperative!), drove all over from Stamford, CT, to Brooklyn to pick up preservation supplies needed by the company, which also included huge 2ft x 12ft tubes on which to roll the murals. And then once the work began, they supervised all of the work every day at the high school.