What would the Catskills be like without maple trees? That’s
one question worth asking now that yet another invasive species
seems to be closing in on the region.
Like the gypsy moths have in the past, the Asian long-horned
beetle is now expected to make an arrival. These bugs, which
showed up in Brooklyn harbor about a decade ago in packing crates
from China, have been found since on Long Island and parts of
New Jersey. While they have not showed up in the Catskills yet,
DEC officials worry that they might end up here via the crates
and other items that downstate visitors to the region bring
with them. Should that happen, it might have the potential to
have a bigger impact on local forests than Dutch elm disease,
chestnut blight and the gypsy moth combined.
Red and sugar maple trees, the preferred host for Asian long-horned
beetles, dominate forests in the Catskills. And locations with
outbreaks are close enough to the Catskills to pose a threat,
Asian long-horned beetles are about one to one and a half inches
long, black and shiny with white spots and have long, distinguishable
antennae that are banded with black and white. The beetles attack
many different hardwood trees, including all species of maple,
birch, horse chestnut, poplar, willow, elm, ash, mimosa, hackberry,
sycamore, mountain ash and London plane. The female beetle chews
depressions in the bark of trees to lay 35-90 eggs that hatch
within 10 to 15 days. The worm-like immature beetles then tunnel
under tree bark and bore into healthy hardwood trees, feeding
on living tree tissue during the fall and winter. After pupating,
the beetles emerge through exit holes during the spring and
then feed on tree exteriors for two to three days, then mate.
Unseasonable yellowing or drooping of leaves when the weather
has not been especially dry are signs that the Beetles are present.
Last June, the state Department of Environmental Conservation
banned the import of firewood into the state unless it has been
kiln-dried. The regulation also prohibits the movement of untreated
firewood within the state more than 50 miles from its source.
The DEC was set to hold a special conference and workshop at
its Belleayre Mountain facility on Wednesday, as we went to
press, on the latest menace. The Catskill Watershed Corporation
was co-sponsoring the event.
Combined with warnings from scientists about the effects of
climate change on what trees grow in the region, diseases affecting
the local hemlock population, and the current news about Didymo
invasions of the Esopus and other local trout streams, it seems
much of what we’ve grown accustomed to in our Catskills
is about to change.
Ulster County ended 2008 with a $4.1 million surplus and a fund
balance of $23.7 million. Officials said the surplus, which
came despite midyear warnings that the county could face a nearly
$300,000 deficit by Dec. 31, helps position the county to better
weather the current economic downturn.
According to the 2008 county financial report, the county’s
fund balance rose by 20.9 percent, from the $19.6 million on
hand at the end of 2007.
“What this really boils down to his sound budgeting and
aggressive fiscal management for the taxpayers of Ulster County,”
said County Executive Michael Hein. “We are better prepared
to face the serious challenges that will undoubtedly impact
the people of Ulster County.”
Last July, when he still was Ulster County administrator, Hein
warned the county could face a budget deficit of nearly $300,000
by the end of 2008. At his recommendation, the county Legislature
enacted a hiring freeze and authorized Hein to take other measures
to reduce spending.
Hein was elected in November as the county’s first executive
and began his new job on Jan. 1.
Flyers were sent home to parents in the Onteora school district
this week alerting them on the H1N1 Swine flu virus that allegedly
originated in Mexico and spread quickly throughout the United
States including New York State in recent weeks. The contents
of the flyer outlines precautions to take.
“At this time, the State and local health departments
have advised us that students can continue to come to school,
as long as they are not sick and do not think they have flu
symptoms,” it read.
The administration urges parents to be vigilant, making sure
that any child with flu-like symptoms stay home. Symptoms include
a fever of over 100 degrees, sore throat, cough, runny or stuffy
nose. Additional symptoms that may be experienced with swine
flu, includes muscle pain, fatigue, vomiting or diarrhea.
The administration would also like parents to teach their kids
to exercise common sense precautions; including how to wash
hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, use a hand
sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol, avoid touching one’s
mouth, nose or eyes, and cough or sneeze into a tissue or into
the inside of one’s elbow.
Recent reports have tied the recent outbreak to a Smithfield
Ham-owned pig farm near the city of Perote in the Mexican state
of Veracruz, where hundreds of residents came down with the
flu’s symptoms in early April, long before it was reported
in Mexico City April 24.
Virginia-based Smithfield Farms shifted operations to Mexico
after it received what was, at the time, the most expensive
fine in history ($12.6 million) for violating the US Clean Water
Act at its U.S. pig facilities in 1985, where it was reportedly
dumping hog waste into a river that flowed into the Chesapeake
Bay. When the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) came
into effect on January 1, 1994, Smithfield opened a new subsidiary
Work crews are in the thick of a hamlet tear up in Boiceville,
where the collection system for a $12.2 million sewer system
is being installed.
“Collection system” is engineer speak for the pipes
that go under the streets, parking lots and yards throughout
the hamlet and hook up to the treatment plant being built on
the lower end of the Boiceville business district near the firehouse.
The project appears to be running like clockwork, with workers
and heavy equipment moving about and causing only minimum disruption
to the every day business of Boiceville as well the Onteora
High School/Middle School.
Town officials are making plans for the summer recreation program
and this week will put out the word that counselors are needed.
At first it appeared lifeguards were needed as well, but according
to Recreation Committee liaison Rob Stanley this is no longer
the case as the lifeguard that worked last year will return.
Each summer the town offers a free recreation program to local
residents at the state owned Belleayre Beach in Pine Hill. It
is expected the program will take place at the lake again this
year, but it is not yet official.
“We’re trying to coordinate with Belleayre to finalize
the deal,” Stanley said.
CWC’s Big Meet
Self congratulations detailing each of the Catskill Watershed
Corporation’s programs were the primary focus at the regional
agency’s12th Annual Meeting of member towns April 28 in
Margaretville, where Donald (Mike) Brandow, supervisor of the
Town of Conesville, joined the CWC Board of Directors as a replacement
for long-time Schoharie County representative Charlie Buck of
Jefferson and Berndt Leifeld, Town of Olive Supervisor, was
re-elected as one of two Ulster County representatives on the
Board officers were also elected: Georgianna Lepke, President;
Michael Flaherty and Berndt Leifeld, First and Second Vice Presidents;
Mike Brandow, Secretary, and James Eisel, Treasurer. Most were
Highlights of 2008 that were touted included the repair, replacement
and maintenance of 356 residential septic systems in the five-county
West-of-Hudson New York City Watershed; the distribution of
low-interest loans totaling $2,015,623 to 23 businesses; the
expenditure of more than $9 million to plan and develop seven
community wastewater projects for Watershed hamlets; completion
of 20 stormwater control projects; the award of 12 stream corridor
management grants to protect properties in flood prone areas;
dissemination of $135,000 in grants to 27 schools and organizations
in the watershed and in New York City to enhance watershed education;
and approval of four Local Technical Assistance grants which
will help seven communities prepare comprehensive plans and
Special projects mentioned for the past year including the renovation
of an historic inn in Delaware County under the CWC’s
Business District and Historic Structures Fund; the setting
up of an exploratory project to determine the value of grass
pellets as a fuel source under the Catskills Studies Fund; and
the creation of a new website to promote the tourism and business
potential of the Catskills region, which will be launched this
Presentations were made at the meeting by Bill Rudge, Natural
Resources Supervisor for Region 3 of the NYS Department of Environmental
Conservation, who discussed the recent discovery of invasive
species in local streams; by Paul Rush, Deputy Commissioner
of the NYC Department of Environmental Protection, whop talked
about the upcoming opening of the Cannonsville Reservoir for
non-motorized recreational boating; and by Gary Gailes, Chairman
of the Water Discovery Center Board of Directors, who noted
that Robert Kennedy, Jr., chief prosecuting attorney for Riverkeeper,
has agreed to chair the non-profit’s Leadership Team as
former DEP Commissioner Marilyn Gelber has agreed to serve on
its National Advisory Board. Gailes also noted that talks are
moving forward with the American Museum of Natural History to
establish an educational collaboration with the Center.
For more information on all items, visit www.cwconline.com
In Big Indian!
The Town Board is establishing the Big Indian-Oliverea Beautification
Committee. Martie Gailes, Gary Gailes, Eric Griesser, Jamie
Griesser, Brian Perez, Mike Wentland, Craig Appolito, Ralph
Combe Jr., Bob Kalb, Jane Rossitz and John Rozzitz have been
appointed to the Committee, which has already begun planning
for the upcoming Shandaken Day Celebration slated to take place
in Big Indian Park in August.
“This was a spin off from Shandaken Day,” Martie
Gailes told the town board Monday. “The hamlet’s
taking a lot of pride.”
In the works are projects to refurbish the Hamlets welcome sign,
and the committee will help on the statue being made for Shandaken
day: a 14 foot tall Indian carved out of a single log. It hoped
the Indian will be completed in July.
Bills that would require renewals of handgun permits and a system
to tag and track spent shell casings have touched off the first
gun-control battle in years in Albany, drawing numerous letters
against any form of second amendment infringement from local
residents who then asked that their missives be withheld once
the state legislature started passed the new laws last week.
The Democrat-controlled Assembly approved the permit and tag
and track measures on April 29. They now face a strong chance
at becoming law in the newly Democrat-controlled state Senate.
The differences between those in favor of and those against
the new laws not only have split on largely Upstate/Downstate
lines, but also on age considerations. Talk about mirroring
some of the battles moving through our own region in recent
Before the Assembly vote, students rallying in support of the
measures were mostly minorities from the New York City area.
A clear majority of the opponents lobbying lawmakers were middle-aged
white men from upstate wearing National Rifle Association caps,
according to the Associated Press.
One of the proposed laws would require New York handgun licenses
— which currently are issued for a lifetime — to
be renewed every five years. The second would require semiautomatic
handguns sold or made in New York state to be configured to
“microstamp” identifying information on shell casings.
Those favoring the laws spoke about peers they knew who had
died of urban gunfire. Upstaters against the new laws protested
that there are already enough gun restrictions, such as requirements
not to show your licensed handgun in public, to show a permit
when one buys ammunition, and computerized federal background
checks when a person buys any firearm.
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, whose chamber passed mandatory
re-licensing 87-58 and microstamping 94-47, told the rally held
the day after their vote that it was part of a package of “intelligent
gun legislation.” He called it “insane” to
just sit back and accept gun violence like the Columbine school
massacre 10 years ago and the killing of 13 people in Binghamton
earlier this month.
New York City, Nassau, Suffolk and Westchester counties already
require handgun permit renewals every three to five years. Microstamping
legislation died last year in the Senate, then controlled by
a Republican majority.
The State Senate is now expected to pass both measures and have
them to Governor Paterson for his signature’s by the legislative
session’s end this summer. The laws would affect new guns
sold or made in New York starting in 2011.
Talk about the story that never quits… It now turns out
that federal sources have been found to pay for the continued
operation of flood gauges in the region that had been slated
to lose funding by the end of the year, according to an official
with the National Weather Service.
Following negotiations earlier this year, the New York City
Department of Environmental Protection agreed to a one-year
extension on the use of 17 gauges it had planned to discontinue.
The gauges had been used to monitor streams for the agency’s
Several geared for closure beyond those 17 have since found
funding either from the State of Pennsylvania, if they’re
in the Delaware or Susquehanna watersheds, or other sources.
U.S. Rep. Maurice Hinchey also recently noted that a meeting
was conducted earlier this week with the U.S. Geological Survey
to discuss long-term funding through congressional appropriations.
“These stream (gauges) require a minimal upfront investment
and pay off in huge ways by providing flood forecasting and
warning that help prevent the loss of life and property,”
Is this what they call zero-based budgeting in effect?
The Central Catskills Collaborative held an open meeting that
featured the regional planning work of students in the SUNY
College of Environmental Science and Forestry at SUNY-Delhi
who have undergone extensive inventory and mapping exercises
along the Route 28 Corridor at the Olive Free Library last Thursday,
“This work is based on the idea that the long-term health
and well-being of the Central Catskills communities depend on
mutual support and collaboration, and that these aspirations
are aided by the perspective of regional planning and the visualization
of community design alternatives,” noted Margaret Bryant,
Professor of Landscape Architecture, about her students’
Members of the Central Catskills Collaborative have been working
with the students to bring life to community-supported design
“The Town of Olive has identified a site along Route 28
in Shokan for a park that will aid regional tourism promotion,”
noted CCC member and Olive Town Board Trustee Helen Chase of
the new studies. “The students have advanced this project
significantly by sharing their invaluable expertise with the
The work being conducted will form part of the foundation for
corridor vision exercises to be led by SUNY ESF and the Catskill
Center later this year. All of these efforts are designed to
assist the Collaborative in its Route 28 Scenic Byway nomination
effort, which was recently awarded $50,000 from the Catskill
For more information on the Central Catskill Collaborative,
please visit www.centralcatskills.org/ccc.
The slump in sales of existing single-family homes may have
hit bottom, and March figures appear to bear that out in the
Hudson Valley and Catskills counties where some sales numbers
Statewide, according to the New York State Association of Realtors,
home sales jumped by 14 percent in March compared to February.
Sales rose in Columbia, Orange, Rockland, Ulster and Westchester.
In Columbia they rose by 12 percent; in Orange, they rose by
27 percent; in Rockland, they went up by five percent; in Ulster,
they rose by almost 67 percent; and in Westchester, they increased
by 19 percent.
The numbers stayed the same in Dutchess, but fell by 12 percent
in Greene County, by 16 percent in Putnam County; and by 23
percent in Sullivan County.
Selling prices fell by 24 percent in Columbia County, by nine
percent in Dutchess; by six percent in Orange; and by 14 percent
Prices jumped by 51 percent in Sullivan County, by 15 percent
in Rockland County, by 10 percent in Westchester and Greene
counties, and by six percent in Ulster.
No Child No More?
Education Secretary Arne Duncan is currently traveling to 15
states to hear comments about No Child Left Behind, the controversial
education law championed by former President George W. Bush
and passed 8 years ago with a stalled re-upping process two
years back. President Barack Obama has pledged to overhaul the
law, but he has been vague about how far he would go, or whether
he would scrap it altogether.
‘’I don’t know if `scrap’ is the word,’’
Duncan told reporters last week. ‘’Where things
make sense, we’re going to keep them. Where things didn’t
make sense, we’re going to change them.’’
Duncan gives the law credit for shining a spotlight on kids
who need the most help. No Child Left Behind pushes schools
to boost the performance of low-achieving students, a group
that typically includes minority kids, English-language learners
and kids with disabilities. Yet he also has many criticisms
of the legislation, joining a multitude of opponents who insist
the law’s annual reading and math tests have squeezed
subjects like music and art out of the classroom and that schools
were promised billions of dollars they never received.
Critics also say the law is too punitive: More than a third
of schools failed to meet yearly progress goals last year, according
to the Education Week newspaper. That means millions of children
are a long way from reaching the law’s ambitious goals.
The law pushes schools to improve test scores each year, so
that every student can read and do math on grade level by the
Duncan said the federal government should be ‘’tight’’
on the goals, insisting on more rigorous academic standards
that are uniform across the states. And he said it should be
‘’much looser’’ in terms of how states
meet the goals.
Ulster County Executive Mike Hein, in partnership with SUNY
Ulster, the Ulster County Adolescent Substance Abuse Task Force
(ASATF), and the Ulster County SAFE Coalition (School, Agency,
Family and Educators Coalition), is sponsoring “Wake Up
Call: A Call to Action on Adolescent Substance Abuse”
Conference on Tuesday, May 12, starting at 8:00 AM in the Student
Lounge at SUNY Ulster in Stone Ridge. It is the first of its
kind in Ulster County to bring together schools, colleges, service
providers and parents to raise awareness and create a direction
to address this issue for our youth.
For more information, contact Cheryl Qamar (845) 340-4174 or
Jack Bennett (845) 458-7406.
West Shokan’s Stephen Elmendorf was one of two SUNY Ulster
students who have been honored for their academic achievement
and community service with the 2009 Chancellor’s Award
for Student Excellence. Elmendorf and John Rell III of Saugerties
were among 238 college students from SUNY campuses throughout
the state to be recognized by SUNY Vice Chancellor and Officer-in-Charge
John J. O’Connor with the award.
The students received a framed certificate and medallion that
is traditionally worn at graduation. Both local students also
were inducted by O’Connor into the international academic
honor society for two-year college students, Phi Theta Kappa.
After graduation in May, Elmendorf and Rell plan to continue
studies at four-college colleges. The two also have been recipients
of Ulster County Community College Faculty Association Scholarships.
Elmendorf is a computer science major interested in pursuing
artificial intelligence and software engineering. He works as
a senior Web site designer and is a volunteer providing Web
design and development services to the Westminster Presbyterian
Church and technology services to Redeemer Broadcasting. He
also is Web designer for the engineering club at SUNY Ulster
and a computer science tutor.
The Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence was created
12 years ago to recognize students who have best demonstrated,
and been recognized for, the integration of academic excellence
with accomplishments in the areas of leadership, athletics,
community service, creative and performing arts or career achievement.
The average Grade Point Average (GPA) for all SUNY recipients
this year is 3.77.
Ride The Park
The first-ever Catskill Scenic Ride n Peak, set for Saturday,
May 16, is the result of several community based organizations
coming together for a good cause. Supported by a grant from
the A. Lindsay and Olive B. O’Connor Foundation, the event
is a partnership between MARK, the KAATS Foundation, the Central
Catskills Chamber of Commerce, the Catskill Center for Conservation
and Development, Plattekill Mountain and Delaware County Tourism.
The event, which will benefit the Catskill Area Hospice and
Palliative Care Center is scheduled to offer five rides –
ranging from 14 to 104 miles — begining and ending at
the Village Park in Margaretville. An entry fee includes a one-day
USAC license, commemorative t-shirt and water and snacks along
the routes. Music, food, and activities for children at the
park pavilion will complement the rides.
Pre-registration as well as route maps and event logistics are
available on the Chamber’s website at www.centralcatskills.org/bike.
Questions about the hot topic of the moment, health care reform
and which plan would most greatly benefit ordinary Americans,
both the insured and uninsured alike, will be the main topic
of a Thursday, May 14, forum discussion starting at 7:00 PM
at the Elting Library in New Paltz,where local citizens will
be given the opportunity to explore and discuss universal health
care proposals currently being debated in Congress.
Among these options is “Enhanced Medicare for All”,
otherwise referred to as “Single Payer”, which advocates
a fundamental change in the way care is financed. According
to Art Richter of Citizens for Universal Health Care, “It’s
the only plan on the table thus far which both insures universal
coverage and reduces the costs of health care.”
Medical student Ryan McIntyre will speak on behalf of Physicians
for a National Health Program (PNHP), a national organization
of over 16,000 physicians which supports a single payer national
health insurance program. Medicare-for-All will be explained
and critiqued against other health reforms bills which advocate
more incremental changes.
The session will conclude with ways that citizens can make their
voice heard on health care policy.
For information call: Teresa Dixon at (845) 255-4815 or John
Chiardia at (845) 255-7539.
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission should be given
authority to regulate what hedge funds can buy and how much
money they can borrow to maximize bets because registration
falls short of what’s needed to police the $1.33 trillion
industry, SEC Chairman Mary Schapiro said this week.
“It’s probably not enough just to register hedge
funds” with the SEC, Schapiro said. “It may well
be necessary to put in place particular kinds of rules.”
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner’s plan to overhaul
financial oversight in response to the worst economic crisis
since the Great Depression would force hedge funds to register
with the SEC, subjecting firms to new disclosure requirements
and inspections by agency staff. Schapiro said the SEC’s
authority should be broader, so it can impose further restrictions
on funds as “situations evolve.”
Schapiro said “it’s certainly possible” that
the SEC would consider forcing hedg e funds to publicly disclose
short- sale positions, imposing restrictions on leverage and
restricting what the firms can invest in.
“We’re not at the point where we’ve made decisions
about those things,” she said, adding that the SEC would
first consult with other government agencies.
The U.S. Senate recently voted to give the SEC $20 million in
additional funding next year to hire 60 investigators after
Schapiro said the agency lacked resources and it drew criticism
for missing Bernard Madoff’s Ponzi scheme.
The Army general who led the investigation into prisoner abuse
at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison has accused the Bush administration
of committing “war crimes” and called for those
responsible to be held to account. The remarks by Maj. Gen.
Antonio Taguba, who’s now retired, came in a new report
that found that U.S. personnel tortured and abused detainees
in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, using beatings,
electrical shocks, sexual humiliation and other cruel practices.
“After years of disclosures by government investigations,
media accounts and reports from human rights organizations,
there is no longer any doubt as to whether the current administration
has committed war crimes,” Taguba wrote. “The only
question that remains to be answered is whether those who ordered
the use of torture will be held to account.”
Taguba, whose 2004 investigation documented chilling abuses
at Abu Ghraib, is thought to be the most senior official to
have accused the administration of war crimes. “The commander
in chief and those under him authorized a systematic regime
of torture,” he wrote.
The group Physicians for Human Rights, which compiled the new
report, described it as the most in-depth medical and psychological
examination of former detainees to date.
It seems it was only a week or so ago that snow was still falling
in the Catskills, but that hasn’t stopped one local nuisance
from appearing, even though that nuisance is usually associated
with post Memorial Day offenses. State conservation officials
are urging people to take precautions.
Of course, such words don’t matter to Urus Americanus,
the culprit in question. Most know them as the American Black
Bear, those big stinky galoots that roam the area in search
of good eatin’ in local trash cans and sometimes local
Approximately 1,800 bears live in the southern bear range of
New York, which includes the Catskills and parts of central
and western parts of the state. Bear populations, particularly
in the southern bear range, have been increasing in number and
expanding in distribution over the past decade.
Black bears will become a nuisance and can cause significant
damage if they believe they can obtain an easy meal from bird
feeders, garbage cans, dumpsters, barbecue grills, tents, vehicles,
out-buildings or houses. When bears learn to obtain food from
human sources, their natural foraging habits and behavior are
For the past few weeks the evidence that these bruins have come
out of hiding is apparent. Garbage is strewn about on many roads
and yards and there have been a few sightings locally as well.
Bears that become accustomed to obtaining food from humans will
often become bold and assertive in their quest for food, potentially
leading to property damage or dangerous situations for humans.
Unfortunately, this often results in DEC having to euthanize
the bear, echoing the adage, “a fed bear is a dead bear.”
These problems can be minimized by taking these simple precautions:
Never feed bears. If you believe that bears are being fed, intentionally
or unintentionally, immediately report it to DEC. Stop feeding
birds as soon as the snow melts. Birds do not need supplemental
food in the summer, when natural foods are most abundant. Clean
up all seed fragments and shells left over from winter feeding
as the smell will attract bears. Dispose of garbage as frequently
as possible. Store it in clean, secure containers (top-latched,
tied or chained). Sprinkle ammonia inside the garbage bag before
closing. Tie off garbage bag before placing in container. Keep
garbage in cans inside buildings whenever possible. If garbage
is picked up at the curb, put the garbage out just before the
scheduled pickup or place it in a roadside bear-resistant container.
Do not put garbage out the night before curbside pick-up. Clean
garbage cans frequently with ammonia. Do not add meat scraps,
bones or melon rinds to your compost pile. Do not burn garbage,
especially meat scraps and grease. Clean barbecue grills before
night fall and, after they cool down, store them inside; Feed
pets indoors and store pet food indoors. If pets must be fed
outdoors, take in all uneaten food and dishes before dark. Turn
off kitchen exhaust fans that vent to the outside whenever possible.
Got all that?