I know the old saying, "No news is good news," and I regret that this week's news is mostly bad.
Word has been received from both Hamilton County and Franklin counties that EnCon Police Officers have recently issued tickets to several individuals for harassing and harming common loons and their nests. These icons of the Adirondacks are protected under both state and federal laws. The Federal Migratory Bird Act protects loons, their eggs, nests, and feathers.
On June 12, an EnCon Officer responded to reports that two young boys had approached a loon nest and frightened off the adult loon on 6th Lake of the Fulton Chain, near Inlet. One of the boys actually struck the nest with a canoe paddle and broke an egg.
After locating the teenagers and their guardian at a private camp, DEC officers ticketed the guardian for destroying the nest of a protected bird. The case, which will be prosecuted by the Hamilton County District Attorney, could result in a maximum penalty of $250 and 15 days in jail.
The same day, DEC received another complaint of boaters harassing nesting loons on Raquette Lake in Hamilton County. The incident remains under investigation.
On July 21, a youth was witnessed operating a personal watercraft in the vicinity of two adult and three juvenile loons on Raquette Pond in Tupper Lake, Franklin County.
The youth, who was driving a personal watercraft, appeared to be intentionally targeting the loons by making repeated passes over them. Loons, especially young, have a limited capacity to repeatedly dive below the surface to avoid such harassment. It is unknown if any loons were injured or killed in the incident.
Following an investigation by environmental police, a 16-year-old male from Tupper Lake was charged with a violation for illegally taking protected wildlife and three violations of navigation law, including operating an unregistered vessel and operating a personal watercraft without a boater safety certificate.
Loons must nest on the water's edge, as they cannot walk on land, which makes them vulnerable to disturbances from boat wakes and other human activities. Please observe "no wake" zones and speed limits, and keep away from shorelines to avoid flushing loons off the nest.
There's something fishy in Essex County
In other disturbing news, it appears that the future of the Essex County Fish Hatchery may be in jeopardy. Essex County supervisors have been reviewing a growing list of necessary repairs at the county-owned hatchery in Crown Point, amid an increasingly dismal financial picture.
The hatchery currently stocks thousands of trout in local streams and lakes, including 2-year-old "trophy" fish. Visiting anglers rave about the quality of these fish, which are comparable to wild "native" trout. However, the county facility is in need of a major overhaul.
Elizabethtown Supervisor Noel Merrihew recently explained, "We're looking at the waterlines and other infrastructure. The hatchery really needs a lot of work and Steve LaMere, (county fisheries director) has done a great job keeping the place up and running, with a limited staff. Right now, Dan Palmer (county manager) is looking into the costs and expenses, to help the board determine the best direction to take. We understand how important the hatchery is to the county."
Major renovations are needed for the old facility, built by the state in 1928. However, county officials should realize that for every trout the hatchery puts out, the return from tourism more than triples the expense.
Trout, especially of the high caliber that the county hatchery produces, are a major tourist attraction. Losing this invaluable resource would be comparable to the closure of Frontiertown, or Santa's Workshop in the current day.
Wilmington, which is a three-pole town, is economically driven each season by either the North Pole, ski poles or fishing poles. The removal of just a single pole, would likely threaten the financial integrity of the entire community.
Joe Hackett is a guide and sportsman residing in Ray Brook. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.