According to the calendar, autumn has officially arrived and it appears to be in full swing. Frost is on the ground, hillsides are sprouting color and long V's of geese can be seen overhead. For many, the change can't happen fast enough.
On the ponds, brook trout are again on the take, as are bass on the lakes. A sweet mustiness of decay now scents the forest's far reaches, while oyster mushrooms again adorn the fallen beeches.
The return of autumn's cooler weather is always a welcome event. It signals the gradual transition from tourist season to hunting season, as great camps close and deer camps open.
It comes at a time when the faces on Main Street are mostly familiar again and piles of firewood begin to appear in front yards.
Although 2010 is on track to be the warmest year ever in recorded history, Adirondack residents know what to expect. Storm windows will be installed, the chimney cleaned and doors will be protected from drafts.
Before too long, snow will again cap the mountain peaks. Now is the time to enjoy a season that offers the very best of the natural world.
Autumn delivers a multitude of outdoor activities, cooler days, quieter woods and calmer waters. Most of all, it provides local residents with a realization that we have chosen the very best place in which to live.
Invasives invade the Park
I received the press release on Friday afternoon. It was an announcement that Department of Environmental Conservation had found spiny water fleas in Great Sacandaga Lake near Speculator.
According to the release, our newest invader is "a native to Eurasia. It feeds on tiny crustaceans and plankton that are food for native fish and other species. Their tail spines get caught on fishing lines."
"Unfortunately, another invasive species has spread in the waters of New York state," said Steve Sanford, director of DEC's Office of Invasive Species Coordination. "DEC and its many partners are doing our best to alert water-based recreationists to the presence of non-native invasive species in our waters and will continue to promote practices that minimize the spread of these non-natives."
Presently, the DEC is nearly impotent in terms of stopping the spread of invasive species. They simply do not have the tools, or the teeth, to combat this growing threat.
Instead of protecting our lakes and rivers by law, as in "it is illegal to..," the DEC's current approach is to "suggest that to help prevent the spread DEC recommends the following steps..."
New York currently does have a law to prevent a person from knowingly transporting Eurasian milfoil or water chestnuts.
The law is under Sec. 11-0507. Liberation of fish, shellfish and wildlife. It states, "No person shall intentionally liberate zebra mussels into any waters of the state. No person shall buy, sell, or offer to buy or sell, or intentionally possess or transport zebra mussels except under a license or permit issued pursuant to section 11-0515. Zebra mussels, except those lawfully held pursuant to a license or permit, may be destroyed by any person at any time.
Sec. 11-0509. Water chestnut. No person shall plant, transport, transplant or traffic in plants of the water chestnut or the seeds or nuts thereof nor in any manner cause the spread or growth of such plants."
However, there is no such law to prohibit Asian clams, spiny water fleas, or any of the other known threats. This oversight must be addressed.
A recent incident illustrates the point. Jeff Sann, a Water Steward with the Lake Placid Shoreowners Association, was working at the state boat launch on Lake Placid. While inspecting a boat on the trailer, Sann noticed clumps of zebra mussels, on the hull, the motor and the transom. The owners explained the boat had come from Saratoga Lake.
With the owner's permission, Sann removed all the mussels he could, by hand and then suggested they power wash the boat at a local car wash. According to news reports, "they politely refused." Unfortunately, lake stewards have no legal authority.
Asian clams, Eurasian milfoil, Zebra Mussels, Didymo, spiny water fleas and water chestnuts have already invaded numerous Adirondack lakes. Lake Champlain currently has at least 48 known varieties of invasive species.
In terms of economic benefits, our freshwater resources are the goose that lays the Golden Egg. It has been estimated that three quarters of all visitors to the Adirondacks are seeking freshwater recreation.
Invasive species are a threat to our woods and waters, they threaten our way of life, our economic future and our cherished traditions. The combination of climate change and increased globalization will certainly accelerate the process.
Voluntary compliance will not prevent the spread; it is a threat that must be confronted by law.
Joe Hackett is a guide and sportsman residing in Ray Brook. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org