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Welcome to the new NYSACC News

SPRING 2014

Just in time for Earth Day, NYSACC News has gone digital!  We've permanently dispensed with our print edition in favor of an e-newsletter that will enable us to more effectively reach members of conservation commissions, conservation boards, and other environmental organizations across New York State.  If you're not already a subscriber, click here to sign up!

Plight of the monarch butterflies

BY ALEX McKAY, SUFFOLK COUNTY PARKS TRUSTEE


Can monarch butterfly migrations be following the path of the passenger pigeon?  Each year millions of monarchs have made the journey northward from their wintering ground in the Sierra Madre Mountains of Mexico up through Texas and Oklahoma to the farmlands of the Corn Belt and east and north to New York, New England, and Canada.  Breeding on milkweed along the way through several generations, a final “super” generation makes the return trip to Mexico in one continuous flight, stopping to feed on nectar rich plants along the thousands of miles to mountain forests they have never seen - one of the great miracles and mysteries of nature.

When the wintering areas were discovered in 1975, an estimated billion monarchs occupied over twenty hectares of the Oyamel Forests.  Wintering populations have been declining steadily with the winter of 2013-2014 having only .67 hectares (the lowest recorded to date) occupied by wintering monarchs, down from the previous low in 2012-2013 of 1.19 hectares.  This spring only about thirty million monarchs will begin the northward migration.  The returning winter population is affected by many factors including favorable weather during migration, availability of habitat and milkweed plants upon which the monarchs depend for laying eggs and pupating young, nectaring plants, and pollinators.
 
Maintaining habitat for milkweed is essential to monarch survival.  Farming with herbicide resistant strains of corn and soybeans for ethanol production has resulted in the loss of over 20 million acres that once provided abundant milkweed for monarch reproduction.  Development throughout the breeding range has resulted in the loss of additional millions of acres that once contained milkweed.  Roadside mowing programs in many areas destroy more milkweed.
 
Monarch Watch, under the direction of Dr. Orley R. “Chip” Taylor at the University of Kansas is the clearing house and one of the best source of information about monarch preservation and milkweed planting.  Dr. Taylor has promoted the concept of “Waystations,” locally maintained gardens or patches where milkweed and nectar producing plants are established.  Thousand of these mini-habitats throughout the migrating corridor and breeding range can contribute to saving the monarch “one butterfly at a time” as Dr. Taylor puts it.  A Waystation can be as small as a window box.
 
School groups, scouts, conservation and environmental organizations, concerned individuals and others can get involved in planting milkweed and establishing Waystations.  Monarch Watch can provide information and direction and seeds and starter plugs for non-profit groups wanting to get started.

An excellent project for conservation commissions and conservation boards throughout the state is publicizing and promoting milkweed planting, controlled roadside mowing, and farming practices to provide edges for milkweed and monarchs might just help build a sustainable wintering population.  Milkweed native to your area can be found through internet research.  It is recommended that you grow milkweed from seed in the desired location in your garden, as milkweed does not transplant well.
 
For detailed information about the plight of the monarchs and joining the planting effort, visit Monarch Watch and Make Way for Monarchs online.

Photos courtesy of Kim Smith Designs.

Will your CO detector protect your family?

BY NEAL LEWIS, MOLLOY COLLEGE SUSTAINABILITY INSTITUTE


In the wake of the fatal carbon monoxide (CO) leak at a Huntington, NY, restaurant in February, discussions about the use of CO detectors are fueling consideration of new legislation mandating the installation of Low Level CO Detectors in every home. 
 
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CO poisoning is the leading cause of unintentional poisoning and death in the United States.  CO is known as the “silent killer” because it has no smell and cannot be seen, but at high levels it can kill a person in minutes.   At moderate levels, you or your family can experience severe headaches, dizziness, mental confusion, nausea and fainting.  You can even die if these levels persist for a long time.  Low levels can cause shortness of breath, mild nausea and headaches and may have long-term effects on your health.  Since many of these symptoms are similar to those of the flu, food poisoning, or other illnesses, you may not recognize that CO poisoning could be the cause.
 
The health effects of CO exposure varies from person to person and depends on the CO concentration and length of exposure.  CO concentration is measured in parts per million (ppm).  Most adults will not experience any symptoms from prolonged exposure to CO levels of approximately 1 to 70 ppm, but young and unborn children, the elderly, and those with blood or cardiovascular disease are at the highest risk for health complications.  As CO levels rise above 70 ppm, symptoms become more noticeable and can include headache, fatigue, and nausea.  At sustained CO concentrations above 150 to 200 ppm, disorientation, unconsciousness, and death are possible. 

Unless the CO detector in your home or workplace includes a digital display screen similar to the one pictured above, chances are good that your detector will not alert you to CO levels below 70 ppm, despite the associated health risks.  For this reason, it is advised that you purchase and install a CO detector with a digital display capable of detecting CO levels as low as 30 ppm; such detectors are readily available at stores like The Home Depot and Lowe's and are generally priced above $40.  For those interested in a CO detector that measures levels below 30 ppm, there are surprisingly few options; for these low-level CO detectors, you will likely need to turn to the internet.  Online retailers like DetectorsPlus and Amazon.com sell low-level CO detectors ranging in price from $54 to $152.
 
The Sustainability Institute at Molloy College recommends not you not wait for laws to change and instead immediately take action by installing low-level CO detectors in your home and workplace.  New Yorkers are also urged to get a home energy efficiency audit, which will test the CO level in your home.

Relevant Websites:

Four communities honored for environmental excellence

BY JOY SQUIRES, NYSACC PRESIDENT


Exceptional environmental projects in the towns of Amherst, Bedford, Ithaca, and Montgomery were recipients of NYSACC's 2013 Environmental Excellence Project Awards, which recognize exceptional projects carried out by local governments and community organizations across New York State.  Through careful planning and execution, the four award-winning projects have had a significant and lasting positive impact on the natural and built environment and can be easily replicated in your community.

Amherst State Park
Town of Amherst Conservation Advisory Council
Amherst State Park was created in 2001 with the purchase of the property from the Franciscan Sisters who used the site as their convent.  In the years since the park was established, hardworking volunteers representing many groups—such as Veterans Groups, Boys Scouts, Sisters of St. Francis, NYSDEC, Town of Amherst, Arboretum Committee and organizations—have worked tirelessly to make Amherst State Park beautiful.   This hard work, spearheaded by Lois Shriver, is best documented by the countless stories in local newspapers.

Amherst State Park is a great success story because of the number and variety of groups throughout the community have contributed to a single mission to make a place as special as Amherst State Park an even better asset for the community to enjoy.  Explore the Amherst State Park website for stories, photos, and additional information.

Green Awards for Environmental Excellence Program
Town of Bedford Conservation Board
Now entering its third year, the Town of Bedford Conservation Board's Green Awards for Environmental Excellence Program is designed to recognize private individuals, not-for-profit groups, businesses, and schools for carrying out projects that have bettered the environment in Bedford.   The Conservation Board especially nominates and selects awardees that are not well known for their work, and the awards are presented at the Town Board meeting nearest Earth Day. 

Past awards have gone to:
  • A food retail store that sells locally raised food;
  • A golf course that constructed over 100 blue bird houses;
  • A resident who cuts down oriental bittersweet vines from street trees;
  • A physician who has brought his patients to his Bedford property where he incorporates the natural environment into his therapy practice;
  • A not-for-profit group that encourages property owners to refrain from removing fallen leaves from their property as a means of composting;
  • A garden center that specializes in the selling of native plants;
  • A landscape architect whose projects in Bedford have been characterized by good environmental planning;
  • A not-for-profit group that has assisted financially and in incorporating the planting of native trees in neighborhood treescapes; and,
  • A Girl Scout troop that has recycled bottle caps as a troop project. 
Bedford's “Green Awards” concept is an excellent program that can be implemented in other communities to celebrate those persons and organizations that strive to better the environment.  For information about this project, please contact Simon Skolnik, chair of the Town of Bedford Conservation Board.
 
Saving Ithaca’s Scenic Views
Town of Ithaca Conservation Board
In the early 1990s, the Town of Ithaca Conservation Board became concerned about losing some of its magnificent scenic views.  From all corners of the town there are great views as one descends the hills in to the city, but development has and continues to threaten these scenic views from well-traveled roads.  For this reason, the Conservation Board is committed to retaining those views indefinitely by establishing a Scenic Resources Committee charged with preserving and recognizing some of Ithaca's most stunning viewsheds.   The goals of the Committee are to:
  • Identify, evaluate and catalog significant views;
  • Build citizen interest in protecting views; and,
  • Develop enforceable legislation for protecting views
The volunteer-based Scenic Resources Committee has visited, photographed, and inventoried all the town scenic sites that are available to the public.  They have developed a grid map and criteria for evaluating the views.  These views have been ranked with particular attention to the need for protecting or the opportunity for enhancing them.  A scenic tour map is also available, with directions for a route around the Town's top ten scenic locations.  Now that this report has been favorably received in Town Hall, the committee is working to implement its recommendations.

The Committee recently installed the first in a three-part series of signs intended to highlight important scenic resources in Ithaca.  This first sign was installed at East Shore Public Park on Cayuga Lake in Ithaca last summer, and features a graphic and map representation of the lake.  East Shore Park receives considerable traffic from Ithaca residents and visitors alike and represents an excellent opportunity to pilot the sign program and its impact on visitor awareness of the area's natural and scenic resources.  This achievement is the culmination of several years of planning and coordination, including sign design and development and site dedication.
 
This work supports the community's belief that their scenic views, especially those seen from roads, parks, and other public places, are great assets.  They are as valuable to the local residents, who see them regularly, as they are to visitors and tourists, who often come here to enjoy the natural beauty of Ithaca and surrounding area.

For more information, please visit the Town of Ithaca Conservation Board's Facebook page and visit the town's website.
 
Rain Barrel Workshops
Town of Montgomery Conservation Advisory Council
With stormwater pollution as a serious threat to clean water, the Town of Montgomery Conservation Advisory Council (CAC) held a series of popular workshops to promote rainwater collection as a way to cut down on overflow and help homeowners reduce their summer water bills.  The CAC envisioned the program as a way for people in the community to come together and help each other and the environment at the same time.
 
CAC members visited Cornell Cooperative Extension in Dutchess County for guidance and advice and to obtain barrels to be used as part of the program.  For promotion of the workshops, two local artists each decorated a barrel provided by the Cornell Cooperative Extension, which were then displayed at a local library and at Town Hall and later raffled off to residents.
 
The CAC held a series of four separate rain barrel workshops, each open to 15 residents for a cost of only $15.00, thanks to a generous grant from Clean Air-Cool Planet.  Workshop participants received hands-on instruction in creating their own rain barrel, which they took home at the end of the workshop session.  The CAC provided all materials, tools, and workshop instruction to make this exceptional project a success. 

As a result of this highly successful and very popular project, 62 homeowners in Montgomery are now collecting rainwater in rain barrels and reducing the impact of stormwater on local streams and rivers.
 
For complete details on the Town of Montgomery CAC's rain barrel workshop program, please visit their website or contact Patricia Henighan, chair of the Town of Montgomery CAC.

Buffalo environmental justice leader receives Margery Sachs Award

BY JOY SQUIRES, NYSACC PRESIDENT


The 16th Annual Margery Sachs Service Award was presented to Kathy Mecca, President of the Columbus Park Neighborhood Association in Buffalo, NY, for her sustained advocacy in the area of environmental justice.  This Award is given in memory of Margery Sachs, a founding member of NYSACC's Board of Directors, and is conferred on an individual for "lifelong environmental concern and service.”

The Peace Bridge international border crossing is upwind of the Columbus Park neighborhood, located in the West Side of Buffalo.  Consequently, a constant stream of toxic diesel exhaust migrates down the adjacent residential streets and into the lungs of the children and adults who call Buffalo's West Side home.  High incidence of cancer, multiple sclerosis, and an asthma rate four times higher than the national average are just a few of the many health impacts facing residents there.
 
In the early 2000s, Kathy was diagnosed with breast cancer.  Shortly after her diagnosis, she discovered that her second-floor tenant and several neighbors on both sides of her home were also battling cancer, heart disease, stroke, and asthma—rates that were disproportionate to other areas of Buffalo.  Kathy survived her bout with cancer, all the while investigating the potential cause of rampant illness in her neighborhood.  Eventually, Kathy began working with a pulmonologist from the University at Buffalo who discovered that high rates of air pollution, specifically diesel exhaust, was to blame.
 
Kathy has been a powerful voice in the community, rallying her neighbors around the belief that everyone has the right to clean air.  While she has no formal environmental or science training, Kathy has made tremendous strides to educate herself and her neighbors on environmental and human health issues that matter to those in the west side of Buffalo.  She has brought in leading science and medical experts to examine conditions in the community and recommend realizable goals and objectives, which she strives to achieve each day.

As a community leader, Kathy exemplifies the true meaning and intent of the Margery Sachs Service Award, and we deeply appreciate her selfless commitment to her community.

To learn more about Kathy's story and for additional details on the environmental justice issue facing Buffalo's West Side community, check out the documentary, Living in the Shadow of the Bridge, and visit MoveThePlaza.com.

NYSERDA home energy audits

BY BETH FITENI, NYSERDA REGIONAL OUTREACH COORDINATOR


NYSERDA's Home Performance with Energy Star Program offers homeowners a comprehensive, whole-house approach to improving energy efficiency and home comfort while saving money.  Energy assessments and upgrades are conducted by a participating Home Performance contractor accredited by the Building Performance Institute (BPI).  Income-qualified homeowners are eligible for additional incentives to make energy improvements.
 
Participate in Home Performance with Energy Star and take advantage of funding for comprehensive home energy assessments and low-cost financing for energy upgrades through Green Jobs - Green NYGreen Jobs - Green NY is a statewide effort to strengthen our communities through energy efficiency.  It enables New Yorkers to make a significant difference in our homes, businesses, and neighborhoods-making them more comfortable, more sustainable, and more economically sound.  Green Jobs - Green NY is administered by NYSERDA and made available by the Green Jobs - Green New York Act of 2009.
 
The loan repayment period cannot exceed the useful life of the financed measures.  The minimum financing amount is $3,000 for Home Performance with Energy Star and $1,500 for customers who qualify for Assisted Home Performance with Energy Star.  Other conditions apply.
 
Six simple steps to make your energy efficiency upgrades happen:
  1. Get a home energy audit.  Have a comprehensive home energy audit performed by a BPI-accredited Home Performance with Energy Star (HPwES) contractor.  In addition to measuring your home's energy performance, your Home Performance contractor will perform important health and safety tests to ensure major combustion appliances (furnace, boiler, water heater, stove) are operating properly. For most New Yorkers, the home assessment is free.  (Find a participating Home Performance contractor in your area by calling 1-866-NYSERDA or visiting NYSERDA's website.)
  2. Make a plan. Your contractor will review the results of the comprehensive home energy assessment with you, then work with you to select cost-effective energy upgrades that match your budget and goals.
  3. Pay for the work.  For those that want to take advantage of low interest financing, HPwES offers two options through Green Jobs - Green NY.  Both loan options offer up to $13,000 per household, up to $25,000 if the project meets higher cost-effectiveness standards, and repayment periods of 5, 10, or 15 years.
    1. Option 1:  An On-Bill Recovery Loan provides homeowners the convenience of paying for energy improvements on their utility bill.  If the home is sold, the unpaid balance of the loan can be transferred to the new owners.
    2. Option 2:  An Unsecured Loan offers affordable interest rates, flexible terms and simple repayment options. (For more information, call 1-800-361-5663 or visit NYSERDA's finance website.)
  4. Get approved.  Receive loan status notification and return the signed loan documents.
  5. Upgrade.  Have a participating Home Performance with Energy Star contractor implement the upgrades described in your Scope of Work.  NYSERDA may inspect the work to verify its quality.
  6. Test-out and earn incentives.  When your energy upgrades are finished, your contractor will repeat the tests conducted during the initial assessment.  Upon test-out and acceptance of work you and your contractor will sign a Certificate of Completion, which is submitted to NYSERDA.  Your lender will then make payment to your contractor.  You can also enjoy other incentives like 10% cash back on eligible upgrades.

Update on the Kingston Advisory Council

BY JULIE NOBLE, CHAIR OF KINGSTON CONSERVATION ADVISORY COUNCIL


The City of Kingston Conservation Advisory Council (CAC) is one of the newest such councils in New York State, and in just a few short years, their members have made extraordinary progress.  The Kingston CAC's ongoing work and accomplishments are all highlighted on their website, and pertinent information has also been captured in the Kingston CAC's 2013 Annual Report.
 
Since 2009, the Kingston CAC has been hard at work building a better environment and improving the quality of life for local residents.  Among other things, the organization has taken up the following: 
  • Working directly with the city government and broader community on making sound environmental decisions;
  • Advising the Planning Board and Common Council on environmental matters;
  • Communication, outreach, and engagement with residents;
  • Networking and collaboration with local and regional environmental groups; and,
  • Implementation of issue-based projects and programs.
We encourage you to check out the Kingston CAC's website and 2013 Annual Report for additional details and for inspiration on what your organization can accomplish.

Gasland: Part II

A FILM BY JOSH FOX


Looking for a great Earth Day activity?  Check out the documentary, Gasland: Part II.  In this explosive follow-up to his Oscar-nominated film, Gasland, filmmaker Josh Fox uses his trademark dark humor to take a deeper, broader look at the dangers of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, the controversial method of extracting natural gas and oil, now used in 32 countries worldwide.

Gasland: Part II shows how the stakes have been raised on all sides in one of the most important environmental issues facing our nation today.  The film argues that the gas industry’s portrayal of natural gas as a clean and safe alternative to oil is a myth and that fracked wells inevitably leak over time, contaminating water and air, hurting families, and endangering the earth’s climate with the potent greenhouse gas, methane.  In addition the film looks at how the powerful oil and gas industries are in Fox's words "contaminating our democracy."

For a list of screening locations and times, visit Gasland's upcoming screenings webpage, or to host a free community screening of your own, contact Lee Ziesche.

Grant opportunities

FEDERAL- AND STATE-FUNDED GRANT PROGRAMS


If your organization is in search of grant funding for a local project, here are two opportunities from the New York State Department of Transportation and Department of Environmental Conservation that may be of interest.

Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP)
The New York State Department of Transportation (DOT) is now accepting applications to financially assist alternative transportation projects.

  Under TAP, projects that create other forms of transportation or enhance transportation infrastructure can vie for $50 million in federal funds.

  Projects will be selected through a competitive solicitation process and rated on established criteria that includes environmental enhancement; connectivity to an existing transportation system; encouragement of smart growth; impact on local or regional economies; availability of matching funds and level of community support.

  Creating on- and off-road trail facilities for non-motorized transportation would be eligible according to the state, as would community improvement activities and environmental mitigation activities.

  Winners will receive up to 80% of total expenses in Federal Highway Administration funds.  Applicants are responsible for securing the remaining 20% of the project budget.

  The deadline for all applications is June 11, 2014.  Please visit the DOT's website for full details.
 
Technical Assistance Grants (TAGs)
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is continuously accepting applications for TAGs.  TAGs are a citizen participation tool available to eligible not-for-profit community groups to increase public awareness and understanding of an eligible "significant threat" site being remediated in the State Superfund Program or Brownfield Cleanup Program.  Eligible community groups may apply to receive grants for up to $50,000 per eligible site.  Complete details are posted on the DEC's website.

President's message

BY JOY SQUIRES, NYSACC PRESIDENT

 
In celebration of Earth Day, NYSACC has discontinued its print newsletter and made the switch to an all-digital version.  This new format will allow NYSACC to share information more quickly and efficiently with the thousands of municipal conservation commission and conservation board members across New York State, as well as representatives of other New York environmental organizations.  If you're not already a NYSACC News subscriber, please click here to add your email address to our distribution list (you may unsubscribe at any time).

When Earth Day comes around we may look at the huge collection of environmental problems and feel that solving all the problems is too challenging or unattainable.  Here is a positive solution; break everything into small parts. We don’t have to do everything; we just have to do something.  Wherever we are on the environmental spectrum, we can do one more thing, make one more lifestyle change.  Look at what you and your organization are doing and try to identify one more change you can make.
 
Take action!  Get a carbon monoxide detector that provides low level digital readouts.  Plant a Monarch Waystation in your garden or at your Town Hall.  And, get a free home energy audit.

Happy Earth Day, happy Arbor Day, and happy spring!
 
Joy Squires
NYSACC President

Upcoming events

CONFERENCES AND ACTIVITIES


New York State Wetlands Forum 2014 Annual Conference
New York: Open for Business... Keeping it Greener
April 29-30, 2014
Rochester, NY
Click here for full conference details.
Click here to register online.
 
2014 New York State Conference on the Environment
Walking the Walk: Regional Best Practices for Climate Mitigation and Adaptation
October 2-4, 2014
Binghamton, NY
Conference details and online registration information will be available soon.
Copyright © 2014 New York State Association of Conservation Commissions, All rights reserved.

The New York State Association of Conservation Commissions (NYSACC) serves to promote the intelligent use of New York State’s natural resources through education and action and to provide a forum in which members may share experiences.

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