DEC Aids Farms Through Waste Guidelines

Judy Drabicki

Farms play a critical role in the north country’s economy and many of our farmers are following in the footsteps of generations before them.

                Although science and technology are the underpinning of farming today, the agriculture industry also relies on trial and error, gut-instinct, and weather. According to local agriculture expert Jay Matteson, our cool climate is well suited for dairy, cold hardy grapes, soybeans, corn, wheat, alfalfa, grasses, and many other crops and livestock. While the north country has a wide variety of soils ranging from well-drained loams to poorly drained clays, our farmers excel at managing soil resources.

                The farming industry is guided by sustainability and efficiency. Understanding that well-balanced soil creates stronger crops and healthier livestock, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) works closely with local farmers to issue land application permits to spread non-recognizable food processing (NRFP) waste on their fields. This organic waste contains valuable nutrients – especially nitrogen and phosphorous – and land spreading delivers these nutrients directly to the soil. This is a beneficial alternative to purchasing expensive commercial fertilizers and not unlike the time-tested practice of spreading manure on a field. NRFP works well on any soil and is easily applied in the same manner as manure. In addition to the nutrient value, NRFP waste also furnishes organic matter that, when added to fine-textured soils like clays makes the soils looser and increases the amount of pore space available for root growth. Additionally, in coarser, sandy soils, this organic matter can improve the ability of the soils to retain water.

                There are a few farms in our area already spreading NRFP waste on their fields. These farms have collaborated with local dairy product manufacturers to acquire and transport NRFP waste. DEC provides strict oversight of the application of this waste under regulations designed to establish criteria based upon the potential environmental and human health risks involved and protect against nuisances and other possible ill effects of the land application process.

                At its Lafargeville plant, H.P. Hood produces cottage cheese, yogurt, and sour cream. Food production at H.P. Hood also creates waste. This waste is run through another process that prepares it for spreading on the fields as NRFP.

                 H.P. Hood has been a registered land application facility since 2003, when the registration requirements first went into effect. Since 2012, it has been applying an average of 800,000 to two million gallons of NRFP waste annually at BJ Farms, also in Lafargeville. BJ Farms is a 130-acre farm that grows field crops, such as hay. The soil in the fields is tested to make sure the nutrient loading rates are accurate for the crop. The amount of nutrient applied cannot exceed the needs of the crop. 

                Not only is it valuable to the soil, transferring organic waste from large manufacturers to fields means less waste is sent to our landfills, which benefits all of us. Keeping waste out of landfills is known as “diversion,” where waste is diverted to another use such as land spreading or recycling discarded items instead of disposing of them. Diversion is an important goal for communities and landfill operators. Landfilling is expensive and costs are passed on to communities by way of tipping fees to everyone who generates waste. Because we all generate waste, we all share the burden of paying for landfill operations. 

                Diversion is proactive solid waste management, and in the case of land spreading, a benefit to agriculture.

                Eligible land application facilities benefit both our shared environment and the economy when operated in compliance with regulations and basic criteria.

Women in STEM Rising

Judy Drabicki

I have served as the Director of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s (DEC) Region 6 for more than a decade. In that time, we have doubled the number of female employees in the region, which covers St. Lawrence, Jefferson, Lewis, Herkimer and Oneida counties. In the five-county region, 50 women are currently employed in professional roles—a significant increase from the past.

    DEC offers excellent careers in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), careers in high demand that have been traditionally filled by men.

    In Susan S. Silbey’s 2016 article, “Why Do So Many Women Who Study Engineering Leave the Field,” from the online Harvard Business Review, Silbey noted that engineering is the most male-dominated field in STEM, with just 13 percent of women making up the workforce.

    DEC’s Region 6 Environmental Engineering Unit currently employs six women engineers, up from just one a few years ago. While all employees are selected because they are the best qualified for the job, at DEC we actively encourage managers to hire women, particularly in professions such as engineering, law, and biology—all fields where women are traditionally under-represented.

    Yuan Zeng is a professional engineer for DEC’s Division of Material Management in Watertown. Zeng has worked for DEC for more than 20 years. “I like my environmental career for its positive impact on the environment, such as air pollution control and waste reduction,” says Zeng.

    Her advice to younger generations who may also want a similar career path is to do well in school, intern with professionals, and demonstrate a strong work ethic.

    Jennifer Lauzon is a professional engineer in DEC’s Potsdam, St. Lawrence County office. She says, “My job has never been the same and is always adapting to the current environment. I like that the work I am doing will, in some way, benefit the environment and benefit the world that we live in.”

    Her advice for young women that like math and science and see themselves in an engineering career is to get a dual degree in engineering and engineering & management (E&M).

    As regional director, I see multiple benefits in increasing the number of women in all aspects of the DEC workforce. First, having been underrepresented in the past, seeking equity will mean the absolute best people are doing the work of protecting the environment. Second, women often have a different approach to problem-solving and conflict resolution, which benefits our collective decision-making. And third, the role models women present to the hundreds of students we meet through DEC’s outreach efforts benefits all of the young men and women interested in entering the field of environmental protection—they will see for themselves that DEC is a welcoming agency that employs a diverse group of New Yorkers from a variety of backgrounds, genders, in a range of demanding professions.

    Regardless of gender, our day-to-day business is handled by a team of highly skilled professionals. Working together, we are committed to the DEC mission, the health and safety of New York’s environment, and the communities that we call home. 

Judy Drabicki is regional director, Region 6 NYSDEC, with a career that spans three decades of ensuring the natural beauty of the north country is protected and enjoyed for generations to come. She oversees a staff of more than 200 people, including engineers, biologists, permit writers, Forest Rangers and Environmental Conservation officers, operations staff, and many others.

Trees Play Major Role in Enhancement of Downtowns

Judy Drabicki

At the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), our division of Lands and Forests is actively working on conservation easements, forest preserve management in the Adirondack and Catskill parks, state land management, and urban forestry. At DEC, we do this for more than regulatory reasons. Trees play a major role in producing the oxygen we breathe and clean carbon dioxide out of the air. A walk in the woods is scientifically proven to slow heartbeats and lower blood pressure. Trees also prevent soil erosion and sequester carbon. In addition, trees provide habitat and food for birds and other animals.

    On a much smaller scale, urban forests do the same. Urban forestry is the care and management of single trees and tree populations in urban settings.

    In terms of downtown development, tree planting is a relatively economical way to make simple and long-lasting improvements to the landscape. Last year in the city of Watertown, nearly 230 new trees were added to the landscape. The city’s planning department oversees the Tree Watertown advisory group comprised of concerned citizens, department of public works officials, and of course, DEC Region 6 Forester Glen Roberts.

    Roberts became involved with Tree Watertown after the 1998 ice storm, which decimated hundreds of trees across the city. “Glen’s value is in his professional expertise as a forester,” says Mike Lumbis, city planner. Roberts guides species selection and shares advice when trees need to be removed due to disease or damage. He has also helped train staff and volunteers in planting. “Glen makes sure our trees are off to a good start, which gives them a better chance at survival,” says Lumbis.

    Roberts estimates that Watertown and its partners have planted more than 6,000 trees throughout the city and its parks. To its credit, for nearly 20 years, the city of Watertown has been identified by the National Arbor Day Foundation as a “Tree City USA.”

    Watertown has also received an Urban and Community Forestry grant for tree inventory, allowing it to create a citywide community forest management plan. The city’s inventory will be implemented this spring.

DEC involvement doesn’t end at advice and planting. Roberts and colleague Mike Giocondo, also a DEC forester, hold pruning workshops for the city’s public works staff and other municipalities in Jefferson County. These workshops provide an overview of tree anatomy, proper pruning techniques, methods, and evaluation of trees for pruning. The main focus is on younger trees and proper training to develop good structure.

In addition, at Governor Andrew Cuomo’s direction, New York State is investing in efforts to limit the spread of invasive pests such as the emerald ash borer (EAB). Across the state, DEC foresters are combatting the effects of EAB, and in DEC’s Region 6 are working closely with Tree Watertown on EAB education and preparedness, sharing tips for early detection and management with landowners.

    An invasive pest first discovered in Michigan in 2002, EAB has destroyed millions of ash trees across in the United States. In New York, EAB was discovered in Cattaraugus County in 2009, and along the Hudson River Valley in 2010. By 2017, this pest was found in Franklin and St. Lawrence counties. New York has committed $13 million to combat the spread of invasive species that threaten our environment.

    As with so many things, DEC is more effective when we partner with others. The city of Watertown has demonstrated its commitment to—and understanding of—the value of urban forests, and DEC is pleased to be a long-term partner with the city on this and many other efforts.

Judy Drabicki is regional director, Region 6 NYSDEC, with a career that spans three decades of ensuring the natural beauty of the north country is protected and enjoyed for generations to come. She oversees a staff of more than 200 people, including engineers, biologists, permit writers, Forest Rangers and Environmental Conservation officers, operations staff, and many others.

Enjoy the Outdoors Year-Round

Judy Drabicki

Northern New York has a well-deserved reputation as a great place to raise a family. Part of what makes it great are the year-round opportunities to enjoy a multitude of outdoor activities. The four seasons, combined with vast amounts of New York state lands for hiking, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, or horseback riding, pristine waters for fishing, and abundant wildlife for viewing or hunting set the stage for adventure, exploration, and good, quality family time. Let me be clear, my idea of family is broad and includes a couple with a dog, blended families, and all other combinations that individuals choose to define themselves as a family. Regardless, my point is this—the family that plays together, stays together.  

    Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Adventure NY initiative, a multiyear outdoor recreation campaign to connect families and visitors to the outdoors, estimates that New York state lands accommodate more than 75 million visitors per year. 

    Region 6, which includes eastern Lake Ontario, St. Lawrence River, Tug Hill and eastern Adirondacks has 11 Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) totaling 18,795 acres in Jefferson County alone. These state lands provide wildlife habitat management and wildlife-dependent recreation. Several are located within a 20-minute drive of Watertown. 

    Lakeview WMA, in Ellisburg on State Route 3, is part of the largest natural fresh water barrier beach system in New York state. Lakeview is open to the public year-round, and some of its most beautiful areas can be seen by boat. DEC has provided boat launch sites for canoes or car top boats with a 10-horsepower limit.

    As stewards of the land and the wildlife, sometimes we must carefully manage public access to state lands to provide habitat and nesting opportunities for species that depend on these areas. Perch River WMA, which encompasses 7,800 acres in the towns of Brownville, Orleans and Pamelia in Jefferson County, is one such area where we balance public access with natural resource protection. This restricted wetland and refuge area provides habitat for several of New York’s endangered and threatened species, including bald eagles, black terns, and northern harriers (marsh hawks). By late August, the nesting and brooding season is mostly complete and the fall migration period has not yet begun. That’s when we open access to the public and it’s traditionally a huge draw for bird watchers of all ages. 

    Bird watching is one of the fastest growing outdoor recreational activities that can be enjoyed by people of all ages and abilities. Young people between the ages of 12 and 18 can get involved in the State’s “I Bird NY” beginning bird challenge. This past spring, more than 100 young people completed the challenge and became I Bird NYers.

    In September, Rich Schmitt of Rochester took his 13-year old son and the child’s 14-year old friend hunting at Perch River WMA. He wrote to us in an email that the boys ended up with eight blue-winged and three green-winged teal. “It’s always fun to see the younger kids have a successful hunt,” said Mr. Schmitt.

    For the nature observer and hiker, we have many miles of well-marked trails in all areas of the five-county area of Region 6. In May, we cut the ribbon on new improvements at the John Young trail, which make it more accessible to visitors. This newly accessible, 2,000-foot trail is located within the Tug Hill State Forest at Barnes Corners. Our focus is on inclusion, and accessibility improvements invite people with mobility issues and families with children in strollers to our state lands.

    Camping is an amazing opportunity to live off the “grid” for a short amount of time. Visitors can choose from three DEC campgrounds in Region 6; or find primitive camp spots on state lands. Even teenagers sometimes reluctant to spend time with their families enjoy sitting around the camp fire after enjoying a meal cooked over a propane camp stove or sitting quietly around the fire taking time to gaze at the stars. And don’t forget, every fourth grader in New York is eligible to visit one of the state’s day use areas at a DEC campground for free.

    These opportunities to enjoy the outdoors, and many more, can be found on our DEC website, at www.dec.ny.gov where a drop-down menu under Recreation provides a treasure trove of information about available opportunities. Our regional office is also more than happy to take your phone calls at 315-785-2239 to help visitors find a great place to recreate with their families.

                Whether it’s active or passive, back country or front country, on land or water, I recommend that all New Yorkers—and visitors, too—do their family’s physical and mental health a favor and enjoy New York’s great outdoors!

DEC welcomes first woman dog handler

STEPHEN SWOFFORD n WATERTOWN DAILY TIMES Fay Fuerch, the DEC’s first female dog handler, stands with her dog Handley Thursday in the Dulles State Office Building.(Wolf story)

STEPHEN SWOFFORD n WATERTOWN DAILY TIMES
Fay Fuerch, the DEC’s first female dog handler, stands with her dog Handley Thursday in the Dulles State Office Building.(Wolf story)

By MARCUS WOLF
MWOLF@WDT.NET

Environmental conservation officer Fay A. Fuerch fulfilled her childhood dream job when she joined the state Department of Environmental Conservation’s K-9 unit this month as the department’s first woman dog handler.

Ms. Fuerch, who has worked as an environmental conservation officer for DEC’s Lowville office since 2008, joined the unit after she graduated from DEC’s K-9 unit program Oct. 7 with her partner, Handley, a 22-month-old German shepherd. Ms. Fuerch remains stationed at the Lowville office, but can be sent to locations throughout the state for assignments.

“It’s a great way to go to work with your best friend as your partner,” Ms. Fuerch said.

As a member of the department’s K-9 unit, Ms. Fuerch and Handley will work with investigators to track down lost hunters, fugitives and illegally hunted game left behind by poachers. Ms. Fuerch said that like other German shepherds, Handley can detect shell casings and both venison and bear carcasses, whether they were deposited in the open or stashed in a freezer or vehicle. Andrea C. Pedrick, a citizen participation specialist for DEC, said Ms. Fuerch is now one of 10 department dog handlers in the state.

“As a woman, I am incredibly proud of her,” Ms. Pedrick said. “It is a fantastic career track. I wish more young people would look into it.”

Ms. Fuerch began her training in the K-9 unit program July 17.

After completing a general interest canvas, Ms. Fuerch said, she was interviewed by Sgt. Keith Isles, who coordinates the program, and given a physical agility test. The test required her to carry a 45-pound backpack three miles within 45 minutes.

Handley was introduced to Ms. Fuerch on her second day of training and they have worked together ever since.

The DEC adopted Handley in July from a kennel in Shallow Creek, Pa., Ms. Fuerch said. Ms. Pedrick said he was named after Sgt. Chris Handley, who died of cancer.

“It didn’t take long to forge a bond,” Ms. Fuerch said.

Throughout their training, Ms. Fuerch and Handley worked through tracking, detection and bite work simulations. Near the end of their training, Ms. Fuerch said, they were given the task of navigating a blind tracking simulation at night when she almost lost sight of Handley and their location.

“He navigated his way through successfully even though there were times when I questioned if we were still on the track,” she said. “Most times a dog knows best.”

Ms. Fuerch has worked with the DEC as an environmental conservation officer since 2007 at the Region 2 office, 4740 21st St., Long Island City. She transferred to the Region 6 office in Lowville in 2008.

“I can’t believe that I am in this position,” she said. “You always dream of becoming a K-9 handler. I’m just honored to have the chance to do this.”

March 2016: People on the Move

CITEC Business Solutions names executive director

Carter

Carter

Reg Carter, who joined CITEC Business Solutions in 2013 as a business advisor, has been named the organization’s new executive director.

CITEC is a not-for-profit business consulting organization that helps small and medium-sized enterprises in Northern New York to thrive.

Since joining the organization, Mr. Carter has led the delivery of executive services, including working with the leaders of the north country in the areas of strategic planning, business assessments, succession planning and executive coaching with companies. [Read more…]

Governor could bridge funding gap for Orleans water project

A state Department of Transportation truck makes a stop at the salt barn on Route 12 in Collins Landing. Photo from Watertown Daily Times.

A state Department of Transportation truck makes a stop at the salt barn on Route 12 in Collins Landing. Photo from Watertown Daily Times.

COLLINS LANDING — The office of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo may soon award grant funding needed by the town of Orleans to break ground on a $12.3-million water project, according to a businessman who learned about the matter from an aide to an elected state official. [Read more…]