Hunting Licenses Soar For Fall Hunting Season

Randy Young

Whether along a trail, on the water, or sitting at a local park, New Yorkers can’t help but notice that participation in outdoor activities is surging this year. Hunting, trapping, and fishing are following this trend, as perhaps more New Yorkers than ever before are looking for opportunities to enjoy the outdoors close to home. Big game hunting licenses went on sale Aug. 10, and sales nearly tripled compared to the first day of sales for 2019—$922,444 compared to $347,103. 

    Hunting provides a connection to nature, a challenge to outdoor skills, time to build relationships and share experiences with others, and a source of food. For businesses in the north country that cater to outdoor enthusiasts, hunting also provides an important source of economic activity. Deer hunters alone contribute nearly $1.5 billion annually to New York state’s economy from related expenditures like fuel, food and lodging. 

    About this time of year, avid deer and bear hunters start watching the fields and dreaming of trail cams, tree stands and future hunting trips. With liberal bag limits and long seasons, New Yorkers enjoy hunting continuously from Sept. 1 (Canada goose & squirrel) through May 31 (spring turkey). The state’s ongoing response to COVID-19 has affected everyone’s daily lives and state agencies like DEC have worked hard to innovate to ensure the public has access to services and information. For example, DEC recognized early on that New Yorkers needed access to hunter safety education and licensing, especially to be ready for the spring turkey season. DEC made changes to minimize the pandemic’s disruption to New York’s prospective hunters by giving them what they need to partake in this sport. 

    Precautions related to New York’s ongoing response to COVID-19 necessitated the cancellation of in-person hunter education program courses. To compensate, DEC partnered with a company that specializes in hunter education to offer online opportunities for new hunters to get required hunter or bowhunter education certificates. The results are dramatic, with more than 71,108 people registered for the online Hunter Ed course and 37,004 completions. Nearly 70 percent of those completing the online course are 21 or over, and almost 40 percent are women. The new online Bowhunter Ed course has seen 14,818 registered participants. Both courses can be accessed at DEC’s website and will continue to be available online for the foreseeable future. 

    “It is a real testament to the agency, and particularly the Hunter Education Program team members, that they were able to so quickly institute an alternate delivery method for these courses in the face of the pandemic,” said Andy MacDuff, regional wildlife manager. “Thousands of New Yorkers who otherwise would have been unable to hunt were given that opportunity as a result.” 

    In July, DEC launched a new system for the sale of fishing, hunting, and trapping licenses. The new DEC Automated Licensing System (DECALS) includes user-friendly information to help users locate vendors, receive instant copies of a license, enter and view harvest information and more. 

    Hunting and trapping licenses and deer management permits (DMPs) are on sale now and can be purchased at DEC license-issuing agents, by telephone at 866-933-2257, or online. The DEC Call Center has expanded its hours to accommodate inquiries and is open 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday, and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays through Oct. 1. 

    DEC is committed to keeping ahead of COVID-19 and continuing to provide people with the opportunity to hunt and enjoy New York’s natural resources. Hunters can do their part this season by following hunter safety rules and COVID-19 best practices to help protect themselves and others. 

How To Prepare For An Uncertain Future

Jennifer McCluskey

Things are slowly, at least in New York state, starting to get back to “normal” or at least semi-functional. However, what I am hearing over and over again from my business clients is, “How do I plan for the future when I don’t know what it will bring?” This is especially a question in communities used to having tourist dollars flowing in every summer. Some businesses are seeing regular customer levels, many are seeing fewer, and some are even seeing more customers than they did before. While it is very difficult to navigate these unclear waters, there are a few tips I can offer that hopefully might help. 

    First off, be careful with your plans. I’m sure you’ve realized this already, but you may have to cut back on business expansion plans you were originally planning for this year unless your business is in one of the few industries that are COVID-resistant. Cut costs where you can. This can be difficult in our area where businesses even before this were struggling, but maybe there is something you can do to decrease your financial burden. Possibly there are areas of waste or lack of profit in your business. 

    Talk to other business owners in your area, both in your industry and in related industries which serve similar customers. We are all in this together, and your fellow business owners may have ideas that you haven’t thought of which will make it easier for both of you to succeed. For example, if you are a retail business in a tourist area, talk to your local hotel owners, B&B owners, and Airbnb’s to find out how their bookings are going for the future to give yourself an idea of how customers may come in. 

    Make it easy for your customers to feel safe shopping in your store. Follow the regulations and rules as they pertain to your business. Make sure your employees are wearing their masks correctly. I have seen several posts going around Facebook of people giving shout outs to businesses who are doing it right, and commenting about ones that are not. If your employees are having difficulties breathing in their masks, possibly look into face shields or one of the newer kinds of masks that are coming out made from better materials. 

    If you haven’t done it yet, get your business online, especially if you have a product to sell. Customers are even less likely than before to shop in person. If you can make it easy for them to order pick up or purchase online, this will make them more likely to shop with you. If you have questions about how to get online or the best way to get your products or services in front of your customers, you can talk to us at the SBDC. 

    Your SBDC business advisor can help, especially if you would like to do budget projections to see different scenarios based on different levels of customers. Or if you just need a listening ear to discuss your own business uncertainty. As always, we are free and confidential, and working as hard as we can to help your business get through this difficult time.  

      You can reach the SUNY Canton SBDC at (315) 386-7312, SUNY Canton SBDC at Clinton Community College at (518) 324-7232, or the Watertown SBDC at JCC (315) 782-9262. 

FFA Continues To Grow Nationally

Jay Matteson

I remember, as a young kid, thumbing through a binder full of old family photos. I came across a photo that was labeled, “Lyman” and had a face circled on the photo. It was from the early 1940s and a sign on the wall behind this group of students read Future Farmers of America. “Lyman” was my dad and he grew up on a dairy farm in Oswego County in the Central Square area during the depression. I asked my dad what was Future Farmers of America? He didn’t say much other than it was a leadership organization for farm kids. I’m not sure what ever happened to the farm but my dad married my mom and spent many years as an electrician in the Oswego area. I never thought about Future Farmers of America again. 

    Growing up in the Oswego area I never heard anything more about Future Farmers of America. Attending Oswego High School in the mid 1980s, it seemed the push was to drive kids towards college for business or teaching careers. I was the odd ball as I wanted to pursue wildlife biology. After I attended college I returned home and worked with the Oswego County Soil and Water Conservation District. Even working for the Soil and Water Conservation District for six years, I never heard about Future Farmers of America. It was not until I moved to Jefferson County and became the director of the Jefferson County Soil and Water Conservation District that I heard about an organization called FFA. 

    I quickly learned that FFA was the new name of Future Farmers of America. The name had just been changed to better reflect the nature of the youth organization and that not all participants in FFA go on to become farmers. I was very surprised that in all the years, since I first saw my dads photo, I never heard anything of the organization. It was a great surprise! 

    FFA is very strong in Jefferson County and the north country. When I first came to Jefferson County there were five FFA programs in Alexandria Bay, Belleville-Henderson, Carthage, Indian River and South Jefferson school districts. Although there are slight differences between each districts FFA programs, there are strong similarities in each. FFA uses agriculture as a foundation to help students build tremendous career and leadership skills. It is very hands on and very active! FFA welcomes students who aspire to careers such as doctors, scientists, teachers, bankers, business owners and farmers. The opportunities through FFA are many. Nationally, there are FFA opportunities at the middle school, high school and collegiate levels. 

    As I began learning about FFA, I was very impressed. I quickly discovered that these students were busy! In addition to their traditional classes, these students were growing things, building things, writing business plans, traveling to regional, state and national events and providing service to their communities. I learned that I could call upon FFA students to help me with events and know that when the iconic blue and gold FFA jackets showed up, I had a group of volunteers that I could depend upon to the get the job done right. Over the years, I’ve been fortunate to know and develop strong friendships with many FFA students across the north country. I’ve watched them go on to become business owners and farmers, journalists and teachers, financial advisors and veterinarians. Many are now leaders in their communities. 

    Today there are six FFA chapters in Jefferson County. Watertown School District started an FFA chapter a few years ago that is beginning to thrive. I just saw a report that National FFA hit a record in membership with 760,113 student members in 2020. That is a nearly 60,000 student increase from 2019. Incredible, especially given the circumstances of 2020! The top five student membership states are Texas, California, Georgia, Florida and Oklahoma. In 2020, the organization has more than 115,831 latino members, more than 40,000 black members, and more than 12,000 members who are American Indian and Alaska Natives. Fifty one percent of members are male and forty four percent are female. FFA chapters exist in 24 of 25 of the largest cities in the United States. Since 2017, FFA chapters in NYS have grown by 30 percent. The largest FFA Chapter in New York State is located in New York City. 

    It is fantastic to see a valuable student organization growing in these days where so many of our youth programs struggle with declining enrollment. If you are interested in learning more about FFA visit the New York FFA website at www.nysffa.org or the national FFA website at www.ffa.org or contact your local high school to learn about FFA. 

What Is A Living Trust?

Tim Doolittle

My clients often are aware of what a Last Will and Testament is and its purpose of providing for the distribution of their assets when they pass away. They also know that trusts exist but are not sure what they are or what a trust does. The focus of this article will be on Living Trusts, also known as Revocable Trusts. A Living Trust is made during your lifetime and can be very helpful relating to the administration of your assets, both while you are still alive and after you pass away. 

    A Living Trust is a trust wherein the creators maintain control over the assets placed in the trust during their lifetime and also sets the terms by which the assets are distributed when the creators pass away. The trust document will name the initial trustees (usually the creators) and specify backup trustees in the event the initial trustees die or lose their capacity. Living Trusts are generally modifiable and revocable, so there is flexibility relating to amending the distribution terms of the trust and/or the appointment of backup trustees. 

    Almost anything can be placed into a Living Trust. If the property has tangible value of any kind, it can be transferred into the trust. The trust can open a bank account and also own property in the name of the trust. Some examples of property creators may transfer into the Living trust include: real estate; checking and savings accounts; fine art and jewelry; personal property; business interests; investment accounts; and intellectual property 

    There are many reasons why it may make sense for you to create a Living Trust. One of the biggest reasons why Living Trusts are created is to avoid the probate process when the creator(s) pass away. Avoiding probate means surviving family members can avoid the costs associated with the probate process. Not having to go to court saves on both court fees and attorney fees relating to the probate process. You can also facilitate the transfer of the assets that you put into the trust to the beneficiaries in a timelier manner. Probate in New York will stretch on for months, if not years, during which time there may be uncertainty about business interests and during which time investments and property may not be managed as carefully as they would by new owners. A Living Trust eliminates this period of uncertainty because trust assets can quickly transfer to the beneficiaries selected by the creator(s) and allow the beneficiaries to enjoy their inheritance in a swift manner. 

    Avoiding probate is also a worthy venture for those individuals that own properties in multiple states. A good example of this would be “snow-birds” who winter in a condo in Florida and come back to a home in New York when the weather warms up. When the individual dies probate will need to be initiated in both New York and Florida to pass each piece of real estate from the estate to the beneficiaries of the estate. A Living Trust would allow the family to avoid multi-state probate so long as ownership of the properties are transferred to the Living Trust during the creator’s lifetime. 

    Living Trusts can also help ensure that the creator’s assets are appropriately cared for in case of incapacity. By naming a backup trustee in the trust document, the creator vests authority in that backup trustee to take control over trust assets in the event the creator’s capacity falters. There is no need to worry about the family having to initiate guardianship proceedings, the backup trustee would simply move into the trustee position upon the creator’s incapacity. 

    While all of these reasons are very good reasons to create a Living Trust, it is important to understand limitations of this type of trust. For example, assets held within a Living Trust are still considered resources which can be spent on nursing home care and are available to any potential creditors of the creator. The trust assets also are considered part of the creator’s taxable estate, which can trigger federal estate taxes and New York estate taxes. If Medicaid planning and/or estate tax planning are part of your goals, speaking with estate planning attorney about the alternatives available is a must. 

    If you are an individual who finds it worthwhile to avoid the probate process and arrange for a smooth transition of your assets after your death, contact a qualified attorney to discuss the pros and cons of creating a Living Trust. 

Tim Doolittle primarily focuses his practice on estate planning. He counsels clients concerning estate planning and administration, as well as asset preservation for individuals. Contact him at 315-445-1700.

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Take The Pledge to PLAY SMART * PLAY SAFE * PLAY LOCAL

Randy Young

Stepping outside your home into the fresh air is exactly what some people need to de-stress during these uncertain times. Backyard picnics, outdoor movie nights, and star gazing with immediate household members are excellent ways to shake off the negative effects of isolation while staying safe. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is encouraging New Yorkers to get outside and enjoy nature safely during the state’s ongoing response to COVID-19. Summer is a great time to go for a walk or jog, take a hike, ride a bicycle, or go fishing or horseback riding. You can also go boating or enjoy the scenery of state lands. Just as you should wear sunblock to save your skin from harmful UV rays, DEC asks that you protect yourself and others from COVID-19.  

Take the Pledge to PLAY SMART * PLAY SAFE * PLAY LOCAL: Enjoy the Outdoors Safely and Responsibly: 

  • pledge to respect the rules and do my part to keep parks, beaches, trails, boat launches, and other public spaces safe for everyone.  
  • will stay local and close to home.  
  • will maintain a safe distance from others outside of my household.  
  • I will wear a mask when I cannot maintain social distancing. 
  • accept that this summer, I may have to adjust how I enjoy the outdoors to help keep myself and others healthy and safe, even if it means changing my plans to visit a public space.  
  • will be respectful of others by letting them pass by me if needed on a trail and keeping my blanket ten feet apart from others on the beach.  
  • will move quickly through shared areas like parking lots, trailheads, and scenic areas to avoid crowding.  
  • IfI’m not feeling well, I will stay home.   

Of course, not everyone has a yard, and eventually, we all want to truly get away. Researching local trails and parks to find hidden gems near your home can be part of the fun. It can also give you an opportunity to plan for alternatives. When I was able to get away myself, it was a weekend with a perfect weather forecast. I expected the well-known and popular hiking and camping areas to be crowded, so I pulled out a map of state lands in my area and found three trails I’d never visited before. Each one had trailheads located along the same highway. I planned to look at the parking area of each trail as I passed it; and if I saw more than a few cars, I planned to move on to the next one. 

    Fortunately, when I arrived on that late Friday afternoon, the first trailhead was empty so I pulled in. The trail ran along a beautiful stream through a changing forest of hardwoods and evergreens. While hiking and camping for two days, covering several miles, I didn’t see another person. 

    If the parking lots had been packed and resulted in the need to change my plans, DEC has online resources to help. DEC info Locator is an interactive map that lets users access information about opportunities for outdoor recreation across the state. Whether you’re looking for activities on land or water, you can pick your activity and favorite area and you’ll have plenty of options to choose from. 

    And if you decide to stay in, DEC’s Adventure NY initiative has launched #AdventureAtHome, a virtual way to bring New Yorkers weekly content for inspiration about enjoying the outdoors close to home. Each week, DEC features online content on topics such as, paddling, hiking, viewing wildlife, birding, and camping. Sign up online for DEC’s “Find your Adventure” newsletter to be delivered right to your inbox. 

    Now that you have pledged to PLAY SMART * PLAY SAFE * PLAY LOCAL, what will you do and where will you go? 

Taking Care Of Business

Sarah O’Connell

As I write this, we are in the fifth month of the COVID-19 pandemic. Businesses in the North Country region have gradually been reopening through the four phases under specific guidelines and with many restrictions. 

    However, for businesses that deal with health and wellness, many are still not allowed to reopen yet due to the level of physical contact or proximity that is part of their normal customer interaction. 

    As the North Country region entered Phase 3, massage therapy businesses were allowed to reopen, as were hair salons and some other personal care services. As we all struggled with the isolation and anxiety produced by the crisis, this was a much welcomed development for those who needed the comfort and care that was beyond essential survival. At the same time, the operators of these businesses had to prepare rigorous safety plans for the state of New York and develop schedules and strategies to minimize risk to their customers. 

    On the other hand, physical fitness businesses like fitness centers and group yoga classes continue to be under additional scrutiny due to the risks inherent in gathering people together in activities that might increase transmission of the virus. Some exercise-related businesses have pivoted to offering virtual or online classes, particularly those with certain instructors who have a dedicated following who are willing to pay through an online payment portal to participate in a Zoom or similar digital meetup. 

    While doctors’ offices and medical clinics were open all along for emergency visits or telemedicine, dentists were not generally allowed to open until June 1 except for emergency situations. However, many of our local providers have noticed that their patients are delaying some appointments like routine checkups until later on in the year. The procedure for entering a medical office often involves waiting in one’s car until called, answering questions about recent health issues, possible contacts with ill people and travel outside the area, and undergoing temperature checks. 

    Some mental health providers who already offered online or telephone counseling have been able to continue to offer that support and have even expanded their customer base due to need. NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) has gathered a pool of volunteer mental health counselors to handle calls from people feeling especially stressed or anxious during the pandemic. (1-800-950-6264). It can also offer connections to local resources. 

    As with all businesses reopened or reopening in the various phases that the state allows, the key to getting customers, clients or patients to return is to demonstrate clear and well-thought out approaches to providing as safe an experience as possible. Surveys and anecdotal evidence have shown that many people are still very wary of venturing out into situations that might expose them to the virus. Reports of uneven or absent compliance will only delay the process of economic recovery. Recent spikes in infection were directly related to unsafe gatherings during July 4th celebrations leading to the reclosing of some area businesses. Enforcement of the safety guidelines needs to be universal to bolster the confidence of the general public. 

    As of this writing, the EIDL (Economic Injury Disaster Loan) program was still open and the application window for PPP (Paycheck Protection Program) loans was open until Aug. 8. Go to www.sba.gov for more information. The SBDC advisors are here to help you through the application process and beyond. We are also available to help you with any other business needs, whether it’s ideas for recovering, marketing, or opening, expanding or buying a business. We are available by phone and email and can have video sessions as well. As the JCC campus begins its reopening process, we will keep you informed if and when we can resume in-person appointments. 

    The New York Small Business Development Center at JCC offers free, individual, confidential counseling to new or existing business owners in Jefferson and Lewis counties. For more information, contact 315-782-9262, sbdc@sunyjefferson.edu. St. Lawrence County residents can contact their SBDC at SUNY Canton, 315-386-7312, sbdc@canton.edu 

Food Distribution Programs And Webinar Series See Great Start

Jay Matteson

The impact of the shutdown of our economy to dampen the impact of the COVID 19 disaster has hit every single person. Businesses have temporarily and permanently closed their doors. Many people were temporarily unemployed or lost their jobs. There were significant disruptions in our food supply system. As we have heard many times. We are living in an extremely rare time where a global pandemic has impacted every single person in the United States and had a devastating impact on our economy. Many people, in the low income to middle income sections of our population, began experiencing challenges in finding food. 

    At the national level, we saw President Trump, the U.S. Congress and the United States Department of Agriculture work together to create the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP). One section of the CFAP used federal funds to begin buying food products from farms and food processors and working through local food distributors to provide free food to people in need. This program is a success. Jefferson County Economic Development has worked with American Dairy Association Northeast to set up the logistics of multiple food distribution events. Our largest to date saw 1,800 vehicles at Salmon Run Mall go through the distribution program. There have been events at Salmon Run Mall, Jefferson Community College and Clayton Arena. Every vehicle, while supplies last, receives at least two gallons of milk, a box of precooked meat products, a box of produce, and a box of dairy products. Unfortunately, the demand is greater than the supply of food boxes and they run out before the milk. Renzi Food Service based in Watertown, Glaziers packing in Potsdam, and Upstate Niagara Dairy Cooperative, provide the aggregation and distribution assistance. HP Hood in LaFargeville provides some of the dairy products in the boxes. 

    At the State level, Governor Cuomo, the state Legislature and the state Department of Agriculture and Markets created the Nourish NY program to help ensure local food banks have enough food on their shelves to help local people, and also provide food distribution events. State funds are used to purchase New York state food products to give to food banks and distribution events. Lucki 7 Livestock Company in Rodman, Sharps Bulk Food in Belleville and Great Lakes Cheese in Adams have participated in the Nourish NY program providing locally produced food to food banks as far away as Long Island. 

    Because so many food products and businesses from Jefferson County are involved in the two food distribution programs, we are roughly estimating a total economic impact of the two programs to date of $18 million as the dollars coming into local companies and farms for the purchase of food products ripples throughout Jefferson County and NNY. This is a nice “charge” to our local economic engine, with agriculture as its foundation.  

Agriculture Webinar Series Off to Great Start 

    Jefferson County Economic Development started a monthly webinar series in June inviting speakers to participate who have an opportunity to look at agriculture through a broader lens than we might experience locally. We call the webinar series, “Road to Recovery, The Path to 2025 Farmers’ Luncheon Series”. On Aug. 27, we have Mr. Thomas Sleight scheduled to speak. Mr. Sleight is former chief executive officer for the U.S. Grains Council and has traveled the world working on foreign trade programs and opportunities benefitting U.S. agriculture. 

    The Farmers’ Luncheon series is a live webinar scheduled for the fourth Thursday of every month at 12 p.m. The webinar is not a typical slideshow presentation with questions at the end. Instead, I sit down at the table, remotely, with our guest and have a conversation about the various topics we wish to discuss. The program is highly interactive, and the audience can submit questions in real time which I try to include into the discussion. To learn more, visit www.agricultureevents.com 

Public Service Commission Extends NY-Sun Program

Chris Baiamonte

In spite of the seemingly cataclysmic budget pressures New York State is under in light of additional expenses and crimped revenue related to the pandemic response, its long-term commitment to achieving its renewable energy goals, as articulated in the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA), shows few signs of wavering. On May 14, the Public Service Commission issued an order (Case No. 19-E-0735) granting the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority’s (NYSERDA) petitions seeking an additional $573 million to fund the New York-Sun (NY-Sun) solar energy program through the year 2025. 

    NYSERDA’s petition, filed last November, sought funding to extend the NY-Sun program for an additional two years. It had been scheduled to end in 2023. The NY-Sun program was created in 2014 by the governor in order to provide state subsidies to solar projects around the state, with the initial goal of adding 3,000 megawatts (MW) of installed solar capacity. It has thus far helped finance nearly 1,000 MW worth of solar energy generating capacity, with another 1,000 MW in the pipeline. The goal articulated by the CLCPA for distributed (typically, rooftop) solar energy capacity is 6,000 MW by 2025. Initial funding for the expansion will use untapped NYSERDA funds and additional funding potentially coming from the Clean Energy Fund. 

    About one fourth of the new funding will go towards Community Adder incentives for community solar projects located in the National Grid and New York State Electric and Gas Corporation utility territories (Rochester Gas and Electric Corporation soon to be added). The Community Adder is an incentive-based successor to the Community Credit component of the Value Distributed Energy Resource tariff. PSC also approved additional adders for projects involving storage, system resiliency, value to disadvantaged and affordable housing communities, and projects to be sited on brownfields, landfills, or parking lots. 

    PCS’s order granted the proposal contained within the petition to use at least a quarter of the newly allocated funds on programs focusing on benefitting customers with low- or moderate-income customers. NYSERDA dubs this new effort the Framework for Solar Energy Equity (FSEE). FSEE will attempt to, among other things, incent projects sited on affordable housing, certain homeowners who install rooftop solar panels, energy storage projects, and expand on NYSERDA’s existing Solar for All program, which offers discounts to low-income New Yorkers on their energy bills through participation in a community solar project. 

 Questions and Updates 

    Please do not hesitate to contact the Wladis Law Firm if you have any questions about the above information. We will do our best to provide you with updates and will be available to answer questions as circumstances change. 

Chris Baiamonte primarily focuses on civil litigation, counseling individual, corporate, and municipal clients on resolving disputes ranging from environmental liability to shareholders rights to creditor–debtor suits. He also works with clients to navigate various state and federal regulations relating to areas such as environmental protection, employment, and civil rights. Contact him at 315-445-1700.