Diverse Terrain and Natural Settings in NNY Draw Golfers

Randy Young

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Region 6 covers five counties, all diverse in terms of their natural beauty and opportunities for recreation. Our weather in Northern New York is conducive to golfing in the summertime and we are fortunate to have several dozen golf courses in our region that each offer a unique opportunity for a challenging day on the links. The diverse terrain and natural settings draw local golfers and those enjoying a summer vacation near the water or the mountains.  

    Kelly E. Hale is an avid north country golfer and environmental program specialist in DEC’s Division of Environmental Remediation. “I strongly encourage people to play golf,” she said. “It is a lifelong sport. My grandmother played until she was 83, and that is my goal.”  

    Hale is the former captain of the St. Lawrence University golf team and currently plays on two leagues, the Clayton Ladies Golf League and the LaFargeville Ladies Golf League.  

    In our region, resident and migratory Canada geese also enjoy taking to the greens. Migratory geese pass through New York on their way north and south, stopping briefly each way. Resident geese do not leave the state and are here over the winter. DEC biologists estimate the current resident geese population in New York state to be about 200,000 birds. Based on the growing statewide severity of complaints, biologists would like to see that number reduced to fewer than 85,000 birds statewide.   

    Canada geese are a natural resource that provide recreation and enjoyment to bird watchers, hunters, and the general public, but sometimes, their presence creates challenges. These days, resident geese are nesting and feeding at some area golf courses in higher numbers than the past, which has proven to be a nuisance to golf course owners and the occasional golfer.  

    “Geese are grazers and love to eat lush, green grass,” said Andrew MacDuff, Region 6 DEC wildlife manager. “Also, most golf courses have numerous small ponds that make good nesting and loafing areas. There are also very few predators on golf courses compared to more natural landscapes.”   

    Once these birds make a golf course their home, problems can follow: Canada goose fecal matter carries harmful bacteria; the noxious odor of goose droppings can make some people ill; and there’s also potential for geese to harass golfers. Canada geese are territorial and will fight to protect their nests and eggs.  

    What are golf course owners to do? There are many ways to discourage geese from settling in an area. Persistent application of a combination of methods usually yields the best results.  

    “There are numerous methods to mitigate goose issues at golf courses from harassment and physical barriers to allowing in-season hunting,” said MacDuff. “It can be challenging to move them once they become established, but steady pressure should do the trick. If they are nesting, oiling or addling the eggs will often get them to leave.”  

    Cornell Cooperative Extension of Jefferson County, Horticulture Educator, Susan Gwise said, “The best way to control geese is with trained dogs. But the dogs need to harass the geese on a daily basis.” Persistence can pay off. If not, DEC’s website www.dec.ny.gov features a section on “when geese become a problem” http://www.dec.ny.gov/animals/7003.html. In some situations, federal or state permits are needed.  

    How should golfers proceed? Hale has encountered her share of geese on the golf course. One specific incident cost her a stroke penalty. “I had to call for a ruling. My ball had rolled next to the pond. It was nesting season, and the geese were along the perimeter of the pond. I could not get close enough to identify my ball, because the geese were trying to protect their nest,” said Hale. “We all took caution, not to anger or get close to the geese. Since I could not identify my ball, I had to take a stroke penalty and continue my round.”  

    She advises golfers to take care around wildlife on the course. Always tread with caution and do not harass the wildlife. All Canada geese, migratory and resident flocks, are protected by federal and state laws and regulations. DEC shares management responsibilities with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).  

    Perhaps the best advice is to be aware of the potential for Canada geese on the golf course and not to let it affect your concentration on the sport. “A sport like golf is an individual sport, but you still have to help your teammates along the way,” said Hale. “Golf taught me a lot about patience, time management, camaraderie, and how important it is to think about your next shot, rather than dwell on the previous one.” 

Outdoor Adventures With Your Pets

Teddy the cat wears a harness and leash to hike Shenandoah National Park.

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Trust In Your New York State Guide

Randy Young

If you are interested in fishing, hunting, camping, hiking, whitewater canoeing, rafting, or rock and ice climbing, but unfamiliar with how to get started, there is a New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) licensed guide willing to make sure your experience is less stressful and more enjoyable. 

    Guides are helpful in ensuring safe travel, accomplishing the requirements to become an ADK 46er, navigating unfamiliar waters in a canoe, kayaking to set up a primitive campsite, and much more. 

    Craig L. Tryon, a New York state licensed guide, said, “Hiring a competent guide takes all the guesswork out of planning the trip. If you are a competent wilderness traveler, a guide can help you plan your trip into an area you are unfamiliar with. They can provide area tips and information that would take you weeks to get on your own. 

    In his 34 years of being a licensed guide, Craig knows that the better the experience visitors have, the more likely visitors will return for more outdoor adventures. With more than six million acres to explore in the Adirondacks, 2,000 miles of snowmobile trails, and 5,000 miles of public trails, there are plenty of activities that keep people coming to Northern New York. 

    Outdoor recreation contributes greatly to the local economy and fuels tourism — the state’s third largest industry. Tourism accounts for one in 10 jobs, $14 billion in wages and salaries, and $41.8 billion in consumer spending. 

    There are lots of choices when it comes to picking a tourism destination in New York state and DEC-licensed guides depend on helping customers navigate those choices. There are more than 2,000 licensed guides statewide, of which 209 are available for service in Region 6. 

    Most individuals engaging in the business of guiding on state lands and waters need a license issued by DEC. Environmental Program Specialist Colleen Kayser administers the state’s Licensed Guide Program as part her work in DEC’s Division of Forest Protection. “An exam is held at 10 DEC locations statewide, as well as at the New York State Outdoor Guide Association’s annual winter meeting,” said Kayser. “Once all the requirements are met, I update the applicant’s information and issue the license, which consists of a laminated license, a guides pin, and a certificate. Licenses expire every five years.” 

    Besides assisting the general public, licensed guides are often members of local search-and-rescue teams and partner with DEC to search for lost individuals. 

    Tryon said guiding has enjoyed a long and colorful history. Early surveyors and sportsmen used knowledge of local woodsmen in the area to find their way in New York’s vast uncharted wilderness. 

    Guiding became an important profession and part of the economy of Northern New York in the 1800s, due in part to the popularity of William H. H. Murray’s book “Adventures in the Wilderness, or Camp Life in the Adirondacks.” Murray made his guide, John Plumley, a central character of his adventure stories. 

    “In the 1970s, a renewed interest in environmental issues began to come to the forefront. Today licensed guides are more qualified and trained to provide an educational and enjoyable experience for travelers,” said Tryon. “There has never been a dull moment on any guide trip I have had the pleasure to lead. Clients that I have taken on trips include many typical people just looking for a getaway, police officers, a Secret Service officer, a U.S. Pentagon officer that was an imbedded reporter with troops in Iraq, doctors, an FBI agent, a U.S. Customs and Border patrol officer, a postmaster from Indiana, and even one of the actors on ‘The Young and the Restless.’ With the wide variety of clients and interests on trips, conversations around the nightly campfire are very interesting, to say the least.” 

    For more information on upcoming test dates to be a New York state licensed guide, go here: https://www.dec.ny.gov/permits/30969.html. For the latest updates on #DEC50 and DEC’s celebration of the agency’s 50th anniversary, visit https://www.dec.ny.gov/about/9677.html. 

Reflecting Back on 50-Years of Environmental Conservation

Randy Young

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) will celebrate its 50th anniversary later this year with a series of regional and statewide events to mark the occasion. DEC was established on the first Earth Day celebration on April 22, 1970. Since that time, DEC has played a major role in nearly every environmental milestone in New York’s history, including the remarkable recovery of the bald eagle, recovery of trout waters from the effects of acid rain, and the largest addition to the Adirondack Park in more than a century, completed in 2016. 

    “For 50 years, New York State has set the national standard for environmental excellence by advancing responsible and proactive policies to protect the planet,” said Basil Seggos, DEC Commissioner. “This year, DEC is reflecting on 50 years of national leadership on the environment and renewing our commitment to tackling the tough challenges the future will bring, particularly climate change, the most pressing threat to our air, land, and water.”  

    Prior to DEC, New York’s Conservation Department was the primary agency responsible for enforcing environmental regulations and protecting the state’s vast natural resources for more than a century. Funding for the Conservation Department came from the Conservation Fund, which raised money primarily through the sale of hunting, fishing and trapping licenses. In 1970, according to a survey of Americans at that time, 70% agreed that air and water pollution were serious problems where they lived (https://www.sciencehistory.org/distillations Policy & Politics, Richard Nixon and the rise of American Environmentalism, written by Meir Rinde, June 2, 2017). In response to growing national support for strengthening environmental protections, Governor Nelson Rockefeller consolidated all environmental programs under the newly created DEC and unveiled it to the public on the first ever Earth Day. The federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was formed later that year in December by President Nixon. 

    “While there is much to celebrate, our work is not done. DEC’s mission to protect public health and New York’s environment is, and will always be, an ongoing endeavor. In the next 50 years, environmental challenges will continue to emerge, and DEC’s steadfast commitment to meet those challenges head on will be stronger than ever before,” said Seggos. “From policies and programs that are effectively reducing waste, greenhouse gas emissions, and the threat of emerging contaminants to investments to revitalize our communities and increase their resiliency, to the Thin Green Line of Environmental Conservation Police Officers and Forest Rangers patrolling and protecting our precious natural resources and public lands, DEC’s more than 3,000 experts are working across the state and around the clock to ensure the health and prosperity of current and future generations of New Yorkers.” 

    As part of DEC’s year-long anniversary celebration, the agency is releasing a commemorative logo that will be used on the DEC website, in printed materials, and other promotions throughout 2020. DEC’s Division of Fish and Wildlife will incorporate the logo in the yearly Habitat Access Pin to commemorate the anniversary. The new Habitat Access Pin will be available at license issuing agents statewide beginning in August. Beginning in January, the agency’s history of significant environmental accomplishments will be memorialized on DEC’s website, via email, social media channels using the #DEC50 hashtag, and in the Conservationist Magazine and Conservationist for Kids. DEC will also host a series of regional and statewide events throughout the year, including launching a new Geocaching Challenge – DEC will designate 50 properties across the state where geocaching canisters will be hidden with information inside on how to receive a prize. 

    For the latest updates on #DEC50 and DEC’s yearling celebration of the agency’s 50th anniversary, visit https://www.dec.ny.gov/about/9677.html. 

Pollinator Partners In The North Country

Randy Young

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) understands the critically important roles bees and their pollinator partners—bats, butterflies, and wasps—play in supporting public health, our ecosystems and our economy. That is why DEC is abuzz with activity designed to support honey bees. 

    A honey bee’s daily job of collecting and discarding pollen is a heavy workload for a flying insect that only weighs .00025 pounds; 4,000 bees together weigh just one pound. Despite their size, New York’s ability to produce crops such as apples, grapes, cherries, onions, pumpkins, and cauliflower relies heavily on the presence of these and other pollinators. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, pollinators provide approximately $344 million worth of pollination services to New York and add $29 billion in value to crop production nationally each year. 

    Honey bees can fly up to 12 miles per hour and visit as many as 100 flowers each day to collect nectar. These bees live only five to six weeks and can produce about one tablespoon of honey during their lifespan. It takes the work of several hundred bees to fill a 9.5-ounce jar of honey. 

    Unfortunately, honey bees and their pollinator partners are facing a host of threats that are harmful and, in some cases, deadly. These threats include: 

  • habitat loss;
  • non-native species and diseases;
  • pollution;
  • pesticides; and
  • climate change.

These are just a few of the threats these species face. To combat these threats, DEC works with its partners to support the four priorities of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s Pollinator Task Force, which works to conserve and grow the state’s pollinator populations. Priorities include sharing best management practices with pollinator stakeholders, enhancing habitat, research and monitoring, and developing educational outreach programs for the public. 

    With a third round of funding from the state’s Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) allocated in the NYS 2018-2019 budget to implement the Pollinator Protection Plan, New York continues to make great strides restoring the health of pollinators. Our state’s leading efforts to promote the health of pollinators include policies to enhance foraging habitats, the creation of an inventory of wild pollinators, and encouraging pollinator-friendly planting and the use of natural forms of pest management on state lands, just to name a few. 

    For instance, the state Department of Agriculture and Markets is expanding its NYS Grown & Certified marketing program to include honey producers. The program markets local farmers and producers that adhere to food safety and environmental sustainability standards. To be eligible, honey producers must harvest 100 percent of their honey in New York and must successfully complete Cornell University’s Honey Food Safety Best Practices Manual test and label their honey products accordingly. Applicants must also submit the Honey Bee Health Information form and are required to have a bee health inspection every two years. These efforts are in addition to the state’s creation of a Technical Advisory Team that assists beekeepers in identifying and combating the causes of poor hive health. 

    DEC staff are also diligently working to educate the public on ways to reduce the use of pesticides and herbicides that could be harmful to pollinators. Additionally, the agency has a dedicated hotline to report pollinator incidents (a situation where several bees or other pollinators have died or appear to be dying). The public can call DEC’s Pesticide Program Headquarters at 1-844-332-3267 to report it. 

    We also participate every year in promoting “Pollinator Protection Week,” which highlights New York’s key pollinators, including butterflies, hummingbirds, and bees. This past June, Governor Cuomo issued a proclamation commemorating the importance of pollinators to New York’s environment and agricultural economy and affirmed New York’s commitment to promoting the health and recovery of the state’s pollinator population. 

    Recently, DEC’s Region 6 operations staff and wildlife experts planted approximately one-quarter acre of pollinator seed in a small field at Perch River Wildlife Management Area. DEC plans to increase this acreage over time in hopes of providing flowering plants to benefit the declining native bees and other insect pollinators. DEC also plants flowers at its regional substations and campgrounds to attract pollinators and encourages the public to participate by planting their own native plant species. These so-called Pollinator Pathways can make a big difference in a bee’s lifespan and will add color to properties. 

    The St. Lawrence – Eastern Lake Ontario Partnership for Regional Invasive Species Management has a brochure online that contains everything the public needs to know about pollinator pathways https://www.sleloinvasives.org/learn/educational-material/slelo-pollinator-pathway-project-brochure/ so that all New Yorkers can support DEC’s work to protect this crucially important wildlife. 

DEC Plays Critical Role in Strong Local Economies

Randy Young

If asked, few people would associate the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) with economic development. However, DEC plays a critical role in maintenance and improvement of local strong economies. Indeed, our mission statement says that we protect and enhance the environment in part to protect the “…overall economic and social well-being …” of the people of the state.

    A few examples of DEC directly supporting local economies include our programs to clean up blighted properties with the hopes of redevelopment and returning these properties to the tax rolls.

    DEC’s Brownfield Cleanup Program (BCP) was established to support private-sector cleanups of contaminated properties and reduce development pressure on greenfields.  Tax credits are provided to parties that perform cleanup activities under the BCP to offset the costs associated with site investigation and cleanup, site preparation, and property improvements. Specific examples of sites that have been redeveloped under the BCP include abandoned gas stations, former factory and mill complexes, and foundries.

    DEC also assists with the cleanup of abandoned gas stations and other petroleum spill sites through the New York State Spill Fund. Within DEC Region 6, which includes Jefferson, Lewis, St. Lawrence, Oneida and Herkimer counties, DEC spent approximately $1 million in 2017-2018 to clean up six sites within the city of Rome, and we’re poised to invest an additional $1 million this year on nine sites in St. Lawrence County. 

    Once these cleanups are complete, the municipalities will be able to market the properties for redevelopment and place them back on the tax rolls. 

    Millions of dollars in grants are also awarded to assist local communities with infrastructure improvement assistance. In Jefferson County, the village of Adams was recently awarded a Water Quality Improvement Project (WQIP) grant of $1 million for extensive improvements to its 38-year-old wastewater treatment facility. These improvements to the nearly 40-year-old wastewater treatment facility include the addition of disinfection equipment, which will substantially reduce the number of microorganisms discharged into Sandy Creek.

    “This award supports a much-needed project that the village of Adams has been planned for some time, and the grant will help the village to move it forward,” said David Rarick, DEC Region 6 regional water engineer.

    The WQIP program is a competitive, reimbursement grant program that funds projects that directly address documented water quality impairments. The village of Adams, plus 10 other municipalities and not-for-profits in Region 6 received WQIP awards totaling nearly $4.5 million.

    The town of Theresa was awarded $325,000 to build a new salt storage facility at the town’s highway department, while Thousand Islands Land Trust (TILT) was awarded $555,771 for a land acquisition project for source water protection. TILT plans to place perpetual conservation easements on six parcels of land totaling more than 310 acres of undeveloped habitat and three miles of vegetated shoreline and riparian habitat in the town of Clayton. This project will protect riparian vegetation, natural shoreline, and the surface water quality of the St. Lawrence River.

    The awards were announced mid-December 2018 and affect many statewide communities. Governor Cuomo announced more than $103 million in grants for a statewide total of 124 projects. While all WQIP projects will improve water quality, reduce the potential for harmful algal blooms and protect drinking water statewide, these funds provide an economic benefit, as well. Communities that can improve and expand wastewater collection and treatment capacity are better positioned to accommodate residential and commercial growth opportunities.

    “Access to clean water is critical to the health, safety, and economic wellbeing of our communities. With Governor Cuomo’s leadership, New York is investing millions of dollars to protect and restore invaluable water resources statewide and addressing growing threats like harmful algal blooms,” said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos.

    In other promising economic news, 12 municipalities in Region 6 received Engineering Planning Grant (EPG) awards totaling about $600,000. This includes $30,000 for the village of Dexter Wastewater Treatment Plant Disinfection Study. The EPG program funds engineering studies that will ultimately lead to wastewater treatment improvement projects that can be funded through the WQIP or other funding opportunities.

Randy Young is the regional attorney and acting regional director. He has been with the DEC for 25 years.

Giant Hogweed Warning and Signs

Giant hogweed invasive plant.

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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.