Sunday, December 20, 2009

'Wild' Bridge Between the Peaks

Interesting story, good for both the animals and people. I remember seeing deer literally jump off I-540s high bridges in Arkansas because of the limited (but available) crossings. I-540 mostly spanned bridges, but it had a few tunnels which appeared to be for wildlife to cross over and cars to go under.

By the way, the Times Union actually does a pretty good job covering issues in the Adirondacks. This story is probably gone by now, but stop by the main site here.

By BRIAN NEARING, Staff writer
Click byline for more stories by writer.
First published: Sunday, December 20, 2009

The decrepit and soon-to-be-demolished Champlain Bridge is many miles away to the north. But this portion of the border between New York and Vermont, where the states are separated only by a narrow strip of Lake Champlain, may represent another kind of bridge that endures unnoticed.

Running through more than 30 miles of mostly undeveloped forest country in the Lake Champlain Valley is a sort of natural span that experts believe has allowed solitary, wide-ranging predators such as bears, bobcats and fishers to migrate between the Adirondacks in New York and the Green Mountains in Vermont.

Now, a quarter-million-dollar, federally supported study of about 1,700 square miles between Whitehall and Rutland will seek ways to protect this "wild" bridge between the two ranges, and lessen the dangers presented by roads -- especially north/south roads like Route 4 above Fort Ann and Route 7 above Rutland. The study will also examine how to keep key sections of up to 5,000 acres of forest in this corridor intact, either by purchase or through conservation easements.

"This area is a pinch-point between the Adirondacks and the Greens," said Michelle Brown, a conservation scientist with the Adirondack Chapter of The Nature Conservancy, which is coordinating the five-year study with the New York Department of Environmental Conservation and the Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife, as well as the Wildlife Conservation Society and The Conservation Fund.

Brown and DEC wildlife biologist Joe Racette recently visited Dresden in northern Washington County to look over a Nature Conservancy purchase in the heart of the wildlife corridor, near the Chubbs Dock area. This land was purchased recently to help protect waterfowl habitat.

"It is helpful to think of large animals like this as electricity, in that they will follow the path of least resistance to avoid humans," said Racette. "What we are looking at here is trying to maintain a connection instead of restoring one."

Large carnivores like bears can range up to 10 miles in a single day, and up to 40 miles over the course of a season, he said. Even a smaller predator like a fisher, a member of the weasel family that can reach four feet long and weigh 10 pounds, can cover three or four miles a day.

Keeping the forest link open between the mountains allows for continued genetic mixing between animals, Racette said. When animal populations become isolated, genetic variability declines, making animals more susceptible to disease outbreaks.


Since roads can be deadly to wildlife...

"We will be looking at low-cost things to help make roads more permeable for animals crossing, like reconfiguring some culverts to make sure they are big enough for larger animals to pass through," said Brown, who noted that even changing where guardrails are placed can redirect where animals chose to cross a road.


Building roads with wildlife pass-throughs has been regular practice for years out west, where large animals like elk and caribou migrate in large herds. Such measures are being added slowly in New York, said Deb Nelson, an assistant operations director at the state Department of Transportation. One of the first roadway wildlife mitigation measures in the state, she said, was on Meadowdale Road in Altamont, where culverts were added to facilitate the passage of salamanders.

The state has also added wildlife-accessible culverts at Stewart International Airport in Newburgh and in the Utica area, and is using motion-activated game cameras to measure how many animals pass through, Nelson said.

DOT expects the Champlain Valley study will "help us make sound investment decisions based on sound science. We don't want to put something in and find that it's not working," said Nelson. "There are a million culverts under the roads in the state. Those culverts can serve as passageways for wildlife, or as barriers. We want to minimize those barriers."


For the Champlain Valley study, "our interest right now is making sure that we identify the most important landscapes for all the specific species that could benefit from it," Austin said.

The Champlain study is part of a larger, four-state project including New Hampshire and Maine that seeks to protect connections in the forests of the northeast.

Brian Nearing can be reached at 454-5094 or

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Friday, December 4, 2009

The Real Pittsburgh Stealers

What happened over the last decade in Pittsburgh makes you wonder just how serious that fan is. When the situation in a major league city is so bad that the fans in that city wonder if they will be traded, you know you are doing a bad job as a baseball organization or a business in general.

If you want a business to succeed it requires initial investment, and continuous reinvestment. Great example of this would be both Merck and Coca-Cola. Coke thought it had the market forever, and just produced Coca-Cola and watched itself slip into obscurity despite being among the most recognizable symbols in the world. Merck, sitting on ridiculously long drug patents and proving patents DON'T spur innovation, shut down most of it's R&D division in the 1990s. A company that invents drugs can't grow without new drugs, and unfortunately R&D spending creates drugs.

On the flip side, the NY Yankees are a shining example of building a business, and turning it into an empire – the “Evil Empire”- via the principle of reinvestment. Yes, New York is the nations #1 media market, but it's also a place where competition for revenue is high. The Yankees share a city with other high profile events, a second baseball team who is in the national league (New York is a traditionally national league town), and they are within a 1.5-2.5 hour drive of 2 other major markets. Still, the Yankees have managed to capitalize on every possible aspect of revenue.

When George Steinbrenner purchased the team in 1973 for $10 million the who could have predicted the Yankees would be the worlds first $1B sports franchise, or that Yankee Stadium in it's current location could draw 3M and then 4M. No, not even George Steinbrenner believed he could draw over 3M at 161st St.

So how did he do it? How did he build the “Evil Empire”? Simple really, the Yankees were (and still are) an old school, rich mans pissing match. It's the essence of a sports franchise, Steinbrenner built it to win while innovating, he built it for championships, he reinvested the earnings into the team year after year like a business. It was a commitment to winning above all else that led to a quality product.

Remember the movie line, “If you build it, he will come.” “Build what,” he says to the voice? “Build a winner and they will come from miles and miles around. They will come to Cleveland, they will be bored, they will get back in their cars and they will drive to Pittsburgh. They will drive towards the lights, they will come to the gate, ask for a ticket, and they won't care about the price. “$30” you say, “I'll take 4,” they'll say. They'll buy jerseys, hats and giant foam fingers, sit in their seats eating hotdogs and Cracker Jacks. If you build it, THEY will come!”

And now we turn back to Pittsburgh. It's a team owned and run to make a profit first and foremost, just like many other franchises in baseball, winning is secondary. If they did win, sure it would be magical, after all, success usually isn't purely based on luck. You need a few good players here and there on a 25 man roster.

Bold statement, eh? I mean Pittsburgh is a beaten down blue collar industrial town, nestled in a country that doesn't produce anything anymore. It's a city that peaked in the 1950s and has been headed downward for decades. Right?


Pittsburgh has a bad reputation, which is truly a shame. It's honestly one of the most picturesque cities I have been to. Sitting at the confluence of 3 rivers, flanked by deep ravines and steep hillsides that give commanding views of the cities unique architecture, and 455 bridges. No, I didn't add a number via a typo, Pittsburgh has the most (piered) bridges of any city in the world, many of which are magnificent.

Oh, and it's now one of America's cleanest cities, after a long stretch of being on the American Lung Associations dirtiest. At times it held the lofty honor of dirtiest.. It's also a huge sports town, but another surprise is that it is a city with a lot of culture. Despite the blue collar nature of the city, it's also a city of old money and education. The result is a lot more culture than you'd expect. Pittsburgh is a city that could have completely died, but it reinvented itself impressively.

Of course, it's only a city of less than 400,000 people, with a total metropolitan population of 2.5M people. Pittsburgh is probably barely big enough to support a sports team, let alone 3 professional teams, and a few colleges. Naturally, under the best of circumstances Pittsburgh won't be able to outspend the Yankees, or even the Seattle Mariners. However, what the ownership of the Pirates has done over the last decade is simply US Steelcriminal.

Most people don't realize that baseball, while not having a salary cap, has both a luxury tax and revenue sharing. What this does is penalize teams like the Yankees for spending a lot of money. How it works is essentially redistribution of wealth. The Yankees generate gigantic sums of money, which they then spend, and pay a tax on the excess spending. MLB then distributes this money, along with other MLB revenue (national TV revenue, official apparel, sponsorships, etc) to small market teams. The Yankees don't receive MLB revenue, they pay their own way, and then some.

What does Pittsburgh do with it's revenue sharing proceeds? Darn good question, and if you can tell me then you are a step ahead of me. There is $400 million floating around somewhere from the last decade that Pittsburgh ownership is hiding. Certainly they haven't spent it on their team, nor the beautiful stadium which was publicly funded. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention PNC Park is a class ballpark. It would be beautiful in Staten Island, New York, but with the waterfront location, the bridges and skyline in the backdrop, it is simply the best park in baseball.

So where is the $400 million? Not on the field, not in the stadium, not in scouting, not in signing the good young players they have had to long term contracts on the cheap, and overall not in building a product or business that will grow. It's definitely not in hiring baseball people, because every time Pittsburgh gets a guy good enough to sell a jersey with his name on it, he is traded for 4 guys that cumulatively don't equal his level of play now or ever.

The Pirates are a joke, not because Pittsburgh can't support them, they are a joke because someone is milking them for the revenue stream.

JFK said, “Ich bin ein Berliner” (loosely translated, “I am a jelly doughnut”)

I say, “I am a Pittsburgher.” (loosely translated, “I am tired of being ripped off while watching bad baseball”)

Mr Selig, TEAR DOWN THIS WALL of ownership picking owners who won't compete. End the repression, sell the team to Mark Cuban, and watch a yearly pissing match between the Steinbrenners and Mr Cuban develop. Lets get some competition in the game, lets bring back the spoiled rich owners who play fantasy baseball with real money. Lets bring baseball back to it's roots, we don't want parity like football and basketball. Parity equals average, which means low quality. Parity is the restaurant with 3 star reviews; you want 5 stars and a certified master chef. We want competitive rivalries, we want dynasties, we want spectacular!

Evening Skyline Over Pittsburgh