Snow continues to fall across portions of the North Country, where accumulations have previously been rather meager this season. However, the deep, downy powder has still not condensed enough to form any appreciable base layer, and skiers should remain cautious for rocks, roots and other obstructions.
Darrin Harr, a meteorologist who operates a weather station in Indian Lake, posted a recent entry regarding the Adirondack's lack of snow. Harr's website, www.adirondackweathersite.com, has proven to be one of the most reliable sources for local weather.
The calendar year of 2010, produced the following snow totals:
Skiing conditions have improved this week throughout the Adirondacks after several snowfalls. Here, three male turkeys work their way across a snow-covered field during the late afternoon Tuesday on the Norman Ridge Road in the Town of Franklin.
(Enterprise photo — Lou Reuter)
Boston - 42.4 inches (102.7 percent of normal)
New York City - 59.1 inches (263 percent of normal)
Philadelphia - 67.3 inches (389 percent of normal)
Washington DC - 41.6 inches (274 percent of normal)
Indian Lake - 51.6 inches (43.6 percent of normal)
"It is astounding that snowfall from ANY of these cites would even be in the same zip code as Indian Lake's snowfall," Harr remarked. "I don't have the time to peruse snowfall records for the past 100+ years, but I think that I would be hard-pressed to find another calendar year when Philadelphia and New York City accumulated more snow than Indian Lake did."
The arrival of fresh snow will likely provide a welcome mat for the return of backcountry enthusiasts traveling to the little village of Keene Valley for the 15th annual Adirondack International Mountaineering Festival from Jan. 14 to 16. The Mountainfest is charity event that supports local and regional nonprofits every year.
This year's event kicked off Friday night with a slide show by Freddie Wilkinson at Keene Central School. For further information, please call The Mountaineer at 518-576-2281 or visit www.mountaineer.com.
Conservation during global conflict
I am always intrigued to learn about the depth and reach of the accumulated knowledge that continues to emanate from the Adirondack region. Certainly, many people are aware of the brain trusts at the core of organizations such as the Trudeau Institute or the American Management Association, which both have a global reach.
However, there is a smaller, quieter organization based in the village of Saranac Lake with a comparable global reach and similar quantities of quality information. And they have been doing it since 1897.
The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), spawned by the New York Zoological Society, is a research-based organization that has been quietly and carefully going about the business of wildlife and land conservation for over a century.
The Adirondack branch of the organization, located in Saranac Lake, has continued the organization's longheld tradition of providing science-based conservation advocacy. I often refer to the group as the "Quiet Company," because they continue to go about their business without any apparent need for accolades or influence.
With an assembled cast of PhDs, scientists and associated researchers and naturalists, the group has used a science-based approach to achieve numerous conservation objectives over the years. They employ facts, statistics and research, rather than political influence and letter writing campaigns, to achieve conservation advocacy.
Recently, I attended a presentation offered by Dr. Heidi Kretzer that focused on the local organization's efforts to protect biodiversity in Iraq and Afghanistan. At first glance, it seemed like a far reach from Saranac Lake to the Middle East.
But, as Dr. Kretser explained, WCS has formed a unique partnership with the U.S. military in an effort to educate and reduce the illegal trade in wildlife.
Currently, the U.S. military deploys over 80,000 troops through Fort Drum near Watertown. Surveys indicate that, once overseas, about 30 percent of these soldiers will purchase pelts, whether in the form of coats, rugs or another form of decoration. Often, these items consist of rare or endangered species.
From the earliest of times, warriors have collected trophies of war. These items have ranged from the grotesque - a human scalp for instance - to the ordinary, such as a German Lugar pistol or a letter taken from an enemy soldier.
In some cases, these trophies are a totem, a way for a warrior to take a symbol of power from a defeated foe. But, the collection of other items, such as exotic animal pelts, carvings or jewelry is a much more common practice.
While the threats to wildlife in areas of conflict are considerable, and include habitat loss, subsistence hunting and overgrazing, the illegal trade in exotic species is quite possibly the greatest threat of all. The world's greatest consumers of this trade are found in the U.S. and China.
Currently, the illegal and unregulated trade in exotic wildlife is big business. It is estimated to be over $18 billion annually, second only to the trade in drugs and firearms.
The WCS-US military partnership has made great strides in the effort to combat this trade. It has been accomplished through educational efforts, such as the Department of Defense, Natural Resources Legacy Program.
The program educates troops before deployment, not only about the collection of exotic species, but also about the dangers of the venomous snakes, scorpions and spiders that may be encountered in theatre. It also works with Military Police Training and with the cadets at West Point.
Troops are also advised that such illegal trade may also be funding the very insurgents they are battling. In the Middle East, endangered species such as snow leopards, Asiatic cheetahs or a Saker falcon can fetch upwards of $20,000. That kind of money can produce a lot of IEDs, the improvised explosive devices that are used as roadside bombs.
It is just this type of knowledge, and science-based approach, that has made the WCS approach so effective in saving wildlife and saving people. It is no wonder that they recently received a two-year contract with the U.S. Army for pre-deployment training.
Next in line, WCS hopes, is the Navy. As Kretser explained, "They see a lot more ports than the Army."