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Lyme disease creeping north; update on the Champion lands; Lows Lake vote reversed

November 19, 2009
By Joe Hackett

The region has been graced with a full week of Indian Summer that delivered brilliant sunshine and cloudless, bluebird days. As heavy frosts carpeted the ground in white crystals each morning and rim ice secured the small ponds in the evenings, the night skies offered up meteor showers with stars falling by the thousands.

Area star gazers were treated to two consecutive evenings which provided an outstanding backdrop of clear, crisp skies for the annual Leonid Meteor Shower. As we watched the night's dramatic display, my daughter exclaimed, "I can't keep up. I can't think of enough wishes to make, there's just too many stars falling!"

Lows Lake wilderness classification vote reversed

Article Photos

The numerous semi-submerged stumps of the Bog River Flow provide evidence of flooded lands created when Gus Low established dams along the waterway to generate power for a variety of commercial enterprises.
(Photo by Joe Hackett)

Combined with the pleasant autumn weather and the approaching peak of the whitetail rut, there have been several recent announcements and decisions that have served to brighten the spirits of area sportspeople over the past week.

At November's monthly meeting, the Adirondack Park Agency voted 7-4 to reverse September's vote which classified the waters, bed, and surrounding lands of the 12,500 acre Lows Lake/Bog River Flow Area as wilderness. The APA's spokesman, Keith McKeever, explained that "the board's decision offers proof that public comments have an effect. The commissioners listened to the arguments and made a decision that took into account the public's concerns."

The APA's September vote was 6-4 in favor of a wilderness designation for both the lands and waters of Lows Lake. The decision was invalidated when it was determined that Chris Walsh, Empire State Development's APA designee, was no longer considered an ESD employee when the vote was taken. Legally, the invalidation of Walsh's vote erased the required six votes necessary for the designation to pass.

The prospect of an APA land use wilderness designation for the waters and lake beds of Adirondack lakes raised the ire of local officials, who feared the decision would extend APA jurisdiction to other local lakes.

A classification of either "wilderness" or "primitive" prohibits the use of floatplanes or motorboats, while a primitive classification allows for manmade facilities such as roads. DEC Region 5 Director Betsy Lowe voted against wilderness classification of the waters due to the potential that it would hinder the department from using small motor boats for administrative purposes and the maintenance of the campsites.

The Bog River Flow is a former industrial waterway created by two major dams that back-flooded the area and connected a number of formerly isolated ponds. Although it is a remote and desolate region, it is far from being true wilderness due to a number of private holdings and the ever-present remains of Low's industrial empire. A wilderness designation would degrade the standard of the label and unfairly raise visitors' expectations.

DEC proposes modifying hunting camp leases on Champion Lands

It has been an acrimonious decade since the $24.9 million purchase of 139,000 acres of Champion Paper Company lands by New York State in 1999. But hunters and camp owners rejoiced when the DEC recently announced a decision to modify three of the working-forest conservation easements which cover nearly 110,000 acres of leased Champion lands spread across four Adirondack counties.

Completed by former Gov. George Pataki, the 139,000-acre land acquisition was the largest land preservation purchase in state history at the time. The proposed DEC amendment will provide the landowner, Heartland Forestry Fund III, with permanent rights to lease 220 one-acre camp lots to hunting and fishing clubs on working forest lands. The proposed amendment will also allow motorized vehicles on designated routes to access the leased properties. In exchange for the easements, the Heartland Forestry Fund will transfer approximately 2,661 acres of forested lands to the state of New York. The company will also permit year-round public access to the easement lands when seasonal restrictions expire in 2014.

Frustration with the state's purchase reached the tipping point when lease-holders on the Santa Clara tract were informed by DEC personnel that some camps would have to be removed. Following the announcement, one of the main bridges leading into the Santa Clara tract mysteriously burned. Another bridge was ruined when a DEC dump truck, which had been sent to remove debris, fell through the only other access bridge.

The recent announcement illustrates ongoing efforts between both the state and forestry companies to retain camp leases on working forest lands. The leases provide lumber companies with a source of revenue to pay land taxes while also perpetuating the traditional camp culture of the Adirondacks, which is an essential component of the economies of many small towns. The DEC will accept written comments on the modification process until December 11, 2009. Address letters to Heather Carl at NYS DEC, Division of Lands and Forests, 625 Broadway, Albany, NY 12233-4255 or email

Outdoor travelers should be ticked off

I was concerned when a friend of mine in Lake Placid complained about a mysterious illness that had kept him bedridden for nearly a month. He detailed symptoms which included chills, a fever, swollen glands and a pounding headache.

"Sounds like the flu to me, maybe even the dreaded H1N1 version," I offered, "Have you been to the doctor?"

"Some days", he said, "I can't even get out of bed because I'm so weak. I've already been out of work for a couple of weeks. Luckily, I've got a few friends that stop over to look after me."

He also described severe fatigue, a stiff neck, back and joint pain, and a tingling in his arms and legs. "I know it sounds crazy, but it sounds to me like you've got a case of Lyme disease," I said.

It was nearly a mouth later when I caught up with him in town. Sure enough, his affliction was Lyme disease.

In the heart of the Adirondacks there's now a malady that once was only found south of us - in Connecticut, say, or Westchester County.

I recognized his symptoms since several friends of mine have suffered through them. They all live downstate.

My younger brother, who lives in Red Hook on the Hudson River, keeps a ready supply of tick tweezers and medication on hand at all times. "Whenever the kids play outdoors," he told me, "They tuck their pant legs into their socks. Even so, we still have to check them over for ticks as soon as they're back inside. The ticks are real difficult to see, about the size of a single piece of pepper."

Lyme disease is caused by the bite of an infected deer tick, which are most active when the weather stays above freezing. Peak activity usually occurs in spring and early summer and again in the fall.

Although I've never had concerns about ticks and the possibility of Lyme disease in this region, my eyes were opened when two of the four guys in our hunting camp discovered ticks on them about two weeks ago. Did these ticks carry disease? We don't know. They were removed before they got a bite, but I learned a lesson. So, no more sitting on the ground while "on watch" - which adds an additional benefit to tree stands. My long johns are now firmly tucked into my socks and I try to avoid crashing through the brush.

In about 60-80 percent of Lyme cases, a rash resembling a bull's eye or solid patch, about two inches in diameter, appears and expands around or near the site of the bite. Sometimes, multiple rash sites appear.

The delight of Indian Summer days no longer holds quite the charm that they used to. Bring on the freeze and get rid of these microscopic vermin!

If left untreated, Lyme disease can cause serious health complications, including musculoskeletal, neurological and cardiac problems. The most severe symptoms of Lyme disease may not appear until weeks, months or even years after the tick bite.

According to state health officials, Lyme disease has increased its geographic range in New York State from Long Island and the lower Hudson Valley to as far north as Essex County. Tick surveys show increased numbers of deer ticks in the southern Adirondacks and central and western regions of the state, where relatively few deer ticks had previously been found. Deer ticks that carry the pathogen for Lyme disease are commonly found in forested and field habitats, particularly where these habitats meet. However, ticks can be found in many different habitats, including residential lawns adjacent to wooded areas. Ticks do not have the ability to fly.

In 2008, there were 22 confirmed cases of Lyme disease in Essex County, while only four cases were reported in Franklin and siz in Clinton County. Even with these small numbers, precautions are advised.



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