Wednesday, July 1, 2009

An Update on Major Natural Resources Issues in Schuyler

Forest Pests

In April I discussed several serious pests that are moving towards our forests. I would like to dedicate more time to this topic now that the Emerald Ash Borer was confirmed within New York’s boundaries last week. The ash borer, Asian Longhorn Beetle, and Hemlock Woolly Adelgid are just three of a growing number of pests that threaten to eliminate entire species from our landscape and significantly alter our forest ecosystems. Despite these threats, insect and disease specialists are optimistic they will find effective biological controls to combat these pests.

As landowners, we can buy them valuable time to find these natural enemies by remaining vigilant for pest outbreaks on our properties. There are many pests affecting many trees in our landscape, so take time to become familiar with the tell-tale signs of serious pests. Most outbreaks have been found by attentive landowners – not the experts. At the same time, the experts have increasingly limited time to diagnose pest problems on a case-by-case situation, so the responsibility lies with landowners to do their homework and attempt an initial analysis. If in doubt, email some high-resolution digital pictures of the problem to Extension or the DEC, and if possible capture a specimen and place it in a heavy plastic bag or jar to freeze for later identification.

Like forest pests, natural gas development is no longer a question of “if” in Schuyler, but of how well we will be prepared when it happens. Gas exploration, wind farms, and bioenergy projects are both opportunities and challenges that are knocking on the door. A number of us were recently able to tour Fortuna Energy’s operations just south of the border in Bradford County, PA. Bradford is a Marcellus Shale “hot spot” of development due to its proximity to a major natural gas transmission line. There are many similarities between Bradford and Schuyler, including the presence of a major transmission line – the Empire Connector, which was built through western Schuyler last summer. These transmission pipelines are often the catalyst for intensive natural gas development in a new region.

The DEC’s temporary moratorium on some drilling practices pending the completion of the Generic Environmental Impact Statement has bought us time to study the impacts of natural gas development in similar areas, and learn from those experiences. While our local governments take steps to beneficially control the impacts of landscape-scale energy projects on our community, each of us as landowners must also take steps to become better prepared for these eventualities. Some examples of what we can do are:

• Determine your land ownership goals and evaluate how certain activities like gas drilling could compliment or conflict with those goals.
• Don’t sign a lease without understanding the terms of the lease, and without first seeking professional advice. For gas and wind rights leasing, landowners should contact a qualified consultant or attorney. Schuyler now has a landowner coalition that can provide expert advice on leasing issues. For timber harvesting, contact a forester.
• Educated yourself on these issues to better understand how they will affect both you and the community.
• Retain an expert to oversee your interests during the planning and execution phases of a significant activity on your property. Remember that your consultant can only enforce what was originally agreed upon, which is why they need to be included from the early planning stages. A relatively small investment in these professional services often pays big dividends in mitigating costly problems.

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