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KEEPING IT CATSKILLS!

Catskill Mountainkeeper’s Food Initiative has had a productive year and we’d like to share Cow-Graphicsome of our successes with you.  We increased food access through the development of new farmers markets, expanded the Catskill Edible Garden Project, and facilitated mentorships for emerging farmers through regional partnerships.  We are committed to our proactive programmatic work to support sustainable economic growth for our region and to strengthen and nurture healthy communities and local business.

Here are some of this year’s highlights from our Catskill Food Initiative:

Youth, Food, and Agriculture
 

CEGP-NOFA-photo-copyThrough our Catskill Edible Garden Project (CEGP), we have partnered with local schools to create fruit and vegetable gardens; improving student access to healthy, local foods. By growing their own food, students built confidence and self-esteem while learning life lessons about good nutrition and career options in agricultural or food-related businesses.

Just finishing its second season, the project has engaged hundreds of community members on garden build days at seven gardens across Sullivan County. Garden clubs have been set up, and teachers are integrating important lessons about food production, healthy eating and the importance of local food systems into the classroom.  Some schools have even been serving student-grown garden produce in their cafeterias.

The workforce development component of the project has employed 12 local youths in summer work, giving area students the chance to learn how to grow, harvest, process, and prepare garden produce, which they distributed to local families and food pantries.

CEGP is a partnership between Catskill Mountainkeeper, Sullivan Renaissance, and other local organizations. You can learn more about the project and see additional photos here.

Food Access

In October, Mountainkeeper wrapped up its first full season managing a new Catskills farmers’ market, located in the Sullivan County capitol of Monticello. The market improved access to healthy food for low-income residents and others, by connecting them with farmers and artisan food makers from our region.

Monticello-Market---EmWhile it’s the hub of an agricultural county, Monticello is a USDA designated ‘food desert’ – meaning a community without ready access to fresh, healthy, and affordable food – and its residents suffer some of the worst health statistics in the state.

Working with area partners, Mountainkeeper opened the only market in the county to be approved by the Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program.  Participating farmers were certified by the program, meaning they could accept vouchers provided to low income families and seniors under federal programs like the WIC Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program, which provides aid to women, infants and children.
In addition to making fresh, healthy produce available, many of the markets offered recipe tastings and demos using local and seasonal produce, and provided information about health and nutrition.

As a result of the market, we saw a significant increase in voucher redemptions for fresh fruits and vegetables.  Next year, we plan to expand this popular program to build on this year’s success. To get involved, please click here.

Farm to Table Dinner 

CMK-Neversink-GuestsThis summer, more than 300 patrons attended our second annual farm-to-table supper at beautiful Neversink Farm.  We were thrilled to welcome back James Beard Award-winning chef, Patrick Connolly, who prepared another delicious feast with thoughtfully-sourced ingredients from some of the Catskills’ finest farms and food producers.

By committing to purchase locally grown and processed foods, we allow farmers and producers to receive a higher profit margin, as they are able to eliminate many of the transportation and distribution costs associated with more geographically distant sales.  Enabling local sales and food distribution allows farmers to develop relationships within their communities – whether that be with individual customers or local restaurant/business owners.

For more information on this and other on-farm events, please click here.

To learn more about other Catskill Food Initiative programs, partnerships and resources, and ways to get involved, click here.

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Go Take a Hike!

Now More than Ever, Eco-tourism is Key to Reviving Tourist Industry

by Ramsay Adams
ramsay@catskillmountainkeeper.org
Has it been long since you wanted to tell someone to “Go take a hike?”
That’s something we love to do at Catskill Mountainkeeper.  Our trail systems, and even our backcountry roads, in Sullivan County and the Catskills are some of the best in the nation.And over the last year, Trailkeeper.org, part of our Trailkeeper Network® initiative, has been a big part of our work to promote eco-tourism.  Trailkeeper.org is a great online resource for hiking trails and local area attractions and amenities in Sullivan County that has drawn the attention of eco-friendly tourists, and encouraged them come to our area.
Trailkeeper.org was developed by Catskill Mountainkeeper, in partnership with the Delaware Highlands Conservancy, the Sullivan County Planning Department, the Sullivan County Visitors Association, Cornell Cooperative Extension and Morgan Outdoors.  Launched last year, Trailkeeper.org has proven a big success, attracting hikers from all over the NYC Metro area and the nation.  It also encourages the use of multi-purpose trails in the Catskills by promoting eco-friendly activities such as hiking, biking, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing.TrailKeeper.org contains area trail maps, hiker hints, tips and photos, recommendations for specific trails, information about local shops, lodgings, restaurants and attractions.  It makes Sullivan County’s extensive network of trails more accessible and promotes the Catskills as a striking destination for eco-tourists.
For local residents, many who never realized what great trails and public lands were only minutes away from their homes, the website has also helped to enhance their quality of living and their regard for the local environment, which is key to our great country living style.
Remember, while the big news around Sullivan County this month was that the Gaming

Amendment passed in  New York State and we are likely to be the site of at  least one casino, we can’t forget the importance of promoting eco-tourism in our Catskill Mountain region.  That’s not only in terms of preserving our beautiful, but fragile ecology, but also in attracting potentially millions of non-gambling tourists to stay and spend in our region.

To be blunt, eco-tourism still remains the key to reviving our tourist industry in Sullivan County.   It’s very important to build on the success of initiatives like Trailkeeper.org.  That’s what’s truly going to grow the influx of tourists to Sullivan County.How lucrative is eco-tourism?  Here’s some proof: The Audubon Society has reported that in terms of bird-watching in New York alone, 3.8 million people watch birds and other wildlife, and generate approximately $1.6 billion in ecotourism revenue annually.
So it’s just not going to be solely casinos that are going to help build tourism and our local economies.  It’s continuing to build on the success of initiatives like Trailkeeper.org where visitors will spend important tourist dollars in our hamlets and villages instead of self-contained destination resorts.
Catskill Mountainkeeper is one of many environmental groups that works hard to educate and promote open space protection and environmental preservation.  An important strategy in this quest is to inspire and assist local businesses, chambers of commerce, and tourism associations to develop successful strategies and programs to market their natural resources such as hiking, biking, fishing, and other activities.
We will continue to build on the sucess of our Trailkeeper Network® initiative.  In the meantime, go to Trailkeeper.org and figure out where and when you are going to take a hike!
Additional support for Trailkeeper.org comes from the Upper Delaware Council, Sullivan Renaissance, the New York New Jersey Trail Conference, the National Park Service, Sullivan County Community College Hiking Class, and many volunteers.
Ramsay Adams
Executive Director
We Need Your Support.  You can make a safe and secure donation through our website or PayPal by clicking on one of the links below.  We also need volunteers!
 

or send a check to: Catskill Mountainkeeper, Box 381 Youngsville, NY 12791

Update: Gambling Approved, Casino in the Catskills Now a Certainty

The statewide referendum to allow 7 state sanctioned casinos in New York State passed on election day.  The result is that the Catskill region will see at least one Las Vegas style casino.   Mountainkeeper opposed the referendum and made the case that the costs outweigh the benefits.  Now Mountainkeeper will work with the Governor, local elected officials and developers to ensure that the best location is chosen and that the negative impacts of a casino are mitigated as much as possible.  We want to make sure that the casino succeeds and has a positive impact on the region.  The referendum promised to create jobs, lower taxes and support education- we will work to make sure those promises are fulfilled.  There is a thoughtful editorial on this in the Albany Times Union and we encourage everyone – both proponents and opponents of the referendum to read it here:
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Watch ABC News’ report on the referendum with Mountainkeeper’ response here:
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Catskill Food Initiative

CATSKILL FOOD INITIATIVE

Catskill Food Initiative logo

Promoting sustainable economic growth in the Catskills through agriculture

Catskill Farm New York FarmA critical component of Catskill Mountainkeeper’s mission is to facilitate sustainable

economic growth in the Catskills.  Since agriculture, our region’s number two industry behind tourism, has the strongest potential to fuel this growth, we have created the Catskill Food Initiative.

 

 Click here to find out more about our agricultural programming

We Need YOUR Comments Now to Stop the Gas Industry!

Don’t Let the Gas Companies Build Their Invasive Infrastructure

The fracking fight in New York appears to be at a stalemate with Governor Cuomo not yet signaling a clear decision against fracking.  Can he avoid succumbing to industry pressure to frack New York?
   Compressor Station on Federal Road, Erin, NY

Certainly the gas industry is betting that he cannot.  They have been quietly drafting plans to cover our state with an infrastructure to bring natural gas to market – with much of it projected to be shipped overseas where the prices are higher.  This is why it is so important for you to take immediate action and submit your comments today on the prosposed regulations which would permit Liquified Natural Gas facilities of any size throughout the state.  Our colleague, Sandra Steingraber, has once again made this process streamlined and effective with herReturn of 30 Days: The Infrastructure Regs. She will be collecting comments for the 30 day period and then submitting them to the New York State Department of Conservation.

The gas industry’s plans to create a massive infrastructure in New York means that the people who would be affected by drilling are not just those who live in the upstate areas where fracking might be approved, but EVERYONE who lives near a toxic and potentially explosive pipeline, compressor station, or Liquid Natural Gas storage facility.  There are currently over 53 proposed or approved gas infrastructure projects across the State, including several in New York City and its suburbs.

To keep natural gas in a highly pressurized state for travel through pipelines, compressor stations are located every 40 to 100 miles along the route to market.  Compressor stations have been documented to cause air, water and noise pollution.  Studies from air around compressor stations have shown extremely high levels of carcinogens and neurotoxins.  Lisa Jackson, former Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has said in relationship to other fracking infrastructure, “You are going to have huge smog problems where you never had them before.”   High levels of ozone (smog) have been shown to have a direct correlation to an increase in asthma and other respiratory diseases. You only need to look to Pennsylvania – where gas companies have constructed over 450 compressor stations in five years - to see how quickly and extensively gas drilling can impact communities.

The full picture of the complexity and invasiveness of this infrastructure in New York has yet to emerge, but we are seeing a very disturbing pattern; industry scrambles to build a massive web of pipelines, compressor stations, and Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) facilities to reach new markets here and overseas so they can drive up the price of gas.  We must prevent the industrial build out of New York State, which threatens hundreds of communities. 

This coming year will be the most critical in our fight and will determine once and for all whether or not New York will get fracked.  Right now we are asking you to take action on three issues:

#1 – The Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC)’s insufficient proposed regulations to govern Liquid Natural Gas plants in New York State.  Comment period deadline November 4, 2013.

#2 – Plans to use abandoned salt caverns under Seneca Lake for natural gas storage.  Comment period deadline October 16, 2013.

#3 – The Port Ambrose Liquid Natural Gas port that would connect ocean-going ships to proposed on-shore infrastructure. Although the scoping comment period has ended, Governor Cuomo can still veto it.

To help you take action on these three issues, our colleague Sandra Steingraber is replicating her tremendously successful campaign for commenting on New York State’s fracking regulations and will send you an email once a day for the next Thirty Days when you sign up to participate.  She will explain each issue and offer the background science so that you fully understand why building this infrastructure is so wrong for New York. Please make your first comments now! 

Mark your calendars to come to the public hearings and rally in Albany on October 30th from 10 am – 12 pm to comment on the the NYS Liquid Natural Gas regulations.

As we’ve said, the coming year will be the most critical in our fracking fight.  In addition to participating in this campaign, we strongly urge you to educate and involve your friends and family.  Please send them this email and ask them to join us.

Press Release: Mountainkeeper Supports Lawsuit Challenging Pro Gambling Language of Referendum

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Catskill Mountainkeeper Supports Lawsuit that Challenges Wording in N.Y. Casino Referendum

Says ballot is not objective
October 2, 2013

“We support Eric Snyder’s lawsuit challenging the state’s irresponsible referendum language – and urge New Yorkers to get the real facts about casinos,” said Ramsay Adams, Executive Director of Catskill Mountainkeeper.
Snyder, a Brooklyn attorney, filed a lawsuit Tuesday in state Supreme Court in Albany, saying a proposed amendment to allow casinos “constitutes the use of public money to advocate the position of a public institution, in violation of the New York State Constitution.”  The language, which the State Board of Elections approved in July, mentions only positive “legislative purposes” of the casino proposal, including “promoting job growth, increasing aid to schools and permitting local governments to lower property taxes.” Referendum language is typically neutral.

“Study after study shows that casinos do more harm than good, especially in rural areas. We oppose casinos in the Catskills because of the pervasive and compelling environmental, social and economic problems that will accompany casino development and ultimately would harm the very people they’re supposed to help.”

For more information on Catskill Mountainkeeper’s position on casinos in the Catskills please visit: http://www.catskillmountainkeeper.org/our-programs/casinos/.  For a copy of the lawsuit,please contact us.

Read the New York Times story on the lawsuit here: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/02/nyregion/lawyer-contests-casino-referendums-wording.html

Why Casinos are the Wrong Bet for the Catskills

Catskill Mountainkeeper strongly opposes bringing casinos to the Catskills because of the pervasive and compelling environmental, social and economic problems that will accompany casino development.

We continue to work on our long-running campaign to block the construction of multiple Las Vegas-style casinos in the Catskills.  In 2008, Catskill Mountainkeeper, working with NRDC and other environmental allies, played an instrumental role in the rejection by federal officials of several so-called “off-reservation” Indian casino proposals, including one to be built directly on the banks of the famed Neversink River.  Unfortunately, the casino interests have succeeded in getting a referendum on the November 2013 ballot to legalize gambling in New York State and multiple casinos are proposed for the Catskill region.

The threat of multiple casinos along Route 17 near Monticello could not only bring a dramatic spike in traffic and pollution problems to the region, but could also forever change the unique rural character of the Western Catskills and bring serious infrastructure and social problems. We continue to vigilantly track these ever changing casino proposals and varying receptions to them at different governmental levels. We are ready to resume the active phase of our fight, including in court, against the building of numerous large-scale Catskill casinos as conditions on the ground warrant.

Environmental Problems
The threat of environmental problems from proposed casinos in especially sensitive ecological areas, such as along the Neversink River will:

  • Destroy broad swathes of thriving habitat, plant and animal life
  • Compromise water resources through deforestation, erosion, and             construction blasting
  • Increase the risk of toxic substances entering surface and groundwater
  • Exacerbate the danger of flooding – threatening homes and property.

Currently 1,000,000 visitors travel up Route 17 to visit the Catskills each year.  The combined visitors estimated for only one casino is more than 6 million!  Building more than one casino could add millions more cars to the road. This 24-hour a day influx could overwhelm our roadways, making it extremely difficult for full and part time residents to move around the area for business or pleasure. It would discourage the existing tourist base from continuing to come to enjoy our natural beauty.  Emissions from so many autos would contaminate our air and noticeably foul the quality of what we breathe.

While it is clear that these environmental dangers exist, no comprehensive environmental review has been completed to quantify the overall impact of bringing the casinos here.  In fact, during the Bush Administration, the Federal  Bureau of Indian Affairs determined that one of these mega casino projects would have no significant impact on the environment and thus no full environmental review was necessary.

Click here to continue reading

Colorado Flooding – Could it Happen in NY?

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 Colorado Flooding – Environmental Catastrophe

If fracking is permitted in NY, it could happen here

The scope of the environmental disaster in Colorado from the epic flooding is still unfolding.  The latest from Colorado’s regulatory agency is that they are working feverishly to access the damage and potential leaks to its 50,000 oil wells.  So far they have calculated that 34,500 gallons of crude have spilled and that dozens of condensation tanks that hold the chemically laden wastes from fracking have overturned and have potentially leaked into the floodwaters. At least one pipeline has been confirmed broken and leaking.
This has created a short and long term health crisis of yet undetermined proportions.
Colorado’s lax regulations don’t require that drillers release the names of chemicals used in
WELD COUNTY, CO. – SEPTEMBER 16: A drilling derrick near Greeley stands in land flooded by the South Platte River. (Photo By Tim Rasmussen/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
fracking fluid but it is known that they are linked to diseases and medical conditions that include cancers, infertility, autism, diabetes and thyroid disorders and that chronic illnesses from exposure to these chemicals can take many years to manifest.
Catskill Mountainkeeper has been warning for years that future floods in New York could lead to catastrophe if fracking is approved because of the probability of toxins from fracking waste getting into our water supply.
Wes Gillingham, Catskill Mountainkeeper Program Director, was quoted by CBS News last week as saying, “This is a real concern. We were talking about it two years ago.  People need to understand what kind of contamination has happened on the local level in Colorado and what health impact it has. To see this come to life on such a large scale in Colorado is both terrifying and humbling.”A tragedy of the magnitude of the Colorado flooding eviscerates the theory that if New York allowed fracking we could protect ourselves from this kind of devastation by being smarter or having better regulations.  While the proposed regulations for New York – the Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement (SGEIS) – appear to be better than the regulations that govern in Colorado, there is no way they could address a calamity like the Colorado flooding.

The most recent version of the SGEIS even allows open waste pits, contrary to what the public was originally led to believe, although they call them centralized facilities.  The Department of Environmental Conservation’s (DEC) only nod to public concern about open waste pits is a note in the document that says that they believe that the gas industry will not use them.
Widespread flooding covered the Catskills after hurricane Irene in 2011. Schoharie County, above.
The  SGEIS seeks to protect from flooding in 100 year flood plains, but as we’ve seen from the recent storm in Colorado, climate change is making storms that were previously categorized as 500 or even 1,000-year storms the “new normal”.Even if the proposed regulations were stringent, the New York Department of Environmental Conservation has major manpower shortages, and in multiple cases over the last year the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has shown an unwillingness to deal with fracking pollution.

We are seeing that the gas industry is not immune from the destruction that its activities have helped to create.  We are in a vicious cycle – we are burning fossil fuels and releasing carbon into the air, which is accelerating climate change and increasing the intensity of storms like the one that caused the flooding in Colorado.  But there is a better way – we don’t have to put our planet at risk to get our energy. We can change our paradigm to renewable energy choices such as solar, wind and geothermal that are rapidly becoming cost competitive and practical.

Please join us in sending messages to President Obama (click here for sample message) andGovernor Cuomo that fracking is the wrong choice for New York and our country and implore them to take whatever political risks are necessary to develop clean energy solutions.


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Farmers’ Market of the Week: Monticello Farmers Market

By Tara Collins, The Watershed Post

9/24/13 – 9:33 am
In an effort to increase access to fresh, locally-grown foods, Catskill Mountainkeeper is managing a new farmers’ market that is going through its’ first full season this summer. Beginning in July, the market is Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (FMNP) approved, which means that all of the farmers and producers are eligible to accept vouchers – both WIC and Senior – from recipients and redeem them for cash.

The market is located across from the Government Center in Monticello in the Ted Stroebele Recreation Center lawn, and coincides with the issue times for the FMNP vouchers, which are picked up by recipients just across the street in the Government offices.

When: Every other Monday 11:00 am – 2:00 pm (July 1- Oct. 21) – remaining markets on 9/23; 10/7; 10/21
Where: Ted Stroebele Parking Lot (across from Government Center) – 2 Jefferson St., Monticello, Ny
What: fresh fruits and vegetables, flowers, coffee, pickles, preserves, maple syrup, honey, and other locally produced value-added products
Participating Farms:
 - Root ‘N Roost Farm (White Sulphur Springs)
 - Trapani Farms ( Milton)
 - Big Eddy Farmstand (Narrowsburg)
Additional Info: This market is FMNP (Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program) approved. All participating vendors are approved to accept FMNP vouchers (WIC Fruit and Vegetable and Senior)

Press & Sun-Bulletin Guest Viewpoint: Pa. county shows possible dangers of fracking

Written by Sandra Steingraber and Dr. Kathleen Nolan

As Gov. Andrew Cuomo sends Health Commissioner Nirav Shah around the country to look at the health impacts of fracking, we hope he is looking at Washington County, Pa. Early results from an on-the-ground public health assessment indicate that environmental contamination is occurring near natural gas drilling sites and is the likely cause of associated illnesses.

This is alarming. According to this assessment, in one small county of about 200,000 people, 27 people thought they were getting sick and went to a single rural health clinic and fracking was determined to be a plausible cause.

Since drilling has only been going on for six years, it does not include chronic illnesses that can take years to manifest.

While the industry points to these numbers and says it’s “only” 27 people, the presence of any people gives a lie to industry claims that fracking is “safe.”

The 27 cases documented by the Southwest Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project team are not a surveyed sample of the region’s population, nor were they recruited to be part of a study. They are patients from a single rural clinic who came in seeking help. As such, these early figures could easily be the leading edge of a rising wave of human injury.

CLICK HERE TO READ THE ENTIRE STORY
Steingraber is a distinguished scholar in residence at Ithaca College, and Nolan is a physician and bioethicist working with Catskill Mountainkeeper.