Bad news boars: Helicopter crew fights NY feral swine

Above: A trailcam captures a nighttime view of a wild boar in Delaware County. Photo taken in August of 2013; courtesy of Justin Gansowski of the USDA.

This week, federal wildlife agents armed with cameras and sniper rifles are patrolling New York State skies by helicopter, hoping for a glimpse of wild pigs. It's the latest mission in an ongoing battle to rid the state of feral swine, before most New Yorkers even realize the state has a pig problem.

It's far too late for Texas, whose $500-million-a-year feral pig problem has been dubbed the "aporkalypse." In Florida, the pestilential pigs are found in every county, and have even destroyed a $16 million F-16 fighter plane. Pigs are a moot point in Mississippi, where experts say it's "only a matter of time" before feral swine rut and root their way from rural Clay County to the far corners of the state

But it might not be too late for New York, according to the handful of state and federal regulators whose task it is to try to keep feral swine from getting established in the Empire State.

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Schoharie first responders take an icy plunge

Above: A couple of Cobleskill firefighters suited up for an ice rescue drill in the town of Summit on Saturday, Jan. 25. Photos by Sandra-Lynn White VanValkenburgh; reproduced with permission from Schoharie County Fire Wire & News

If you fell through thin ice, could your local first responders save you?

With weather like the Catskills has been having lately, it's not a bad idea for local firefighters and EMTs to have experience with ice rescues. Over the weekend, volunteers from several Schoharie County fire departments and other first-responder agencies got the chance to do some hands-on simulation of an ice rescue, hosted by the Summit Fire Department.

The weekend event was the first cold-water drill of its size in the area, said John Shaw, a firefighter at the Middleburgh Fire Department who helped set up the training session.   Read more

This weekend: Ice Harvest Festival

Above: Just-harvested ice at the Hanford Mills Museum. Photo posted on January 21 at the Hanford Mills Museum Facebook page. 

The deep freeze of the past few weeks has been good for something: Liz Callahan, the executive director of the Hanford Mills Museum in East Meredith, expects this Saturday's ice harvest festival to yield well-formed ice blocks 10 inches thick. Last year's ice was only six to eight inches thick.

"It's been a roller-coaster ride of an ice growing season," Callahan said. 

Two weeks ago, the ice was only 3-4 inches thick. The recent extreme cold temperatures "helped us catch up, for sure," she said.

Even 10 inches is only average, as ice goes.  Read more

Pete Seeger, American legend: 1919-2014

Above: Pete Seeger performing at the Yorktown Heights High School in Yorktown, N.Y. on Feb. 2, 1967. Photo by the New York World-Telegram & Sun's James Kavallines; donated to the Library of Congress and placed in the public domain.

Pete Seeger, beloved icon of American folk music and a vital figure in the Hudson Valley music and local activism scenes, died Monday, Jan. 27 at the New York-Presbyterian Hospital in Manhattan. He was 94. 

Seeger's grandson, Kitama Cahill-Jackson, told the Associated Press that Seeger's hospitalization had been brief. "He was chopping wood 10 days ago," he said. 

Vital to the end -- as recently as September 2013, he was singing "This Land Is Your Land" onstage with Willie Nelson, John Mellencamp, Neil Young and Dave Matthews at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center -- Seeger was a living embodiment of the folk tradition, with a career that spanned over 70 years. 

For 69 of those years, Seeger was joined by his wife Toshi, who died last July at the age of 91. Together, the couple founded the Hudson Sloop Clearwater in 1966, an enviromental education foundation built around a 106-foot sailing sloop. 

"She was the one who steered the boat; she had the chart; she kept off the rocks," Seeger told Persimmon Tree magazine in 2012

A New York Times obituary published today sought to sum up in 2,800 words a career that stretched from the Great Depression to the anti-fracking movement; that survived the McCarthyist communist purges of the 1950s and was woven together with the triumph and heartbreak of the civil rights movement. Jon Pareles writes:

In his hearty tenor, Mr. Seeger, a beanpole of a man who most often played 12-string guitar or five-string banjo, sang topical songs and children’s songs, humorous tunes and earnest anthems, always encouraging listeners to join in. His agenda paralleled the concerns of the American left: He sang for the labor movement in the 1940s and 1950s, for civil rights marches and anti-Vietnam War rallies in the 1960s, and for environmental and antiwar causes in the 1970s and beyond. “We Shall Overcome,” which Mr. Seeger adapted from old spirituals, became a civil rights anthem.

Seeger's environmental work will go on locally through the Sloop Clearwater, says an obituary on the Hudson Sloop Clearwater's website. "Ultimately, the 106-foot-long sailboat, Clearwater, will sail on as a symbol of Pete Seeger’s great legacy," the Clearwater crew writes. "Thanks to Pete Seeger, the over 12,000 school kids who sail each year will never see the river in the same way that they did before their voyage. Perhaps more importantly, they will be moved to protect the river every time they look at it."

We're collecting tributes to Pete Seeger from those who knew him, and sharing them below. If you have a memory to share with us, email it to editor@watershedpost.com and we'll include it. --Ed.

 

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Driver leads cops on wrong-way, lights-out chase on Thruway

Left: Julio A. Romano-Baez. Photo courtsey of New York State Police.

Early Sunday morning, 33-year-old Julio A. Romano-Baez was clocked driving 113 miles per hour with his headlights out on the  New York State Thruway in Ulster County, according to a press release from the New York State Police. Then he reportedly tried to escape arrest by driving the wrong way against traffic.

Romano-Baez, from the Bronx, was first spotted by state police officers driving a black BMW north on I-87 at 3:26 a.m. on January 26, 2014, the press release states. 

The police pursued Romano-Baez into the Malden Service Area, where he allegedly tried to shake them by driving the wrong way out of the rest area into northbound traffic.  Read more

Phoenicia under a boil water advisory til weather warms up

Photo of water faucet by Flickr user Tom Raftery; published under Creative Commons license

The Phoenicia Water District is currently under a boil water advisory until further notice. The bitterly cold weather has caused a water shortage, forcing the district to use its backup system of pumping water from the High Street pumphouse near the Esopus Creek, according to an announcement made Sunday afternoon by the Town of Shandaken's water commissioner, Rick Ricciardella

From a post on the Town of Shandaken's Facebook page:   Read more

Several injured at nightclub shooting in Highland

Above: A screenshot from GoogleMaps showing the location of the Home nightclub at 3353 Route 9W in Highland, in the Ulster County town of Lloyd. The nightclub recently changed its name, and was formerly known as the Primetime. 

A shooting at a nightclub on Route 9W in Highland around 4 a.m. Saturday morning left several people injured, including one suspect who was shot by police after fleeing the scene. 

Details are still emerging about the incident, but according to a news release from the Ulster County Sheriff's Office, a shooting occurred in the parking lot of the Home nightclub around 4 a.m., injuring two people who were taken to St. Francis Hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

New York State, Ulster County and Town of Lloyd police responded to the scene, and followed a 2014 Nissan Altima believed to contain suspects in the shooting. According to Ulster County police, the car's occupants resisted: 

Upon stopping the Nissan, members of the Ulster County Sheriff's Department and Lloyd Police encountered resistance and the driver of the Nissan was struck by police gunfire and sustained a non-life threatening injury. 

Two officers were also taken to St. Francis for minor injuries. The release does not say how they were sustained, or which officers were hurt. 

Police recovered two illegal handguns from the Nissan, and arrested its four occupants. They also arrested two suspects who fled the area on foot, one of whom was also carrying an illegal handgun. 

Route 9W was closed for the investigation, and remains closed while state police forensics investigators examine the scenes. 

A press conference about the incident was held at 10:30 a.m. at the Lloyd Police Department. The Watershed Post was unable to attend, but we will link to news reports with more information as they emerge.

Police ask that anyone with additional information should contact the state troopers at the Highland Bureau of Criminal Investigation at 845-691-2922, or the tips lines at the Lloyd Police Department at 845-691-7407.

Update, 11:55 a.m.: Route 9W has been reopened. 

The Poughkeepsie Journal has live tweets from the press conference (embedded below):

 

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NYC mayor comes out swinging against fracking

New York City's newly-inaugurated mayor, Bill de Blasio, made it clear he's opposed to hydraulic fracturing in New York State in a speech to fellow mayors in Washington D.C. on Thursday.

De Blasio told the U.S. Conference of Mayors that "the one thing I am firm about is that I don't see any place for fracking," Capital New York reports. The mayor spoke in favor of a statewide moratorium: 

“The science simply isn’t reliable enough," de Blasio said on Thursday. "The technology isn’t reliable enough. And there’s too much danger to our water supply, to our environment in general. So my view is that there should be a moratorium on fracking in New York State until the day comes that we can actually prove it’s safe, and I don’t think that day is coming any time soon.”  Read more

SUNY Delhi's online courses get national accolades

Above: Screenshot of the U.S. News & World Report online education website, featuring SUNY Delhi as tied for First Place.

What do you do when you're the only college for miles in the middle of rural upstate New York? Invest in online-only courses. 

It's a strategy that's worked for SUNY Delhi, a rural technical college in the Catskills that just tied for first place in U.S. News & World Report's 2014 rankings for Best Online Bachelor Programs. (The other first-place winner for the category was Central Michigan University.) 

Delhi got the nod for its online Bachelor of Science in Nursing program, designed to allow working nurses to earn a bachelor's degree. The college specializes in technical degrees -- programs like culinary arts, criminal justice, and turf management.  Read more

Too cold to swim at the Blue Hole

See video

Above: Tim Cox of Olive paid an out-of-season visit to the famous Peekamoose Blue Hole on the Rondout Creek on Thursday, a day when the mercury hovered in the teens to single digits. Anyone care for a swim? 

In summertime, the deep, famously cold waters of the Blue Hole are prime habitat for both tourists and locals in search of a refreshing Catskills dip. The Blue Hole is a bit off the beaten path, but attendance has been up since a 2010 mention by Travel & Leisure magazine in a list of America's best swimming holes -- even though they spelled "Shokan" wrong. (C'mon, guys.)