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Catskills syrupmakers celebrate Maple Weekend(s)

We found the pot of gold: It's at Roxbury Mountain Maple. (And a dozen-plus other syrupmakers around the Catskills, all celebrating Maple Weekend on March 16-17 and 23-24.) Photo from Roxbury Mountain Maple's Facebook page.

Editor's note: We have added more events to this post since it was first published. 

Legend has it that an Iroquois chief accidentally tapped a maple when he’d just needed someplace to stick his tomahawk, and his significant other decided to try cooking with the liquid from the wounded tree. Thus began tree-to-table, and a lively lot of characters have been refining the art ever since.

Over the intervening years, syrup harvesters have found ways to be a bit gentler to the trees, which graciously donate their sweet essence year after year to humans who craft it into all sorts of delectable treats, a gentle act of organized foraging.  Read more

Celebrating pi -- and pie

Above: Homemade pie with apples from Wrights Farm, destined to meet a sticky end in Lazy Crazy Acres's small-batch Apple Cobbler gelato. Photo from Pure Catskills's Facebook wall.

It's 3.14 today, which means math nerds and pie-lovers around the world are celebrating Pi Day.

In honor of this most auspicious holiday, the Watershed Post is collecting beloved pie hotspots in the Catskills. (Like you really need an excuse for pie.) Got a favorite local source for fresh-baked pie? Let us know in a comment below, or tweet with the hashtag #CatskillsPie.

Flood advisories issued

The National Weather Service out of Albany has issued a spate of advisories for the entire area. Delaware, Greene, Sullivan and Ulster  counties are under a flood advisory until 5 pm. while Delaware and Sullivan are also under a flash flood watch. A flood watch has been issued for Schoharie, western Greene county and western Ulster.

Click here for a complete list of watches and warnings.

Snow day!

Schools are closed across the Catskills this Friday morning, and it looks like a snow globe out there. The Hudson Valley Weather Facebook page reports that the snowfall ranges from 1 to 10 inches deep across the region. 

We want proof! Share your snow photos with us, and we will add them to our slideshow above.   Read more

Two-year moratorium on hydrofracking passed in Assembly

Above: Screenshot of a video from a Wednesday morning press conference by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and fellow Assembly Democrats on a bill that, if passed into law, will place a two-year moratorium on fracking in New York State. Source: The Albany Times-Union's Capitol Confidential blog. Watch the full video below.

A bill placing a two-year moratorium on hydraulic fracturing in New York State passed the Assembly by a wide margin on Wednesday, March 6, and is now headed for the Senate, according to several news reports. 

If signed into law, bill A.5424, which has local Assemblyman Kevin Cahill as one of its sponsors, would suspend gas drilling permits in the Marcellus and Utica shale until May 15, 2015, and require the state to complete a review of the public health impacts of hydrofracking before any permits can be issued.  Read more

Cuomo announces $25 million in grants to build more broadband

Utility poles near Binghamton. Photo by Flickr user Enoch Ross; photo published under Creative Commons license.

Rural utility companies call it the "last mile problem": Even in places where there is a network nearby that carries data, the final connections that bring service to individual houses are the most difficult and expensive to build. In the rural Catskills, where houses are far from one another and remote from population centers, many homes and communities still lack access to high-speed internet or cable television. 

Some of those areas may soon get new broadband access. On Tuesday, New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the awarding of $25 million in grants to fund the expansion of broadband networks in underserved parts of the state, through the Connect NY Broadband Grant Program.   Read more

Greene County sheriff blasts gun law

Greene County sheriff Greg Seeley addressed a group of pro-gun activists at a videogame store in Catskill last week, along with Congressman Chris Gibson and New York State Assemblyman Pete Lopez.

The Daily Mail's W.T. Eckert reports that Seeley told the crowd in no uncertain terms that he opposes the SAFE Act, New York State's new gun control law:

Seeley has been a steadfast opponent of the SAFE Act. He told the crowd he stood before them representing no one party, person or agency.

“I’m talking Greg Seeley, Greene County taxpayer and your elected sheriff of Greene County,” Seeley said. “Everybody in this room knows my opinion about this New York State Safe Act, it stinks,” Seeley added. “Don’t believe it was written overnight. It has been in progress for the last year or two, ‘cause I don’t believe anybody can write that much, that fast overnight.”  Read more

CWC announces grants for flood-damaged nonprofits

Above: The Empire State Railway Museum in Phoenicia on September 5, 2011, a week after Irene flooding damaged the building and grounds. Photo by Flickr user fixbuffalo; shared in the Watershed Post's Flickr group.

Over a year and a half since the Irene and Lee floods wreaked devastation on the Catskills, the long work of recovery is still going on.

This week, the Catskill Watershed Corporation announced a new initiative: a grant program to help nonprofits that were badly damaged in the 2011 floods. The program is open to any 501(c)3 organizations or state-chartered museums with buildings located inside New York City's Catskill-Delaware watershed.  Read more

USDA's new definition of 'rural' could hurt small towns

Rural enough for ya? Photo of dirt road in the Delaware County town of Meredith by Flickr user somervillebikes; shared in the Watershed Post's Flickr group.

A newly-released report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends a change in the agency's definition of "rural," a shift that would make larger towns newly eligible for a variety of USDA grants.

The new definition, if adopted, would replace several different definitions currently used in different USDA grant programs with a single criterion: To be considered "rural," a community must have less than 50,000 people.  

Under the old definitions, to be eligible for community water and waste disposal grants and loans, a community could have no more than 10,000 people. For community facility grants and loans, the upper limit was 20,000 people.  Read more

New York State toughens law on hydrocodone prescription

Photo by Flickr user Jeff Adams; published under Creative Commons license.

A new state law intended to combat illegal recreational use of hydrocodone, a highly addictive opiate that is the main ingredient in Vicodin and other prescription painkillers, went into effect this week.

The law reclassifies hydrocodone from a Schedule III to a Schedule II drug, tightening restrictions on prescribing the drug and banning automatic refills. It also establishes a new statewide online database for doctors and pharmacists to report and track controlled narcotics, dubbed the Internet System for Tracking Overprescribing, or I-STOP.

Other opiates with high addictive potential, like oxycodone, have been on the Schedule II list for some time. Many public health advocates have argued that hydrocodone deserves to be regulated more strictly, citing the drug's widespread abuse, addictive nature and the frequency of hydrocodone-related deaths.   Read more