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New York State bans wild boar hunting

Above: A trailcam in Delaware County catches a nocturnal glimpse of an elusive wild boar. Photo taken in August 2013; courtesy of USDA APHIS.

A statewide ban on the hunting and trapping of feral swine -- also known as wild boars or Eurasian boars -- went into effect on Monday, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) announced in a press release

Until recently, boars were largely unknown to New York State, even as burgeoning populations of wild pigs wreaked over a billion dollars' worth of destruction a year across other parts of the country. But in recent years, feral swine have been found breeding in the wild in a few parts of New York State, the descendants of boars that escaped from private "canned" hunting preserves. 

Many other states have encouraged the hunting of wild boars in an effort to control their populations, but without much success. Banning the hunting of an animal that state officials want to rid the landscape of seems paradoxical. But scientists who study the animals say that allowing private hunting can interfere with state-sanctioned efforts to bait and trap boars, and has even encouraged hunters to release more of the animals into the wild for sport.

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Flood watch in effect across Catskills

Above: A graphic from the National Weather Service in Binghamton, showing the flood watch area across upstate New York and Pennsylvania that is in effect Wednesday through early Thursday morning. 

Heavy rains are in the forecast for eastern New York and Pennsylvania Wednesday afternoon and evening, prompting the National Weather Service (NWS) to issue flood watches across the Catskills region.

The heaviest rainfall is expected to arrive this evening and overnight, with between 1.5 and 4 inches of rain forecast for the Catskills. Forecasters at NWS and Hudson Valley Weather say the eastern Catskills will get the most rain, with lower totals expected for the western end of the region.   Read more

Delaware County votes to move forward on bed tax

Above: Business owners discuss a proposed bed tax for Delaware County at a public meeting in Arkville on March 25, 2014. Photo by Julia Reischel. 

The Delaware County Board of Supervisors took the first step towards levying a two percent tax on room and hotel rentals in Delaware County at a meeting on Wednesday, April 23.

Seventeen of 19 town supervisors voted to approve a resolution requesting authorization from the New York State Legislature to impose the tax, known as a bed tax or an occupancy tax. The tax, according to the text of the resolution, would "provide a dedicated funding stream to promote and develop the tourism industry in Delaware County." (The resolution is embedded at the bottom of this story.)  Read more

Margaretville and Sidney win $3 million awards for NY Rising plans

Above: Photo of the Bull Run culvert passing under Main Street in Margaretville, the site of a proposed flood mitigation project that may be carried out with funds from the NY Rising program. Photo by Tetra Tech; from the Margaretville NY Rising Committee's Community Reconstruction Plan.

Two communities in Delaware County that were heavily damaged in the Irene and Lee floods -- the villages of Margaretville and Sidney -- have won $3 million bonus awards from Gov. Cuomo's NY Rising program, in a competition among flood-affected communities for state funding.   Read more

Happy Earth Day, Catskills

Nature's always close at hand in the Catskills, on Earth Day and every day. Photo by Kellsey Buerge; submitted to our 2014 Catskills Outdoor Guide Photo Contest

Earth Day turns 44 this year. In cities across America, environmentally-minded citizens are celebrating the holiday with big green-themed fests, parties and exhibit fairs. 

Not so in the Catskills, where Earth Day celebrations tend to be more low-key. Here, Mother Nature isn't an occasional guest to fête; she's a full-time resident. But this week, the local area holds a few special events in honor of the planet. 

Today, the Arkville-based Catskill Center for Conservation and Development and the MARK Project are setting up shop outside a few local stores to give away reusable shopping bags: The Freshtown and the Dollar Store in Margaretville, and the Great American in Prattsville. Stop by to get a grocery bag that won't end up in a landfill -- or, better yet, bring your own. 

Sullivan County's digital library of maps for hiking trails and public lands, Trailkeeper.org, is celebrating today with a family scavenger hunt at Turtle Spring Nature Trail, at 64 Ferndale-Loomis Road in Liberty. Treasure hunters of all ages will get a chance to try geocaching, in which hikers hunt for hidden capsules with the help of GPS receivers. The scavenger hunt runs from 4:30 to 6 p.m. To pre-register for the event, call the Sullivan County Cornell Cooperative Extension at 845-292-6180, or email Nicole Slevin at nas96@cornell.edu. 

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Margaretville teens' paper peacock dress wins state arts competition

Above: Katlynn Shamro models Margaretville's winning dress design at the competition in Saratoga Springs on April 10, 2014. Photo by Michele Dietz.

A team of high school fashion designers from Margaretville Central School took top honors at the New York State Olympics of the Visual Arts last week with an elaborate Art Nouveau dress made entirely out of paper.  The dress, pictured above and below, featured a hand-painted design featuring peacocks and a Tiffany lamp motif. 

The Margaretville high school team beat 18 other teams from across New York State to win the fashion competition -- the most competitive category, according to Michele Dietz, the art teacher who coached them. Their challenge was to create a "big, bold, colorful pattern" that was inspired by a period in art history, and Margaretville's high school team chose Art Nouveau.  Read more

Winter's last hurrah (we hope)

People across the Catskills awoke this morning to find April's first green shoots covered in snow. Above: A row of icicles that sprouted overnight from a Margaretville roof gleams under a dazzling blue sky. Photo by Lissa Harris.

According to snow reports from the National Weather Service in Albany and Binghamton, some areas in the Catskills -- like Claryville in Ulster County, Livingston Manor in Sullivan County, and the Greene County mountaintop region -- got over three inches of snow Tuesday night. 

Tuesday's bout of winter weather came just a little too late to extend the ski season, which lasted well into April this year. Over the past week or two, the four major ski centers of the Catskills -- Belleayre, Hunter, Plattekill and Windham -- all put an end to this year's blockbuster season.

Above: No BBQs on this Margaretville porch til the snow melts. Photo by Lissa Harris.  Read more

Cold front sweeps through area, bringing rain, sleet and snow

Above: Temperatures around upstate New York around 8 a.m. this morning, showing a cold front moving east across the region. The National Weather Service in Albany writes: "Current 8 a.m. temperature in Albany is 63 degrees while behind the cold front in Buffalo, NY, it is 33 degrees with a rain/snow mix."

Watch out for April showers -- and a few bouts of sleet and snow. After a few days of sunshine and temperatures in the 70s, the Catskills region is now bracing for the return of wintry weather as a cold front moves in from the west.   Read more

Delaware County bank set to expand into Sullivan County

It's a familiar story in small-town America: Little community bank strikes a deal with a giant national corporation, and suddenly there's a new logo on your local bank branch.

Only this time it's the other way around. NBDC Bank -- also known as the National Bank of Delaware County, a small chain of community banks based in Walton -- announced recently that the company is acquiring six Bank of America branches in Sullivan County. 

The deal, which has yet to receive regulatory approval, is expected to go through by fall, according to a press release issued by NBDC Bank. Under the terms of the deal, NBDC will operate former Bank of America branches in Callicoon, Liberty, Monticello, Narrowsburg, Roscoe and Wurtsboro. 

The acquisition of the six Sullivan County branches will double the number of offices run by NBDC Bank, which currently runs branches in Walton, Andes, Franklin, Hamden, Stamford and Roxbury.   Read more

In the Catskills, spring is construction season

Above: The Phoenicia Library under construction. Photo by Nancy Howell. 

Spring in the Catskills means new sounds in the landscape: the patter of raindrops, the tweeting of songbirds, and the sweet, sweet sound of hammers on nails. This season brings a bumper crop of much-anticipated new construction in the area, as several long-planned projects near completion. 

It's been almost exactly three years since the Phoenicia Library, right on the hamlet's main drag, was destroyed in a catastrophic fire. It's been a long haul, but thanks to generous support from donors and the community, the library is rising from the ashes again. In the photo above, taken by Nancy Howell, roofers take advantage of the early spring sunshine on Monday.

Liz Potter, the library's director, is hoping the rebuilt library building will be ready to move the books back into by late July. "We're just tying up loose ends in terms of design," she said. "Soon they'll be putting in the electrical and the plumbing."  Read more