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nature & waterways

Bald eagles pictured at Iroquois Wildlife Refuge

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 4 April 2019 at 11:29 am

Photos courtesy of Stephanie DiGiulio

Two bald eagles are pictured today at the Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge. Stephanie DiGiulio of Albion took the photos. She was thrilled, as a Albion graduate (home of the Purple Eagles), to take photos of the majestic creatures.

She didn’t want to give out an exact location for the eagles, so they don’t get disturbed from an influx of visitors.

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Pileated Woodpecker makes presence heard in Carlton

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 28 March 2019 at 11:48 am

CARLTON – Michael Smith took these photos of a Pileated Woodpecker on Monday, which was pecking away at a maple tree stump in Smith’s front yard on Route 18.

“My wife heard him pecking loudly at the tree from inside the house,” Smith said. “The tree face fits the situation.”

The Pileated Woodpecker is a large woodpecker that can seem like a crow. This woodpecker tends to have a red chest and a red stripe on its cheek.

Click here for more about the Pileated Woodpecker.

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Trout and salmon fishing season starts on April 1

Staff Reports Posted 27 March 2019 at 3:22 pm

DEC will stock 33,670 brown trout in Carlton at Lake Ontario

The trout and salmon fishing season in New York State opens on Monday, April 1.

The Department of Environmental Conservation also will be stocking 2.33 million catchable-size brook, brown and rainbow trout in 311 lakes and ponds and roughly 2,845 miles of streams across the state.

That includes 33,670 brown trout, about 8 to 9 inches long, in Carlton at Lake Ontario.

Spring stockings will include 1.74 million brown trout, 433,855 rainbow trout and 157,200 brook trout. Approximately 97,000 two-year-old brown trout 13 to 14 inches in length are included in the brown trout total.

Stocking supports the state’s growing sportfishing industry, which generates an estimated $1.8 billion in economic activity each year.

“New York is home to world-class trout and salmon fishing in virtually every corner of the state,” Governor Andrew Cuomo said. “Heading out on opening day is a cherished tradition for generations of families, and I encourage New Yorkers and visitors alike to get outside and enjoy all the great fishing that our waters have to offer.”

As winter gives way to spring, stream anglers should be prepared to adapt fishing plans and tactics to variable temperatures and flows. In cold weather, bait and lures that can be fished slow and deep often prove effective in rousing sluggish trout. As water temperatures rise, anglers can shift to more active styles of fishing such as dry fly fishing.

“Excitement is building across the state as anglers prepare their gear for one of the most anticipated fishing days on the calendar,” said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos. “Temperatures are beginning to rise and conditions should improve throughout April and May, as trout and salmon feed more actively on their natural foods. I encourage angling veterans and novices alike to get out there and enjoy New York’s excellent angling opportunities.”

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DEC to hold March 27 meeting on plans for wildlife management areas in Genesee, Orleans

Posted 21 March 2019 at 1:42 pm

Press Release, Department of Environmental Conservation

TOWN OF ALABAMA – The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation will host a public information session to provide information and answer questions about recently completed habitat management plans for John White Wildlife Management Area (WMA), located in the town of Alabama, Genesee County, and Oak Orchard WMA, located in the towns of Alabama and Oakfield, Genesee County, and the towns of Barre and Shelby, Orleans County.

The session will take place on Wednesday, March 27, from 6:30 to 8 p.m., at the Town of Alabama Fire Department (Station 1), 2230 Judge Road, in the hamlet of South Alabama. The session will begin with an informal open house from 6:30 to 7 p.m., with DEC staff available for discussion. A formal presentation will begin at 7 p.m.

The fire department is wheelchair accessible. Please contact DEC Biologist Michael Palermo at (585) 226-5383 with any specific requests for accommodations.

“DEC is dedicated to maintaining and enhancing wildlife habitats on the John White and Oak Orchard Wildlife Management Areas to benefit declining wildlife species like black terns, sedge wrens, and least bitterns, and popular game animals like pheasant, turkey, and deer,” said Regional Director Paul D’Amato. “We look forward to engaging with the public about these habitat management plans and continuing to provide opportunities for outdoor recreation.”

John White WMA consists of 329 acres that are primarily grassland in the Town of Alabama. Large grasslands are a relatively scarce habitat type in Western New York, and the grasslands on the WMA are important to several species, including bobolinks, grasshopper sparrows, horned larks, northern harriers, and short-eared owls.

Oak Orchard WMA consists of 2,554 acres that are primarily wetland in the towns of Barre and Shelby, Orleans County; towns of Oakfield and Alabama, Genesee County; Town of Newstead, Erie County; and Town of Royalton, Niagara County.

Wetlands on the WMA are extensive and diverse, composed of emergent marsh, scrub-shrub swamp, and forested wetlands. Some large grassland fields also occur on this WMA.

Habitat management goals for both WMAs are to maintain a diversity of wetland and upland habitats that benefit a wide range of resident and migrating wildlife species, including several rare and declining species.

DEC will continue to actively manage these WMAs to benefit wildlife, while using best management practices. Planned management activities include: (1) timber harvests to improve forest health; (2) manipulation of water-levels in wetland impoundments; (3) mowing and replanting of grassland fields; and (4) control of invasive plant species.

The meeting will include a presentation about the history of management on these WMAs, specific activities and locations for the planned management actions, an overview of forest habitat management, and a question and answer period.

The habitat management plan for John White WMA can be found on DEC’s website. The habitat management plan for Oak Orchard WMA can also be found on DEC’s website. For more information about this event please call (585) 226-5383.

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DEC announces brush burning ban from March 16 to May 14

Posted 12 March 2019 at 2:07 pm

Press Release, DEC

File photo by Tom Rivers: Joe Morlino (right) of the Fancher-Hulberton-Murray Fire Company joined firefighters in battling a brush fire on July 12, 2016 on Ridge Road in Murray, preventing the fire from destroying a house and spreading to a nearby wooded area.

Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos today reminds residents that with spring approaching conditions for wildfires will become heightened and residential brush burning is prohibited March 16 through May 14 across New York State.

“While many people associate wildfires with the western United States, the start of spring weather and the potential for dry conditions increases the risk for wildfires in New York,” Seggos said. “New York prohibits residential burning during the coming high-risk fire season to reduce wildfires and protect people, property, and natural resources. The ban has been extremely effective in reducing the number of wildfires, and we’re encouraging New Yorkers to put safety first.”

Even though much of the state is currently blanketed in snow, warming temperatures can quickly cause wildfire conditions to arise.

DEC posts daily a fire danger rating map and forecast during fire season on its website and on the NY Fishing, Hunting & Wildlife App available on DEC’s website. Currently, wildfire conditions in the state are low risk.

Historically, open burning of debris is the largest single cause of spring wildfires in New York State. When temperatures are warmer and the past fall’s debris, dead grass, and leaves dry out, wildfires can start and spread easily and be further fueled by winds and a lack of green vegetation.

New York first enacted strict restrictions on open burning in 2009 to help prevent wildfires and reduce air pollution. State regulations allow residential brush fires in towns with fewer than 20,000 residents during most of the year, but prohibit such burning in spring when most wildfires in New York occur. Since the ban was established, the eight-year annual average number of spring fires decreased by 42.6 percent, from 2,649 in 2009, to 1,521 in 2018.

Campfires using charcoal or untreated wood are allowed, but people should never leave such fires unattended and must extinguish them. Burning garbage or leaves is prohibited year-round.

Wildfires can be deadly and destructive, and the national annual cost of their consequences can range anywhere from $71.1 to $347.8 billion, according to recent study by the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Last year’s Camp Fire in northern California destroyed the city of Paradise and killed more than 80 people, making it the nation’s deadliest wildfire in more than a century. This year, the USDA Forest Service, the National Association of State Foresters, and the Ad Council are celebrating the 75th anniversary of the launch of the Smokey Bear Wildfire Prevention campaign, the longest-running public service advertising campaign in U.S. history.

Violators of the state’s open burning regulation are subject to both criminal and civil enforcement actions, with a minimum fine of $500 for a first offense. To report environmental law violations call 1-800-TIPP DEC (1-800-847-7332), or report online on DEC’s website.

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Canal will open for season on May 17 with no tolls for boaters

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 1 March 2019 at 10:21 am

File photo by Tom Rivers: The lift bridge in Medina is pictured in the background of this photo that shows The Big Apple, a sculpture by Richard Bannister.

The State Canal Corp. announced that the boating season for 2019 will go from May 17 to Oct. 16, and again won’t include tolls or fees.

Additionally, many locks and lift bridges will operate on demand from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. from May 17 to Sept. 11, the Canal Corp. announced on Thursday. That includes all seven lift bridges in Orleans County.

The hours of operation for the 2019 season are as follows: May 17 to Oct. 16 from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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DEC will discuss trout and salmon fisheries at ‘State of Lake Ontario’ meetings

Posted 21 February 2019 at 8:06 am

Press Release, NYS Department of Environmental Conservation

Photo by Tom Rivers: A fisherman walks on west side pier at the Oak Orchard Harbor in this photo from May 3, 2015.

The public will have the opportunity to learn about the State of Lake Ontario fisheries at public meetings to be held in Niagara, Monroe, Oswego and Schenectady counties in March.

“Lake Ontario and its tributaries provide world-class angling opportunities that are generating substantial recreational and economic benefits to towns and cities along the lake,” said Basil Seggos , DEC commissioner. “The State of Lake Ontario meetings provide an excellent opportunity for everyone interested in the lake to interact with the scientists who study and manage its fisheries.”

New York’s Lake Ontario waters comprise more than 2.7 million acres. The open lake, embayments and tributaries support thriving populations of sportfish, including trout, salmon, bass, walleye, yellow perch and panfish. A recent statewide angler survey estimated more than 2.6 million angler days were spent on Lake Ontario and major tributaries, resulting in an estimated economic value of $112 million annually to local communities.

The meeting dates and locations are:

Monday, March 4: 6:30 – 9 p.m. at the Rochester Institute of Technology campus (Chester F Carlson Center for Imaging Science), Rochester, Monroe County. The meeting is co-hosted by RIT and the Monroe County Fishery Advisory Board.

Thursday, March 7: 6:30 – 9 p.m. at the Cornell Cooperative Extension Building, 4487 Lake Ave., Lockport, Niagara County. The meeting is co-hosted by Niagara County Cooperative Extension and the Niagara County Sportfishery Development Board.

Thursday, March 14: 6:30 – 9 p.m. at SUNY Schenectady County Community College, Stockade Building, Room 101, 78 Washington Ave., Schenectady, Schenectady County.

Tuesday, March 19: 6:30 – 9 p.m. at the Pulaski High School auditorium, 4624 Salina St., Pulaski, Oswego County. The meeting is co-hosted by the Eastern Lake Ontario Salmon and Trout Association.

Staff from DEC and the United States Geological Survey will make a number of presentations, including updates on the status of trout and salmon fisheries in the lake and its tributaries, forage fish, and stocking programs.

The meetings will provide ample time at the end of the scheduled program for the audience to ask questions and interact with the presenters. Information about DEC’s Lake Ontario fisheries assessment programs can be found on the DEC’s website.

For further information contact Christopher Legard, NYSDEC Lake Ontario Unit Leader at the Cape Vincent Fisheries Research Station, (315) 654-2147.

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DEC proposes fishing changes for Lake Ontario, tributaries

Staff Reports Posted 5 February 2019 at 9:06 am

Photo by Tom Rivers: Anglers are pictured in the Oak Orchard River in Carlton on Oct. 19, 2018.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation is seeking feedback from area fishermen on proposed regulation changes for New York’s Great Lakes, including an extended open season for lake trout on Lake Ontario.

The proposed changes are designed to safeguard and expand certain fish populations while also enhancing anglers’ continued enjoyment of one of the state’s premier fisheries, the DEC said. The majority of the proposals are a direct result of DEC’s work with anglers during the past year to identify desired outcomes for Lake Ontario’s fishery.

Potential regulation changes include:

• Extending the open season for lake trout and decreasing the daily creel limit for rainbow trout/steelhead on Lake Ontario and the Lower Niagara River, moving the start date from Dec. 1instead of Jan. 1. The season would be closed from October 1 through November 30.

Rationale: Anglers targeting rainbow trout/steelhead in the Lower Niagara River frequently catch lake trout. Since lake trout spawning is largely over by the end of November, opening the lake trout season on December 1 will provide anglers with additional opportunities to harvest trophy lake trout without jeopardizing lake trout restoration efforts.

• Increasing the minimum size limit for rainbow trout/steelhead on Lake Ontario tributaries from 21″ to 25″ (excluding the Lower Niagara River).

Rationale: This potential change is intended to prolong high quality rainbow trout/steelhead fishing opportunities through the winter months, while still allowing anglers the opportunity to harvest a trophy fish. Anglers have noted smaller rainbow trout/steelhead in recent years, and declining rainbow trout/steelhead fishing success as the winter season progresses.

• Decreasing the brown trout daily creel limit and increasing the minimum size limit for rainbow trout/steelhead on Lake Ontario tributaries from 3 fish per day to 1 fish per day (excluding the Lower Niagara River).

Rationale: This potential change is intended to prolong high quality brown trout fishing opportunities through the winter months, while still allowing anglers the opportunity to harvest a trophy fish. Fishing effort on Lake Ontario tributaries can be intense each year from fall through spring, and maintaining high quality brown trout fishing opportunities relies on anglers releasing a high proportion of their catch.

• Decrease the daily creel limit for rainbow trout/steelhead on Lake Ontario and the Lower Niagara River from 3 fish per day to 2 fish per day.

Rationale: Rainbow trout/steelhead provide the primary sportfishery in Lake Ontario’s tributaries from November through the following spring. This potential change is designed to increase numbers and sustainability of rainbow trout/steelhead in the tributary fishery by reducing open lake harvest during periods when Chinook fishing success in the lake declines and more anglers specifically target rainbow trout/steelhead.

Following a review of public comments received and further evaluation this winter, DEC may advance these proposals for formal adoption in 2020. DEC welcomes and encourages feedback on the regulation changes currently under consideration.

To view these and other proposals and provide input, visit DEC’s website (click here). Comments will be accepted through Feb. 28. Comments and questions can also be directed to Steve LaPan, Great Lakes Fisheries Section Head, at: New York State DEC, P.O. Box 292, Cape Vincent, NY 13618.

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Famed outdoorsman will highlight Christian Bowhunters annual meeting

By Ginny Kropf, correspondent Posted 22 January 2019 at 9:36 am

Provided photo: Hank Parker is a popular host of an outdoor show and is a member of three halls of fame for fishing, hunting and the outdoors.

MEDINA – Merle Fredericks has two passions in his life – bowhunting and sharing his love of Jesus Christ.

In 1992 he found a way to combine those passions when he joined Christian Bowhunters of America.

In 2003, he founded a local chapter of Christian Bowhunters of America, called the Bow Bending Believers. He is currently executive director of CBA on the national level and serves as chairman of the CBA board of directors.

In addition, he has chaired the local chapter since its inception. John Curtin of Medina is vice chairman, Fredericks’ wife Mitzi (who is also a bow hunter) is chapter secretary and Jeff Robinson of Lyndonville is treasurer.

It has become customary for several years for the local group to sponsor a dinner with a noted speaker. This year, the 15th annual dinner and seminar will take place Feb. 1 at Oak Orchard Assembly of God, 12111 Ridge Rd., and will feature Hank Parker, host of Hank Parker’s Outdoor Magazine and co-host of Hank Parker’s Flesh and Blood.

There are 400 tickets available. Fredericks anticipates the event will be a sellout. For more information, call Fredericks at (585) 765-2839.

Parker is well-known in the hunting and fishing world. He has a love for bow hunting and has completed the wild turkey Royal Slam and has harvested many Pope and Young whitetail deer and elk. In 2005, Parker and his two sons began televising their hunts. Both his shows are currently airing on the Outdoor Channel.

Over the years, he has been honored by being inducted into the Bass Fishing Hall of Fame, the Legends of the Outdoors Hall of Fame and the International Game Fish Association Hall of Fame. Parker also loves sharing his testimony of what the Lord has done in his life, Fredericks said.

Parker joins a long list of speakers from all over the country, who present an outdoor-themed program and then conclude with a gospel message. These have included Dan Fitzgerald, Charles Alsheimer, Jimmy Sites, Russell Thornberry and the very popular Phil Robertson from Duck Dynasty.

Doors will open at 5:30 p.m. and the seminar will begin at 7 p.m.

The evening will feature free door prizes, a free ladder tree stand giveaway, free venison smoked sausages and jerky, a taxidermist, Pope and Young scoring booth and raffles.

In addition to the annual dinner, the Bow Bending Believers hosts a youth event in the summer (last year at the YMCA in Medina) to teach kids how to shoot archery equipment; and an annual 3D shoot in late September at the Yates Carlton Sportsmen’s Club in Lyndonville.

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Canal Corp. will waive tolls for recreational boats the next 3 years

Posted 12 December 2018 at 10:24 pm

Photo by Tom Rivers: A boat heads west on the Erie Canal in Albion on Oct. 5, 2017.

Press Release, NYS Canal Corp.

The New York State Canal Corporation Board of Directors today approved a continued waiver of tolls for recreational vessels through 2021, following two years of toll-free travel that saw increases in canal traffic.

The tolls, $25 to $100 depending on the size of the boat, had been waived in 2017 and 2018 to celebrate the Erie Canal bicentennial and the 100-year anniversary of the New York State Barge Canal, now known as the New York State Canal System.

“We had initially waived the tolls for special occasions, but the increased patronage of the canals is also a cause for celebration,” said Gil C. Quiniones, president and CEO of the New York Power Authority, which oversees the state Canal System. “Come spring, we hope even more boaters will find out why the canals make for a unique experience on the water.”

Tolls will continue to be collected for commercial vessels.

Motorized pleasure boat traffic on the state Canal System increased 3 percent over last year as boaters took advantage of tolls being waived. Such vessels—the most-common type on the canals—were recorded traveling through Canal System locks and lift bridges 71,529 times during the 2018 navigation season, compared to 69,362 lockings in 2017.

The figures account for each time a boat goes through a lock or under a lift bridge, not the actual number of boats. If a boat travels through several locks it would be counted as locking through each time.

In a related move, the New York State Canal Corporation today announced the navigation season dates for recreational vessels for 2019-2021. Each year, the season will begin the Friday of the week before Memorial Day and end the Wednesday after Columbus Day. For example, the 2019 season will run from May 17 to Oct. 16. The dates are in line with the navigation seasons for the last two years.

“We sought to have a more predictable schedule for the thousands of boaters who use the canals,” said Brian U. Stratton, Canal Corporation director. “Announcing the dates now will provide mariners, communities and business interests along the canal corridor with ample advance notice to plan itineraries and events.”

The navigation season is designed to optimize conditions and productivity for critical maintenance and capital work that can only be performed when canals are closed. Traditionally, the canals have been kept open later in the year when very little boating occurred, forcing Canal Corporation employees and contractors to compact work schedules and work in more dangerous conditions.

The new schedule allows for increased productivity, while continuing navigation during periods when the overwhelming majority of boaters have historically used the canals – with the greatest usage between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

The Canal Corporation also announced it is reviewing the hours of operation during the navigation season in response to feedback from recreational boaters, vessel operators, and canal businesses. Operating hours for 2019 will be announced in April.

The dates are subject to change based on weather conditions and water levels.

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