GET INVOLVED

Plant A Tree

A Big Idea: Put Something in the Ground

There is one simple act everyone can do that guarantees a reduction of carbon in the atmosphere and helps a local ecosystem in multiple ways without question. 

Plant a tree. Just plant a tree. Or plant two trees. Or plant as many as you want, but just plant a tree. Get your friends, family, and co-workers to plant a tree. Trees are one of the definite answers to the question. The benefits of planting trees are almost too numerous to mention. To name a few: they absorb carbon dioxide, release oxygen, increase property values, reduce rainwater runoff that causes soil erosion, buffer noise pollution, cool your home, streets, and communities, and they can reduce stress, lower blood pressure, and improve one’s mood.

The type of tree you plant depends on what pleasures you want the tree to offer. If you want to see blossoms in spring plant a flowering dogwood, crab apple, or red bud.  A fruit-bearing tree like pear or cherry have beautiful blossoms with the added benefit of fruit for pies which is always a good thing.

One thing to consider: The warming climate is affecting what trees thrive in which latitude. Here, The current mix of maple, beech, and birch, forest biologists note, is already shifting northward, and the oak and hickory forests south of us are headed our way. If you are thinking beyond the next 20 years or so, consider planting the hardwoods to come rather than trees that might do less well in higher heat, avoid trees known for easily broken limbs, and get good advice about any conifer.  

But please don’t plant an invasive, defined as a tree that triumphs over native plants, doesn’t support local wildlife with anything they are used to eating, diminishing biodiversity, and may harm the environment. These include quite a list, from Norway maple, Ailanthus (tree of heaven), Callery pear, Amur maple, Amur Corktree, Common Buckthorn, Glossy Buckthorn,  Black Locust, Box Elder, Quaking Aspen, Russian Aspen, Tamarisk, and White or Sliver Poplar. Use a reputable nursery. It either won’t sell these trees or will label them as invasive. For more information, google invasive trees or visit these sites:

Maybe you are just starting a family and want to plant a sapling and watch it grow with your young kids. The tree becomes indelibly tied to you, your family, and your memories. 

Maybe you want to provide a flowering tree for pollinators, or a conifer for a patch of green to relieve the unremitting grays and browns of winter. Maybe a large shade tree that the kids can climb, you can put a swing on, and that feeds the critters. An oak tree or native maple would be a good choice.

Whatever you want from a tree, there is one for you. And, for many years to come, you’ll be doing a little something to combat global warming. Just plant a tree.

Help Millerton Add Trees to Its New Park

Millerton’s major public park and primary recreation area, Eddie Collins Memorial Park, is receiving a multimillion-dollar upgrade. Work is underway. A big part is planting a mix of one hundred hardwood and flowering trees, starting with saplings 3 to 4 inches in diameter. As they grow they will help clean our air, cool the park in hot weather, nourish and protect birds, insects, and wildlife, and adapt the area to climate change.

These trees need your help! This is a community effort. Please donate what you can. For more information and to donate, go here: millertonpark.org/trees.

Hickory tree; the species is moving north due to climate warming.

POTTER HAMSTRA

POTTER HAMSTRA

Local Red Oak in late October, after leaves have turned from green.

Looking After Your Land For Posterity

We do not inherit the land from our ancestors, but borrow it from our children. —Native American saying

Learn Your Land

In June 2020 Cornell Cooperative Extension of Dutchess County organized a series by regional experts about the environmental stewardship of properties and natural areas. Called “Learn Your Land,” this excellent series of three two-hour sessions is intensive and well worth it. Its presentation slides are available for download. 

The series will help understand how to:

  • Inventory the natural resources on your property or community 
  • Learn proven management and conservation strategies 
  • Develop plans to implement best management practices

Speakers in the program included:

  • Sean Carroll—CCEDC Environment & Energy Program, GIS/Environmental Resource Educator & Local IT
  • Michelle Gluck—CCEDC Environment & Energy Program, Environmental Resource Educator
  • Julie Hart—Dutchess Land Conservancy, Senior Manager of Stewardship and Education
  • Nate Nardi-Cyrus—NYSDEC Hudson River Estuary Program, Conservation & Land Use Specialist
  • Beth Roessler—NYSDEC Hudson River Estuary Program
  • Mike Fargione—Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, Manager of Field Research & Outdoor Programs
  • Joyce Tomaselli—CCEDC Agriculture & Horticulture Program, Community Resource Horticulture Educator

The first session covers:

  • Land Stewardship & Ecological Principles—Julie Hart
  • Hudson Valley Natural Resource Mapper & Mapping Your Property—Nate Nardi-Cyrus

Access the webinars here.

An Ecological Approach to Wildlife Stewardship
Over the course of these three webinars, you’ll explore New York State wildlife, their ecological roles, and the threats they face. Sessions are appropriate for anyone interested in learning about wildlife stewardship, whether your urge to care for nature concerns a backyard or a large landholding. 

Could Your Conservation Efforts Gain from an Easement?

Landowners who want to retain some or all of their acreage intact, perhaps preserve open spaces for future generations, will a find sympathetic ear at these three resources, and advice you can take to the bank if you want to explore tax implications, government subsidies, and nonprofit partnerships to get the full picture of 21st century land conservation.  

When Planting, Stay Native

We need to preserve healthy ecosystems. They exist because their numerous species have evolved to coexist. If we are to add plants to this biological community, the responsible thing is to use plants likely to fit in and contribute. This site, sponsored by the National Wildlife Federation, offers native-plant suggestions from Doug Tallamy, entomologist and wildlife ecologist: nwf.org/NativePlantFinder. Tallamy’s latest book is Nature’s Best Hope: A New Approach to Conservation that Starts in Your Yard, Timber Press, 2020. 

If you have significant native plantings, join a nationwide grassroots effort to foster more. Called Homegrown National Park, a name Doug Tallamy coined, its first step is to register land devoted to native species. Register yours today, here. 

Expert Local Gardening from Margaret Roach

From vegetables to annuals and perennials, grasses to shrubs and trees, local expert gardener Margaret Roach offers a blog, books, podcasts, and occasional garden open days to inspire and inform gardeners of all levels of experience. She pulls it all together on her website.

Ms. Roach recommends the New York Flora Atlas, from the New York Flora Association. You search by county; Dutchess has more than 1,200 plants  listed, and you can restrict the list to natives. Most entries have several photos of the full plant and seasonal details. 

RICH STALZER

RICH STALZER

Productive agriculture land and open space, two features of our area, will be increasingly valuable in the coming years.

Avoid Invasives

The Low-down on Invasive Species

Invasive species pose major threats to New York’s biodiversity, and without biodiversity, we risk losing everything, from the variety of bird life and the health of native trees to most of our wildflowers and our own health. The whole countryside would be overwhelmed with strangling vines, bushes full of thorns that bear no fruit, and a single species of tree that turns a forest into a fake-looking, monotonous backdrop. Pollinators will give up and move a more welcoming state, like Vermont.

Invasives—the term is so polite it’s almost a euphemism. They come from far away, usually Europe or Asia, brought carelessly or inadvertently. Sometimes all it takes is a seed. Back home they are restrained by their native biodiversity: Other species eat them or overshade their growth. Here, literally, it’s the New World. Invasives are pirates among peasants, Visigoths among vinologists. They have no enemies or rivals. There is plenty to eat, room to grow, an environment to dominate, and the climate is great. A somewhat arbitrary rogue’s gallery: Emerald Ash Borer, Garlic Mustard, Multiflora Rose, Eurasian Watermilfoil, Japanese Knotweed, Mile-a-Minute creeper/sprinter, Swallow-Wort (Black and Pale), Purple Loosestrife, Hemlock Woolly Adelgid, Viburnum Leaf Beetle. There are, unfortunately, many more. 

The best way to not enable invasive species is . . . don’t plant them. If you have one, get rid of it fast, and every root. A good source in how to Identify and avoid common garden invasives is available here.

If you prefer video, here is an excellent presentation of Dutchess County Invasives. Bring pen and paper.  Presenters: Cary Institute’s Mike Fargione and Dutchess Land Conservancy’s Julie Hart. 

Some good tips on getting rid of invasives here.

For a wider perspective, check in with the Lower Hudson Partnership for Regional Invasive Species Management or LH-PRISM. We are in the northern reach of its region, but new invasives are more likely to come from the south, so it make sense to keep more than half an eye in that direction. 

For a quick drill-down into the ecology of one invasive, how it can destroy biodiversity, and how thorough its extirpation needs to be, Mike Fargione of the Cary Institute has written a case history of swallow-wart, available here.

These resources just scratch the surface. Insert the name of your insinuating vine, your ravaging plant-horde, in the search engine of your choice or the YouTube query field. It’s amazing how willing people are to part with hard-won information when the proud host of the video is them.

The Emerald Ash Borer has killed millions of North American ash trees since 2002, when it was first discovered near Detroit. It is native to Asia.

Japanese Knotweed crowds out other plants, is nearly impossible to eradicate. Goats for the leaves and stems, pigs for the roots may work.

Too many Deer

A problem almost anywhere these days, deer may be cute, but they cause endless trouble. After uncontrolled hunting killed all but a few in the 19th century, 20th century wildlife management spurred their return for recreational hunting. As a prey species, deer over-reproduce, but we wiped out their predators, so there are far too many, and they are multiplying. Oops. Meanwhile, the yards of encroaching towns and suburbs offer better food than the woods, which deer have tended to eat bare anyway. And our cervine intruders can be dangerous: An average of 65,000 deer-vehicle collisions occur annually in New York—third in the nation after Michigan and Pennsylvania. You’d think one of us would learn by now. Find more acts and things you can do here.. One big nyet: Don’t feed them!

The common white-tailed deer population continues to grow, with plenty to eat and no predators but us, who hunt less.

Volunteer

Give And Ye Shall Receive

Most of us have a personal connection to the nature around us we could act on, to the benefit of our surroundings, our community, and ourselves.  We just need an idea and a nudge. “For it is in giving that we receive,” said Francis of Assisi, patron saint of animals and the natural world. The dynamic of giving and receiving, receiving and giving has been life-sustaining for many. 

If you’re self-motivated, don’t need help or structure or mutual support, here are some starter ideas. 

  • Plant a tree and tend it, make sure it’s watered, protected, and free of vines until it’s twice your height. Then plant another. Find saplings at the edge of a woods or from the Cornell Cooperative Extension in Millbrook every spring.
  • Tend a garden—your own or someone else’s, such as a neighbor who no longer gets around comfortably and would be grateful for some weeding now and then.
  • Eradicate an invasive. Chances are better than fair that no one will stop you. 
  • Care for animals at a local shelter, an animal rescue group, or the Humane Society (humanesociety.org/volunteer). 
  • If you’ve got leadership skills, start an organization. Every community needs something. Identify that need and put a group together to address it. There tend to be more followers than leaders.
  • Build a bridge—not literally (unless you’re a civil engineer), but between groups that would benefit from a little cross-fertilization, or that don’t get along but should. 
  • Help someone write an article or a letter to the editor, to an office holder, to a friend. 

The links below are a some local organizations that welcome volunteers:

  • Appalachian TrailBuild shelters, monitor the trail corridor, protect rare plants, develop management plans for individual sections.
  • Camphill VillageImprove the lives of adults with developmental differences by helping with biodynamic gardening, tending livestock, and farm chores.
  • Cary Institute – Map aquatic vegetation from a kayak, monitor native plant communities, educate kids.
  • Cornell Cooperative Extension, Millbrook – Opportunities in 4H / youth development, agriculture / horticulture, energy.
  • Friends of Taconic State Park – Assist at events such as hikes, lectures, tours and movie nights.  Help with social media and websites.
  • Harlem Valley Rail TrailTrail maintenance, photography, provide information, and more.
  • Hawthorne Valley – Take biological field inventories, study native bees, identify bat calls, help in the native plant garden.
  • Housatonic Valley AssociationTrain with ecological experts. Plant trees along waterways to protect streams. Monitor threatened species.
  • Millerton Library – Help with activities and events for all ages.  Call or stop by the library for info.  518-789-3340
  • NECC – Gardening, community events, Farmers Market.
  • North East Millerton Climate Smart Community Task Force – eMail climatesmartmillerton@gmail.com
  • Scenic HudsonMaintain and monitor trails, become a citizen scientist, more.
  • Sharon Audubon – Learn to be a resident raptor curator, maple sugar assistant, wildlife rehabilitator, carpenter, environmental educator.
  • Townscape – Plant gardens around the village.
  • Trevor Zoo, Millbrook School – Feeding and caring for animals, tour guide.

Volunteers trimming growth in early spring along the Harlem Valley Rail Trail.

Climate Action

Climate Urgency, Ideas, and Channels for Action

It must be clear by now that our climate is headed in the wrong direction. This is largely the fault of human activity, human desires, and human ambitions. It must also be clear that many people don’t understand the issue in any meaningful way, many others are happy to deny the evidence of their senses, and not a few are dug into a position rooted in oil-fueled prosperity and the American sublime that admits no alternative—all others are traitorous.

Weirdly, we’re talking about a critical scientific certainty: survival of the human race and quite a lot of the planet’s biota along with us. You’d think that would sink in, here several centuries into the Age of Enlightenment. When the earth finally breaks through to the other side of carbon surfeit, 500 or 5,000 years from now, it will have vastly different, much less sophisticated biodiversity—very likely a giant step backward, with homo, no sapiens.

But humans have a large propensity for self-delusion, for crossing the line from hope and idealism to fantasy, and from dread and fear to paranoia.  

The thing is, if we stay rational, work hard, and unlimber our creativity, we can still do a lot about this. We can break the carbon emissions habit. The dip in carbon parts per million in our air during recent economic slowdowns tells us that’s possible.

There is no technological barrier.1 It’s all human will and the human heart. We can save a planet for future generations that is habitable, harsh at times and full of danger but amenable to agriculture and lives well worth living. Or we can keep doing what we’re doing and be the species that failed from its own self-indulgence and stupidity, the Roman Empire on a global, biological scale.  

If you prefer the former future, perhaps dare to hope for something better, we offer the following portals of awareness, resistance, action, and positive development. These categories are a little arbitrary, have a lot of play in their porous walls. (If we’ve omitted you, please let us know.)

Awareness

  • Audubon Society
  • Center for Biological Diversity
  • Green Latinos
  • Hudson Riverkeeper
  • National Wildlife Federation
  • Ocean Conservancy
  • Sierra Club
  • World Wildlife Fund

Resistance

  • American Farmland Trust
  • Catskill Mountainkeeper
  • Environmental Advocates of New York
  • Environmental Defense Fund
  • Natural Resources Defense Council
  • World Watch Institute

Action

  • 350.org
  • Earth Justice
  • Extinction Rebellion
  • Friends of the Earth
  • Greenpeace
  • New York League of Conservation Voters
  • Rainforest Action Network
  • Stop the Money Pipeline
  • TIAA Divest from Climate Disaster

Positive Development

  • Electric vehicle development
  • Carbon capture initiatives
  • Nature Conservancy
  • Scenic Hudson
  • Renewable energy: waterfall, solar, wind, current

1Not at first, Bill Gates among others points out.  But one third of the emissions we must get to zero are from heavy industrial processes, steel and cement and the like, that release vast amounts of CO2 as a byproduct. That will be harder than any moon shot.