Summary of FCWC’s Federation Meeting

Helping Our Member Organizations Plan for the Future

By Kate Munz, Member Relations Coordinator 

On April 29th, 2015, we hosted our annual Federation Meeting. Each year FCWC hosts this meeting as an opportunity for our Member Organizations to congregate and discuss the current state of Westchester’s Environment. FCWC facilitates networking among the organizations and general attendees, so to help our organizations expand their base and

Dr. Mike Rubbo from Teatown presenting on Teatown's current climate change studies.
Dr. Mike Rubbo from Teatown presenting on Teatown’s current climate change studies.

relationships. We also bring experts on a variety of subjects to the meeting to teach our organizations something we think would be useful. This meeting is about strengthening our “federation” and spreading knowledge.

This year we had representatives from 10 organizations, all of whom had the opportunity to share projects they were working on, and what they would like to see out of their membership of FCWC.

Much of 2015, FCWC’s 50th anniversary year, has been spent pursuing two goals: addressing the topic of climate change and sea level rise, and trying to sustain the nonprofit grassroots fundamentals that FCWC was founded on. Therefore it was on these two topics that we chose our experts. The first speaker of the program was Mike Rubbo, Director of Conservation at Teatown Lake Reservation. He spoke about Teatown’s current environmental projects and the efforts they are making to create a more resilient ecosystem. The second speaker was Lori Ensinger, Executive Director at Westchester Land Trust, who discussed the many intricacies of communicating with a Board of Directors.

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New! A Look Into Our Past – Westchester Environment, “New York State Breeding Bird Atlas”

This is the fifth installment of our “A Look into Our Past” Series, honoring the past five decades of work done by Federated Conservationists of Westchester County. This series revisits some of our best accomplishments by featuring past articles from our original publication “Westchester Environment.” 

In this post we would like to welcome spring and the start of the birding season with a piece on the first New York State Breeding Bird Atlas. This article, written by Berna Weissman our then Treasurer, delves into the planning and work behind the Breeding Bird Atlas Project 1980, which culminated in a published Atlas. In December 2008 a “Second Atlas of Breeding Birds in New York State” was released with updated information and public Google Earth datasets. Details on this “Second Atlas in Breeding Birds in New York State” can be found here:

“Westchester Environment” – Vol. 4 No. 3 – April & May 1982

A Look Into the PastNew York State Breeding Bird Atlas: a work a scientific significance

By Berna Weissman, FCWC Treasurer (Excerpt from)

Even in New York, endowed with a long history of ornithology and the current activity of a large number of professional and amateur observers, the precise distribution of the more than 200 species of birds which breed here is imperfectly known. Previous publications have had to rely on scattered studies of single species and random observations. The Federation of New York State Bird Clubs, seeking to fill this gap, launched the Breeding Bird Atlas Project in 1980, in cooperation with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, National Audubon Society, Cornell University Laboratory of Ornithology and New York State Museum.

To accomplish the enormous task of mapping the distribution of all breeding birds, the entire state has been divided into approximately 5000 blocks of 25 square kilometers, each to be surveyed for the species breeding within it. The field work, which will last for five years, is being done by volunteers who, by visiting all the habitats within a block at various times throughout the breeding season, locate and identify birds, make observations of their behavior and code them as possible, probably, or confirmed breeders according to a list of established criteria. Publication of the Atlas is expected in the latter half of this decade.

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5 Recommendations for Reducing Westchester’s Waste

Trash Talks: “A Near Zero Solid Waste Strategy” for the Town of Mamaroneck

Sponsored by Sustainable Westchester’s Materials Management Committee

By Kate Munz, Membership Relations Coordinator

On April 9th, 2015 Sustainable Westchester’s Materials Management Committee orchestrated an informative and interesting program titled “Trash Talk” to share the findings of a team of 10 Columbia graduate students after the completion of their final project of “A Near Zero Solid Waste Strategy” for the Town of Mamaroneck. The main take-away from their research was that the solution to the waste problem is not faster removal, but sorting and reduction.

The Project

The Town of Mamaroneck’s average recycling rate of all potentially recoverable materials is 63%. The goal of the capstone project was to provide the Town of Mamaroneck with suggestions, which if implemented, could reduce the town’s waste to “near” zero. The team’s project Leader, Stacy Kotorac, presented the group’s findings and defined “near zero” as, “the diversion of 90% municipal solid waste from the waste-to-energy facility [county incinerator in Peekskill] by 2018 from the 2013 baseline.” The resulting plan was to try to close the gap between the current 63% recycling rate and the 90% or more potential recycling rate.

The Findings
The team of graduate students conducted their study using proxy data from different municipalities across the U.S. and abroad. The team applied the data to predict the change in rate of recycling for different waste management practices, and produced a list of potential recommendations. After a cost/benefit analysis of these recommendations, the team settled on five.

1. A textile and carpet-recycling program – The town can partner with businesses, such as Carpet Cycle, that recycle residential carpet and have designated bins placed at popular locations for collection.

2. Support composting – Provide outreach about backyard composting, create designated organic material drop off locations (ex. Farmers markets), and increase food composting in schools with organizations like WeFutureCycle.

Images from Columbia Graduate Students' "Town of Mamroneck, NY - ZERO WASTE" presentation
Images from Columbia Graduate Students’ “Town of Mamroneck, NY – ZERO WASTE” presentation

3. Address recycling in multifamily buildings – Provide those residents with a tote bag to carry recyclable items to collection locations.

4. Oops! Sticker – A large, visible sticker for garbage collectors to put on trash bags with recyclable items or on poorly sorted recyclable bins. The collector will then not remove those bags or bins for that pick up.

5. Volume-based Pay-As-You-Throw program – A growing practice in the United States, this system would require residents to purchase and use only the trash bags specified by the town. This would require households to pay up-front for their waste production. If a household decreases their waste, their cost of purchasing the bags will also go down.

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Earth Day 2015

2015 is certainly a year for anniversaries. Federated Conservationists has entered its fifth decade, and Earth Day is celebrating its 45th year. When looking back to the first celebration of Earth Day, it is easy to wonder if the 20 million Americans who gathered across the country knew what their movement would become.

Coverage of the first Earth Day, April 22, 1970, in The New York Times.
Coverage of the first Earth Day, April 22, 1970, in The New York Times.

In 1970 the Beatles’ “Let It Be” and Simon and Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water” topped the charts for the year; the Vietnam War sparked anti-war protests among students nationwide; and the hippie and flower child culture was at its height. The United States of 1970 was a much different place than it is today.

The roots of the environmental movement stem from this period in history. Earth Day 1970 used the energy from anti-war protests to move environmental concerns to the forefront of politics; it united those concerned individuals as activists under an environmental banner. Prior to 1970, environmental degradation was not clearly in the public consciousness. There were small rumblings that human activities were causing disturbances in the environment. For example Rachel Caron’s Silent Spring was a NY Times bestseller in 1962, however the general consensus was that poor air and water quality was simply a product of successful development and economic growth.

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A Look Into Our Past – Westchester Environment, “Earth Day: Progress and Promise”

This is the fourth installment of our “A Look into Our Past” Series, honoring the past five decades of work done by Federated Conservationists of Westchester County. This series revisits some of our best accomplishments by featuring past articles from our original publication “Westchester Environment.” 
In this post we would like to celebrate FCWC’s favorite holiday, Earth Day. Follow along as J. Henry Neale, Jr., a previous FCWC board member, recounts the first Earth Day and the start of “Earth Day ’80.”

“Westchester Environment” – Vol. 2 No. 4 – April 1980

Earth Day 80Earth Day: Progress and Promise By J. Henry Neale, Jr. (Excerpt from)

April 22, 1980 will be “Earth Day ‘80”. It has been declared to be the start of the “second decade of environmental progress.

The Earth Day celebration this year had an auspicious and impressive beginning. It was officially announced on January 1, 1980, on the first day of the new decade, in a Presidential Proclamation. President Carter’s proclamation called upon all citizens and government officials “… to observe this day and appropriate ceremonies and activities” and that “…special attention be given to community activities and educational efforts directed to protecting and enhancing our life-giving environment.”

Although the characterization of this year as being the start of the “second decade of environmental progress” may seem overly optimistic about our future – and excessively charitable about our recent past – there have been many changes during the past ten years. Several of these changes might be considered improvements. Perhaps these are reasons for describing the last decade as one of progress and for hoping that this progress will continue in the future…

…One indication of the change in the past ten years is that the environmental movement has become even more diversified. In addition to the continuing commitments to achieving air and water pollution control, wilderness preservation and land use planning, which had been well established long before 1970 and are enough to keep anybody busy for a long time to come, the environmental movement now includes many persons advocating other themes and causes: energy conservation, workplace safety, cancer prevention, transit reform, neighborhood preservation, alternative technologies and labor-intensive economic development, to name only a few.

A rough way of estimating progress toward accomplishment of this expanding list of goals is by evaluating the actions taken by the New York State Legislature in response to the various conflicting pressures upon it.

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Don’t give parkland for pipeline expansion

Written by Carole Griffiths, Co-President of FCWC

(Photo: Joe Larese/The Journal News)
(Photo: Joe Larese/The Journal News)

Blue Mountain Reservation is a 1,538-acre county-run park in the northwest section of Westchester County. It features miles of trails and offers challenging hikes to the tops of two large peaks, Mt. Spitzenberg and Blue Mountain. The park is used heavily by the public.

There is also a natural gas pipeline running though the park. Spectra Energy is proposing to enlarge this 26-inch diameter pipeline, installed in the 1950s, to a massive 42-inch diameter, high-pressure (850 pounds per square inch) transmission pipeline. The construction would require an expanded work easement of up to 130 feet, 55 feet beyond its present 75-foot right of way.

Enlarging this pipeline and the expansion of the easements will have negative impacts on the park. There will be permanent destruction of trees and habitat for animals. New edges will be opened a few hundred feet into the forest on either side of the expansion, which will allow invasive species to further infiltrate the park.

The route of the proposed Algonquin pipeline expansion. (Photo: Spectra Energy)

Important habitats are close to or adjacent to the proposed pipeline. These include a sizable stand of hemlock trees (mostly dead in our region), what may be an original wetland and a pond that is home to amphibians, turtles, fish and dragonflies. All are essential to preserve intact. In particular, the pond will also be affected by silt and other contaminates, killing eggs laid in the spring.

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#StopSpectra – AIM project is Issued its Certificate

A screen shot of the map for Spectra Energy’s Algonquin Pipeline expansion proposal. Photo Credit:Spectra Energy/Screen shot

WESTCHESTER COUNTY, N.Y. — The Algonquin Pipeline expansion proposal has  received approval from a federal agency that conducted an environmental review for the project.

FERC issued its Certificate for the AIM project yesterday despite safety and security issues raised by nuclear and pipeline experts, elected officials and the public.
Call to make a public statement and help us spread the word on social media by tweeting #StopSpectra
Please call the government officials listed below TODAY to ask them to make a public statement about FERC’s failure. 

US Senator Kristen Gillibrand 845-875-4585
US Senator Charles Schumer 914-734-1532
Congresswoman Nita Lowey 914-428-1707 or 845-639-3485
Congresswoman Eliot Engel 914-699-410
Congressman Sean Maloney 845-561-1259
Governor Andrew Cuomo 518-474-8390
Secretary Jeh Johnson, Department of Homeland Security 202-282-8000 (ask to be connected to comment line/voice mail)
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued its approval decision on Tuesday with details presented  in a 66-page document that included expansions for the conclusion.
The proposal  is from Spectra Energy. It involves replacing approximately 20.1 miles of natural gas pipeline that is 26 inches in diameter with larger pipeline material of 42 inches in diameter. An existing compressor station in the Putnam County town of Southeast would undergo several changes, according to FERC.
The work includes adding a 10,320-horsepower compressor unit that is natural-gas fired and adding gas cooling for it, FERC notes.  The pipeline goes through Rockland County, crosses the Hudson River to Westchester and Putnam before crossing the Connecticut state line into Fairfield County.