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Two mule deer stand in a stream during a wildfire similar to that in Yellowstone National Park that burned 793,000 of the park's 2,221,800 acres and scorched another half-million in 1988. The worst fire in the history of the park, it was responsible for the death of 345 elk (of an estimated 40,000 to 50,000), 36 deer, 12 moose, six black bears, and nine bison. (Photo submitted)


Hamilton County Outdoors -- 08/06/2014 Not everything about wildfires is bad By Dick Nelson

Wednesday, August 06, 2014 - Updated: 3:53 PM

Fire! Depending on where you are and how it is used, hearing the word can scare the dickens out of anyone.

Wind, rain and fire are probably the three most devastating elements people have to deal with, regardless of where on the globe they live. When it comes to wildfires, the devastation can go way beyond the loss of thousands of acres of forestland, especially when it spreads out of control and starts burning up residential areas.

It happens much too frequently in Arizona, California, Oregon and other western and northwestern states. What surprises me is it does not happen just as frequently within the 2.6 million-acre Adirondack Forest Preserve and/or the 286,000-acre Catskill Forest Preserve, both of which have had the protection of “Forever Wild” since 1895.

Before I continue, you should be aware forest fires can be a blessing in disguise, inasmuch as they open the land to new vegetation –- growth wildlife need to survive.

One only need look at Yellowstone National Park. In 1988 wildfires burned 793,000 of the park's 2,221,800 acres and scorched another half-million. And, just last month, Yellowstone National Park spokesman Al Nash told Montana’s KRTV3, “There was a time when we thought all fire was bad, not just in Yellowstone but all across this region. And so we went to try and put out every fire, but now a quarter of a century later we look at fire differently.

“We are still very protective of people and things that they build but what we've learned is that these forests need fire. Visitors now drive through the park and can see where fire has changed the landscape for the better,” Nash said.


Fortunately, New York state hasn’t had a forest fire of that magnitude since 1903. According to a page on the DEC website (click on ‘Lands and Waters,’ ‘Forests,’ and ‘Wildfires’), “In the last exceptionally dry fire season of 2002, forest rangers responded to 324 wildfires throughout the state, burning a total of 2,062 acres. In historical contrast, the similarly dry weather of 1903 spawned over 643 fires that burned 464,000 acres in the Adirondack and Catskill parks alone.”

In 2012 there were 15 wildfires during July alone that burned a total of 23 acres; the largest single fire at that time was eight acres in the Town of Caroga. According to DEC Commissioner Joe Martens, “The difference from 1903 and 2012 is a direct result of 125 years of Forest Ranger efforts, working to prevent wildfires and improve fire control response.”

It was noted at the time that recreational campfires triggered the vast majority of blazes, but the DEC says lightning sparked two of the biggest. It should also be noted that people burning debris on private property cause the majority of brush fires. In any event, each of those wildfires -- as with any woodland fire – could have been more destructive had they not been contained as quickly as they were; which is a credit to the men and women who respond to these blazes.


“DEC forest rangers, employees and volunteers undergo rigorous training so they are prepared to help protect the public at moment’s notice both here in New York state and across the country,” Martens said. “A basic federal wild land firefighter must go through 44 hours of classroom and field training and pass an annual health and physical capability screening.”

In addition, he said, a crew boss is required to have more than 100 hours of classroom training and years of experience including a minimum of three national assignments.

In that regard, Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently dispatched a 20-person firefighting crew to Oregon to assist other firefighters and support personnel that have been battling 17 wildfires covering nearly 620,000 acres and four in Washington that have charred about 290,000 acres.

A press release on the dispatch reports that each squad has a sawyer with more than 40 hours of training and the ability to safely cut down large trees, and each state crew can only consist of six firefighters that are supporting a federal effort for the first time. New York’s crew includes six new male and female forest rangers.? In addition to helping contain the western wildfires and minimize damage, these crews also gain valuable experience that can be utilized in fighting wildfires in New York.

To learn more on the prevention of wildfires go to Smokey Bear website at <> and click on ‘Stop Wildfires!’


Speaking of bears, the DEC recently announced black bear hunters would have an opportunity to hunt bruins in all counties north of New York City and in specific wildlife management units in the Catskills and western Hudson Valley region Sept. 6-21. It’s all part of the Black Bear Management Plan, which also provides a uniform starting date of Sept. 13 for bow hunting and early firearms bear season in the Northern Zone.

The final 10-year Black Bear Management Plan is available at; click on ‘Animals, Plants, Aquatic Life,’ ‘Mammals,’ ‘Black Bear,’ and ‘Black Bear Management.’

In a somewhat related matter, it is now legal to hunt for big game with a rifle in Albany and Livingston counties.


The DEC has established hunting regulations for crossbows that will allow small game hunters to hunt just about everything with fur and feather and big game hunters to hunt deer and bear during the last 14 days of the early bow hunting season in the Southern Zone (Nov. 1-14) and the last 10 days of the early bow hunting season in the Northern Zone (Oct. 15-24). This includes the seven-day early muzzleloader season in the Northern Zone, keeping in mind that you must possess a muzzleloader hunting license to legally hunt with a crossbow during any muzzleloader season or during open portions of the early bow hunting seasons.

In addition, junior big game hunters (ages 14-15) may not use a crossbow to take a deer during the Oct. 11-13 Youth Deer Hunting weekend.

A couple of other things are off limits. Crossbows cannot be used when hunting waterfowl and other migratory game birds or while hunting small game over a dog in the Northern Zone. The only exception is coyotes. And if you’re thinking about using a horizontal bow for fishing, fuhgeddaboudit. Crossbows may not be used to take carp or any other fish.

To view the entire crossbow regulation visit and click on ‘Outdoor Activities,’ ‘Hunting,’ ‘Hunting Regulations,’ and ‘Crossbow Hunting.’


This may be old news for some of you, but it’s great news for gun owners, as a federal judge on July 28 overturned Washington, D.C.'s ban on carrying handguns outside the home, saying it was unconstitutional.? “There is no longer any basis on which this Court can conclude that the District of Columbia's total ban on the public carrying of ready-to-use handguns outside the home is constitutional under any level of scrutiny," Judge Frederick Scullin said in an opinion.?" Therefore, the Court finds that the District of Columbia's complete ban on the carrying of handguns in public is unconstitutional," he added in his 19-page ruling.?

The court order allows D.C. residents and non-residents to carry their licensed handguns for self-defense outside their homes. Scullin made the ruling in the Palmer v. District of Columbia case, which has been dragging on for five years.


The DEC is encouraging the public to participate in the Summer Wild Turkey Sighting Survey. Continuous throughout August since 1996, the survey allows biologists to gauge turkey populations and enables wildlife managers to predict fall harvest potential. Weather, predation and habitat conditions during the breeding and brood-rearing seasons can all significantly impact nest success and hen and poult survival.

Survey participants record the sex and age composition of all flocks of wild turkeys observed during normal travel. Those who want to participate can download a Summer Wild Turkey Sighting Survey form from the DEC website to record your observations. Detailed instructions can be found on line at <>. Click on ‘Animals, Plants, Aquatic Life,’ ‘Biodiversity & Species Conservation,’ ‘Citizen Science: Wildlife Observation Data Collection,’ and ‘Summer Wild Turkey Sighting Survey.’

Survey cards can also be obtained by contacting your regional DEC office at (518) 402-8886, or by e-mailing and referencing “Turkey Survey” in the subject line. A complete listing for all DEC regional office contact information statewide can be found at <>. Click on ‘About DEC,’ and ‘Regions.’


In what is being dubbed as a “soft release” hunting and trapping licenses, deer management permits, turkey permits, bow hunting privileges and muzzle-loading privileges will be available Monday, Aug. 4.

According to a DEC source, the agency is making these licenses available now to better acquaint license sales agents with the license-issuing system, new license structure, and revised fee schedule and help make the traditional sale date -- usually the second Monday in August -- less frantic.


Aug. 9 -- The Speculator, Lake Pleasant & Piseco Fish and Game Club Bass for Cash partners bass fishing tournament on Oxbow Lake, Piseco. 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tom Preston (518) 548-7327. Followed by Piseco Fire Department’s Harley Raffle, Chicken & Pork Barbecue, and Clam Bake. (518) 548-6400.

Aug. 17 -- All-You-Can-Eat Pancake, Egg and Sausage Breakfast and 3-D Archery Shoot, Fish House Fish and Game Club, 478 Fayville Rd., Providence. 7 a.m. to noon. Breakfast $8 adult / $4 ages 12 and under. Archery Shoot $10 adult / $5 ages 12 and under. or Ray Dyer Jr. (518) 882-6778.

Aug. 23-24 – Arms Fair and Sportsmen’s Expo, Saratoga Springs City Center, 522 Broadway, Saratoga Springs. 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. / 9 a.m. - 3 p.m. $8 ($7 seniors), free age 13 and under.

Aug. 28-30 -- NYS Trappers Association Convention and Sportsman Show, Herkimer County Fairgrounds, 135 Cemetery St., Frankfort. Over 80 venders; seminars. Admission $10 for the weekend / free ages 15 and under. RV camping $18 per night, primitive camping $10 per night / $18 with electric, tailgating $55 per spot. Wayne Jones (716) 772-1059 or


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