The Importance of Earth Day

Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson

Earth Day is a worldwide event that celebrates, promotes and supports environmental protection efforts.  The Lake George Area lies in the Southern region of the Adirondack Park with some of the most beautiful environmental recreation area in the world.  Environmental protection is a way of life in the LGA.  This Earth Day, we wanted to take a moment to recognize and thank the many local organizations that work to ensure the Lake George Area’s environment is kept pure and beautiful while still being accessible for the many tourists and environmental enthusiasts who enjoy its wonders.

Thomas Jefferson said in a letter to his daughter after first seeing Lake George that it “is without comparison, the most beautiful water I ever saw; formed by a contour of mountains into a basin thirty-five miles long, and from two to four miles broad, finely interspersed with islands, its water limpid as crystal and the mountain sides covered with rich groves.”

The same water and mountainsides that made such an impression on Jefferson still exist today.  Though the shores are more populated, the pristine nature of the lake still inspires awe in those who see it.  In fact, water from Lake George is so clean that it is used as a source of drinking water for communities surrounding the lake.

We’d like to tell you that the waters of Lake George have never faced environmental threat.  Since we can’t truthfully do that, instead we’ll share some of the accomplishments attained by local organizations that have worked to protect its waters; in particular the Lake George Association, Lake George Park Commission, and Lake George Land Conservancy.


Protecting the Lake from Invasive Species

Asian Clams
Asian Clams

In recent years, Lake George has faced two very real threats – Asian Clams and Eurasian Watermilfoil.  Efforts to eradicate these two invasive species are ongoing.  You can help!

Asian Clams are very small, usually less than 1.5 inches, and were first spotted in Lake George in 2010.  The clams can spread very quickly, much more quickly than fish and other predators can eat them.  They have clogged water intake pipes, devoured resources relied upon by existing species including Native Mussels and Asian Clam waste can contribute to increased algae growth in the lake.

How did Asian Clams end up in Lake George?

We suspect they arrived as stow-aways in bait buckets and boats that were used in other waters the Asian Clams live in.  Though, as their name suggests, the species comes from Asia, they have thrived in the U.S. since the 1930s and have been identified as invasive species in over 40 states.

What is being done to fight the Asian Clam invasion?

To eradicate Asian Clams, several local organizations work together to pool resources and expertise.  The Lake George Association, Lake George Park Commission, FUND for Lake George and Darrin Fresh Water Institute in Bolton Landing all contribute to the project.  Current research indicates the most effective methods of containment and eradication of Asian Clams are benthic barrier mats.  These have been installed in sites where the species is thriving.  The mats block light from reaching the clams, thereby preventing them from spreading, depriving them of oxygen and limiting their food sources.  As years have progressed, the hardest hit areas have been treated with heavier mats to produce a more firm seal so trapped clams cannot escape.  Mats have also been left in place for longer periods of time including over the winter months when clams are less active.  The mats have been largely effective in removing the clams from Lake George.

How can you help?

Report Asian Clam Sightings.  Take a look at the picture in this post.  If you see anything you think may be an Asian Clam, report it to the Lake George Association.

Help stop the spread.  If you use a boat or bait bucket in Lake George, make sure it’s clam free!  Wash your boat and other equipment before entering and after you leave Lake George and make sure to completely drain all the water.


Invasive Plant Species

Eurasian Watermilfoil is a noxious plant that was first discovered in Lake George in 1985.  Each year, the Lake George Association together with the Lake George Park Commission, FUND for Lake George and other local groups inspect every site where milfoil colonies have been found.  Any new colonies or old plants are hand harvested.  In this way, 80% of the Eurasian Watermilfoil is removed from the lake.  New invasions are a constant threat since milfoil can drift and be reintroduced to the lake through transport on boats.

How can you help? – Lake George Boat Inspections

Asian Clams and Eurasian Watermilfoil are only two of many invasive species found in Lake George’s waters.  To help prevent the spread of other identified species including the Spiny Water Flea, Zebra Mussels, the Chinese Mystery Snail and the Curly-Leaf Pondweed, the Lake George Association established a Lake Steward Program.  Stewards were hired for the summer to inspect boats and various boat launches around Lake George to help prevent invasives from entering the lake.

In 2014 the Lake George Park Commission made boat inspections mandatory for any vessel entering Lake George.  The LGA’s Lake Steward Program served as a natural forerunner for the program and was developed and expanded into the current program which offers free inspections to all Lake George boaters.  For more information, visit lgboatinspections.com.


Protecting Water Quality

Since 55 percent of the water in Lake George comes from streams that deposit into the lake, the Lake George Association takes on projects each year to keep streams that feed Lake George healthy.  A healthy stream is one that flows well, collects sediment and debris before it reaches the lake and doesn’t contribute to lake pollution.

There are over 141 streams that flow into Lake George.  These make up much of the lake’s watershed (a fancy term for the entire area around the lake where rainwater flows downhill into the lake).  Lake George’s watershed is 233 square miles (152,000 acres) and the Lake George Association works to make sure all the streams in that enormous area (pictured to the left) are healthy.

How does the LGA keep a stream healthy?

The LGA has identified eight major streams that flow into Lake George.  These have smaller streams that feed them.  Storm water management, stream corridor management and education are the primary ways the LGA works to keep the Lake George watershed healthy.  Storm water management involves working with municipalities to identify risk areas for runoff from roads and commercial sites.  The LGA then collaborates with government agencies on engineering projects to improve conditions.  Each year, the LGA identifies new projects to help minimize the impact of storm water runoff.  Last year, they completed a project with Bolton Landing to help improve Rogers Park.

To manage storm corridors, the LGA looks at the state of streams.  Are they stable?  Are they eroding?  What is causing erosion?  The LGA investigates erosion in streams every year and works to reverse it.  Last year the organization repaired more than three streams to restore natural flow and allow smelt to better travel in the waterways.  In addition, the LGA cleaned out settlement ponds in the watershed to capture debris before it reached the lake.

How can you help?

The LGA works to educate the population on how to better care for Lake George’s watershed.  It’s citizen science programs help to teach you how to monitor the lake.  The LGA can’t be everywhere at once but if enough people learn how to determine what’s good and bad for the lake, they won’t have to be!  Check out their Citizen Science page for information on current projects and get involved.  During the summer, take a trip on the LGA’s floating classroom to learn the science behind what makes Lake George so special.

Plant a native plant!

To celebrate Earth Day, the LGA is giving away plants native to the Lake George Area.  Stop by a local town hall building Monday, April 24 starting at 9am and pick up a plant for your yard or garden!


Protecting the Land

The Pinnacle
The Pinnacle

Forestland in the Lake George Area needs just as much protection as its waters.  Luckily, the Lake George Land Conservancy is on the case.  They work to preserve lands, acquiring at risk property for protection initiatives, managing those lands and educating the public so everyone knows how to be a good land steward.

Ecological Restoration

When the LGLC establishes a preserve, ecological restoration is often needed to help restore areas of the property to a more natural state.  This can include planting native trees, hydroseeding and controlling invasive plant species.  Preserves are then monitored to ensure no new threats take hold and populations of native species like birds and animals are supported.

In the past three years alone, the LGLC has protected nearly 1,400 acres of land including forestland, wetlands, vernal pools, important habitat and many miles of trails.  Since much of the LGLC’s preserves are located within the Lake George watershed, erosion control is a priority.  Previous industrial operations including logging and mining have decreased stability of lands, threatening to send large amounts of erosion and sediment into the lake.  Improving the vegetation around at risk areas helps to reduce erosion.

Like the waters in the Lake George Area, the forestlands are also susceptible to invasive plant species.  Currently hemlock woolly adelgid is the most aggressive invasive species in LGLC preserve areas.  To fight the spread of hemlock woolly adlegid, LGLC must constantly monitor preserves to identify new infestations and remove trees infected by the plant as soon as possible.

Trail Creation and Management

Currently, the LGLC manages nine parks and preserves that are home to over 20 miles of trails.  Trails are open to the public year-round for hiking, snow-shoeing and cross-country skiing.  Most trails lead visitors to interesting geographic features including beautiful vistas with views of Lake George, waterfalls and beaver ponds.  Trails within these preserves are well marked with the LGLC trail markers and kiosks at the start of trails are stocked with guides.  (Check out the view from the top of The Pinnacle Trail above.)  Trails are not only carefully designed and built but they must also be maintained.  Ongoing maintenance of trails requires regular inspections and removal of debris.  Rebuilding after erosion and installation of drainage systems helps prevent trails from washing out and maintains their stability and safety.

How can you help?

Donate. Protecting the land costs money.  If you have a little extra, consider donating to one of the LGLC’s current projects.  Details about each project, funding goals and online donation tools are available on the LGLC’s Current Projects page.

Volunteer.  The LGLC is always in need of volunteers to help maintain trails and identify invasive species in preserve lands.  They will provide all the training necessary.

Learn.  The best way to help is to take some time to educate yourself on the best ways to appreciate the land.  Most of us know not to leave trash on the trails we enjoy but educating yourself about which trails are best for pets, for families and the seasons when trails should be enjoyed will help to keep trails healthy.  For LGLC trail information, visit their Hike Lake George page.  The LGLC also offers education for landowners looking to protect their land.  Visit the LGLC’s Options for Private Landowners page for details.