Thursday, July 12, 2012

News: Catskill Mountains - Increasing Fire Danger and Rebranding Efforts

Fire Danger Increasing in the Catskill Mountains

We are getting reports of a number of small forest fire around the Catskills caused by careless campers leaving their campfires burning after they have broken up and left their camp.  This is a recipe for disaster as the area hasn't seen significant rainfall in at least a month, with some areas having been dry for even longer.  Streams, springs and even rivers are getting very low and the ground itself is drying out.  Each additional day without rain, the conditions for serious forest fires grow.

Even the ground itself is dry and that is where the forest fires can do the most damage.  A campfire left alone can literally burn into the ground, igniting that dry organic material in the soil.  Once this happens, the fire burns through that organic duff layer, which then ignites fallen brush, shrubs and even trees that have dried out over time.  This type of fire can travel fast if not identified quickly and can do a significant amount of damage to the soil and to the forest it is burning through.

Most recent was a small fire near the summit of Indian Head Mountain caused by a campfire at an illegal campsite.  Not only were people camping in an illegal site (it is illegal to camp above 3500 feet in the Catskills during the summer month), but the campers left the campfire burning when they left.  The campfire quickly burned into the duff and it was thanks to a passing hiker who noticed and then reported that fire to the Forest Rangers, that the fire was quickly put out, but not after almost a days worth of work by the Forest Rangers and the local fire crews who had to hike in tools and water to the site.

The best advice in the Catskill Mountains right now is to avoid having a campfire at all and rely on your backpacking stove for any cooking needs.  Even with stoves, lanterns and other ignition sources (including ciagrettes!), you should be extremly careful to avoid accidentally setting off a blaze.

If you do come across a fire while hiking, you should contact 911 and they will connect you with the Department of Environmental Conservation's dispatch, or call the DEC's Dispatch directly to have the appropriate Forest Rangers contacted and mobilized - 518-408-5850.

Learn more about Forest Fires in NY from the DEC Forest Fire Website.

Rebranding the Catskills?

The Catskill Park Resource Foundation has recently gotten some press in the New York Times about their efforts to rebrand the Catskills. The idea is to more or less get away from the idea that the Catskills are the Borscht Belt. The problem is that it is not clear how they want to rebrand the Catskills after that. Not only that, but the NY Times article almost completely misses what the Catskills really are to most people - Mountain Peaks, clear skies, hundreds of miles of hiking trails, clean mountain streams - a outdoor recreational paradise only 3 hours north of New York City.

We feel that the Catskills as a whole should be working to recognize, celebrate and support the outdoor recreational opportunities in the Catskills and use those resources to support our local economies.

Beyond the NY Times Article, the Watershed Post has an excellent article digging into the CPRF and rebranding efforts in general in the Catskills.


For More Information on Catskills Hiking and Outdoors

Check out our Catskill Mountain Information Page for hikes, advice and planning information.  Need a hiking map for the Catskills?  The Trail Conference publishes the Catskills Trails Map Set, which is the best set of maps available for hiking in the Catskills. How about a guidebook?  Both AMC and ADK publish Trail Guides to the Catskill Region


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