Last fall, driving toward Crown Point, I came across some officials from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service checking one of Lake Champlain’s New York tributaries for lampreys, a fish with a bad reputation in the modern era because it’s ugly and harms the region’s precious salmon.
The wildlife service dumps a chemical into the water that is designed to kill lampreys and pretty much nothing else.
I’d known what they were up to because of a book I’d just read, “The Death and Life of the Great Lakes” by Dan Egan.
Egan writes about the lampreys, which invaded the Great Lakes from the Atlantic Ocean, because they attach themselves to salmon, mortally wounding them.
Lampreys have been around for over 350 million years. But last century, they met their match when Vernon Applegate, who helped the wildlife service find the exact mix of chemicals to kill lampreys.
“Applegate,” Egan writes, “a wiry ex-infantryman from Yonkers, lived for three years along two lamprey-infested rivers in northern Michigan in search of a weakness in the lifecycle of one of evolution’s most durable models. He did it with an intensity that, more than half century later, still leaves those who worked with him — or who had brief encounters with him — bemused.”
At the right dose, TPM is supposed to be non-toxic to mammals, including humans, though the water right around where it’s been dumped isn’t supposed to be used for fishing, recreation, irrigation or drinking.
Something we’ll be exploring in a coming issue is the attempt to reintroduce salmon further back in the Saranac River. One of the concerns with bringing salmon back up the river is how far lampreys will follow them.
A lot of people tend to assume lampreys are invasive species here just as they are in the Great Lakes. But, in my reporting on Lake Champlain, I’ve come across a healthy debate that suggests that conventional wisdom may not be so wise. Some more recent genetic analysis suggests they are just as native as the landlocked salmon they attach themselves to.
ProPublica’s Abrahm Lustgarten is doing some intense and complicated data journalism about how humans will be driven to migrate by the changing climate. His latest story is about internal migration, that is migration within the United States. As he points out, there’s nothing new about the idea — just think of the Dust Bowl refugees Woody Guthrie sang about — but the cause, human-made global warming, is coming upon us quickly: “Across the country, it’s going to get hot. Buffalo, New York, may feel in a few decades like Tempe, Arizona, does today, and Tempe itself will sustain 100-degree average summer temperatures by the end of the century.”
As a sort of precursor, the current pandemic is teaching us just how quickly settlement patterns can change, something the Adirondack Daily Enterprise explored over the last few days.
That, though, has me thinking about a map I saw recently. It was one of those topographic maps that shows the relative elevation of places across New York.
Quick summary: New York City is at or near sea level — the Adirondacks are far above it.
Now think about migration patterns within New York once sea level rise hits the city. Where will downstate New Yorkers go if they have to head for the high ground?
To understand the scale of the fires out West, Peter Bauer compared their size to the size of the Adirondack Park. As of today, 3,154,107 acres is burning or has burned in California this year. That’s comparable in land area to half the Adirondacks.