Ithaca Environment

Friday, May 27, 2005

Open Letter to Friends of Dorothy Reddington

"Cornell is a great institution that would be even greater if it realized that it does not need another parking lot." –Dorothy Reddington

Dear Friends of Dorothy,

As you know, Dodo was a person of great accomplishments, unbounded enthusiasm, and total devotion to the people and places she loved. One of these places was Redbud Woods.

Today, the future of this beloved native woodland is extremely precarious; the bulldozers may start rolling within the next few weeks....Click permalink for the full letter...

As many of you know, Cornell University plans to raze Redbud Woods to construct a student parking lot. This lot will provide 176 parking spaces, covering an area about the size of two football fields.

The woods are in the historic backyard of famed Ithaca conservationist Robert Treman, who donated the land that is now Treman Park. Redbud Woods is home to diverse species of plants and animals, including locally rare yellow oak and hackberry trees, which provide winter hibernation habitat for butterflies that feed exclusively on hackberries. The area also provides a buffer between the University Hill neighborhood and the Cornell campus, and has been designated a Historic District by the City of Ithaca.

Last spring, the City of Ithaca Planning Board denied Cornell permission to build the lot, and offered six months to reach a mutual agreement with the city. Instead, Cornell opted to sue the Planning Board. The State Supreme Court judge ruled in Cornell's favor, undermining the board's ability to make local planning decisions and highlighting the problems with Cornell's lack of sustainable transportation policies. Proposed alternatives to razing Redbud Woods include providing underground parking, expanding or making better use of pre-existing lots, and implementing frequent, accessible public transportation and shuttles to satellite parking lots.

Nearly 40 Cornell faculty and scientists, including Dr. Thomas Eisner and Carl Leopold, stated in a letter to Cornell President Jeffrey Lehman: “…we feel that it would be ill-conceived to remedy this [parking] problem by destroying a strategically-placed patch of greenery, whose combined environmental, aesthetic, and historical value well exceeds any benefit that could accrue from its transformation.” More recently, 90 faculty requested a six-month moratorium on constructing the parking lot so that the community dialog could be continued, and a more elegant and sustainable solution to the parking dilemma found. Several days ago, that request was denied.

A number of Cornell students, including Dodo’s friend Danny Pearlstein, are members of the Redbud Woods Working Group, affectionately known as the “Redbuddies.” They have been putting themselves on the line to preserve the woods, and now face delayed graduation, fines, and court dates for their actions. But this hasn’t stopped them. They would like to dedicate Redbud Woods to Dodo. (Hey, Reddington Redbuds has a nice ring to it!) They are trying to outreach to the community, alumni, and to the media, and they can use all the help they can get.

What You Can Do

  • Please contact every Cornell alumni you know, particularly those in other states, and ask them to send e-mails and letters to Cornell President Jeffrey Lehman ( at 300 Day Hall, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853.

  • Please e-mail or send a letter (250 words or less) to the editor of the Ithaca Journal ( at 123 W. State St., Ithaca, NY 14850. Your address and phone numbers must be included for verification.

  • Join the Redbuddies at their upcoming activities: a “counter-convocation” between Cornell’s Uris and Statler Halls at 11am on Saturday, May 28th; a work, play, and planning session in Redbud Woods at 3PM on Monday, May 30th; and at the Ithaca Festival parade, marching together with the Catholic Worker group at 7pm on Thursday, June 2nd. Contact Danny Pearlstein ( for more information.

  • To find out more about the history of this issue, visit the website:

  • Visit Redbud Woods soon, while it is still in bloom, and think of Dodo as you stand quietly amid a sea of purple blossoms and bird song. Redbud Woods is located at University Avenue, west of Stewart Ave.

If Dodo were still with us, she would insist that President Lehman’s “institutional commitment to sustainability” be more that just lip service. She would want Cornell to preserve its ecological treasures, rather than to precipitate their destruction. And she’d be passionately debating all of the above over a glass of good wine. Let’s do it for her!
Permalink 11:01 AM

New Rule on Endangered Species Act: New science cannot be applied to old case

WASHINGTON, May 23 - The southwestern regional director of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service has instructed members of his staff to limit their use of the latest scientific studies on the genetics of endangered plants and animals when deciding how best to preserve and recover them.

Dale Hall, the director of the southwestern region, in a memorandum dated Jan. 27, said that all decisions about how to return a species to robust viability must use only the genetic science in place at the time it was put on the endangered species list - in some cases the 1970's or earlier - even if there have been scientific advances in understanding the genetic makeup of a species and its subgroups in the ensuing years.
Read the rest of the article, by Felicity Barringer, in The New York Times.
Permalink 7:32 AM

Redbud Woods Activities

From Jae Sullivan:

TODAY Friday May 27 at 1 PM: Press Conference at the Front Entrance to Day Hall on East Avenue. Show support for members of the Redbud 8 with local elected officials and candidates. Public announcements of Cornell's denial of the six-month moratorium on the proposed University Avenue parking lot, the third Student Assembly resolution asking Cornell to preserve Redbud Woods and grant amnesty to student protesters, and Cornell's decision not to allow Danny Pearlstein and Daisy Torres to graduate pending disciplinary proceedings next fall.

SATURDAY May 28 at 11 PM: Counter Convocation at the Naked Man Statue on East Avenue between Uris Hall and the Statler Hotel. Speakers will offer critical perspectives on Convocation Speaker General Wesley Clark and present awards relevant to recent activism at Cornell and in Ithaca. See Redbud Woods win the Jeffrey Sean Lehman Campus Sustainability Prize.

MONDAY May 30 at 3 PM: Celebrate Memorial Day in Redbud Woods. Meet, play, plan, and work in the Woods. Park on University Avenue uphill from the City Cemetery or at 660 Stewart Avenue.
Permalink 3:37 AM

Thursday, May 26, 2005

This Saturday! Redbud Woods Dedication

In a ceremony this Saturday (May 28, 2005), the Redbud Woods Working Group will dedicate Redbud Woods to Dorothy Reddington (known to many as "Dodo"), a long-time Ithaca activist and Cornell employee who died last year.

From Jae Sullivan:

The activist group, with the efforts of Dodo's friend,
Danny Pearlstein, attempting to stop the destruction
of Redbud Woods, will be dedicating the woods to Dodo
at 11 AM on Saturday, May 28, as part of their
"Counter Convocation." (Location: between Uris Hall
and Statler at the "Hercules" statue.)

There will be lots of activity in the next few weeks
(actions, letters to the editors of Ithaca Journal and
The New York Times, etc.) since the scheduled
bulldozing of the woods may take place as early as
mid- June - AFTER Cornell Commencement, Ithaca
Festival and Reunion weekends. Figures!

Danny Pearlstein and his friends will be sending out
an email tomorrow which I will pass on.

!!!Everyone is asked to send that email on to list
serves of environmentalists, alumni, Cornell faculty,
Sierra Clubs, local politicians, national politicians,
news organizations and journalists, etc!!!!

As Cinda, Dodo's sister, said to me on email, "Dodo
loved a good fight" so let's do our part to preserve
the woods. As Dodo herself wrote in her obit, "She
was proud to work for Cornell which she described as
'a great institution that would be even greater if it
would realize that it does not need another parking
lot.' "
Permalink 12:58 PM

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Winning Watershed Essays

The Cayuga Watershed Network has published the winners of the 2005 Watershed Essay contest.

Adult: Carrie Laben

High School: Violet Goncarovs


Congratulations to all winners and participants.

Teal Arcadi

Kate Perkins

Emmett Neno

Chris Corning

Morgan Kuryla

(Pictures of Carrie Laben, Violet Goncarovs, Bryan DiDona not available)
Permalink 10:27 AM

Cayuga Lake threatened by Mud?

Photo by BILL HECHT/Provided
An aerial photo of Cayuga Lake, taken on April 5 by Bill Hecht of Union Springs, shows the flow of sediment into the lake. A new study recommends restricting development in floodplains, preserving and rebuilding wetlands and protecting riparian buffers, the land adjacent to streams and creeks. Flooding of streams sends silt into Cayuga Lake, which has the largest watershed of all the Finger Lakes.

Read the rest of the story in The Ithaca Journal.
Permalink 6:31 AM

Nature Deficit Disorder

In the New York Times

(via Chris Walton's weblog Philocrites)

Doctors, teachers, therapists and even coaches have been saying for years that children spend too much time staring at video screens, booked up for sports or lessons or sequestered by their parents against the remote threat of abduction.

But a new front is opening in the campaign against children's indolence. Experts are speculating, without empirical evidence, that a variety of cultural pressures have pushed children too far from the natural world. The disconnection bodes ill, they say, both for children and for nature.

The author Richard Louv calls the problem "nature-deficit disorder." He came up with the term, he said, to describe an environmental ennui flowing from children's fixation on artificial entertainment rather than natural wonders. Those who are obsessed with computer games or are driven from sport to sport, he maintains, miss the restorative effects that come with the nimbler bodies, broader minds and sharper senses that are developed during random running-around at the relative edges of civilization.
(Photo by Sandy Huffaker for The New York Times)
Richard Louv's new book has a message for parents: don't be afraid to let children roam in the woods.
Permalink 6:05 AM

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Open Letter from Finger Lakes Environmental Network

My name is Katy Dunlap, and I am writing on behalf of a new
environmental organization called the Finger Lakes
Environmental Network (FLEN). FLEN seeks to promote
increased public involvement in local environmental issues
and coordination of environmental information.

I applaud your efforts in becoming a clearinghouse of
environmental information for the Ithaca area. FLEN seeks
to do similar work, but for the entire Finger Lakes
watershed basin. I hope we can work in collaboration to
better inform the public and effectuate positive
environmental change.

Currently, FLEN is seeking funding to establish an
environmental resource center that will house information
about the different environmental organizations within the
Finger Lakes watershed basin, making this information more
accessible to the public. I am surveying the environmental
community to assess the need for such a resource center.
Would you be willing to answer a few questions? I thank you
in advance for your time.

1. Does your organization feel that the environmental
organizations in the Finger Lakes region have effective
communication and openly share information? On a scale of
one to five (one being the best), please rate the
effectiveness of communication and the sharing of
information among these orgs. Please elaborate if necessary.

2. Do you see improved communication as an important need
right now? On a scale of one to five (one being extremely
important), please rate the importance of improved
communication. Please elaborate if necessary.

3. Do you feel that organizations are taking a holistic
watershed approach in addressing their environmental
concerns? On a scale of one to five (one meaning all
organizations do use a watershed approach), please rate the
number of orgs using a holistic watershed approach. Please
elaborate if necessary.

4. Would your organization be interested in becoming a
member of the Finger Lakes Environmental Network? This
entails being part of an environmental directory, being a
link on our webpage, and having your organization's
materials (pamphlets, newsletter, etc. at the resource

Thanks again for your assistance.
Please add this email address to your mailing directory.

Katy L. Dunlap, Executive Director
Finger Lakes Environmental Network, Inc.
P.O. Box 417, Trumansburg, NY 14886-0417
Permalink 9:04 AM

Genetically Modified Corn and Health Problems

Rats fed on genetically modified corn created by Monsanto Corporation developed serious abnormalities, with kidney malformations and changes to blood indicating damage to the immune system, an internal scientific report at the US-based company found, according to Sunday's edition of English newspaper The Independent.

Monsanto is being accused of knowing about these health problems and not disclosing their research. These accusations are discussed in this article in the South African Newspaper, the Cape Times.

For a general discussion of genetically modified foods, see this Independent article.
Permalink 5:42 AM

Brazil Losing Fight to Save Amazon Rainforests

From Yahoo News.

ALTA FLORESTA, Brazil (Reuters) - In the heart of what is known in Brazil's Amazon as the "arc of deforestation" it is clear that the fight to save the jungle is being lost.

Where Rainforest Meets Farmland

The above picture shows the arc that separates jungle from farmland, which is the front line in the battle over the Amazon. In 2004 the Brazilian government decided to make a stand in this half-moon shaped area stretching along the southern and eastern edges of the Amazon. A year later, environmentalists and government officials have little to show for the effort.

The government said on Wednesday that deforestation jumped to its second highest level on record in 2003-2004, to 10,088 square miles -- an area nearly the size of Belgium and slightly bigger than the U.S. state of New Hampshire.

Just under 20 percent of the world's largest tropical forest, which is home to an estimated 30 percent of the world's animal and plant species, has now been destroyed.

Deforestation in Brazil is being fought by environmental organizations such as Friends of the Earth, but Brazilian FOE directory Roberto Smeraldi worries about government commitment: "It looks like they no longer believe in the possibility of calling on society to react to this and they are trying to diminish the importance of the deforestation".

(Friends of the Earth is based in Great Britain.)
Permalink 5:17 AM

Friday, May 20, 2005

Website Devoted to Monitoring TCE

Previous blog entries here and here discuss local TCE contamination. The TCE Blog: Trichloroethylene is everywhere is a website that keeps track of TCE contamination issues around the country.

Thanks to Neil Fischbein.
Permalink 9:25 PM

UN Study Shows Biodiversity Decline

Biodiversity is declining at an alarming rate and human activity is to blame, according to an international report: "Ecosystems and Human Well-being: the Biodiversity Synthesis Report," prepared by the U.N. Millennium Ecosystem Assessment with the cooperation of the Convention on Biological Diversity.

"The loss of biodiversity is a major barrier to development already and poses increasing risks for future generations," said Walter Reid, the director of the Millennium Assessment, "However, the report shows that the management tools, policies, and technologies do exist to dramatically slow this loss."

According to the report changes in biodiversity due to human activities were more rapid in the past 50 years than at any time in human history, and over the last 100 years species extinction caused by humans has multiplied as much as 1,000 times.

Some 12 percent of birds; 23 percent of mammals; 25 percent of conifers and 32 percent of amphibians are threatened with extinction, and the world's fish stocks have been reduced by an astonishing 90 percent since the start of industrial fishing.

Read the full article on Yahoo News.
Permalink 9:14 PM

Coyote Agression Worries Local Scientists

Coyote sightings are now on the increase across New York, meaning greater potential for attacks, say Cornell University researchers, who are launching a five-year study of why the once-wary creatures are becoming more aggressive toward humans.

There have been no human attacks in New York. But while the state is only now beginning to track aggressive coyote sightings, there have been several reported attacks on small pets, said Gordon Batcheller, a wildlife biologist with the state Department of Environmental Conservation, which is assisting in the study.

Read the complete article in The Ithaca Journal.

Find out more about coyotes from NatureWorks.

Permalink 7:50 PM

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Redbud Woods Working Group

For more information about Redbud Woods, check out the web page of the Redbud Woods Working Group.

Permalink 7:24 AM

Emerson Admits to Contamination Problems in Ithaca

Via The Ithaca Journal

Emerson Power Transmission, the current owners of the Morse Chain building on Aurora Street in Ithaca discovered in 1987 that the site was a source of trichloroethene, a carcinogen also known as TCE. In spite of continuing cleanup efforts, EPT admits that the situation has not improved much.

"The treatment system has not removed the mass of contamination as expected," Emerson spokeswoman Emily Tzinger said Friday (May 13, 2005).

Recent tests show groundwater monitoring wells have levels of TCE, as high as 43,000 micrograms per liter. The Environmental Protection Agency's limit for TCE in drinking water is 5,000 micrograms per liter.
Permalink 2:09 AM

Cornell Students Face Trial over Redbud Protests

Via The Ithaca Journal

Eight Cornell University students could be headed for trials in Ithaca city court stemming from charges connected with the April 28 sit-in at Day Hall on the university campus.

The eight students are members of the Redbud Woods Work Group, who have been fighting to prevent the university from paving the wooded lot on University Avenue known as Redbud Woods.
Permalink 2:06 AM

Audubon Society Lists Crucial Bird Habitats

From The Ithaca Journal

The New York state Audubon Society Monday released a list of 136 "important bird areas" that the group hopes will encourage the state and private landowners to protect the habitat of the 460 bird species who make New York their home.

The areas range from large (305,000 acres in the Moose River Plains area of the Adirondacks and 310,000 acres in the Catskill Peaks) to small (the 15-acre Huckleberry Island off New Rochelle in Long Island Sound and the 43-acre Little Galloo Island off Henderson Harbor, Jefferson County, in Lake Ontario.)
Permalink 2:04 AM

Why no reporting on Alaska Oil Spills?

(via Avedon Carol's The Sideshow)

The operations of British Petroleum oil company in Alaska's Prudhoe Bay resulted in three oils spills during March and April of this year. BP runs the operation on behalf of Conoco Phillips, Exxon Mobile, and other oil companies. For some strange reason, this major environmental story got no press coverage in the US.

Full story at Charles Norman Todd's web site.


Caribou Near the BP Oil Facility, Prudhoe Bay, Alaska

Permalink 1:49 AM