From the EMC office

This area will keep you informed of up-to-date environmental issues as presented by the Rensselaer County Environmental Management Council (EMC).

The primary purpose of the EMC is to advise elected leaders on issues regarding the environment and natural resources. In Rensselaer County, it is an arm of the County Legislature. Rensselaer County’s EMC is also active in a number of other areas, including the management of the 156-acre Papscanee Island Nature Preserve, the Adopt-A-Roadside and Adopt-A-Trail programs.

Rensselaer County Environmental Management Council encourages volunteerism throughout the community. We currently have volunteer openings for our Adopt-A-Roadway, Adopt-A-Trail and county-wide cleanup programs.

Adopt-A-Roadside is a volunteer program whereby county roads are kept clean and free from litter.

It is sponsored by the Rensselaer County Legislature and managed by the RCEMC.

Typically, a designated group has responsibility for a specific stretch of road within the county.

Trash pickups are coordinated through the Highway Department. The program is run seasonally, usually in the Spring and Fall.

For more information, please call 518-270-2888.

Adopt-A-Trail is a volunteer program headquartered at Papscanee Island Nature Preserve. It is sponsored by the Rensselaer County Legislature and managed by the RCEMC. The program runs throughout the Spring, Summer and Fall months. Volunteers maintain specific trails throughout the Preserve, keeping them free of litter and brush.

Additional county-wide cleanups include Earth Day and regular seasonal cleanups in the Spring and Fall.

Volunteerism through the Rensselaer County Environmental Management Council is a great way to actively participate in the community while having a positive influence on the surrounding environment. Please join us in making Rensselaer County a better place to live and work.

Contact Ann Shaughnessy at (518) 270-2888 or for more information.

On April 22, 1970, 20 million people across America celebrated the first Earth Day. It was a time when cities were buried under their own smog and polluted rivers caught fire. Now Earth Day is celebrated annually around the globe. Through the combined efforts of the U.S. government, grassroots organizations, and citizens like you, what started as a day of national environmental recognition has evolved into a world-wide campaign to protect our global environment.

Pests come in a variety of forms: weeds, insects, animals, molds, and fungi to name a few. The need to control outdoor pests varies. Having some weeds in your garden or some grubs in your lawn may be tolerable. However, certain pests present serious threats in some years. Some pests can damage human and animal health, such as mosquitoes that carry diseases. Pesticides provide relief from many pests, but they are not the only solution to pest problems.

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This year, the potential for Lyme Disease and other tick-borne illnesses to reach problematic levels in Rensselaer County is very high. Ticks may carry several different diseases including: Lyme Disease, Ehrlichiosis, Babesiosis, and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. Lyme disease is the most common tick-borne illness in Rensselaer County. Health experts attribute the rise in Lyme-disease reported cases to several causes, including the change in migratory bird paths, an increase in wildlife habitat, and rising deer herd populations. All agree that individuals visiting, working, or recreating in outdoor habitat areas should be aware of the dangers of Lyme disease. Therefore, this fact sheet is being offered by the Rensselaer County Management Council to help you understand more about this serious issue, and to educate you about ways to protect you and your family from the threat of Lyme disease.


Lyme Disease (LD) is an infection caused by the bite of a deer tick (IXODES SCAPULARIS) that has been infected with the disease. Not all ticks are infected, so a tick bite does not always result in LD. However, when the tick that is carrying the infection (Borrelia burgdorfen) bites a human, it is very important that the person receive medical treatment as soon as possible. LD emerges as a skin rash and can continue to manifest itself in the body involving joints, the nervous system, and/or heart.

It takes 1-2 days for an infected tick to transmit Lyme Disease to a human. That is why it is incredibly important to inspect yourself and youngsters for ticks every 2-3 hours while in the field. A full body check should be done at home, and pets should be checked for ticks on a regular basis.


Deer Ticks are very, very small (sometimes as small as a pencil point!). They cling to vegetation and are most numerous in woods and leaf litter, high grass, weeds, and brush. The two-year life cycle of a tick requires that it feed on three separate hosts through its life, including birds, mice, and deer. The infection that is transmitted by a juvenile tick is usually picked up from an infected animal, most often a mouse. The next stage of a tick’s life is spent attached to vegetation, where it waits to attach itself to a passing human or animal. Thus, the greatest chance of getting infected with Lyme Disease is May through July, but you can be infected in all seasons by an adult tick.


When you see a tick embedded in your skin, the mouthparts will be under tissue with the body usually exposed. To remove a tick, use tweezers to firmly grip the tick’s central mouthpart and slowly wiggle it back and forth while pulling gently away. DO NOT SQUEEZE THE BODY OF THE TICK, as this may force infective fluid into the bite wound. After removal, wash the bite area thoroughly and apply antiseptic. SAVE THE TICK in a jar with alcohol or place the jar in your freezer. In the event that symptoms arise, identification and testing of the tick will help your physician in his\her diagnosis.


Early Stages – In the early stages, the first symptom usually noticed is a skin rash that occurs at the site of the tick bite. The actual tick may go undetected. The rash, which begins 3 days to one month after the tick bite, begins as a small red area which gradually enlarges, often with a partial clearing in the center of the lesion so that it resembles a donut or bulls-eye. Complaints of burning or itching are common. However, 40% of those with LD may not have the early skin rash, and symptoms may appear only in the later stages of the disease.

Later Stages – Later stage symptoms most often include complications of the joints, the nervous system, and the heart. These typically appear weeks to months after the initial symptoms. Joint complications usually mirror arthritis-like conditions and affect the larger joints such as the knee, elbow, and wrist. Pain and swelling or stiffness can move from joint-to-joint, and can become chronic. The most common neurological symptoms include severe headache and stiff neck, facial paralysis, and weakness and\or pain in the chest or extremities. These symptoms can persist for weeks, often fluctuate in severity, and may respond to intravenous antibiotics. PROMPT DIAGNOSIS AND TREATMENT IS KEY TO MINIMIZING THE EFFECTS OF THIS DISEASE!!


Oral antibiotic treatment is beneficial in the early stages of the illness and often prevents late complications. Amoxicillin and doxycycline are the most effective drugs. In children, amoxicillin is preferred. For late-stage complications, high dose intravenous penicillin or ceftriaxone is often effective.


If you and\or your family decide to visit an area that is conducive to deer ticks, there are measures you can take to minimize your exposure to Lyme Disease. These include:

  • Wear a long-sleeved upper garment
  • Wear long pants and high socks, tucking your pants into your socks
  • If possible, wear light-colored garments, as it makes it easier to spot ticks
  • Use a repellant containing low levels of DEET (N, N-diethyltoluamide) on clothing and exposed skin
  • Conduct regular “tick checks”. Ticks are most often found on the thigh, groin, arms, underarms, and legs.
  • Remember that immature ticks are very small. Look for new “freckles”…they might be a tick.


DEET-the chemical N, N-diethyl-m-toluamide- is the most commonly used insect repellant. However, it must be used with caution. While effective in combating mosquitoes, it is a powerful chemical which has been associated with a wide array of adverse reactions. The New York State Department of Health recommends the following precautions:

  • Store DEET containers out of the reach of children;
  • Do not let young children apply DEET to themselves;
  • Do NOT apply DEET directly to children- apply it to your hands and then put it on children with your hands.
  • Use a product with less than 10% DEET on children;
  • Avoid children’s face and hands, and apply sparingly;
  • Do NOT apply indoors or directly to your face;
  • DEET may affect some synthetic fabrics and plastic;
  • Wash all treated skin and clothing after returning from outdoors.

Note: All facts taken from NYSDOH literature and advisory notices. For more information call 270-2888

The Papscanee Island Nature Preserve is open to visitors and is enjoying its third year under the management of the Rensselaer County Legislature through the Rensselaer County Environmental Management Council. The preserve is a 156-acre natural area located in East Greenbush and Schodack and offers public access to over 2 miles of Hudson River shoreline. It is open dawn to dusk 365 days each year, and is free to the public.


In the late 1980’s, development pressure was great in the area now known as the Papscanee Island Nature Preserve. Environmentalists, naturalists, and lovers of the Hudson River were very concerned over the loss of this land to commerce, as the area was a valuable wildlife habitat and enjoyed the distinction of being an untouched natural area where visitors enjoyed hiking and bird-watching. In an unprecedented intervention, the Open Space Institute, a not-for-profit land preservation organization, purchased a network of parcels that now form the preserve. The cost of purchase was nearly $500,000. OSI placed conservation easements on the property, and purchased easements on adjoining property, ensuring that this land will remain in an undeveloped state forever. However, after purchase the preserve remained a relatively undeveloped passive recreational facility, as OSI does not actively manage (develop and maintain trails, etc.) their property. In 1995, the Rensselaer County Legislature asked the Rensselaer County Environmental Management Council to explore management\ownership possibilities with OSI. In 1996, in joint partnership with OSI, a parking lot was developed off Staats Island Road in Schodack, and in 1997 the county took over active management of the site.


The preserve offers over 6 miles of hiking trails, three picnic areas, two educational kiosks, and a number of informational signs. It has as its central theme a tribute to the Mohican tribe, the native peoples who lived, hunted, and cultivated these lands. Walking the trails, visitors can learn what Native Americans used plants, bark, and roots for and they can read how the Mohicans lived and thrived. Other interpretive signs teach about the value of the estuary and wetlands. Park benches are placed strategically throughout the preserve so visitors can rest and perhaps hear or see several of the hundreds of animals that call the preserve home. In the winter, by entering the preserve through the north entrance just south of the City of Rensselaer, visitors can enjoy winter hiking, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing. In the summer, car-top boat owners can access the Hudson River by carrying their craft merely 500 feet from the parking lot off Staats Island Road to the first picnic area along the southern boundary of the preserve.


From Troy, take 787 south to the Empire State Plaza\Rensselaer exit. Bear left toward Rensselaer and cross over the Hudson River to Route 9 & 20. About ½ mile after getting off the exit ramp and on to 9&20, take a right on Route 9J. To get to the summer entrance (April-October), go 4.5 miles south on Route 9J and take a right at the Papscanee Island Nature Preserve sign which is located on Staats Island Road. Travel about ¼ mile and cross the Amtrak tracks (watch out for signal!), turning right just after the tracks into the preserve’s parking lot. Gates open at 7 am and close at dusk. To access the north entrance for skiing and winter hiking, take your first right after getting on Route 9J just outside the City of Rensselaer (see Papscanee sign). Go approximately 2 miles to the end, park at gate to access trails.


For more information, call 270-2888 or e-mail

Wood is a renewable energy resource and is carbon neutral, as long as it is harvested in a sustainable manner without causing deforestation.

However, there are environmental impacts that need to be considered when burning wood. When wood is not burned properly, it can have negative impacts on both outdoor and indoor air quality. Smoldering, smoky fires that produce a plume of blue-gray smoke from the chimney are the main cause of air pollution related to wood burning. You can reduce the amount of smoke from wood heating in many ways.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) suggests the following guidelines to make certain that whether you are burning wood in a wood stove or using a fireplace insert, efficiency is maximized.

  1. Replace an old woodstove, fireplace, or fireplace insert with new, more efficient, EPA-certified equipment. New woodstoves use less wood.
  2. Burn only hardwoods that are clean, dry, and seasoned because they produce lower emissions of pollutants.
  3. Never burn garbage, trash, plastics, paints, solvents, charcoal/coal, or treated woods.
  4. Burn small, hot fires instead of large, smoldering fires.
  5. Have the chimney and the woodstove, insert, or fireplace inspected annually by a professional.

For additional tips and guidelines please visit the EPA website.

Coexisting with Coyotes