Outdoor writers’ group celebrates 50 years

2017 conference-goers gathered at Gore Mountain for a photo.

The New York State Outdoor Writers Association recently held its 50th fall conference and anniversary celebration in Warren County, the same place where members held their very first meeting back in 1967.

The organization was formed by Hans Paller, a Massena, N.Y.-based outdoor communicator, and Bill Hilts, Sr., of western New York, who both had the same idea of forming an outdoor writers’ group for the Empire State. As their plan evolved, they settled on a location for their first meeting, which turned out to be Lake George.

The same warm weather that we deer hunters have been cussing about was a blessing for this year’s event, which ran from Oct. 11-15, as it allowed both members and spouses to enjoy a number of outdoor activities. Playing tourist is often part of the itinerary and a day was spent by members and spouses in the Gore Mountain region of northern Warren County, riding the popular rail bikes and ascending Gore Mountain via gondola.

You can’t come to Lake George without taking a cruise on the lake itself, and so a lunch cruise was enjoyed at the height of the conference. A number of writers were able to get out fishing on Lake George, too, as well as nearby Glen Lake, while others hunted pheasants, ducks and deer – all under warmer-than-usual conditions for this time of year and not a drop of rain.

All the fun aside, some important business was also conducted. Most notably was a meeting early on in the conference with Sean Mahar, assistant commissioner of public affairs for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), and Kenneth Lynch, executive deputy commissioner. Both addressed the group.

Under Gov. Andrew Cuomo, there’s basically been a controlled gag order between state agencies and the press. That includes DEC and its ability to share information with outdoor writers. Not only has this been frustrating at times for us in the media, it ultimately affects those final words that make their way to the reader.

Both Mahar and Lynch said the days of the gag order are over and that the door is open to better communication between the DEC and the media. We sure hope that’s the case and time will be the ultimate judge.

Dave Wick, executive director of the Lake George Park Commission, also addressed the group during a seminar. Under Wick, Lake George has led the way in invasive species control in New York state. Early on in the development of what is now mandatory boat and trailer inspections and, if needed, boat decontamination on Lake George, Wick met with the angling community to discuss their concerns. He communicated all of this and more to the NYSOWA members attending the seminar.

Getting back to the fun stuff, the VIP guest for the weekend was outdoor personality Jim Zumbo, who grew up in Newburgh, N.Y, and still frequently visits a family hunting camp in Wells, in the Adirondacks. Zumbo met with the public at one point and gave an entertaining speech at the NYSOWA awards banquet and dinner.

It was a quick weekend of both business and pleasure. Happy 50th, NYSOWA.

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