In the North Country, former President George H.W. Bush was remembered Saturday for saving the Adirondacks.
He signed the amended Clean Air Act, with the goal of substantially reduced acid rain and ozone depletion. Both goals were met. Locally, acidified lakes have become much cleaner, and Lake George is far better off than it would have been without the increased protection.
“The Clean Air Act was a very important act, from a water quality standpoint, with the reduction of the acid rain,” said Lake George Waterkeeper Chris Navitsky.
Data collection on Lake George has shown an improvement in water quality as acid rain diminished.
“So clearly the Clean Air Act that President Bush put through was very beneficial,” he said. “That’s really when the acid rain started reducing in the Adirondacks.”
Acid rain pulls nutrients from the soil, killing forests. Aluminum leached from the soil washes easily into rivers and lakes, killing fish and water plants.
The earlier Clean Air Act hadn’t made much of a difference in the Adirondacks, which are particularly vulnerable to acid rain because there is so much precipitation and impermeable bedrock.
But the amended act that Bush pushed for was far stricter, and that had the effect this region needed.
Data released this year found that many acidified lakes in the Adirondacks have recovered to the point where they are habitats to water fowl and fish again.
The amended law also helped the ozone layer recover. While people remember the law for the fight to eliminate acid rain, it also phased out ozone-depleting substances. This year, researchers announced the hole in the ozone is starting to close.
The chemicals that were phased out were greenhouse gasses that contributed to global warming, so their elimination was a major step toward reducing warming.
Pat Dowd of the Lake George Association cited the ozone layer protections as one of the biggest helps locally.
Lake George has warmed over the last 30 years, which encourages invasive species and has made the lake more vulnerable to algal blooms.
“But it would have warmed more without that legislation and caused more problems,” Dowd said. “We all have President Bush to thank for the condition of the lake now.”
Bush was also a man of the people, said Queensbury resident Freda Solomon, the widow of former U.S. Rep. Gerald Solomon.
She and her husband were once invited to the White House private quarters for dinner.
“He took us on a complete tour of the private quarters, through all the rooms, including their bedroom and bathroom, which had wet towels every place,” Solomon recalled with a laugh.
Bush’s wife Barbara “threw up her hands” when her husband insisted that they see the bathroom.
“But he said, ‘This is the people’s house and I want you to see it,’” Solomon said.
She remembered Bush as a trustworthy gentleman who worked with everyone to find solutions to the nation’s biggest problems.
“The solutions were thoughtfully prepared,” she said. “There was just more respect.”
U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., also cited Bush’s ethics.
“He was a fine man and even when he opposed your views, you knew he was doing what he thought was best for America,” Schumer said in a statement. “His yearning for a kinder and gentler nation seems more needed now than when he first called for it.”
Likewise, U.S. Rep Elise Stefanik, R-Wilsboro, called Bush the embodiment of the Greatest Generation.
“I join the nation in honoring the life and legacy of President George. H.W. Bush, a true son of America who lived an extraordinary life of service, grace, strength, and character,” she said in a statement. “President Bush will be remembered by the world for his enduring strength that brought an end to the Cold War, his extraordinary commitment to serving others through his thousand points of light, and his beautifully written letters. He was truly a great man who lived a giant life.”