hill country observerThe independent newspaper of eastern New York, southwestern Vermont and the Berkshires


JUNE 2011



The second-home economy

Newly released census data hint at how an infl ux of weekend residents and vacation-home owners is reshaping the region’s economy. In every area county, the number of houses built in the past two decades far outpaced the growth of the year-round population, and the trend was especially strong in Berkshire and Columbia Counties. Since 1990, for example, the population of Berkshire County shrank by 8,000 people, or nearly 6 percent, but the number of houses in the county grew by more than 4,000, or 6.5 percent -- and seasonal housing incrased by nearly 25 percent... read more



Vermont takes medical marijuana a step further

Under a 2007 law, Vermonters with chronic conditions like multiple sclerosis, cancer and AIDS can register with the state and obtain a prescription for marijuana to relieve symptoms like pain, nausea and muscle spasms. But the 300 patients enrolled in the program were left to grow their own marijuana or buy it on the black market. Now legislators have agreed to allow the creation of up to four marijuana dispensaries around the state where patients could obtain the drug safely... read more



States work to save the last bats

Five years after the fi rst dead bats were found in a cave west of Albany, the disease known as white-nose syndrome has all but wiped out the region’s population of hibernating bats. The situation has gotten so dire that offi cials in Vermont and new Hampshire are now considering rounding up whatever surviving bats they can fi nd and allowing them to spend the next winter in abandoned military bunkers where the climate can be controlled to stop the spread of the disease... read more



Vintners push the frontier of wine making

Carlo and Dominique DeVito started Columbia County’s fi rst winery, establishing their own vineyard in 2007 and extending grape production into a part of the Hudson Valley that previously had been considered too far north for grape production. Their Hudson-Chatham Winery has won a series of awards and has now been joined by a second winery in the county.... read more





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