New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo has signed the Invasive Species Prevention Act, legislation designed to help prevent the spread of destructive invasive plants and animals by making it illegal to sell and transport invasive species in the state, amid calls to close the Champlain Canal immediately to prevent the spread of the latest invasive threat .
The new law, said by advocates to have been a collaborative effort by state agencies and stakeholders, including conservation organizations, lake associations, agriculture and forestry organizations, scientists and academia, was unanimously passed in June by the New York State Legislature. The bill, sponsored by Assemblyman Robert Sweeney (D-Lindenhurst) and Senator Betty Little (R-Queensbury), creates a statewide regulatory system to prohibit or limit the sale and transport of known invasive plants and animals that impact natural areas and industries that depend on natural resources.
“Invasive species can present devastating threats to the ecology of New York, and to its recreational and economic health,” local retiring Assemblywoman Teresa Sayward, a co-sponsor of the bill, said in March. “We need to do all we can to control existing invasives from spreading, and new invasives from being introduced.”
Invasive species are non-native plants and animals that cause harm to the environment and/or human health and can harm the farming, forestry, tourism, and commercial and recreational fishing industries. Invasive species are expensive to manage or eradicate and cost taxpayers millions of dollars each year. Invasive plants such as dog strangling vine smother agricultural crops and aquatic invasive species like Eurasian water milfoil reduce water quality, property values and recreational boating opportunities. Nationally, the impact of invasive species is estimated at $167 billion annually.
“We have seen the economic and environmental impacts that invasive species can have,” said Michael Carr, Executive Director of the Conservancy’s Adirondack Chapter. “Whether it’s Eurasian watermilfoil choking one of our lakes, Japanese knotweed degrading river corridors, or emerald ash-borer threatening our forests, we must reduce or eliminate the spread of invasive species. We have a collective obligation to conserve our natural resources and the value they provide to New York’s economy.”
The Invasive Species Prevention Act requires the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets to develop regulations for the sale, purchase, possession, introduction, importation and transport of invasive species. Additionally these agencies will develop a list, with consultation from stakeholders, of prohibited species unlawful to possess with the intent to sell or introduce, as well as three lower tiers of regulated species that would be legal to possess, sell, buy, propagate and transport with restrictions.
At least 80 waters in the Adirondack Park have one or more aquatic invasive species, but more than 220 waters recently surveyed remain free of invasives. Currently, the interior of the Adirondack region remains relatively free of invasives but under increasing threat of their spread from surrounding areas. Late last week, the Hudson River Feeder Canal and the Champlain Canal above Lock 11 were reported to be infested with spiny water flea plankton. Spiny water flea is a particular concern for anglers as it can foul down-riggers and other fishing gear. It’s believed to have arrived in Lake Huron in 1984 in ship ballast water, and since spread to Lake Erie, Lake Ontario, the Great Sacandaga Lake, Peck Lake, and Stewarts Bridge Reservoir.
More 60 scientists and officials and groups from Vermont have sent a letter to the New York State Canal Corporation this week asking that the Champlain Canal be closed immediately to prevent the spread of the invasive plankton into Lake Champlain. A rapid response team has moved into action, but according to reports by WAMC radio, the Canal Corporation is indicating it is unwilling to close the canal early.
Annual survey’s being conducted at Lake George boat launches by Lake George Association stewards highlight the threat of the spread of invasives into the Queen of American Lakes. In 2011, lake stewards collected 171 aquatic organism samples from 125 boats and trailers, and identified 87 samples to be invasive species including Eurasian watermilfoil, curly-leaf pondweed, water chestnut and zebra mussels. Within two weeks of their launch in Lake George, boaters had visited 193 unique waterbodies located in 15 different states.
According to Lake George Mirror editor Anthony Hall about $3.6 million dollars has been spent to control the spread of Eurasian milfoil was discovered in Lake George in 1985.
In 2011 Warren County passed a law making the introduction and transport of aquatic invasive species into Warren County waterbodies illegal. It is the first county law of its kind to pass in New York State and imposes a fine of up to $5,000 and up to 15 days in jail for violators.
A ban on the transportation of firewood more than 50 miles remains in effect in New York State as an attempt to limit the spread of invasives carried by that means in Emerald Ash Borer, which has all but surrounded the region.
Other threats that have come to fore recently include an large infestation of variable-leaf watermilfoil (Myriophyllum heterophyllum) in the South Bay of Lake Champlain, and wild boar (Sus scrofa) in Clinton County. Didymo, also known as “rocksnot” is now in five rivers in New York, including Kayaderosseras Creek with headwaters that lie in the southern Adirondacks, making it a step away from invading renowned trout streams such as the Ausable River.
You can read all of the Almanack‘s coverage of invasive species here.
Photo: Spiny water fleas collect on fishing line by the hundreds, preventing fish from being landed and making reeling impossible. Photo by J. Gunderson.