Local governments, lake and landowners associations, sportsmen and environmental protection organizations want to see Lake George’s program of mandatory inspections of trailered boats adopted throughout the Adirondack Park.
According to Fred Monroe, a Warren County Supervisor, and Eric Siy, the executive director of The Fund for Lake George, who convened a meeting of Adirondack Park stakeholders in Chestertown earlier this month, prevention is the only way to protect Adirondack lakes from invasive species and preserve an economy based on recreation.
“What were once the mainstays of the Adirondack economy, such as forestry and mining, are either gone or disappearing,” said Monroe. “What’s left is tourism, which is so clearly tied to the health of the waters. If we lose the waters, we have nothing.”
Lake associations, Monroe added, have begun to understand the relationship between property values and water quality.
“A new report from the Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Species Program states that invasives can cause property values to drop by one to sixteen percent. We think those figures are conservative. We believe the impact is more in the range of 16 to 20%,” said Monroe.
“I agree, there’s no more important issue facing the Adirondacks than invasive species,” said Bolton Supervisor Ron Conover, who attended the Chestertown meeting. “Unless, and until, we protect every water body in the Adirondacks, we can’t protect Lake George.”
A Memorandum of Understanding, affirming that “aggressive action is necessary,” is expected to be signed by everyone who attended the Chestertown meeting and will be circulated to municipal and county governments throughout the park, said Monroe.
He said he expects support for the initiative because local governments cannot fund their own eradication efforts indefinitely, making an effective prevention program necessary.
Based on the response to a presentation on mandatory inspections made to the New York State Conservation Council’s annual convention in September, Eric Siy said he anticipates support from a wide range of sportsmen’s groups.
“A Memorandum of Understanding literally puts everyone on the same page,” he said. “It makes it clear to New York State officials that there is a strong, concerted will and a commitment from a broadly representative group to take action now.”
Siy said the effort to bring a mandatory boat inspection and decontamination program to the Adirondack Park is modeled broadly on the example of Lake George, where a partnership of local governments and lake protection advocates, known as SAVE, was created to support and help fund the program.
“We learned on Lake George that we couldn’t wait for Albany to take action. We learned that when the people lead, the leaders will follow,” said Siy.
While Lake George’s program can’t be replicated on a park-wide scale, in part because of the absence of a state agency with the authority and the resources of a Lake George Park Commission, “there are other ways to accomplish the same thing,” said Monroe.
Inspection and boat washing stations could be established at the Park’s points of entry rather than on every one of its three thousand lakes, said Monroe.
“There are really only about a dozen routes into the Park,” said Monroe.
Legislation signed into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo this past summer requiring boaters to remove all visible plants and animals from their vessels before launching in New York State is not sufficient to address the threat to Adirondack lakes, according to Siy.
“It doesn’t require inspections, it doesn’t provide funding for boat washing stations and enforcement,” said Siy. “It’s like an unfunded mandate.”
Precisely how a mandatory Park-wide program would be implemented and funded has yet to be determined, said Siy.
“First, we want to demonstrate resolve and develop a head of steam at the local level. That’s why we’re circulating the Memorandum of Understanding now,” he said.
“Invasive species are ecological terrorists, hell-bent on our destruction,” said Siy. “We built a fort on Lake George with our mandatory inspection program, but we’re under siege.”
“It’s an ‘all hands on deck moment,’” said Fred Monroe. “If we do nothing, we’ll regret it.”
Photo: Fred Monroe and Eric Siy, founding members of the SAVE Lake George Partnership.