The Nature Conservancy’s Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program (APIPP) will continue its efforts to protect the region from invasive species — one of the greatest environmental threats facing the Adirondacks — under a new, multi-year contract with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) funded through the Environmental Protection Fund.
The 4 ½-year contract provides resources to curtail the spread of invasive plants, animals and insects, as pressure increases from less protected areas outside the Adirondack Park.
APIPP is expected to hire more workers, deploy camera-equipped drones, and conduct on-the-ground assessments of thousands of acres of lakes and forests to identify areas at particular risk of contamination.
Invasive species are non-native plants, animals, and insects that cause harm to the environment and human health and put economically important industries such as farming, forestry, and tourism at risk. Invasive species are most commonly introduced and spread by people.
The Adirondack Park Is Threatened By Invasives
Broad awareness of invasive species, their impacts, and what people can do to help prevent their spread, lags behind what has become a regular onslaught of invasives species from surrounding areas where they are already established.
For example, in 2017 a strand of hydrilla, commonly referred to as one of the worst aquatic invasive plants in the world, was intercepted by boat launch stewards on a vessel hailing from the Potomac River attempting to launch into Upper Saranac Lake.
In early September 2019, a Lake Champlain Basin Program’s boat launch steward intercepted hydrilla at Lake Champlain, a lake which is already host to 51 known nonnative and invasive aquatic species. The boat was last in the Connecticut River, where hydrilla is well established.
Emerald Ash Borer, a terrestrial invasive which could out some 900 million ash trees in New York State over about 15 years once a full on infestation is established, was recently found in in two locations in Jefferson County. Emerald Ash Borer was confirmed in Saratoga County at Ballston Lake in June of 2016, in Oneida County at Rome a month later. In 2017, EAB was found in St. Lawrence County, near Hammond, and at Massena (a large infestation) and on St. Regis Tribal Land, both in Franklin County.
According to a 2014 report commissioned by APIPP entitled “The Actual and Potential Economic Impact of Invasive Species on the Adirondack Park: A Preliminary Assessment,” the potential direct economic impact of just eight invasive species, if allowed to spread throughout the Adirondacks, could be between $51 million and $56 million annually. Nationally, economic impacts are estimated to be $100 to $150 billion annually.
The Conservancy’s contract is expected to allow APIPP to pursue it’s vision for 2023, which includes:
Control invasive species introduced to sensitive native habitats and reduce the potential detrimental impact these will have on the Adirondack region’s resilient and connected lands and waterbodies.
Hire two new full-time staff – an Invasive Species Education and Communications Coordinator and an Invasive Species Information Management Coordinator.
Collect data to identify waterbodies at risk of invasive species contamination. Develop programs to screen fill and other construction material for terrestrial invasive species.
Invest in technology, such as drones equipped with multispectral cameras, that can detect invasive species and map areas likely to be vulnerable. Expand the use of early detection and rapid response teams critical to managing high priority water and land infestations throughout the region.
Expand the program’s invasive species data collection – one of the most robust aquatic and terrestrial invasive species distribution, abundance, and management datasets in North America – and analysis capabilities utilizing both terrestrial and aquatic remote sensing platforms.
Facilitate the recovery of native ecosystems by seeding or planting locally sourced, native plant species.
Publish results of several projects, including the Adirondack lakes and ponds at risk of invasive species contamination, and analyze the threats invasive species pose to forests’ ability to retain carbon and mitigate climate change.
Since its inception in 1998 as New York State’s first Partnership for Regional Invasive Species Management (PRISM), APIPP’s successes have paved the way for seven other PRISMs now in existence throughout the state. APIPP has piloted numerous approaches to invasive species prevention and management such as Invasive Species Awareness Week and regional invasive species early detection and response teams which are now statewide initiatives.