Press-Republican

July 26, 2012

New legislation targets invasive species

By JEFF MEYERS, Press-Republican
Press-Republican

---- — KEENE VALLEY — Legislation signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo this week will help the region’s ongoing battle against invasive species.

The Invasive Species Prevention Act, unanimously passed by the New York State Legislature in June, is designed to create a statewide regulatory system to prohibit or limit the sale and transport of plants and animals known to threaten communities, natural areas and job-creating industries that depend on natural resources.

“This will probably be one of the most effective strategies for dealing with invasive species that we’ve seen,” said Hilary Smith, director of the Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program.

“A lot of our work focuses on the early detection of invasive species of concern and doing rapid response or long-term management,” she added. “Many of these species have been introduced unintentionally through the sale of aquatic species through aquariums or nurseries.”

ESTABLISHING RULES

The bill, which was sponsored by Sen. Betty Little (R-Queensbury) and co-sponsored by Assemblywoman Teresa Sayward (R-Willsboro), requires the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and Department of Agriculture and Markets to develop regulations for the sale, purchase, possession, introduction, importation and transport of invasive species.

The agencies will also develop a list of prohibited species that will be unlawful to possess with the intent to sell or introduce, as well as lower tiers of regulated species that would be legal to possess but with restrictions.

“By identifying the worst invasive species in New York that will no longer be available for sale, it will ease the burden on management of invasives for the long term,” Smith said. “These species won’t be making their way into the lands and waters of New York state in the future.

“We’re spending a lot of money to prevent the spread of purple loose strife,” she gave as an example, “but it’s kind of discouraging if someone is planting it next door.”

Experts within the field of invasive species will assist the two state departments in developing a list of species, which is expected to be completed within an 18-month assessment and public-comment period.

PREVENTION

“We have seen the economic and environmental impacts that invasive species can have,” said Michael Carr, executive director of the Nature Conservancy’s Adirondack Chapter in a press release. “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.”

The Adirondack region remains relatively free of invasive species. Two out of three waters surveyed by volunteers are free of aquatic invasive species. The average size of a Japanese knotweed infestation is lest than 0.1 acres in the interior Adirondacks.

The new legislation can go a long way in protecting those areas not yet impacted, experts say.

 “This is an important milestone and a huge step forward for New York state,” Troy Weldy, the Nature Conservancy’s representative on the New York State Invasive Species Advisory Committee, said in a statement.

“At a time when community resources are already being stretched to the limit, this bill will ease the burden of management costs down the road by preventing new introduction of harmful invasives.”

Invasive species are non-native plants and animals that cause harm to the environment and human health. They also put at risk economically important industries, including farming, forestry, tourism and commercial and recreational fishing.

“The bottom line is that we all know that preventing the spread of invasive species is critical,” Smith said. “If we’re going to be successful, this (law) is going to be instrumental in helping all of us across the state.”

Nationally, the impact of invasive species is estimated at $167 billion annually.

Email Jeff Meyers:

jmeyers@pressrepublican.com