Press-Republican

April 16, 2012

Proposed law would help control invasive species

JEFF MEYERS
Press-Republican

PLATTSBURGH — A new bill being considered by New York state lawmakers would help prohibit the spread and introduction of invasive species across the state.

Sen. Betty Little recently introduced the legislation to the New York State Senate as a companion to a similar one put forth by Assemblyman Bob Sweeney and co-supported by Assemblywoman Teresa Sayward.

The legislation would provide the state's Department of Environmental Conservation with explicit authority to regulate the sale, purchase, possession, introduction, importation and transport of invasive species and would establish penalties for those who violate such regulations.

"This is a huge problem in our country and a huge problem in the Adirondacks and all of our lakes," Little said of the continued spread of invasive species. "It affects the quality of our environment, and it affects the value of our property. The spread of invasives on our land and in our water is a rapidly growing problem."

COSTLY DAMAGE

Invasive species, such as water milfoil and zebra mussels, out-compete native species and diminish biological diversity. As invasive species take hold in fields, forests, streams and lakes, they change a region's entire ecosystem and have caused widespread and costly damage.

Supporters believe the new legislation would help reduce the potential impact invasive species have on communities.

"This will help close down the pathway of our worst invasive species," said Hilary Smith, the current chair for the New York State Invasive Species Advisory Committee. "It will set up a regulatory system to evaluate species and, based on a variety of different criteria, the likelihood of a species spreading.

"The state would be charged with developing a list of species that people are prohibited to sell," she added. "It would basically remove the worst invasive species from being able to be sold in New York state."

EDUCATION

Although many invasive species have established colonies on lands and in waters across the state, many of those infestations are not wide-spread. The legislation would add another measure in preventing those species from spreading further.

"The invasive-species problem is exacerbated by humans moving things around, sometimes unintentionally and sometimes intentionally," Smith said. "Regulation is one piece of the solution."

Another focal point is public education, Little noted.

"We need to continue to educate the public whenever they are putting a boat into the water of any lake to make sure that they are not carrying any invasive species to another area."

Little praised efforts across the North Country and the state to promote public awareness of the invasive-species issue and stressed the need to support local and regional associations that have been working toward solving the problem.

The Adirondack Nature Conservancy, Lake Champlain Basin Program and other organizations across the region will continue hands-on prevention and public-outreach programs throughout the upcoming summer season.

Email Jeff Meyers at: jmeyers@pressrepublican.com