The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation this summer is expanding its stewardship partnership aimed at preventing the spread of aquatic invasive species in the Adirondacks.
Every summer the DEC partners with Paul Smith’s College’s Adirondack Watershed Institute to place boat stewards and decontamination operators at water bodies throughout the Adirondacks. The DEC notes with more than 2,300 lakes and ponds, 1,500 miles of rivers and 30,000 miles of brooks and streams, the Adirondack region is particularly vulnerable to the introduction of aquatic invasives.
21 locations, including 11 decontamination sites across the park, were staffed in 2015 and 2016 through the Watershed Institute partnership. This year 53 stewards will work at 28 sites.
New York State DEC Aquatic Invasive Species Coordinator Catherine McGlynn says the agency provides technical consultation and funding for the program. “The Adirondack program’s being expanded to create a buffer around the Adirondacks. So we have decon stations strategically placed at launches on water bodies that we know have small bodied aquatic invasive species, or AIS, like zebra mussels and spiny water flea. So we’re attempting to contain those at those locations because there are no known control methods for those species in those areas. And we’re also being really careful to place additional boat stewards at locations with a high frequency of use by boats and boat trailers.”
The Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program, or APIPP, coordinates all the invasive programs across the region. Director Brendan Quirion calls the stewardship partnership critical for the protection of Adirondack waters. “Aquatic invasive species are probably one of the top threats to not only our water resources but to the local economies of the region. So by enhancing the prevention coverage through this program we’re going to be protecting those resources much more effectively.”
Quirion worked with stakeholders and an advisory committee to push for the most effective and robust invasive prevention program. “This year we have over 50 boat launch steward locations across the region and in addition to this program as well the local grants that were received several years ago for decontamination stations we’re going to be having close to 28 different decontamination stations across the region this year, which is the most we’ve ever had.”
McGlynn explains that boat stewards collect samples of any AIS, or aquatic invasive species, that are found and boats are sent to a decontamination station. “There’s a number of boaters who will use multiple locations and some have more AIS than others. And based on data we’ve received from Paul Smith’s or the Adirondack Watershed Institute it indicates that there’s quite a bit of movement from boaters throughout the state and beyond the borders. So the intent is to protect, in terms of education, outreach and in some cases decon, the water bodies within the Adirondacks. And for those water bodies within the Adirondacks that already have those particular small bodied animals we try to contain it there because we often don’t have control methods other than containment for those species.”
Stewards are trained to identify invasives that are already in the region, and according to Quirion, new threats. “We certainly know which species are already here in the Adirondacks and we’re keeping a special eye out for those because they’re the ones most likely to see. But we’re also aware of ones that are new and emerging and on their way to the region. Last year there was an instance where a boat came to Lake Placid that had quagga mussels on it. So it does happen. I mean it depends on the species and the local lake on what species can invade and cause harm but really only one vessel is all it takes to invade a lake.”
The 2017-18 state budget increases invasive species prevention funding to $12 million. The money is allocated from the state’s Environmental Protection Fund.