New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has proclaimed this week Invasive Species Awareness Week. It’s the first statewide effort to educate and engage the public in on-going efforts to prevent and control the spread of non-native invasive species.
Invasive species are non-native plants, insects and animals that interfere with native species and cause damage to ecosystems. Invasives already spreading within New York include the Asian Longhorn beetle, zebra mussels, feral pigs, Asian clams, hydrilla, water chestnut, and Eurasian water milfoil. For nine years the Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program - or APIPP - has sponsored an Invasive Species Awareness Week. Director Hilary Smith says awareness is critical to stop the spread of invasives. “We see impacts to our recreation and our natural resources, to agriculture and human health. We even see impacts to our built environment such as our roadway infrastructure. But there are also simple steps that the public can take to prevent the spread of invasive species. And that’s what this week is all about: providing an understanding about what invasive species are and ways to get involved to protect New York’s great resources.”
Governor Andrew Cuomo modeled Invasive Species Awareness Week after APIPP’s efforts. Nature Conservancy, Eastern NY Chapter Senior Conservation Manager Troy Weldy is a member of the NYS Invasive Species Advisory Council. “We want people to understand that there is something they can do to control the spread of invasives. Whether it’s to clean, drain and dry their boats; cleaning their footwear whether you’re a fisherman or a hiker, to prevent the spread of invasive species. Because this is a case where one person really could cause significant harm if they do not take that action.”
NYS Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation Director of Invasive Species Field Control Bob O’Brien says the costs of the invasives are escalating - both ecologically and economically. “People have to be aware and awareness leads to early detection. Early detection is the very best way and the most economical way to resolve and eliminate populations of invasive species.”
New York State Association of Counties Executive Director Stephen Acquario reports that the national economic impact of invasive species damage is over $120 billion annually. “The impact in New York State alone is a percentage of that. If we look at highway departments, crews have to be careful when encountering the Giant Hogweed. It’s an invasive plant whose sap is poisonous and toxic. The Emerald Ash Borer is costing hundreds of thousands of dollars. I think it’s important for this awareness week that citizens take the time to try to understand it, and more importantly if they see something, say something.”
The Lake George Association will conduct their first annual hydrilla hunt as part of Awareness Week activities. Outreach Coordinator Emily DeBolt notes that new laws were passed during the recent legislative session to deal with invasives, but much work remains. “We still need the Governor to sign it into law and then the DEC to actually create the regulations. So it’s a really good step forward, but there’s still a lot of work to be done.”
A link for information on the events that the eight Partnerships for Regional Invasive Species Management across New York are sponsoring during New York Invasive Species Awareness Week is available here.