By signing the Invasive Species Prevention Act, Governor Andrew Cuomo upholds New York’s position of national leadership for environmental conservation, while protecting New York’s vital farming, forestry, fishing and tourism industries.
The new law, a collaborative effort by state agencies and stakeholders, including conservation organizations, lake associations, agriculture and forestry organizations, scientists and academia, was unanimously passed in June by the New York State Legislature. The bill was sponsored by Assemblyman Robert Sweeney (D-Lindenhurst) and Senator Betty Little (R-Queensbury) to create a statewide regulatory system to prohibit or limit the sale and transport of known invasive plants and animals that threaten our communities, natural areas and job creating industries that depend on natural resources.
The Nature Conservancy commends the Governor and the Legislature for enacting this critical piece of legislation to abate threats to New York’s lands and waters posed by invasive species.
Invasive species are non-native plants and animals that cause harm to the environment and/or human health and put at risk economically important industries including farming, forestry, tourism, and commercial and recreational fishing. Invasive species are expensive to manage or eradicate and cost taxpayers millions of dollars each year. Invasive plants such as dog strangling vine smother agricultural crops and aquatic invasive species like Eurasian water milfoil reduce water quality, property values and recreational boating opportunities. Nationally, the impact of invasive species is estimated at $167 billion annually.
With more than a decade of collaborative work with local and statewide programs to address invasives through integrated approaches, such as early detection - rapid response, pathway mitigation, education, and strategic management, the Conservancy recognizes the significance of this bill. And the Invasive Species Prevention Act recognizes the gravity of the threat and importance of statewide action.
The Act requires the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets to develop regulations for the sale, purchase, possession, introduction, importation and transport of invasive species. Additionally these agencies will develop a list, with consultation from stakeholders, of prohibited species unlawful to possess with the intent to sell or introduce, as well as three lower tiers of regulated species that would be legal to possess, sell, buy, propagate and transport with restrictions.
Conservancy chapters across New York know well the threat of invasives and the importance of local and statewide initiatives to prevent their spread—whether it’s Eurasian watermilfoil choking one of our lakes, Japanese knotweed degrading river corridors, or emerald ash-borer threatening our forests.
New York’s Adirondack region remains relatively free of invasive species. Two out of three waters surveyed by volunteers are free of aquatic invasive plants such as Eurasian watermilfoil. The average size of a Japanese knotweed infestation and other terrestrial invasive plants is less than 0.1 acres in the interior Adirondacks. This presents a real opportunity to hold the line of spread.
The Invasive Species Prevention Act, sponsored by the Adirondack’s own Senator Little and co-sponsored by Assemblywoman Sayward, gives regional efforts the extra boost needed to be successful by making it illegal to sell and transport invasive species in the state.
The Invasive Species Prevention Act recognizes the gravity of the threat and importance of statewide action. Central and Western New York has seen the economic and environmental impacts that invasive species can have. Whether it’s water chestnut choking one of our lakes, swallow-wort damaging fields, or emerald ash-borer threatening our forests, the spread of invasive species must be reduced or eliminated.
For example, a coalition of government and non-governmental groups around Cayuga Lake may need to spend $5 to $8 million in the coming years to manage hydrilla, an aggressive and fast-spreading aquatic invasive plant. With the recent discovery of Asian Carp DNA in the Great Lakes system by researchers at The Nature Conservancy, University of Notre Dame and Central Michigan University, State action cannot come soon enough.
Towns along the Hudson have spent millions of dollars removing zebra mussels from water intake valves. In many lakes, people can no longer enjoy walking barefoot as the sharp shells from the zebra mussels are like glass. In addition, the snakehead fish was recently found in a tributary to the Hudson River. This ferocious fish, can walk across land, live out of water for multiple days and outcompetes other important species like bass and trout.
Invasive species threaten the bays and harbors surrounding Long Island, which could have significant impacts on the local economy and jobs that depend on them. Long Island has led the charge to protect their vital industries, agriculture and the environment by passing local laws that restricts the sale and importation of invasive species. Setting a Statewide standard furthers the efforts of Nassau and Suffolk Counties and will add greater protection to our State’s important natural assets.
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.