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NY State Sen. Betty Little. Photo: Mark Kurtz
NY State Sen. Betty Little. Photo: Mark Kurtz

Little pushes controls of invasive species

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A bill introduced in the state Senate aims to make the possession and sale of invasive species illegal.

The legislation is sponsored by state Sen. Betty Little, a Republican from Queensbury. Little says invasives are a major threat to water bodies throughout the state. Her bill would strengthen current regulations and help prevent their spread. Chris Morris reports.

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Chris Morris
Tri-Lakes Correspondent

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The bill would bar the sale of invasive species, but Little admits it does need some work. She says lawmakers are working with the state departments of Environmental Conservation and Agriculture and Markets to fine-tune the legislation.

The bill would establish a list of prohibited species and allows for permits to dispose of them. In its current form, it includes fines for people caught with banned species more than once.

Little says tackling the invasive species problem is critical, especially in rural areas where pristine water bodies are major tourism drivers.

“Many of our lake associations and small towns are trying to deal with it,” Little said. “Milfoil is one of the big things, but there’s pond weed, there’s zebra mussels, there’s Asian clams, and there’s also invasive species on land that are difficult to deal with. “I think the most important thing about dealing with invasive species is through education to prevent them from entering our waters and from getting out of hand on land.”

Assemblywoman Teresa Sayward has co-sponsored a companion bill. She says many groups have pushed lawmakers to do more to fight invasive species on land and water.

Water stewards are becoming more prominent in the North Country. They set up shop at public boat launches to keep an eye out for aquatic hitchhikers, but Sayward says more needs to be done.

“When they can’t point to something saying, ‘It’s against the law in New York state to transport; you need to wash your boat off,’ people just blow right by them and just put (their boats) in,” she said.

Sayward said the legislation is a start, although there may be a need to do more down the road. “But we’re hoping that this at least will start raising the awareness and getting people at these boat launches so that we can actually be confronting people individually so they understand what’s going on,” she said.

Groups like the Lake George Association support the bill. It also has support from the Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program. That group’s director, Hilary Smith, says she’s happy that lawmakers are trying to toughen up regulations.

“Many communities and partners in the region, for decades now, have been working on invasive species issues,” she said. “And the legislation, if passed, will be a tremendous milestone for preventing the future introduction and spread of invasives into New York state.”

Smith says there’s no silver bullet for invasive species and that stopping their spread will take some creativity.

“I think that you really do need to need to attack this issue on all angles, thinking about prevention and early detection and rapid response, education and outreach, regulatory improvements and so forth,” she said.

Andrew Lewis co-owns Aquatic Invasive Management, a Saranac Lake-based business that specializes in eradicating aquatic invasive species.

Lewis says the proposed bill is excellent, but he thinks the state is behind in addressing the invasive species problem.

“This needed to be in place 15 years ago or more as a deterrent,” he said. “But as of right now, when you’ve got things like Asian clams and zebra mussels that can spread microscopically, what is really vital is an infrastructure that promotes the adequate washing of every boat the leaves a lake and goes to another lake or enters a lake from another lake, and some sort of way of enforcing it.”

While the legislation has a lot of support, some groups like the New York Farm Bureau, are against the proposed fines.

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