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Guest Column: State Sen. Tom O'Mara

"Combating invasive species"

ALBANY, July 14 -- The past week in New York was designated as the state’s first-ever “Invasive Species Awareness Week,” and there’s simply no denying that the impact of invasive species is devastating.

In fact, some estimates have pegged the nationwide economic cost of invasive species at $120 billion annually in terms of environmental cleanup, eradication, destroyed crops and other agricultural losses, and diminished recreational and tourism opportunities, among other consequences. It’s a staggering figure and New York State is far from immune to the threat.

Invasive species like the Emerald Ash Borer and the Asian Long-Horned Beetle, for example, are devastating to New York’s timber and forest products industry. Many other threats to waterways across the state have been alarming, including Hydrilla, an aggressive aquatic invader that we continue to battle in the Cayuga Lake Inlet in Tompkins County.

Invasive species threaten New York's environment and economy by out-competing native species, diminishing biological diversity and radically reshaping entire ecosystems. One of the great challenges is that many invasives are widely available in commerce for landscaping and aquaria. Many are unknowingly transported by boaters, on fishing gear and other means, and thus the overriding emphasis on public awareness and education.

Raising awareness is critical, which was the goal behind last week’s designation of Invasive Species Awareness Week and the statewide events associated with it. The chair of the New York’s Invasive Species Council said, “It is great to see state agencies, local governments, industry, academic institutions, environmental organizations and citizen groups working together to prevent and manage invasive species...We are speaking with a shared voice to say ‘New York is worth protecting – you can help, here’s how’.”

That’s precisely the goal of legislation I sponsored this session, together with Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton of Ithaca, that’s been approved by both houses of the Legislature and now goes to the governor to be signed into law. If it’s approved, this year’s new law will seek to help stop the spread of aquatic invasive species throughout the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes regions, and statewide, by requiring boaters to take reasonable precautions when launching their boats. The legislation requires the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to develop procedures for boaters to take to prevent the spread of invasive species, such as removing all visible plants and animals from, or cleaning, draining and drying both motorized and non-motorized watercraft and related gear when entering and leaving a launch site.

Individual boaters are one of the key front lines of defense against the spread of invasive species. This new law would offer a straightforward approach asking all boaters to do their part to help protect waterways, regional tourism economies and local jobs. Taking every possible step to stop the spread of destructive invasive species before they take hold is the most cost-effective and common-sense response. It represents a comprehensive and proactive strategy to enhance public awareness, strengthen accountability and save taxpayer dollars.

Similar efforts are being undertaken across the country, and major outdoor outfitters such as Cabela’s and Bass Pro are helping educate boaters on clean, drain and dry procedures to prevent the spread of invasive species.

Hydrilla was found in the Cayuga Lake Inlet in the summer of 2011. Over the past three years since this invasive species was discovered, several of my legislative colleagues and I have continued to work closely with local leaders and other state officials to urge increased support for an aggressive eradication program, which remains ongoing. We’re fast approaching the $1 million mark in the effort to wipe out the plant.

And that’s just one example of why stopping the spread of destructive invasive species is essential to protecting the quality and economic potential of waterways throughout the Finger Lakes, Great Lakes and Erie Canal regions.

The undeniable fact is that the uncontrolled spread of invasive species like Hydrilla would devastate regional tourism and cost local communities hundreds of millions of dollars and thousands of jobs.

In Albany, we can only continue building on the bipartisan commitment to cooperative action between the governor and the Legislature for responding to the dire environmental and economic threats posed by invasive species of all kinds.

Find out more by visiting the New York Invasive Species Clearinghouse at

Photo in text: State Senator Tom O'Mara

Schuyler County Officials

Legislature Members:

Top row (from left): Dennis Fagan, Jim Howell, Michael Lausell, Van Harp

Bottom row: Tom Gifford, Barbara Halpin, Phil Barnes, Stewart Field.


Legislature Chairman

Dennis Fagan, Tyrone 607-292-3687

Legislature Members:

Thomas M. Gifford, 535-9517

Van Harp

Jim Howell

Barbara Halpin, 594-3683

Michael Lausell

Phil Barnes, Watkins Glen, 481-0482

Stewart Field, Watkins Glen, 535-2335

County Clerk: Linda Compton, 535-8133

Sheriff: William Yessman, 535-8222

Undersheriff: Breck Spaulding, 535-8222

County Treasurer: Gary Whyman, 535-8181

District Attorney: Joseph Fazzary, 535-8383


State, Federal Officials for Schuyler County

Sen. Charles E. Schumer

United States Senate
313 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510-3201
DC Phone: 202-224-6542
DC Fax: 202-228-3027
Email Address:

Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand

United States Senate
478 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
DC Phone: 202-224-4451

State Senator Tom O'Mara -- Chemung, Schuyler, Steuben, Yates, western Tompkins, Enfield, Ithaca (Town and City), Newfield, Ulysses(Trumansburg)

Room 812, Legislative Office Building
Albany, NY 12247
Phone: (518) 455-2091
Fax: (518) 426-6976

Assemblyman Phil Palmesano-- Steuben, Schuyler, Yates
Room 723, Legislative Office Building
Albany, NY 12248
Phone: (518) 455-5791


© The Odessa File 2011
Charles Haeffner
P.O. Box 365
Odessa, New York 14869