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Column: State Sen. Tom O'Mara
"Keep up the fight against invasive species"
ALBANY, July 9, 2017 -- Throughout the past week in New York State, we observed the 4th Annual “Invasive Species Awareness Week” (ISAW).
The truth is we can never afford to leave this challenge far from our thoughts and actions. It’s an especially critical environmental, economic, and public health challenge across the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes regions.
New York’s annual awareness week has become an important piece of the overall strategy to combat the spread of invasive species. Public awareness and education are vital strategies. We are well aware how the uncontrolled spread of aquatic invasive species like Hydrilla and Eurasian water milfoil run the risk of devastating local ecosystems and regional tourism economies. Left unchecked, they would cost local communities hundreds of millions of dollars and thousands of jobs. The same goes for land-based invasives like the Golden Nematode, Emerald Ash Borer (EBA), Gypsy Moth, and Asian Longhorned Beetle (ALB).
Consequently, we continue to appreciate the work of local leaders and concerned citizens to protect our waterways and other ecosystems from invasive species and secure their well-being for generations to come. The Keuka Lake Association, Cornell Cooperative Extension, Finger Lakes PRISM and numerous other locally based, regional associations and organizations have done and continue to do outstanding work on prevention and detection, control and education, and outreach.
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. It’s a staggering figure and New York State is far from immune to it. In fact, our state is home to more than 7,600 freshwater lakes, ponds, and reservoirs, together with 70,000 miles of rivers, brooks, and streams -- and let’s not forget our extensive forests and woodlands. According to the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), New York is 63 percent forested -- forests cover 18.9 million acres of our 30 million total acres, or 63 percent! Cornell University estimates that the forest industry accounts for more than 60,000 people and directly contributes roughly $4.6 billion annually to the state's economy.
In other words, we are particularly at-risk to the introduction of aquatic, land-based, and other invasive species.
The overall danger of invasive species runs the gamut from aggressive aquatic invaders to invasive plants, agricultural and forest pests, and many other plants, animals, insects, and diseases. They diminish agricultural productivity, harm biological diversity, radically reshape ecosystems, reduce wildlife habitat, out-compete native species, and limit recreational opportunities. A broad spectrum of invasive species poses a serious risk to local ecologies and economies.
As chair of the Senate Environmental Conservation Committee, I have been grateful for the opportunity to sponsor new laws and support the establishment of new programs to help combat invasive species. This includes a 2014 law requiring the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to encourage boaters to help prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species by promoting clean, drain, and dry procedures that are a critical first line of defense to prevent the spread of invasive species from one body of water to another.
Most recently, Yates County and Cornell University were among 35 organizations statewide selected to receive funding through the Environmental Protection Fund (EPF)’s “Invasive Species Rapid Response and Control Grant Program.” This program, which the Senate Majority prioritized in last year’s state budget, provides state grants to support projects targeting aquatic and terrestrial invasive species. Under the latest round of funding, Cornell University receives $68,723 for invasive species rapid response and control. Yates County receives $35,800 for mechanical harvesting of the Starry Stonewort infestation in the Keuka Lake Outlet.
These are just a few examples of many regional initiatives underway to protect the quality and economic potential of waterways, agricultural lands, and forests statewide. The work continues to develop cost-effective and commonsense strategies to stop the spread of destructive invasive species before they take hold. It represents a comprehensive and proactive effort to enhance public awareness, strengthen accountability, and save taxpayer dollars. Similar efforts are underway across the country and major outdoor outfitters such as Cabela’s and Bass Pro are deeply involved in their commitment to prevention.
Again, the undeniable fact is that the uncontrolled spread of invasive species would devastate regional tourism and cost local communities hundreds of millions of dollars and thousands of jobs.
Find out more about state-level invasive species efforts from the state DEC (http://www.dec.ny.gov/animals/105650.html) and on my Senate website (http://www.omara.nysenate.gov).
Photo in text: State Senator
Schuyler County Officials
Top row (from left): Dennis Fagan, Jim Howell, Michael
Lausell, Van Harp
Bottom row: Carl Blowers, Barbara Halpin, Phil Barnes, Mark Rondinaro
Dennis Fagan, Tyrone 607-292-3687
Barbara Halpin, 594-3683
Phil Barnes, Watkins Glen, 481-0482
County Clerk: Linda Compton, 535-8133
Sheriff: William Yessman, 535-8222
Undersheriff: Breck Spaulding, 535-8222
County Treasurer: Harriett Vickio, 535-8181
District Attorney: Joseph Fazzary, 535-8383
State, Federal Officials for Schuyler County
Sen. Charles E.
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: http://schumer.senate.gov/webform.html
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