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Guest Column: State Sen. Tom O'Mara
"Combating invasive species"
ALBANY, Aug. 13 -- It’s what we call “bill signing season” at the Capitol, the months following the end of the regular legislative session when a steady flow of legislation already approved by the Senate and Assembly make their way to the desk of Governor Andrew Cuomo -- where the bills are either vetoed or signed into law.
The process this year, when all is said and done, will produce roughly 550 new laws, including one enacted at the end of July that I co-sponsored in the Senate to better protect the Finger Lakes and all of New York's waterways and natural habitats from the devastating environmental and economic impact of invasive species.
And there’s no denying that the impact is devastating. Some estimates
peg the nationwide economic impact 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.
Recent reports have been alarming that the invasive spiny water flea has
been confirmed in Lake George. And we all recognize the threat of Hydrilla,
an aggressive aquatic invader that we’re currently battling in the
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 by other means -- and thus the overriding emphasis on public awareness and education. This year’s new law seeks to address the threats associated with invasive species by providing key state agencies with the authority to regulate the sale, purchase, possession, introduction, importation and transport of invasive species and establishing penalties for those who violate such regulations.
State Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens said, “This law implements a critical recommendation of the Invasive Species Task Force and gives (the state) more authority to actively regulate invasive species and prevent their spread. Invasive species are destructive to habitat and cause millions of dollars of damage, impacting New York's economy from shipping and agriculture to outdoor recreation. Now, we will have additional tools to combat their introduction and proliferation."
In partnership with the Invasive Species Council (www.dec.ny.gov/animals/6989.html), state agencies will develop regulations dealing with the disposal and control of invasive species. As part of the new prevention process, the law calls for the consideration of grace periods for prohibited and regulated species so businesses can plan the management of existing stock. Public hearings are also required as a way to help raise public awareness about the harmful impacts of invasive species. For more information, visit the New York State Invasive Species Clearinghouse (www.newyorkinvasivespecies.org) and the New York Invasive Species Research Institute (www.nyisri.org).
In short, the new law strengthens our first line of defense against invasive species. It represents a comprehensive and proactive strategy to enhance public awareness, strengthen accountability and save taxpayer dollars. Groups supporting this move include the New York State Farm Bureau, Nature Conservancy, Environmental Advocates of New York and the New York State Association of Counties.
The recently enacted invasive species law complements initiatives in
this year’s state budget that are key parts of what we’re
looking to be a sustained, long-term strategy to combat and eradicate
invasive species, including Hydrilla. This year’s budget included
funding to assist local efforts to stop the spread of Hydrilla, which
was found last year in the Cayuga Inlet. Several of my legislative colleagues
and I continue to work closely with local leaders and other state officials
to urge increased
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 hundreds of jobs. In the fight against Hydrilla, we’ve appreciated the hard work and leadership of local leaders and concerned citizens throughout Tompkins County and the surrounding region.
In Albany, we can only applaud and continue building on the bipartisan
commitment to cooperative action between Governor Cuomo and the Legislature
for responding to the dire environmental and economic threat posed by
invasive species of all kinds.
Photo in text: State Senator Tom O'Mara
Schuyler County Officials
Top row (from left): Dennis Fagan, Thomas Gifford, Doris Karius, Glenn Larison
Bottom row: Michael A. Yuhasz, Barbara Halpin, Phil Barnes, Stewart Field
Dennis Fagan, Tyrone 607-292-3687
Michael A. Yuhasz, 535-4967
Doris L. Karius, 546-5544
Barbara Halpin, 594-3683
Glenn R. Larison, 594-3385
Thomas M. Gifford, 535-9517
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: Margaret Starbuck, 535-8181
District Attorney: Joseph Fazzary, 535-8383
State, Federal Officials for Schuyler County
Sen. Charles E. Schumer
United States Senate
Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand
United States Senate
State Senator Tom O'Mara -- Chemung, Schuyler, Steuben, Yates, western Tompkins, Enfield, Ithaca (Town and City), Newfield, Ulysses(Trumansburg)
Room 812, Legislative Office Building
Assemblyman Christopher Friend --
Chemung, Schuyler, Tioga
P.O. Box 365
Odessa, New York 14869