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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 Cayuga
Inlet in Ithaca.

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 (, 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 ( and the New York Invasive Species Research Institute (

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
support for an ongoing, aggressive eradication program, which is underway. Stopping the spread of this destructive plant is essential to protecting the beauty and economic potential of Cayuga Lake and other bodies of water 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 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

Legislature Members:

Top row (from left): Dennis Fagan, Thomas Gifford, Doris Karius, Glenn Larison

Bottom row: Michael A. Yuhasz, Barbara Halpin, Phil Barnes, Stewart Field


Legislature Chairman

Dennis Fagan, Tyrone 607-292-3687

Legislature Members:

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
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 Christopher Friend -- Chemung, Schuyler, Tioga
Room 720, Legislative Office Building
Albany, NY 12248
Phone: (518) 455-4538


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