Hows The Water

8.1.12 Invasive Species Law

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today signed legislation to protect New York’s waterways and natural habitat from the devastating environmental effects of invasive species.

“This new law will give the Department of Environmental Conservation and the Department of Agriculture and Markets the tools they need to protect our state’s ecology from the harm that invasive species can cause,” Governor Cuomo said. “This legislation ensures that the regulations governing invasive species are appropriate for New York’s farming community and plant nurseries, while also protecting the environment. I commend the bill sponsors for their work on this legislation.”

Invasive species threaten New York’s environment by out-competing native species, diminishing biological diversity, and changing whole ecosystems. Invasive species are widely available in commerce for landscaping and aquaria, and include species such as Hydrilla, an aggressive aquatic invader that chokes out native plants, clogs water intakes and impedes recreation. Other invasive species, such as the Emerald Ash Borer and the Asian Long-Horned Beetle, can devastate New York’s timber and forest products industry. Millions of dollars are spent annually in the United States to control such species.

Joe Martens, Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Conservation, said, “This law implements a critical recommendation of the Invasive Species Task Force and gives DEC and DAM 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 NY’s economy from shipping and agriculture to outdoor recreation. Now, we will have additional tools to combat their introduction and proliferation.”

The legislation signed today by the Governor will help address the risk to New York’s environment associated with invasive species becoming established within the state. The new law provides the Department of Environmental Conservation and the Department of Agriculture and Markets with the authority to regulate the sale, purchase, possession, introduction, importation and transport of invasive species and establishes penalties for those who violate such regulations.

Locally, the Mill Pond was threatened to be blanketed with invasive water chestnut.  Water chestnut is used as an ornamental plant, and it is theorized that the initial infestation was caused by illegal dumping by a landscaper.  Luckily, we have residents who are committed to maintaining the local environment, and through a massive volunteer effort, involving Friends of the Bay volunteers, and staff of the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the water chestnut was removed from the Mill Pond.  It took over five years to remove it all, and the pond has to be monitored so that if the infestation reoccurs, it can be dealt with immediately.

There are still many invasive species blanketing out local woodlands, including mile a minute weed, English Ivy, and garlic mustard to name a few.  These plants crowd out our native species, reducing habitat for birds and other wildlife, and destroying biological diversity.

Assembly Member Bob Sweeney said, “The estimated economic impact of invasive species is $120 billion per year nationwide. New York has not been immune to the devastation. Invasive species threaten our food supply, place strains on local budgets and can harm humans. Globalization has helped to accelerate the spread of invasive species, with new bugs arriving from all over the world. The legislation I authored strengthens DEC’s powers to prevent and control invasive species. I am pleased Governor Cuomo has signed it into law.”