Environmental Groups Weigh-In On NY DEC Draft Invasive Species Regulations

Dec 12, 2013

Environmental groups are weighing in on proposed regulations by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to halt the spread of invasive species. 

The New York State Department of Conservation is currently accepting comments on proposed regulations that identify specific invasive species of plants, algae, animals, insects, and fungi and supply language on how those species should be handled to halt or limit their spread, which cause harm to native species in New York and beyond.

The Emerald Ash Borer, an invasive beetle
Credit NYS DEC

Katherine Nadeau, of Environmental Advocates of New York, praised the regulations, as they allow for  New Yorkers to petition for additional species to be prohibited or regulated by the state.

"As things change, as trade routes change, as peoples' taste in ornamental landscaping changes, we'll be faced with new threats," said Nadeau. "So having the ability to continue to revise these regulations and to petition the Department to have different species included as either the prohibited list or regulated list - that have to have warning labels on them when they're sold - this allows the regulations to grow and change over time."

The proposed regulations provide a list of "prohibited" invasive species, which, according the DEC, no person shall sell, import, purchase, transport, introduce or propagate.

A long list includes some familiar, more recognizable non-native species including zebra mussels, which have become a threat to New York waterways, and the more recent discovery of emerald ash borer, which threatens forest health and the timber industry.

A list of “regulated” species will be illegal to introduce to a “free-living state,” but would remain legal to posess, buy, transport or propagate with proper warning and labeling.

The group Sustainable Saratoga is complaining that some common, regulated species should be placed in the “prohibited” category. Tom Denny, chair of the group’s Urban Forestry projects, said the burning bush and Norway maple, both planted extensively in neighborhoods, should be banned from sale.

Denny elaborated on the Norway maple, which competes with native maple species.

"It has a longer growing season than the native maples, it propogates more wildly so it has a denser shade cover than native maples, so in many ways it out-competes native maples and other native plants in the forest, and that's where it's a danger to the sugar maple industry and to the general biodiversity and health of the forest."

Although the regulations are open for change through petition after they are approved, Denny said there’s no time like the present to make revisions to the lists.

"We definitely believe there's no time like the present to get the regulations right the first time."

Sustainable Saratoga has launched a web video as part of a campaign to get the DEC to revise the draft regulations.

Katherine Nadeau of EANY said that once the draft regulations are approved, the state could take a closer look at making sure citizens are following through on recommended practices to halt the spread of invasives.  

"These regulations really get at the transport and the sale of invasive species, and that's incredibly important. But the next step is going to be 'how do we make sure we as citizens we are all being vigilant about this and not allowing our own activities to spread invasives from one area to the next.' And that's somewhere where the state can grow."

A public hearing on the proposed regulations is set for December 16th in Albany.  The public comment closese December 23rd.

Sustainable Saratoga: http://www.sustainablesaratoga.org/invasive-species-call-to-action/

Draft Regulations: http://www.dec.ny.gov/regulations/93848.html