Invasive species are non-native plants and animals that enter and harm an ecosystem. Invasive Species Awareness Week in New York state kicks off Sunday. It’s a time when experts work with the public to increase awareness of the problem and how to prevent its spread.
If you launch a boat into an Adirondack waterway this summer you may encounter a boat steward. They are there to inspect watercraft, and if an invasive species is found, direct the owner to clean and drain the boat before entering the lake. This year New York state invested more money in boat steward programs. Lake Champlain Basin Program Aquatic Invasive Species management Coordinator Meg Modley says the effort is a crucial part of aquatic invasive management. “When we grow the program it means we have more eyes out there on the boat launches interacting with the pubic and providing them with information about the steps that they can take to prevent the spread of invasive species. They are also catching things. So they are able to intercept species like plants coming into a water body as well as preventing things from spreading from the water body that they’re on to other waters that may not have invasive species.” The Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program is the hub organization in the Adirondacks for all types of invasive species. Executive Director Brendon Quirion: “If you think about the proximity of the Adirondacks to the threat it really is eye opening. So we have about 3,000 lakes and ponds in the Adirondacks. Based on our data we think over 70 percent of them are still free of aquatic invasive species. And yet we are right next door to the Great Lakes that have a hundred aquatic invasive species knocking on our doorstep. Of the species that we know are here I think we have 12 in total excluding Lake Champlain. Lake Champlain has more obviously. But the majority of the lakes in the region are not invaded to the same extent as our surrounding water bodies.” Aquatic plants of concern include hydrilla and hybridizing milfoils. Numerous aquatic invasive animals are a threat, but Modley says they can be extremely difficult to detect. “The early life stages are frequently not visible to the human eye. So that’s why we’re so focused on eliminating water from being transported in bait buckets and live wells and bilge water and on other recreational equipment because there could be early life stages that are transported that we can’t see with the naked eye. And those species that could be of highest concern include the quagga mussel, the round gobi, the spiny water flea. Those are all species that we have documented significant economic and ecological impacts from.” Boat stewards are placed strategically at frequently used water bodies because there are not enough funds to station them at all lakes and rivers across the region. Quirion reports that there has already been at least one interception this summer that prevented a lake infestation. “On June 17th there was a steward on Great Sacandaga Lake that intercepted a boater who had vegetation hanging off the boat and on that vegetation was live zebra mussels. And the Great Sacandaga Lake is not known to contain zebra mussels at this time. The whole point of the program is to prevent the spread of invasive species from one water body to the other and that’s what happened.” Invasive Species Awareness Week this year looks at what has been done and what needs to happen in the future. Quirion notes that while the recent focus has been on aquatics, there are more terrestrial invasives across the Adirondack region. “For aquatics it’s really the overlay and transport of boats once species already are here. For our forest pests and pathogens it’s making sure that people are buying and using local firewood and buying and using local nursery plants for the gardening and landscaping. And for terrestrial invasive plants we really want people to use clean fill and native plants in their gardening and landscaping. If you practice those three approaches you are minimizing the risk significantly of spreading any invasive species on your property or through your activities.” Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program Invasive Species Awareness Week NYS Invasive Species Awareness Week Calendar of Events NYS Invasive Species Awareness Week