"Keep up the fight against invasive species"

last update: July 25, 2019

Guest Column: State Sen. Tom O'Mara

“Keep up the fight against invasive species”
ALBANY, July 21, 2019 -- New York State recently observed the 6th Annual “Invasive Species Awareness Week” (ISAW) and the fact remains that we can never afford to ignore this critical environmental, economic, and public health concern.

This annual awareness and education week has become an important piece of the overall strategy. The uncontrolled spread of aquatic invasive species like Hydrilla and Eurasian water milfoil would devastate local ecosystems and regional tourism economies. Left unchecked, they would cost local communities hundreds of millions of dollars and thousands of jobs. The same goes for land-based invasives like the Golden Nematode, Emerald Ash Borer (EBA), Spotted Lanternfly, Gypsy Moth, and Asian Longhorned Beetle (ALB)., we continue to appreciate the work of local leaders and concerned citizens to protect our waterways and other ecosystems. The Keuka Lake Association, Cornell Cooperative Extension, Seneca Lake Pure Waters Association, Finger Lakes PRISM and numerous other grassroots, regionally based associations and organizations have done and continue to do outstanding work on prevention and detection, control and education, and outreach.

Estimates have pegged the nationwide economic cost of invasive species at $120 billion annually in terms of environmental cleanup, eradication, destroyed crops, and other agricultural losses, as well as diminished recreational and tourism opportunities. It is a staggering figure and New York is far from immune. In fact, our state is home to more than 7,600 freshwater lakes, ponds, and reservoirs, together with 70,000 miles of rivers, brooks, and streams -- and let’s not forget our extensive forests and woodlands.

In other words, we are particularly at-risk to the introduction of aquatic, land-based, and other invasive species.

The overall danger of invasive species runs the gamut from aggressive aquatic invaders to invasive plants, agricultural and forest pests, and many other plants, animals, insects, and diseases. They diminish agricultural productivity, harm biological diversity, radically reshape ecosystems, reduce wildlife habitat, out-compete native species, and limit recreational opportunities. A broad spectrum of invasive species poses a serious risk to local ecologies and economies.

I have welcomed opportunities to sponsor new laws and support the establishment of new programs to aid and advance this fight. This includes a 2014 law requiring the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to encourage boaters to help prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species by promoting clean, drain, and dry procedures that are a critical first line of defense to prevent the spread of invasive species from one body of water to another. Through the Environmental Protection Fund (EPF), the state invests in numerous regional initiatives to protect the quality and economic potential of waterways, agricultural lands, and forests.

Again, the undeniable fact is that the uncontrolled spread of invasive species would devastate regional tourism and cost local communities hundreds of millions of dollars and thousands of jobs.

Find out more about state-level invasive species efforts from the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) at

On a related note, it is equally critical to highlight another serious threat to area lakes and other waterways: Harmful Algal Blooms, commonly referred to as HABs. These blooms pose serious health threats to people, and pets and livestock, which means we all need to stay informed, practice caution and, importantly, report blooms where and when we see them. Once again, the DEC website provides comprehensive and detailed information on HABs, including action plans, identifying and reporting HABs (which the DEC highlights as extremely important), and other educational and informational resources. I'll also note that the DEC in cooperation with the Finger Lakes Institute, Corning Incoporated and the State University of New York at Fredonia will host the 6th Annual Finger Lakes Harmful Algal Blooms Symposium on Wednesday, July 31, at Hobart and William Smith College. Visit the following website for more information:

I cannot do enough to encourage anyone spotting a suspicious algae bloom to use the DEC website to report it.

To Preserve and Protect Keuka Lake