The Adirondack Park will become the first region in New York State to have its own, integrated program to halt the spread of aquatic invasive species.
Governor Andrew Cuomo has asked the state legislature to appropriate $1 million to develop the Adirondack-wide strategy.
According to Morris Peters, a spokesman for the Division of the Budget, the money for the new initiative will come from an increase in appropriations to the Environmental Protection Fund.
“The Executive Budget includes $5.7 million for invasive species efforts, statewide, an increase of $1 million over prior year levels. The Adirondacks invasive species strategy will use seed money provided from that proposed $1 million increase,” said Peters.
That’s good news for the local governments, lake and landowners associations, sportsmen and environmental protection groups who have been meeting since last fall to organize a campaign to establish an inspection and boat washing program, modeled on Lake George’s, throughout the Park.
“This underscores the value of Lake George as a model for how we can tackle one of the biggest threats of our time. We’ve shown that prevention is the only true means of protection,” said Eric Siy, the executive director of The Fund for Lake George.
Siy said The Fund has budgeted $50,000 this year for an Adirondack Park invasive species control program, including $10,000 for the training of boat inspectors.
According to the Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program, or APIP, which has organized or participated in other efforts to develop a park-wide strategy toward invasive species control, eighty-eight organizations spent $4.27 million, including more than 12,000 volunteer hours valued at $708,000, on invasive species in the Adirondacks in 2013. Those collective expenditures are less than one percent of the economic impacts of invasive species.
“Local communities have done a good job with limited resources, but state coordination and funding is needed for a park-wide solution,” said John Sheehan, a spokesman for the Adirondack Council.
Peter Constantakes, a spokesman for the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation, declined to say if Lake George’s mandatory inspections are a part of a proposed strategy.
But Fred Monroe, the Warren County Supervisor, said officials from DEC and the Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program, are willing to consider that possibility.
“Whatever comes out of this, even if it’s just a pilot program, this is a major victory,” said Monroe. “I’m very encouraged by the fact that everyone seems to recognize that preventing aquatic invasive species from spreading throughout the Park is a high priority.”
According to Monroe, who has been meeting with staff members from the Governor’s office, DEC and the the Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program, the strategy “is a work in progress – nothing has been settled.”
Peter Constantakes, the DEC spokesman, said the goal of the strategy, whatever form it may take, is preventing the contamination of Adirondack lakes and rivers.
“We will continue to work with stakeholders in the Adirondacks to formulate a park-wide plan. We are working with local governments, APIP and other interested groups to identify the most critical invasive pathways into and within the Adirondack Park,” said Constantakes.
A regional approach to controlling invasive species is consistent with the conclusions put forward in a report prepared last year by Paul Smith College’s Adirondack Watershed Institute with the assistance of APIP, the Lake George Association and the Lake Champlain Basin Program, said Kristen Rohne of the LGA.
“Regional planning is the necessary first step toward a regional solution, so we are pleased to see this progressing,” said John Sheehan, the Adirondack Council spokesman. “Large areas of the Park are not yet affected. We would like to keep them that way.”