Area groups shutting door on invasive species this summer - 2008-07-24
AREA GROUPS SHUTTING DOOR ON INVASIVE SPECIES THIS SUMMER
Stewards block new invaders from infesting Adirondack waterways
CONTACT: Kenneth Aaron, Paul Smith's College, (518) 327-6297
The Adirondacks are renowned for their hospitality – but this summer, several area groups have been hard at work ensuring that some visitors never get here.
Boat inspectors involved with groups including the Watershed Stewardship Program of Paul Smith's College, the Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program, the Lake George Association and the Lake Champlain Basin Program have stopped dozens of invasive plants and animals from entering area waterways so far this summer. In some cases, stewards prevented species new to the area from infiltrating the water.
Paul Smith's College stewards at Lower Saranac Lake, for example, blocked water chestnut and zebra mussels from making it into the water there. And Lake George Watershed Conference stewards prevented water chestnut clinging to four boats from making it into that lake. Both places are currently free of those invaders – in fact, in nine summers of operation, the Watershed Stewardship Program has never seen water chestnut.
"It's second nature now for motorists to buckle their seatbelts in New York State," said Eric Holmlund, director of the Watershed Stewardship Program, which is part of the college's Adirondack Watershed Institute. "It wasn't always like that. We want it to become second nature for boaters to clean their boats, inspect them for plants and animals and drain their bilge water before launching them into our lakes and rivers."
From Lake Champlain to Hamilton County, stewards from participating programs examine boats entering and leaving the water and show boat owners how to look for invasives on their own. If spotted, the stewards remove the offending specimens before boaters go on their way.
"Lake associations, municipalities, state agency campground staff, and not-for-profits, among others, are making a real difference in stopping the spread of aquatic invasive species through visual inspections of watercraft in the Adirondack region," said Hilary Oles, director of the Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program. "The program is one of the most coordinated, far-reaching aquatic spread prevention programs of its kind in the state."
Boaters are left with a simple message, said Meg Modley, aquatic nuisance species coordinator with the Lake Champlain Basin Program: Clean your boat, and don't take mussels, fish or plants from one water body to another. It's just as important to prevent invasives from leaving the water as getting in. "They could have easily been traveling to a smaller Adirondack lake that does not have those species," said Modley, whose program operates at Vermont and New York State access points to Lake Champlain.
The Watershed Stewardship Program started in 2000 on the St. Regis Lake Chain and is now operating on several other area lakes and ponds. The program has also served as a model for the recently begun boat launch programs on Lake Champlain and Lake George, as well as on other lakes in the area. Each year, before boating season begins, all volunteer and paid stewards in the region train at Paul Smith's College to ensure they distribute consistent messages to the public and collect data the same way.
Invasives such as Eurasian watermilfoil, zebra mussels, water chestnut and curly leaf pondweed are an increasingly dangerous threat to both the environmental and economic health of the Adirondacks. Their rapid proliferation kills off native species, can make waterways impassible and hurts tourism and other industries.
One of the most common ways that invasives move from one body of water to
another is by boat. Most of the thousands of boats coming and going from area waters are clean; sometimes, though, invasives manage to latch on to boats. (Of the 1,335 watercraft inspected by the Lake George Association through July 4, for example, 23 invasives were caught.) Public awareness of the problem, however, can help halt the spread of invasives.
"This program is a success, without a doubt," said Walt Lender, executive director of the Lake George Association, which is active at several boat launches and marinas. "Raising awareness of the problem is extremely important not just for Lake George, but for all the lakes in New York."