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Great Lakes Article:

Agencies to join forces to stop invasive species
By Liz Hacken
The Citizen
Posted on August 3, 2005

SYRACUSE - The battle against invasive species can seem insurmountable, but a state task force wants to coordinate groups already working to stop these unwanted biological pests before they get any more intrusive.

The state Invasive Species Task Force, headed up by the state Department of Environmental Conservation and Department of Agriculture and Markets, recently released a report offering recommendations on how the state can combat these problems.

Many of the report's suggestions focus on coordinating efforts between agencies and researchers currently working to find solutions to invasive problems. Task force representatives like Ed Mills from Cornell University presented the report during public input sessions statewide Wednesday, including one in Syracuse.

Mills, a professor in the department of natural resources at Cornell University, said that the disconnect has been a major hurdle in previous efforts to cut back on species like Eurasian milfoil and zebra mussels that have plagued the Finger Lakes in recent years.

"At Cornell, there's hundreds of people working on all aspects of this, but it's not being transferred to government," said Mills, who represented the university on the task force.

The task force began in 2003 and was charged with exploring the issue of invasive issues statewide and providing recommendations to the governor and state Legislature by November 2005.

"I think at this point, New York can be a leader on the invasive species front," he said. "Until now, we've been sitting back while other states have been effectively moving forward.

The problem of invasive species shows no signs of slowing, Mills said. Since the task force first convened in 2004, at least seven new invasive species have been identified statewide.

Often those invasive species are transported in ballast water from cargo ships.

When the ships discharge their water in the Great Lakes, the invasives are sent into the water and can make their way inland.

If the state had been more proactive about identifying and eradicating invasives, it could have prevented major problems like water chestnut, Mills said.

Some of the report's recommendations encourage being proactive, like establishing a comprehensive public outreach effort and establishing comprehensive statewide management plans and policies.

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