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Great Lakes Article:

DEC asks for help against invaders
Control of non-native species requires citizenry, official says
By Misty Edgecomb
Democrat and Chronicle
Published November 17, 2005


(November 17, 2005) New York can't afford not to act against invasive species such as zebra mussels and Eurasian milfoil, but success will require collaboration, state official Lynette Stark said Wednesday.

Stark, of the state Department of Environmental Conservation, previewed a pending report on how the state will control invasive species for a gathering of arborists, nursery owners and landscapers in Rochester this week. The annual Green Industries Conference concludes today at the Rochester Riverside Convention Center.

If the state doesn't act now to prevent the spread of problematic, non-native plants and animals, the costs could be astronomical, she said.

Diseases such as sudden oak death, Dutch elm disease and hemlock woolly adelgid can devastate landscapes. Aquatic species such as water chestnut can clog lakes and ruin swimming areas, lowering the value of waterfront property. Non-native animals, such as the round goby, a small but voracious fish found throughout the Great Lakes, can drive out native species. West Nile encephalitis, a non-native disease spread by native mosquitoes, puts human and animal health at risk.

And each year, more new species are introduced.

New York has been the origin of several infestations, with each invader accidentally shipped through New York City's port, then spread across the state. Except for development, species invasion is the greatest threat to biodiversity in the state, Stark said.

"A lot of invasives show up at our door first," she said.

More than $20 million has already been spent in hope of controlling a single species, the brown fir long horned beetle, which arrived in New York City from Asia several years ago. Nationwide, control of invasive species costs $120billion annually, according to a Cornell University study.

But local volunteer programs like lake associations' efforts to remove Eurasian milfoil have in some cases been more effective. Both approaches will be necessary, according to Stark.

"This is going to be a tough nut to crack," Stark said.

A state task force has been at work for two years and will release a plan for controlling invasive species this month. Next year, $1 million in grants to communities and nonprofits will be available to start implementation, she said.

"We're not going to set up an invasive species police force," Stark said. "This really cries out for citizen scientists."

Businesspeople said they think the state is on the right track. Public education will be crucial, said David Hughes of the Yahnundasis Golf Club in New Hartford, Oneida County.

"People don't realize. ... Now they're going to understand what's going on," said Hughes, who has struggled to control milfoil in the water traps on his golf course.

For Joan Macholl, an arborist from Elbridge, Onondaga County, the challenge will be knowing which non-native species are worth fighting. Macholl has run across very invasive species that she believes need aggressive control like the fast-growing giant hogweed, which has sap that acts as a "reverse sunscreen," causing people who are exposed to suffer severe sunburns.

Other species, such as purple loosestrife, already may have spread too far, she said. "Eradicating them is next to impossible in some situations," Macholl said. "Change is natural."

MEDGECOM@DemocratandChronicle.com


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