SARANAC LAKE - Adirondack residents know the environmental and economic risks posed by the spread of invasive species. Now, a North Country politician wants to make the human transport of invasives illegal.
Teresa Sayward has introduced legislation in the state Assembly that would make the transfer of aquatic invasive species between bodies of water illegal. She says lake stewards throughout the Adirondack Park are limited in their current role.
"When people come in with their boats and they're preparing to launch, these folks who are manning these boat launch sites - usually they're all volunteers - suggest that people wash their boats off," Sayward said. "But that's all they can do is suggest it."
Under current state law, boaters aren't required to wash boats or check for potential invasives - like Eurasian milfoil - that have hitched a ride on trailers or equipment. Sayward's legislation aims to give those stewards a means of enforcing violations when they occur.
"Even if someone notices there's milfoil on the boat or something else, there's no teeth there for them to say that they have to wash the boats off, so they have to let them launch their boats," she said.
In the past several years, invasive species have hit the Adirondacks hard, and statewide, new species are being identified on a regular basis. Sayward says her legislation could establish a precedent for dealing with invasives in the future.
"We have plant invasives, and now we're worried about the beetles that will come in and destroy our trees up here," she said. "We needed to have something done and the state Department of Environmental Conservation quite frankly hasn't put anything forward. So I worked with Lake George and the town of Speculator and we put this bill out that would make it illegal to transport invasive species in New York State."
The bill makes the transport of invasives illegal. It also gives DEC officials the directive to draft specific rules, regulations and potential penalties for violating the law.
Enforcement of such legislation would be fairly easy, Sayward says.
"I think they could enforce the law simply by taking down the numbers off the side of the boat," she said. "They can take names and addresses and they can turn them into DEC or the New York State Police. And it's against the law, so they can testify to the fact that they saw them breaking the law and there could be tickets issued."
Sayward has received a resolution of support from the Adirondack Park Agency, and APA spokesman Keith McKeever says the agency backs the Assemblywoman's efforts.
"The agency board passed a resolution unanimously in support of statewide legislation to stop the transport of invasive species," he said. "The agency was one of the founding members of the Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program, so we see it as a significant threat to the environment and also to the economy of the park."
McKeever adds that the transport of invasives is something that needs to be addressed and that legislation like Sayward's is an important first step.