TUPPER LAKE - Visiting the Adirondacks Thursday, U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer announced that he is seeking nearly $100 million to curb the spread of invasive species, particularly insects - which Schumer said could greatly devastate the upstate economy if left unchecked.
Botanists have warned that the Emerald Ash Borer, now sweeping across the Midwest, and the Asian Longhorn Beetle, now invading New York State, could both destroy many millions of hardwood trees throughout the Northeast.
It's not only that these invasive pests could virtually destroy vast forests and nearly eradicate species of hardwoods. Schumer said that the Asian Longhorn Beetle could grind the lumber, pulp and maple syrup industries to a halt.
"With our interconnected world invasive species are much more of a problem than they used to be. People come form all over, goods come from all over, they come more frequently," he said. "So the chances of a foreign species that has no predators here have greatly increased."
According to the Partnership for Invasive Species Management, the tree-killing Emerald Ash Borer could cost New York $2.4 billion in private sector revenue.
It has already cost $10.7 billion in private sector revenue nationally.
Schumer said that in Franklin County alone, 24,000 tapped maple trees could be at risk if the Longhorn Beetle made its way into the Adirondacks.
The Emerald Ash borer is already prevalent in the southwestern corner of the state and threatens the region's ash tree populations, which represent about 7 percent of all hardwoods.
"Fortunately, a large number of the worst invasive species have not yet reached the Adirondacks," he said. "But they have begun to be seen in other parts of New York State and we can stop them."
His proposal calls for $94.6 million to be added to federal appropriations to combat the spread of terrestrial and aquatic invasive species.
The aquatic pests include Eurasian Milfoil and Curlyleaf Pondweed, both of which have invaded Brant Lake, Lake George and many other Adirondack waterways.
About one-quarter of New York lakes have aquatic invasive plants, often crowding out indigenous species.
The Schumer mitigation proposal seeks $5.6 million in federal funding for the state Department of Environmental Conservation, $3.1 million of it coming from federal stimulus funds.
The $5.6 million would add another 70 DEC employees to fight the war on invasive pests.
Aside from directly attacking the invasives on land and in water, it would also be used to further educational programs meant to curb the transport of the harmful species by unknowing travelers, Schumer said.
"So many people who deal in the outdoors - who like to camp, hunt, hike and fish - are very knowledgeable and very educatable," Schumer said. "When you show somebody what an Emerald Ash Borer looks like and say check the wood you cut down before you take it somewhere, people will do it."
Further, $35 million would be distributed to combat Asian Longhorn Beetle infestations and an additional $39 million to combat Ash Borer infestations nationally.
Schumer said that although it seemed like a considerable sum, the expenditures were worth it, considering they were a small fraction of the federal appropriations.
"It's a small amount," he said. "The appropriations bill is tens of billions of dollars and if we can't find this sort of money to fight invasives, shame on us."
He said his invasive mitigation funding appropriation will be ready to be added to the federal appropriations bill in several weeks.