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Senator Little introduces invasive species bill

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Albany/HV: Senator Little introduces invasive species bill
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As YNN's Matt Hunter reports, environmental groups may soon have a new tool in their fight against the spread of invasive species, thanks to a proposed piece of legislation.

LAKE GEORGE, N.Y. – "Once invasives get in a lake, it's very hard to do anything," Lake George Association (LGA) Director of Education Emily DeBolt said.

Environmental groups like the LGA have had their hands full in recent years trying to combat the spread of invasive species. Numerous varieties like Asian Clams and Eurasian Water Milfoil have spread throughout Warren County's largest body of water.

"Obviously we come to Lake George to boat because it's clean and clear and beautiful and if it was no longer that way, there would be very large economic impacts as well," DeBolt said.

To aid them in their fight, state lawmakers passed a bill in 2008 regulating invasive species. Taking it one step further, State Senator Betty Little from Queensbury recently introduced an amendment that would ban the sale or transport of certain invasive species and impose up to a $250 fine for anyone caught selling them.

In a statement, Little said, “Invasive species are not only an ecological threat, but also an economic one. Once they take hold, managing and eradicating invasives can be very costly and time-consuming. Preventing the introduction of invasive species through education, common-sense guidelines and if need be, financial penalties, is the best approach. And given our region's dependence on tourism and sportsmen activities, the importance of better protecting our streams, rivers and lakes is a given."

"It's [legislation] just going to be one more step but it's a very important step and an important tool to help us move forward with preventing these invasions," DeBolt said.

While groups like the LGA support the bill, others, including retailers of plants and animals do not. Many of the potentially banned species are commonly used in home gardens, ponds or aquariums.

Getting rid of all that plant and marine life could prove costly for retailers and home owners alike.

While they don’t pose a direct threat to public waterways, invasive species in personal ponds or gardens can be transported by wildlife, boats or by natural events, like floods.

In one Queensbury yard where landscaper Dave Linehan from Jim Girard Landscaping was working Wednesday, Linehan showed YNN a half-dozen plants that could potentially be banned.

"This [Oriental Bittersweet] is probably one of the more controversial plants that are being considered or to be nominated to be listed in New York State," said Linehan, who represents the New York State Nursery Landscape Association and serves on the group’s advisory board.

While Linehan says he believes regulation is necessary, he thinks the bill is unfair because it's yet to be determined which species will be banned. His industry and environmental groups remain at odds while lawmakers debate the bill.

"I'd like to see continued discussion and I'd like to see the actual process for listing actually be hard lined so we know what's ahead of us,” Linehan said.

"We're spending millions of dollars managing invasives and if they can just keep coming back in, then it's really just an uphill battle," DeBolt said.

The bill is expected to be voted on sometime around Earth Day later this month.

If it becomes law, the DEC and Department of Agriculture and Markets will host public hearings and develop a list of banned species.

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