Famed biologist E.O. Wilson claimed that the introduction of invasive species is second only to habitat destruction as the leading cause of biodiversity loss worldwide. The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (Parks) is taking on this challenge to protect our biodiversity and reduce the introduction of invasive species in our waterbodies. The problems we have with invasive species in New York state, especially in aquatic ecosystems, are well known and pervasive. Aquatic invasive species (AIS) degrade habitat for native plants and animals, outcompete native species for food and resources, impair swimming, fishing, and boating opportunities, and cost the state millions of dollars to control them each year.
In an effort to protect our New York State Parks from the costly effects of AIS infestations, Parks has adopted a new regulation. The regulation states that a boater:
- shall not launch or retrieve their watercraft from a Parks-owned boat launch facility unless the watercraft’s water-containing compartments (livewell, bilge, bait bucket) are dry
- has inspected the watercraft to ensure that there is not plant or animal material attached to the motor, trailer, body of the vessel, etc.
Boaters and anglers may also encounter a friendly Parks Boat Steward clad in red at facilities on the Great Lakes or Lake Champlain this summer. Stationed at twenty-one boat launches, the ten Boat Stewards conduct voluntary watercraft inspections for visiting boaters, and will work with the boater to remove any plant or animal material that may be on their vessel or trailer. The Boat Stewards are equipped with AIS publications, specimens, and information about the newly adopted regulation. They do not play a role in the enforcement of the regulation, but rather serve as educators for Parks visitors.
Many Parks-owned boat launch facilities across the state are also equipped with disposal stations for aquatic plant or animal material. The disposal stations are specifically designed to provide a place for plant or animal material to dry out in an upland area.
For more information about AIS in New York State, please visit http://nyis.info.
Post by Megan Phillips, OPRHP.