Terrestrial Invasive Species
Since 2010, State Parks has hired seasonal Invasive Species Strike Teams to perform removals of terrestrial invasive plants in New York State Parks and Historic Sites. The work of the Strike Teams allows Parks staff to identify and protect areas of ecological significance that are vulnerable to the growing threat that invasive species pose.
In 2016, two crews were hired, an Eastern Strike Team and a Western Strike Team. Each crew worked a 25-week field season (May 30 – November 18), camping out for much of the time and carrying heavy packs and gear to work sites.
The Eastern Strike Team covered Parks and Historic Sites in the Saratoga-Capital, Taconic, Palisades and Long Island regions.
- Over the course of the field season, the crew visited 29 parks in 12 counties.
- They worked on 38 different projects, targeting 32 invasive plant species.
- The top three focal species were: Oriental Bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus – 18 acres removed), Phragmites (Phragmites australis – 12 acres removed) and Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii – 10 acres removed).
- Surveys and invasives removals were done on a total of 98 acres.
- Much of the work focused on protecting rare elements including:
- Karner Blue Butterfly and Sandplain Gerardia – federally endangered
- Slender Blue Flag Iris and the rare Pink Tickseed – state threatened
- Cerulean Warbler and Golden Winged Warbler – state listed species of special concern
- A globally rare maritime grassland habitat
The Eastern Strike Team also spent a portion of their time surveying for the Southern Pine Beetle, an insect native to the southeast U.S., which has spread to the northeast, causing large-scale pine die-off on Long Island. The beetle has been detected in traps in State Parks in the Hudson Valley, but no confirmed infestations have yet been found in Pitch Pines in that region. Surveys were conducted in Schunnemunk State Park, Harriman State Park, and Minnewaska State Park Preserve.
The Western Strike Team focused on the Finger Lakes, Central, Thousand Islands, Niagara, Allegany and Genesee Regions.
- Over the course of the field season, they visited 22 parks in 15 counties.
- They worked on 50 different projects, targeting 19 invasive plant species.
- The top three focal species were: Pale Swallowwort (Cynanchum rossicum), Honeysuckle (Lonicera spp.) and Buckthorn (Rhamnus spp.).
- Topping the ranks in numbers or volume removed were: 2.79 acres of Japanese Knotweed (Fallopia japonica) surveyed and removed, 35,025 Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata ) plants, 34 bags of Pale Swallowwort (Cynanchum rossicum), and 7 dumpsters filled with Phragmites (Phragmites australis).
State Parks also hired two Forest Health Specialists to perform surveys for two non-native insect pests: Hemlock Woolly Adelgid (HWA) and Emerald Ash Borer (EAB). These surveys alert New York State Parks invasive species staff to new infestations, assist staff in identifying infested trees that can potentially be saved and allow for the identification and removal of trees that may pose a risk to the safety of park patrons. Forest Health Specialists also performed HWA canopy monitoring (tree-climbing) surveys at sites where HWA-infested trees had been treated previously with chemical insecticides. At these sites, the crew collected data on infestation levels and overall tree health in order to assist invasive species staff in monitoring the effectiveness of treatments.
- Over the course of the 18-week field season, the crew was able to visit 17 different parks.
- HWA canopy monitoring surveys were performed in 8 parks, and a total of 42 trees were surveyed.
- All hemlock trees that had been treated with insecticides in previous years showed either no sign of infestation or signs of improvement.
- Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) surveys were performed in 14 different parks, and the crew confirmed two new sites of EAB infestation.
Aquatic Invasive Species
The New York State Park’s Boat Steward Program is one of many boat steward programs throughout New York State. These programs provide targeted educational programming to increase awareness about aquatic invasive species (AIS) and other environmentally significant issues.
The regulations 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.
The Boat Steward Program has stewards at many of our Parks-owned boat launches across the state who conduct educational boat inspections to provide step-by-step instructions on ways you can effectively inspect your boat and dispose of invasive species. These demonstrations are both free and voluntary.
Boat Stewards can help you learn about what to do to prevent spreading aquatic invasives and what to look for. They are primarily educators and do not play a role in the enforcement of regulations.
Many Parks-owned boat launches across the state are also equipped with disposal stations for aquatic plant or animal material. The disposal stations are designed to provide a place for plant or animal material to dry out in an upland area. The dried out material is typically collected and placed in the garbage to prevent any further spread.
When you come across a red-shirted Boat Steward, please stop and ask any questions you may have.
2016 Boat Steward Program Highlights:
- 2016 was the first year of a 2-year $500,000 grant from the Environmental Protection Agency to expand the boat steward program at state park launches
- 16 stewards worked 30 launches within the Great Lakes Basin, Lake Champlain Basin, and Saratoga Lake
- There were 21,431 voluntary inspections out of 22,344 boats (95% of boaters allowed their boat to be inspected)
- 2,982 boats were discovered carrying aquatic invasive species
- 54,627 boaters interacted with Stewards, with many boaters receiving education about Clean-Drain-Dry and aquatic invasive species
- 11 invasive species removal projects in partnership with Strike Teams and other partners
- 10 educational events
- Approximately 500 bags, or around 12.5 tons, of water chestnut were removed from Selkirk Shores State Park.
If you are interested in volunteering to help remove invasive species in your area, become a member of your local Partners for Regional Invasive Species Management (PRISM) program.
If you are interesting in seasonal work removing invasive species in State Parks, check out the State Parks employment page.