Adirondack Park Invasives Program: Good as Far as it Goes
As we reported in last month’s issue, the administration of Governor Andrew Cuomo is now supporting an Adirondack Park-wide approach to the control of aquatic invasive species. The meetings between state officials, local government leaders and representatives of groups and organizations to develop a coherent strategy, which we also reported, apparently have been productive. A Memorandum of Understanding, whose signers pledge “to work together in good faith to create an effective program for preventing the introduction of aquatic invasive species in the Adirondack region,” has been endorsed, if it was not largely drafted, by the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation. It is now circulating within the Adirondack Park. Bolton became the first town to sign the MOU when its Board met last week. “The MOU is non-binding, but it describes what we’re working towards,” said Supervisor Ron Conover. Conover credited Warren County Supervisor Fred Monroe and Eric Siy, the executive director of The Fund for Lake George, with initiating the conversations among sportsmens groups, lake and landowners associations and municipal officials that helped convince the state to endorse a park-wide strategy. As Monroe and Siy envisioned the process, a partnership modeled on SAVE Lake George would coordinate the effort, with Lake George organizations supplying much of the leadership. That no longer looks likely. Nor does it appear as though Lake George’s mandatory inspection and decontamination program will be replicated throughout the Park, not, at any rate, at any time soon. Instead, voluntary compliance with recommendations for inspections and decontamination will be favored. The MOU also states that “any inspection, self-certification and/or decontamination programs will be done in such a way that does not unduly restrict recreational boating and fishing.” As we know from Lake George’s experience, attempting to accommodate those interests at the expense of water quality nearly derailed the program. In fact, the MOU specifically states that anglers may wish “to get on the water early to avoid boaters or to get on late to fish for walleye,” or, in other words, at hours when stewards or officers are unavailable to inspect and wash boats. This Adirondack-wide program, which will have gaps and holes, should remind people who care about protecting this lake from invasives that we’re fortunate to have the Lake George Park Commission’s more thorough program in place here. Conceived of as a pilot program with only one more year of funding committed, the Lake George program must become a permanent one. Making it permanent, and securing the funding necessary to sustain it should be the ranking priority of the lakeshore towns and environmental protection groups. We do not, however, wish to appear critical of an Adirondack program that is still in the formative stages of development and which represents an impressive leap forward in the thinking of state officials. It was not that long ago that a DEC official told the Adirondack Park Agency, “Boat washing is not as effective as people think.” Since then, DEC has adopted its own regulations prohibiting the launching of invasive species contaminated boats from its launches and camp grounds. Of greatest importance, a better protected Adirondack Park will make Lake George’s defenses against invasives even stronger.