Auburn, NY – Standing at Owasco Lake, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a member of the Senate Environment & Public Works Committee, and Congressman Dan Maffei today announced the Invasive Fish and Wildlife Protection Act, comprehensive legislation to stop the spread of invasive species and protect New York’s waterways. Senator Gillibrand’s legislation would protect New York from the threat of invasive species by preventing the importation of potentially harmful species across state lines or into the United States by reforming the broken Lacey Act, which has been ineffective in stopping injurious wildlife, such as Asian clam and Zebra and Quagga mussels, from harming New York’s waterways.
“From the Great Lakes to the Finger Lakes, and from the lakes and streams of the Adirondacks to the Hudson River, and every waterway in between, New York State is blessed with beautiful bodies of water,” Senator Gillibrand said. “These vast natural resources help drive our economy, offer miles of recreation, attract tourists, and provide clean drinking water for millions of families. If we’re going to protect these resources today and for future generations, we need to prevent the spread of invasive species.”
“Invasive species pose a serious threat to our ecosystem and economy in Central New York,” said Rep. Dan Maffei (D-Syracuse), an original cosponsor of H.R. 996, the House version of the Invasive Fish and Wildlife Prevention Act. “By proactively preventing the import of harmful invasive species, such as emerald ash borers and zebra mussels, this bipartisan legislation will help protect the health of our lakes and environment for generations to come.”
A broad range of invasive species can quickly find their way into New York’s waterways, including Owasco Lake. Owasco Lake which supplies drinking water for nearly 50,000 residents has had an infestation of Asian Clams for about 5 years in a 160 acre area. The clams are anywhere from 6 inches to 10 feet below the water’s surface. This infestation, if it were to expand, would cause a significant growth of algae and turn the Lake green, which may have been the case in 2010 and 2011. The result of algae growth from Asian Clams would also have a significant negative impact on the local economy if recreational opportunities such as boating, fishing and swimming are not allowed in Owasco lake. Asian Clams also poses a danger for swimmers as zebra mussels, another invasive species which have been in Owasco Lake over twenty years, attach themselves to the Asian Clam shells causing very sharp edges on the bottom of the lake, creating potential for cutting a one’s foot.
Preventing The Next Generation Of Invasive Species
Currently, invasive species are regulated by the Lacey Act, a 112-year-old law that gives the U.S. Fish and Wild Life Services (FWS) limited power to regulate non-native species of animals and prohibits their importation and interstate sales. Currently, 236 species of animal are listed as injurious under the Lacey Act, including Zebra Mussels and several species of carp. Once a species is listed as injurious, it cannot be imported into the United States or its territories or possessions, or through interstate commerce. However, the current process can take four years to complete, giving invasive species more time to infiltrate New York’s waterways, potentially costing millions of dollars in damages.
Senator Gillibrand introduced the Invasive Fish and Wildlife Prevention Act that would strengthen the ability of the Fish and Wildlife Service to proscriptively address the threat of potentially invasive species by requiring an analysis to determine whether any non-native animal species have the potential to become invasive and harmful to the United States before they can imported or enter into interstate commerce. Specifically, the bill would establish an injurious species listing process based on a clear risk assessment and risk determination process. It will prohibit import and interstate commerce of live non-native animal species if not done in compliance with the Act. This legislation has also been introduced in the House of Representatives by Congresswoman Louise Slaughter.