Senator Gillibrand Targets Invasives

On August 9th, 2012, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand visited Penn Yan, N.Y. to announce new legislation regarding invasive species which will greatly assist those who work daily to prevent the introduction, spread, and establishment of invasive species into our delicate ecosystems. Representatives from the Finger Lakes Institute’s Watercraft Steward Program were present for the speech, which took place at Indian Pines Park on the shore Keuka Lake, to learn of the exciting news and to show support for the effort. Also present were Lynn Thurston, chair of the Finger Lakes Regional Watershed Alliance;Chuck O’Neill, coordinator of invasive species programs for Cornell Cooperative Extension; representatives from several lake associations; and many other concerned citizens. Both Thurston and O’Neill spoke to regional invasive species issues and actions following the legislative announcement.

Senator Gillibrand announced a three-part plan which targets key issues and will be a powerful force in combating invasive species on all fronts as the fight continues. The first part addresses Harmful Algal Bloom concerns. Blue – green alga, a type of Harmful Algal Bloom, is unfortunately common in areas of Sodus Bay and has been reported to cause neurological problems in pets and humans. Because little is known about the algal blooms other than that they do pose a high risk to human health, Gillibrand is sponsoring the Harmful Algal Blooms and Hypoxia Control Amendment Act, which will require the development of a national strategy for dealing with the algal blooms.

Second in Gillibrand’s plan is a response to the current and urgent threat of Asian Carp moving towards the Great Lakes. The presence of these large fish in the Great Lakes could potentially eliminate several species of native fish, simultaneously blowing a hole through the multi-billion dollar Great Lakes fishing industry. Senator Gillibrand is calling on the Army Corps of Engineers to complete a study on preventing this spread of Asian Carp by October. A potential option mentioned by Gillibrand involves a physical barrier separating Chicago waterways from Lake Michigan.

The third and final aspect of Gillibrand’s plan, and possibly the most important, is to provide the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service with greater capabilities to prevent the entry of invasive species into the U.S. This will be accomplished by requiring the establishment of an “injurious-species listing process.” This type of listing will provide invasive species-related authorities with a more clear reference for enforcement purposes. Additionally, the new listing process will be useful in the future reporting and research of invasive species

Senator Gillibrand’s specific attention to invasive species efforts is a victory in itself and a step in the right direction towards more effective legislative tools. In supporting and enacting this legislation, Senator Gillibrand is supporting the continued use of our precious lakes, the economies supported by lake use, and a healthy environment.

Take a look at this Finger Lakes Times article by Jim Miller (published 8/10/12) which provides further detail on Senator Gillibrand’s visit to Penn Yan.

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Photos by Sarah Meyer

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