PULASKI – The Nature Conservancy’s Invasive Species Prevention and Management Program in the St. Lawrence and Eastern Lake Ontario Region (SLELO) will expand its efforts to protect the area from invasive species—one of the greatest environmental threats facing the region—under a new, multi-year contract with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) funded through the Environmental Protection Fund.
The 4 ½-year contract provides critical resources to curtail the spread of invasive plants, animals and insects as climate change introduces even more threats to the area. “This funding will allow us to hire more workers, conduct prevention, early detection and rapid response, and engage innovative technologies to restore valuable natural areas and make them more resilient to climate change,” says Rob Williams, The Nature Conservancy’s Invasive Species Program Manager in New York.
Invasive species are non-native plants, animals and insects that cause harm to the environment and human health and put economically important industries such as farming, forestry and tourism at risk. Over the past three years, aquatic invasive species in the Eastern Lake Ontario and St. Lawrence region have been intercepted on 280 occasions by The Nature Conservancy’s boat launch stewards on vessels traveling to and from two provinces and 14 states.
Unfortunately, broad awareness of invasive species, their impacts, and what people can do to help prevent their spread lags other environmental challenges. According to a 2018 report commissioned by the SLELO partnership, many people and business owners feel their livelihoods and well-being are adversely affected by invasive species.
This new contract allows SLELO—one of eight regional invasive species partnerships in New York—to invest in technology and innovation that will lead to better solutions for both people and nature in a changing climate. With support from its extensive network of partners, SLELO’s vision through 2023 includes:
• Suppress invasive species in sensitive native habitats and create more resilient and connected lands and waterbodies.
• Remove invasive species in certain areas of Tug Hill and restore these areas by planting over 48,000 native trees.
• Expand Watercraft Inspection and Survey Program to more than double the number of on-site stewards and locations serviced.
• Help communities sustain urban forest health by maintaining diverse trees that are resistant to invasive species and adaptable in a changing climate.
• Utilize environmental DNA (eDNA) as an innovative early detection tool for aquatic invasive species.
“We want to thank DEC for recognizing this program’s success and its collaborative, science-based approach to addressing invasive species,” says Jim Howe, The Nature Conservancy’s Central and Western New York Chapter Director. “Invasives are a major threat to our region’s economy and addressing them aligns with our mission to protect our lands and waters for nature and people. Our partners in this effort allow us to deliver results that make a difference.”