Keeping threats at bay

Megan Pistolese, left, of the St. Lawrence Eastern Lake Ontario Partnership for Regional Invasive Species Management, shows Indian River High School student Victoria Inks the weeds pulled up from the bottom of Millsite Lake in July. Sydney Schaefer/Watertown Daily Times

Members of one environmental organization can take pride in the show of confidence placed in them by a state agency.

The St. Lawrence-Eastern Lake Ontario Partnership For Regional Invasive Species Management recently had its funding from the state Department of Environmental Conservation more than doubled.

A new contract awarded to the group will provide $3.7 million to the group, up from $1.5 million from a previous contract with the DEC.

Affiliated with the Nature Conservancy, SLELO PRISM works to contain the spread of non-native species in waterways and wooded areas in Northern New York. This state contract amounts to about 95 percent of the group’s funding.

The new contract will be for four-and-a-half years. SLELO PRISM will be able to expand its staff of four people with the additional revenue.

“Invasive species pose a serious ecological and economic threat to the St. Lawrence-Eastern Lake Ontario Region of New York State and indeed the entire state. The St. Lawrence-Eastern Lake Ontario Partnership For Regional Invasive Species Management … was formed in 2011 to combat the spread of invasives and mitigate associated threats,” according to the group’s website. “Our overall mission is to protect the natural and cultural integrity of aquatic and terrestrial areas in Jefferson, Oswego, Oneida, St. Lawrence, and Lewis counties from invasive species. Formally recognized by the state in 2011, our PRISM has made tremendous progress towards the prevention of new species and the management of existing species within the PRISM. SLELO provides regionwide coordination for invasive species monitoring and management across the terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems within our 7,600-square mile PRISM region.”

Members of the organization believe this new contract shows the state’s conviction that they’re effective in their work, and they are correct. Their task is enormous, and they’ve made quite an impression on DEC authorities.

But $3.7 million is a drop in the bucket to what SLELO PRISM needs to keep invasive species at bay. In October, the DEC announced that the emerald ash borer has been found in Jefferson County. Other pests such as the Asian carp and zebra mussels threaten native-born species in the north country.

The state DEC should consider substantially increasing its funding to SLELO PRISM. Keeping this region’s eco-system safe from outside hazards will take a massive and sustained effort, and groups working to thwart invasive species need sufficient funding to make a real difference.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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