Helping to educate New Yorkers on invasive species

A dense mat of water chestnut plants. (New York State Department of Environmental Conservation)

New York’s fourth annual Invasive Species Awareness Week runs through June 15, the State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) announced, an effort to educate New Yorkers about the negative impacts invasive species can have on environment, economy and health, and to empower residents to take action to stop invasives.

DEC is encouraging organizations to partner in hosting an event as part of New York’s ISAW. Eight Partnerships for Regional Invasive Species Management (PRISMs), DEC, Cornell Cooperative Extension, and other state and local partners will host events to teach citizens how to identify, survey, manage, and map invasive species. Through these events, participants will gain the skills to participate in early detection and rapid response efforts in the places where they live, work, and play.

Natural resource managers depend on the public’s help now more than ever in combating invasive species in New York. Although significant strides have been made to control populations of giant hogweed, purple loosestrife, and other invaders, eyes on the ground to detect new infestations as early as possible are essential.

The invasive fungus that causes oak wilt can spread rapidly and kill some types of oak trees in as little as two to six weeks. The aggressive submerged aquatic plant Hydrilla was recently found at a second Finger Lakes location, near the northeastern shore of Cayuga Lake. Promoting awareness of how everyday activities (pruning trees, recreational boating, gardening, camping, etc.) can facilitate the spread of invasive species will help to curb the problem, according to a DEC news release.

Last year, partner organizations hosted more than 120 ISAW events in New York State and engaged more than 2,500 participants. Events included guided hikes and paddling events, documentary film screenings, presentations and community discussions, invasive species control projects, and more. If your organization is interested in hosting an ISAW event this summer, visit DEC’s Invasive Species Awareness Week web page to learn more. PRISM coordinators will be accepting event submissions through June 26.

One example of an ISAW event is the iMap Invasives group teaming up with DEC and Finger Lakes Institute staff to host the second annual statewide Water Chestnut Chasers Challenge. The aim of the friendly competition is to fill in data gaps in the state’s invasive species database while teaching how to survey for and report one of the most recognizable aquatic invasive species. Prizes will be awarded to the individual who reports the most number of observations (including negative observations, i.e. no water chestnut) as well as the PRISM region with the most observations reported during the search window of July 5 through July 19.

To learn more about how to participate and sign up for an informational webinar, visit the New York iMapInvasives website.

As event planning gets underway, the statewide ISAW calendar will be kept current with activities across the state.

– New York State Department of Environmental Conservation

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