December 8, 2021

State promotes need to protect land, waterways from invasive plants

The invasive species Eurasian milfoil has posed a problem in local waterways like Little York Lake, where it grows rampantly and needs to be cut back periodically.

Bob Ellis/staff photographer

The invasive species Eurasian milfoil has posed a problem in local waterways like Little York Lake, where it grows rampantly and needs to be cut back periodically.

Invasive species have become such a large problem in the state that a whole week has been dedicated to the awareness and prevention of them.

This week marks the third year in a row that the state will hold Invasive Species Awareness Week, aimed at educating people about protecting local lands from invasive plants.

The week of awareness ends Saturday and is a way for everyone to exercise environmental stewardship to protect lands and waters from invasive species, according to a news release from the Department of Environmental Conservation.

Invasive species are defined by the DEC as nonnative species that can cause harm to the environment, the economy or to human health.

Environmental harm is caused by these species because of their abilities to reproduce quickly, outcompete native species and adapt to new environments, according to the release.

For example, one form of invasive species, Eurasian milfoil, has been a problem for years in local lakes like Little York Lake where it grows rampantly and needs to be cut back occasionally.

“There is a variety of invasive species ranging from terrestrial to aquatic to agricultural,” said Hilary Mosher, coordinator for the Finger Lakes Partnership for Regional Invasive Species Management.

Invasive species don’t normally have natural predators to control their populations and economists estimate that they cost the United States as a whole around $120 billion in damages every year, according to the DEC.


In Cortland County, there are 48 types of documented invasive species, Mosher said. That includes plants like Eurasian water milfoil, starry stonewort, water chestnut, garlic mustard, giant hogweed and purple loosestrife; insects like the gypsy moth, emerald ash borer, Asian long-horned beetle; aquatic animals like the zebra mussel and Asian clam; and land animals like the Eurasian boar.

This awareness week is one part of a larger invasive species education campaign “Stop the Invasion: Protect NY from Invasive Species.” This is coordinated by the Invasive Species Council, Invasive Species Advisory Committee and Partnership for Regional Invasive Species Managements, according to the DEC. The goal of the campaign is to inform people about the threats of these invasive species and to gain assistance in helping to stop their spread.

In Cortland, there are several types of terrestrial plants which are in the invasive species category, said Amanda Barber, Soil and Water Conservation District manager. Those include the Japanese knotweed, garlic mustard and multiflora rose.

To stop the spread of the plants, Barber listed some tips people can follow. First, don’t transport the plants. If someone mows the plants down and plans to mow a neighbor’s lawn, then clean the equipment before moving, Barber said. Also keeping clothes clean after dealing with the species can cut down on the movement of the species, she said.

Also, Barber said people “should be aware of what they have on their property and how it grows and how it spreads.” If people need help, they are welcome to come to the soil and water office for species identification, Barber said.

To stop the spread of these different species, cleanliness is important, Barber said. Cleaning lawn mowers and boat propellers can stop the spread of certain plants, Barber said. “They’re (invasive species) hard to control once present,” Barber said.