Standing at Lake Champlain, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a member of the Senate Environment & Public Works Committee, today announced the Invasive Fish and Wildlife Protection Act, comprehensive legislation to stop the spread of invasive species and protect New York's waterways. Senator Gillibrand's legislation would protect New York from the threat of invasive species by preventing the importation of potentially harmful species across state lines or into the United States by reforming the broken Lacey Act, which has been ineffective in stopping injurious wildlife, such as Asian clam and Zebra and Quagga mussels, from harming New York's waterways.
"From the Great Lakes to the Finger Lakes, and from the lakes and streams of the Adirondacks to the Hudson River, and every waterway in between, New York State is blessed with beautiful bodies of water," Senator Gillibrand said. "These vast natural resources help drive our economy, offer miles of recreation, attract tourists, and provide clean drinking water for millions of families. If we're going to protect these resources today and for future generations, we need to prevent the spread of invasive species."
A broad range of invasive species can quickly find their way into New York's waterways, including Lake George. Since 2010, Lake George has been fighting against the spread of Asian clam, which are small enough to clog boat engines and water intake pipes. Zebra mussels arrived through discharged ballast water of shipping vessels on the St. Lawrence Seaway. These invasive species are costly to control and eradicate once they gain a foothold in our water bodies. They threaten the quality of water for local communities, damage infrastructure, and cost the region tourism revenue by hurting swimming, boating, fishing and other recreational activities.
Preventing The Next Generation Of Invasive Species
Currently, invasive species are regulated by the Lacey Act, a 112-year-old law that gives the U.S. Fish and Wild Life Services (FWS) limited power to regulate non-native species of animals and prohibits their importation and interstate sales. Currently, 236 species of animal are listed as injurious under the Lacey Act, including Zebra Mussels and several species of carp. Once a species is listed as injurious, it cannot be imported into the United States or its territories or possessions, or through interstate commerce. However, the current process can take four years to complete, giving invasive species more time to infiltrate New York's waterways, potentially costing millions of dollars in damages.
Senator Gillibrand introduced the Invasive Fish and Wildlife Prevention Act that would strengthen the ability of the Fish and Wildlife Service to proscriptively address the threat of potentially invasive species by requiring an analysis to determine whether any non-native animal species have the potential to become invasive and harmful to the United States before they can imported or enter into interstate commerce. Specifically, the bill would establish an injurious species listing process based on a clear risk assessment and risk determination process. It will prohibit import and interstate commerce of live non-native animal species if not done in compliance with the Act. This legislation has also been introduced in the House of Representatives by Congresswoman Louise Slaughter.