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A summer of aquatic action

October 16, 2012
Guest essay by MEGHAN?JOHNSTONE Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program aquatic Invasive Species Coordinator , Adirondack Daily Enterprise

Adirondack waters offer top-notch recreation for swimming, paddling, boating, waterskiing or simply sitting on a dock marveling at a sunset. Odds are you also sought relief from the unusually warm summer and spent time enjoying lakes, ponds and rivers. As the Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program's aquatic invasive species project coordinator, my job is to protect these very waters that we all hold dear.

You've likely heard about aquatic invasive species like Eurasian watermilfoil and spiny waterflea, and more are knocking at the door. The good news is that APIPP's Aquatic Project works with partner groups, communities and volunteers every day to stop their spread. Here's how:

Perhaps this summer you encountered a friendly steward dressed in tan, holding a clipboard and closely looking at boats at a boat launch or talking with anglers along the Ausable River. The stewards are part of the Watershed Stewardship Program, a fantastic program among Paul Smith's College, Lake Champlain Basin Program, Lake George Association, Ausable River Association and lake groups from around the region. Stewards talk with boaters and anglers about AIS. They also inspect watercraft and gear, removing visible mud, plants and animals to prevent them from "hitchhiking" between waterways. This May, APIPP helped to train 70 watershed stewards representing programs from not only the Adirondacks but also the Catskills and Lake Ontario.

Article Photos

The Watershed Stewardship Program's annual training drew 70 stewards from in and out of the region who learned how to greet the public at water access sites and inspect watercraft and gear for aquatic invasive species.
(Photo courtesy of APIPP)

Help is also needed to keep watchful eyes on the region's 3,000 lakes and ponds. In late June, APIPP hosted its annual Aquatic Invasive Plant Identification Workshops in Bolton Landing, Paul Smiths and Inlet. These free workshops train volunteers how to monitor waterbodies for invasive plants and report their findings. One hundred people attended - the most since the program's inception. Each year volunteers survey about 100 lakes and ponds. Thanks to their great efforts, we know that two out of every three lakes surveyed are free of aquatic invasive plants.

By July, the training season settles down and it's time to meet with lake groups, survey lakes and check in with management projects around the region. This summer I teamed up with The Nature Conservancy's LEAF interns from New York City to hand-harvest an infestation of European frog-bit, a floating aquatic invasive plant, on the Grasse River in the western Adirondacks. APIPP began management in 2007, harvesting 36 five-gallon buckets of plants. In 2011, we harvested just over one bucket; this year, it was less than one. Great progress is being made, and native plants are rebounding.

An Aquatic Response Team was also on duty, thanks to funding through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. A four-member crew, supervised by Paul Smith's College Adirondack Watershed Institute, searched for aquatic invasive plants on 25 waterways in the western Adirondacks. If new, small infestations were discovered, the team removed the plants before they had a chance to spread.

Since aquatic invasive animals are on the move, this August APIPP held its first-ever Aquatic Invasive Animal Identification Training. Indian Lake hosted the training, which provided instruction on identification and survey techniques for species such as zebra mussel, Asian clam and spiny waterflea. Twenty people attended, and with their help, we're gaining a better understanding of the distribution of aquatic invasive animals in the region.

Though new species are on the march, some species like Eurasian watermilfoil have been around for decades and still pose serious management challenges. To encourage the sharing of solutions, APIPP and partners organized a Eurasian Watermilfoil Management Summit in Brant Lake. One hundred participants representing shoreowners, community groups, resource managers and elected officials joined together to listen, learn, discuss and take action.

APIPP's Aquatic Project also participates in events around the region. In September, I joined volunteers from Blue Mountain Lake and Raquette Lake to raise awareness about AIS during the 90-Miler Adirondack Canoe Classic canoe race. We staffed an information table at the race registration and finish line and inspected boats at crucial carries between invaded and un-invaded waters along the race route.

What a whirlwind of a summer. Plans are already under way for next year, and we would love your help. To get involved with APIPP's Aquatic Project, contact Meghan Johnstone at 518-576-2082 ext. 119.



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