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APIPP celebrates 20 years

KEENE VALLEY — The Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program is celebrating two decades of fighting off unwanted invaders with numbers that show — in some cases literally — how the far the program has come.

The Nature Conservancy’s APIPP has inspected more than 110,000 miles of roadside in the Adirondacks in its 20 years, and has trained almost 4,000 volunteers on recognizing and reporting invasive species. APIPP has also managed almost 2,000 infestations as well as completely eradicated invasive species at more than 1,000 sites. The group has also reached more than 17,000 people at nearly 500 events.

“Despite successes achieved to date, APIPP’s work is far from over. Climate change is exacerbating invasive species impacts and allowing new species that have historically been restricted from the Adirondacks to gain a foothold,” TNC spokesman David Conlan wrote in a press release. “In addition, increased recreational use and tourism in the region is subsequently increasing the likelihood for invasive species to be introduced to Adirondack lands and waters.

“Invasive species are most commonly introduced and spread by people and unfortunately broad awareness of invasive species, their impacts, and what anyone can do to help prevent the spread lags other top environmental challenges.”

In a poll conducted by the Lake Placid News late last year, invasive species were ranked the number-one threat to the Adirondack Park by environmental groups, research organizations (including APIPP) and state agencies. Several of the green groups are now calling for mandatory boat inspections along major corridors such as Interstate 87, and APIPP is working on installing a boat wash station at the state’s new campground at the former Frontier Town theme park on I-87 in North Hudson.

APIPP estimates the cost of invasive species, if left unchecked, is likely to be in the tens of millions of dollars in the Adirondack Park.

“Invasive species are non-native plants, animals, and insects that cause harm to the environment and human health and put economically important industries such as farming, forestry, and tourism at risk,” Conlan wrote. “According to a 2014 report commissioned by APIPP … the potential direct economic impact of just eight invasive species, if allowed to spread throughout the Adirondacks, could be between $51 (million) and $56 million annually. Nationally, economic impacts are estimated to be $100 (billion) to $150 billion annually.”

APIPP’s anniversary comes at a time of uncertainty, as climate change has increased the likelihood and number of invasive species that could affect the Adirondacks. The park’s first confirmed case of hemlock wooly adelgid was found near Lake George less than two years ago, and Lake Champlain recently logged its 50th invasive species.