Although this summer is looking very different than any of us expected a few months ago, one thing hasn’t changed: the boating and water recreation opportunities in the Finger Lakes region. While social distancing and taking precautions to stop the spread of COVID-19 you can still boat with your family on Little York Lake, fish in the Tioughnioga, and kayak at Tully Lake. While getting outside and spending time with your family or quiet time alone, it is important to remember that something else also hasn’t changed: the threat of invasive species to New York State waters and lands. But the Cortland County Soil and Water Conservation District is still here to help with our Stop the Invasion program. This week, June 7th-13th, is New York State Invasive Species Awareness Week and we want to make sure everyone is informed and prepared so they can have a safe and enjoyable summer season.
Recently the prolific Chinese Mystery Snails were discovered at Melody Lake in the south east corner of Cortland County. These snails out compete native snails, altering the food chain, and carry parasites that affect local fish and waterfowl. They are nearly impossible to get rid of once introduced into a water body, so preventing the spread is key. There is also the Round goby, with its black spotted dorsal fin and suction cup like pelvic fins. This fish, which is not yet in Cortland County, out competes native fish and eats their eggs, so keeping it out of our waters is important for good fishing stock.
Though there are many aquatic invasive species that threaten local waterways the same steps can be used against all of them: Clean, Drain, and Dry. Cleaning your watercraft, from paddle boards and kayaks to pontoon boats and jet skis, and letting all fishing gear and equipment dry before traveling to another waterbody should kill any invasive you may have picked up along the way. Also make sure to never dump bait buckets and live wells filled elsewhere into local water bodies, but empty them on dry land between trips. To help with these efforts SWCD has installed a brand new boat cleaning station near the entrance to Little York Lake. It has a wet vacuum, air blower, and hand tools available so boaters can inspect and clean their craft and trailers before they enter and after they leave the lake. It is free to the public and will be up and running throughout the season. There is also a boat steward on staff, out most weekends talking to boaters, collecting data on what species are here, and helping with inspections. Some species can survive up to thirty days on your boat, so diligence and constant awareness are important. You can do your part by remembering to Clean, Drain, and Dry every
time you bring your boat to a new location in the county, state, or country.
To help prevent the spread of terrestrial invasive species like weeds and pests it is important to remove mud and plant material from your shoes so bugs, seeds, and plants parts are not brought from one hiking spot to another. For these same reasons camping gear and mountain bikes should also be washed and cleaned off between uses. To help with this there are boot brush stations for public use located at the entrances to many area parks to clean off your boots before and after your walk. There is one at Dwyer Park right near the trail map.
It is an uncertain world, but you can help our community by taking your time preparing for outdoor activities with Clean, Drain, and Dry measures and by cleaning your boots and camping gear. Then you can feel safe knowing you are doing your part to stop the spread of invasive species and protect local waters and lands that are so important to the Central New York and Cortland County way of life, now more than ever.