Invasive Species are Challenging Our Water Quality and Landscape
Lake George is increasingly threatened by aquatic and terrestrial invasive species. These are non-native plants and animals that can have serious impacts on our waters and woods. In virtually all cases, invasives have been inadvertently brought into our region by people.
The cost of invasives treatment and control is enormous, and the impacts of infestation can be severe – from degraded water quality and recreational opportunities to declining tourism revenues and property values. Currently, Lake George is infested with six known aquatic invasive species: two aquatic plants, Eurasian watermilfoil and curly-leaf pondweed; three mollusks, Zebra mussel, Asian clam, Chinese mystery snail; and one crustacean, Spiny water flea.
On land, the Lake George watershed has numerous invasives and is now gravely threatened by the arrival of the hemlock woolly adelgid, an invasive insect that literally sucks the life out of hemlock trees, which make up 80% of the watershed’s forests and play a vital role in cooling and cleansing our waters.
But just as we have brought these invasives into the region, we have the ability to keep them out and control their impact on our Lake — by taking these actions.
What we do together:
Priority Actions for Landowners With Hemlocks:
Know the HWA & Monitor Your Trees
Hemlock trees make up 80% of the forested landscape in the Lake George Basin. If there are hemlocks on your property, please keep a close eye on them for signs of the HWA. While the insect can be detected all year by a keen observer, it is most readily visible from winter to spring. It presents itself as a white, woolly growth on the underside of branches. This is the ovisac that grows on mature, egg-laying adults. The tiny bug itself is less than one-sixteenth of an inch long and dark red, brown or purple in color. Be on the lookout for the ovisac. Infested trees take on a pale green or gray color and typically die ten to twenty years after infestation, a timeline accelerating as our climate warms. If you are unsure about the presence of hemlock on your land, please retain the services of a certified forester to provide an assessment.
Take Action If You Find Infestation
If you identify a potential HWA infestation, please report it immediately using the iMapInvasives tool. If the infestation is on your property, contact a professional arborist or certified pesticide applicator to confirm that it is HWA and develop a treatment plan. A variety of chemical insecticide treatments have proven effective in individual trees and small groups of trees. Insecticides are applied using selective application techniques and have very few or no negative off-target impacts.
Prevent the Spread
To help prevent HWA from reaching your trees or spreading to others:
- Keep bird feeders away from hemlock trees. Birds act as airplanes for the HWA, carrying the bugs around the Lake George Region. Don’t give them a handy place to land.
- Thoroughly clean any items that might have been in close proximity to an HWA infestation, including yourself, clothes, equipment and gear, and even pets. This is particularly important during the insect’s mobile stage, approximately mid-April to early-July.
- Use local nursery stock if you are planting ornamental hemlocks. Consider asking your supplier what steps they are taking to prevent the spread of invasive forest pests.
Priority Actions for Boaters & Anglers:
Visit a Mandatory Boat Inspection and Decontamination Station
Boats are the primary way aquatic invasive species enter Lake George. Between May 1 - October 31, all trailered boats are required by law to undergo an invasive species inspection at one of the seven regional inspection stations before launching.
Clean, Drain and Dry Your Boat Before Leaving Home
CLEAN your boat and equipment with hot water greater than 140°F. If hot water is not available, spray your boat, trailer, and equipment with high-pressure water. Remove all visible mud, plants, fish/animals while on land. DRAIN water from boat, hatches, bilge, live wells, transom wells and any other locations with water on land. DRY your boat, trailer, and all equipment completely. Drying times vary depending on the weather and the type of material. At least five days is recommended.
Inspect and Clean All Water-related Recreational Equipment
Boats aren’t the only way to transport aquatic invasive species. Invasives can also be found in bait buckets and live wells, and can adhere to paddles, hip waders, apparel, and fishing tackle. Please remember to remove all visible mud, plants, fish and animals from your boat, trailer, clothing, dogs or other equipment and dispose of them in a suitable trash container on dry land, then wash all equipment thoroughly.
Don’t Relocate Fish
Please do not transfer wild fish from one waterbody into another.
Use Local or Certified Bait Only
When preparing to fish, use only local bait, collected where you are fishing, or buy certified bait from a local dealer. Return live bait to the water where it was caught and throw away any unused purchased bait.
What we do for you:
Mandatory Boat Inspection Program
Established in 2014, the mandatory boat inspection and decontamination program on Lake George is arguably the strongest program of its kind in the eastern United States. Co-funded by a unique public-private partnership of Lake municipalities, the LGA, and New York State, the program demonstrates the level of resolve required for stopping invasives and protecting a water body from their destructive impacts. Skyrocketing costs of treating invasives after they get in makes prevention the only real means of protection. No new aquatic invasives have entered the Lake since the program's founding.
Only trailered boats are required to be inspected before launching in Lake George. There are six inspection stations around the Lake to make the program as convenient as possible. There is no cost for boat inspections nor for decontamination should it be necessary. In addition, the Adirondacks Welcome Center just south of I-87 Northbound Exit 18 provides free boat inspections for boaters heading to Lake George and other lakes.
Save Our Lake George Hemlocks Initiative
With the troubling discovery of the first significant hemlock woolly adelgid (HWA) infestation in the Lake George watershed in the fall of 2020, the LGA and a consortium of private and public sector organizations formed the Save Our Lake George Hemlocks Initiative with the goal of identifying future infestations sooner to limit the extent of the invasive species’ spread in the watershed and the larger region.
The Initiative is piloting the use of airplane and satellite-gathered near-infrared imaging and radar technologies that can help identify the distribution of hemlock trees and detect forest decline before it is visible to the naked eye so that on-the-ground field crews can then be strategically and efficiently deployed to assess potential infestations and develop treatment plans.
The consortium is led by the LGA and the Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program (APIPP), one of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s (DEC) eight Partnerships for Regional Invasive Species Management (PRISMs). Joining the LGA, APIPP and DEC in this groundbreaking initiative are the Lake George Land Conservancy, City University of New York’s Advanced Science Research Center, City College of New York, Cornell University/New York State Hemlock Initiative, U.S. Forest Service, and Adirondack Research, among others.
This watershed-wide effort is intended to augment essential work now being performed by DEC to confirm the extent of the current infestation and perform necessary treatment to control it.
Urgently Investing In Early HWA Detection
In cooperation with its public and private partners, the LGA rapidly organized and provided initial funding to fast track the Initiative’s early detection objective. Until the start of this Initiative, identification of a HWA infestation in the Lake George Watershed depended solely on its discovery by someone on the ground who happened to spot the tell-tale signs once they became apparent on the exterior of the tree: white woolly masses on the underside of branches, gray-tinted needles, and needle loss and branch dieback. While ground verification is essential for confirming adelgid infestations, it is impossible to cover the entire region on foot or by boat.
Remote sensing from airplane and satellite platforms not only produce aerial photographic images but also capture near-infrared data that can help to identify the location of individual hemlock trees and reveal the photosynthetic capacity of a forest stand. Changes in photosynthetic capacity coupled with detection of hemlock needle loss using radar remote sensing can provide evidence of declining forest health before that decline is apparent to the naked eye, making it much easier to direct ground crews to potential infestation sites.
The initiative’s experts are now reviewing five years of remote sensing imagery and data for an approximately 4,400 square mile region, extending from the northern portion of the Lake George Watershed south to Troy in Rensselaer County, which, prior to the Lake George infestations, was the northernmost point of HWA detection in New York State. A time-series model will be created from the airplane and satellite imagery to identify hemlock stands showing signs of health decline so that on-the-ground inspections can be conducted at more than 150 stands to determine if the decline is resulting from adelgid-related damage.