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Nassau County Legislature

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Denenberg Proposes Law Prohibiting the Sale of Non-Native Invasive Aquatic Plants and Animals

Nassau County Legislator Dave Denenberg (D-Merrick), joined by Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi, announced today the proposal of a law that would ban the sale or distribution of 63 harmful invasive plant species within the County. The law would preserve ecosystems while saving taxpayer money by proactively banning many species before they take root and multiply in our parks, waterways and open spaces.

Invasive species – which usually spread into the wild from human settings such as gardens – are a source of environmental damage across all ecosystems on Long Island. Once they take root in parks and preserves, these invasive plants often reproduce unhindered by the herbivores and parasites of their native settings, and can kill off native plant species that provide food and shelter to native animals.

Some invasive plants provide homes to invasive animals such as rats, which can attack roosting birds, eating the eggs and chicks. Invasive plant species can also harm humans. The toxic sap of giant hogweed, native to central Asia but found recently on the North Shore, burns the skin and can cause blindness.

“These invasive species suffocate our ponds and waterways and ultimately cost county taxpayers millions of dollars to remove them and restore these waterways,” Denenberg said. “The species are not indigenous to this area and therefore have no predators, so they can grow unchecked and take over a waterway. Hopefully this law will make people aware that when they dump their aquarium water and plants in a pond they could be destroying the pond and its inhabitants.”

The County has already spent $1.5 million to remove two invasive aquatic plant species – milfoil and cabomba – from ponds along the South Shore.

“Invasive species are truly a form of biological pollution,” Suozzi said. “They leave our parks, ponds and open spaces vulnerable to serious environmental damage and are costly to control and remove. It is important to ban them now, before they become a larger problem, and end up costing taxpayers millions of dollars to eradicate.”

This law is part of a comprehensive, County-wide management plan to remove invasive plant species from the County’s parks, waterways and preserves. As part of this plan, a committee of County officials, environmentalists and representatives from the landscaping trade will amend the list of banned species as necessary.

The Nassau County Office of Consumer Affairs would be charged with implementing the sales ban, which would take effect January 1, 2008. Fines for violating the ban would range from $100 to $500.