via The Legislative Gazette
Pressure on DEC to kill swan-killing plan
By Richard Moody
March 24, 2014
Sen. Tony Avella is pushing for support for his bill to place a moratorium on the state Department of Conservation's plans to control the mute swan population in the state; a species the agency says is invasive and dangerous to habitats in New York.
The DEC has classified the mute swan as an invasive species in New York and its original plan was to eliminate the mute swans from the state through hunting, destruction of nests and the destruction of eggs by poking holes in them or covering them in oil.
The mute swan was introduced to New York from Europe in the late 1800s and their numbers have grown to roughly 2,200 birds statewide, according to the DEC.
The environmental agency says the mute swans create dangerous competition over food for non-invasive fowl in New York. And because they are aggressive protectors of their nests and produce fecal matter with high levels of E coli, mute swans are a danger to the public, according to the DEC. Since first announcing their plans, the DEC has extended the public comment period for the proposal and has suggested other management policies.
"I never heard of an agency deciding to make an entire species extinct until now," Avella said. "This is an absolute disgrace."
Avella's bill, A.8790/S.6589, would impose a moratorium on the DEC's plans and request the agency come before the Legislature and state its case for why the plan should move forward. The bill is sponsored by Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz, a member of the Assembly Environmental Conservation Committee.
The bill is in the Environmental Conservation Committee in both houses.
"If we are talking about [mute swans being here for] decades and the population is 2,200 statewide, what the heck is the problem?" Avella asked. "It's nice [the DEC] has stepped back, that they have moved away from killing the swans, but we are not convinced at the end of the day."
At a recent press conference in Albany, Avella, D-Queens, was joined by animal advocates in support of his bill.
"Our own government used the mute swans in the 1970s as the international symbol for world peace. And now today in the year 2014 we have the New York DEC claiming that they're some kind of a threat, that they literally need to be extinct from New York," said Edita Birnkrant, New York director for Friends of Animals. "All of the information that was in the DEC's proposal was scientifically flawed, or it wasn't even based on any science. It was really shocking that the DEC would come up with an extinction plan that was based on nothing."
Birnkrant said regulatory agencies such as the DEC typically answer more to the interest of hunters than the general public. She said the DEC wants to remove the mute swans partly because they displace fowl that are usually the target of hunters.
Birnkrant said Friend of Animals will not approve of any management policies and that the best thing for the DEC to do would be to drop their proposals all together.
"The actual laws, the regulations that are being written today are written by the regulatory agencies," said Peter Muller, state director for the New York State League of Humane Voters. "Somehow the regulatory agencies are serving to a large degree the function of the legislators. Policy needs to be set by legislators who are responsive to their constituents."
Avella said he doesn't trust the DEC's pullback from their originally proposed plan.
"After the bill came out and I joined the IDC, the very next day the DEC backed off," Avella said. "I think they realized Avella has the opportunity to move the bill." He said he has not yet had a conversation with the DEC about the policies.
A similar bill (S.6667/A.8857) was introduced after Avella's bill by Sen.Ken LaValle, R-Port Jefferson, and it is sponsored in the Assembly by Fred Thiele, D-Sag Harbor.
LaValle's bill would impose a moratorium on the DEC's plan and create a committee appointed by the governor and the Legislature to perform a study to determine the necessity and impacts of the DEC's plan.
Avella said he has spoken with LaValle about their common concerns. "We all need to work together on this and we are working together on this, there is no doubt about that," Avella said.