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Jun 24, 2014 1:47 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

State Legislation Halting Lethal Mute Swan Control Measures Passes In Senate, Assembly

Jun 24, 2014 1:47 PM

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation may be required to use non-lethal methods to manage the mute swan population after a new statute passed in the State Assembly and the Senate on June 19.

The bill would require the DEC to exclude all lethal methods from any mute swan management plan; hold two public hearings before adopting a plan; as well as hold a public comment period for at least 45 days, according State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr., who co-sponsored the legislation with Assemblyman Steve Cymbrowitz and State Senator Tony Avella.

It would also require the DEC to document the scientific evidence for its current and future projects, as well as any anticipated environmental damage. It would also require the DEC to respond to all comments made and include a public education portion in its documentation.

The legislation was first introduced in February as a response to a DEC mute swan management plan draft, which called for the eradication of all free-ranging mute swans by 2025, including by way of lethal injection or shooting.

“This legislation takes a slightly different approach than what was originally proposed,” said Mr. Thiele in a phone interview on Monday.

The original bill proposed a two-year moratorium on the DEC’s plan to eliminate the mute swans, which has since been modified.

“I’d call this a soft moratorium,” said Mr. Thiele, explaining that a traditional moratorium would prevent the DEC from going forward with any plan, lethal or non-lethal.

Mr. Thiele said the new statute essentially allows a plan to move forward in the next two years if it does not include lethal methods to control the population.

“If they were going to try and do something that focused on the killing of swans, they [the DEC] can’t do that,” he said.

In March, the DEC announced it would “consider non-lethal means” after receiving over 1,500 comments from individuals and organizations, 16,000 form letters and 30,000 signatures on “various petitions,” according to a previous press release. The agency is in the process of putting together a draft for a new plan.

DEC spokesperson Peter Constantakes said he could not comment on how the pending legislation would influence that plan.

Mute swans, which frequent places like Town Pond in East Hampton Village and Lake Agawam in Southampton Village, are said to be “aggressive” and increasingly growing in numbers, according to DEC spokesperson Lori Severino. The swans are also a threat to local species and plants, she said.

But Larry Penny, nature columnist for The East Hampton Star and former director of natural resources for East Hampton Town, disagrees.

According to Mr. Penny, the mute swan population is actually decreasing.

“Their population is very stable,” he said in a previous interview . “If anything, it’s lower than it was in 1974.”

The DEC maintains that New York is home to an estimated 2,200 mute swans. But only 226 mute swans were counted between the Shinnecock Canal and Amagansett during a winter water fowl study in January-about 10 percent of the state-wide population.

“I was in East Hampton over the weekend and went past Village Pond on Saturday, just because I was there for the library opening,” said Mr. Thiele. “When I went passed the pond and saw the swans, I didn’t in the least feel threatened.”

The statute will take effect immediately once it is signed by Governor Cuomo.

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Sanity. How refreshing!
By highhatsize (4217), East Quogue on Jun 24, 14 10:54 PM