State Legislature Passes Bill to Block DEC from Killing Mute Swans

Swan Cygnets on back

Both houses of the New York State Legislature have passed legislation that would require the Department of Environmental Conservation to prioritize non-lethal management techniques for the mute swan population, Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr, who co-sponsored the bill, announced Thursday.

The bill now heads to Governor Andrew Cuomo’s desk for his signature before it becomes law.

The DEC has received considerable blowback since it announced in January tentative plans to eliminate free-ranging mute swans from the state. According to the DEC, the 2,200 swans in New York are invasive, damaging the environment and out-competing indigenous birds.

This legislation requires the DEC to hold at least two public hearings and offer a 45-day written public comment period before adopting a mute swan management plan.

The plan must prefer non-lethal techniques over lethal techniques and fully document the scientific basis for swan population projections and environmental damage. The DEC would also be mandated to reply to all substantive public comments.

“Many wildlife experts, rehabilitators and environmentalists do not agree that exterminating the mute swan population is justified,” Thiele said. “In addition, there is debate amongst such experts about whether the planned eradication of the mute swan population is even minimally beneficial to the eco-system or to our environment.”

Thiele added, “On the East End of Long Island, the mute swan is often visible in local ponds and waterways. My office has not received one report in all my years in office that the mute swan is a nuisance or an environmental problem. This legislation will require all concerned to take a step back and take a hard look before any irrevocable action is taken by the DEC.”

Also this week, Senator Kenneth P. LaValle, of Port Jefferson, whose district includes the East End, announced that his bill putting a moratorium on mute swam eradication passed the state Senate. The bill requires the DEC to hold off on a management plan until an independent study is conducted and reviewed.

“This legislation will enable DEC policy to follow the science regarding mute swans,” LaValle said. “Now, we will be able to ensure any plan moving forward has the balanced, scientific basis that is necessary.”

LaValle’s legislation is now before the Assembly.

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