Local pol seeks action for stalled swan bill

After two years with no decisive action in the battle to save Sheepshead Bay’s mute swan population, one local elected official is fed up and is urging the Senate to act promptly on legislation he sponsored now that the Assembly has passed it for a third year in a row.

Passed by both the Senate and the Assembly in 2014 and 2015, the bill — which aims to turn back efforts by the state Department of Conservation (DEC) to reduce New York’s mute swan population — was vetoed twice by Governor Andrew Cuomo.

“Obviously this isn’t the outcome we were hoping for,” Assemblymember Steven Cymbrowitz, a member of the Environmental Conservation Committee who represents the area, said last year, “especially after the bill passed both houses overwhelmingly two years in a row and so many advocates fought hard on the legislation’s behalf.”

The veto of the bill came from concerns that the legislation might conflict with DEC plans to revise its original mute swan management goals, which originally called for the elimination of the swans entirely.

The revised plan, released in 2014, sought to allow some of the swans to be raised in captivity, with the DEC also looking into ways to achieve its management goals through non-lethal means. (The DEC originally planned to eliminate the birds by 2025 by either shooting or gassing them.)

While the DEC pegged the plan on the mute swan being a “prohibited invasive species” and “damaging to the environment,” environmentalists have refuted these claims, according to Cymbrowitz.

In its 2015 revised swan management plan, the DEC wrote, “Complete elimination of mute swans from New York is not a viable option given the expressed public opinions associated with these birds. However, the demand for viewing swans can be largely met through closely regulated possession of mute swans for enjoyment in urban parks and other public settings.

“Measures are needed to ensure that those swans do not reproduce or leave those areas, to prevent their entry into wild populations or impacts on natural resources,” the plan reads. “Based on available information and past experience, it is reasonable to expect that in the absence of management, wild mute swan populations will expand throughout New York State, and could reach numbers in excess of 5,000 birds within 20 years. The consequences of not preventing such population growth include reduced habitat availability and value for native fish and wildlife species, including several of conservation concern.”

Now, the assemblymember is looking for action from the Senate’s Environmental Conservation Committee, which had the bill referred to it in February.

“With less than six weeks of session remaining, the Senate needs to act now to pass this legislation,” Cymbrowitz said. “We’ve done what we promised all along to do and the burden is now on the Senate to help save the swans.”

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