Mute swan population finally saved by legislation

After an over two-year – and two-veto – battle to save Sheepshead Bay’s mute swan population, Assemblymember Steven Cymbrowitz’s bill to protect the exotic species from a government-sanctioned extermination has been signed into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo.

Establishing a two-year moratorium on the Department of Environmental Conservation’s (DEC) controversial plan to name the swans a “prohibited species” and exterminate them from New York by 2025, the bill will now require DEC specifically to demonstrate and cite examples of how the swans cause damage to the environment or to other species, including people, according to Cymbrowitz.

“Tens of thousands of New Yorkers signed petitions, sent letters and emails to the governor’s office, and, in my community, called my office to tell me how much they enjoy watching the swans in Sheepshead Bay and Manhattan Beach,” Cymbrowitz said. “People were very vocal about their support of this bill, and I have to believe it made all the difference. The people have spoken and I’m pleased that the governor has listened.”

DEC defended the proposed plans in its original proposal, stating that mute swans “can cause a variety of problems, including exhibiting aggressive behavior towards people, destruction of submerged aquatic vegetation, displacement of native wildlife species, degradation of water quality and potential hazards to aviation.”

However, along with resident signatures on Cymbrowitz’ petitions, environmentalists also came forward refuting the DEC’s claims that the swans are a “prohibited invasive species” and “damaging to the environment.”

“In its most recent swan management plan released in March 2015, DEC unearthed a lone 1970 swan-on-human attack as evidence of the birds’ aggressive tendencies,” Cymbrowitz’s office writes. “In the 1960s, world scientists declared the mute swan the international symbol of world peace.”

“This is a major victory for the mute swans, as well as other animals who may face similar eradication in the future,” said State Senator Tony Avella, the bill’s Senate sponsor. “I, and many animal rights organizations and activists, will remain skeptical that such drastic measures are necessary until evidence proves otherwise.”

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