New York’s mute swans may not get a reprieve after all. A bill that would block a proposed plan by the Department of Environmental Conversation to reduce the state’s mute swan population and declare them a prohibitive invasive species was vetoed by Governor Andrew Cuomo at the end of November, for the second time this year.
The legislation, introduced by Assemblyman Steve Cymbrowitz and Senator Tony Avella and co-sponsored by Assemblyman Fred Thiele, would have placed a two-year moratorium on the DEC’s plan to eliminate free-range mute swans by 2025. The bill also sought to require the DEC to provide evidence that the swans are causing damage to the environment and other species.
“The DEC opposes the moratorium because they think they’re right and the governor is backing his department,” said Mr. Thiele on Monday. “I just think the DEC is off base and I’m disappointed.”
Mr. Thiele said he believes the disagreement is reflected in a difference of opinion that the mute swan is a nuisance.
“Based in my experience, I never had anyone call my office to complain about mute swans,” said Mr. Thiele. “I get a lot of calls about deer and lots of things, but never the swans.”
According to the most recent draft on the DEC’s website, dated March 2015, the plan would “minimize the occurrence of mute swans in important fish and wildlife habitats while permitting their continued presence in urban parks and other controlled settings.” However, Mr. Thiele said the plan still includes eliminating upstate mute swan populations by “lethal means.”
In his veto message, Governor Cuomo said he believes that the public outcry was already addressed by the draft’s recent revisions.
“This bill, therefore, is not needed,” Governor Cuomo wrote.
In a statement, the DEC said they hope to have a final plan out in the coming weeks, “which will focus on preventing mute swan population growth or range expansion, and response for site-specific conflicts.”
“Population control methods would depend on the location and circumstances and lethal control will be used only as a last resort,” they said.
The announcement of the veto also has East End wildlife advocates shaking their heads.
Dell Cullum, owner of Hampton Wildlife Rescue and former East Hampton For Wildlife president said the DEC has yet again declared a war on wildlife.
“Now they have Cuomo in their ranks,” said Mr Cullum. “We’ve seen firsthand how wildlife is perceived in our area, and the DEC is always willing to destroy something in the most controversial way.”
“Life in the Hamptons no longer includes a need for the beauty of nature and wildlife. People and money are far more important than open spaces, and the natural elements that once thrived and was the very reason many folks moved here to begin with.”
Moving forward, Mr. Thiele said although he has yet to speak with Assemblyman Cymbrowitz, he anticipates reintroducing a similar bill.
“We will not be giving up,” he said. “We’ll continue to hold feet to the fire.”