Since 2009, Mayor Bloomberg has authorized the killing of Canada geese in public parks across New York City. This week Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) introduced federal legislation which would “cut the red tape between federal agencies” and allow for USDA slaughters of thousands more Canada geese on National Park Service controlled property. Jamaica Bay Wildlife Preserve – the region’s last remaining federal wildlife refuge – “not simply New York City’s ecological crown jewel but a wetlands and estuarine area of national importance.” In other words, Sen. Gillibrand intends to decimate the last remaining protections for New York City’s Canada geese from extermination by USDA’s Wildlife Services, an agency primarily motivated by the financial benefit of wildlife extermination contracts.
“While concerns about air safety are of course understandable, the reality is that neither Sen. Gillibrand nor Mayor Bloomberg are addressing the real issues causing airplane accidents, and those have nothing to do with birds. Permitting the destruction and removal of birds from a wildlife sanctuary is absolutely despicable and sets a frightening precedent,” said Mitchel Cohen, Brooklyn Greens/Green Party. In actuality, 99% of airplane crashes have absolutely nothing to do with birds; Gillibrand’s bill obscures that reality while doing nothing to address the true causes of deadly plane crashes: pilot error, mechanical failure, and weather. Instead, Gillibrand and Bloomberg have chosen to demonize geese to divert attention to these true threats, which they’ve done little to rein in.
“JFK was built on existing wetlands, the east coast’s largest bird sanctuary. If the birds are not allowed to flourish there, then where?” said Mary Beth Artz, New York City Wildlife Advocate. “The City needs a comprehensive plan that encompasses dissuasive methods that keep birds out of the path of planes and detection methods to keep planes out of the path of birds. Clearly, killing geese and other birds is the wrong way to go,” stated Barbara Stagno, New York Director, In Defense of Animals
Gillibrand’s proposed legislation would not only allow agents into the preserve, but it would also require them to kill the birds during their June and July molting season. “That’s when their new flight feathers are coming in and they can’t fly,” said Edita Birnkrant, the New York Director of Friends of Animals. “Both baby geese and adults are stuffed into crates and slaughtered during this process, and we strongly oppose Senator Gillibrand’s misguided efforts to open up a NYC wildlife sanctuary to this slaughter. Air safety will only be improved by focusing on deterring geese and other birds from airports through habitat modification, effective land-use planning and radar detection, not by killing birds,” said Birnkrant.
“For an elected official to approve of such flagrant disregard for life and the environment telegraphs the message that we are all dispensable. By lowering the altitude that aircraft fly over densely populated urban centers, we have encroached upon the habitats of winged wildlife. As a result of the FAA’s bone-headed decision permitting approaches to airports at lower altitudes over densely populated urban areas across the U.S. without conducting the necessary and legal environmental studies, safety has been diminished, not increased.” Jeffrey Starin, Licensed Pilot, Prospect Park Quiet Skies.
The public has been presented with the false choice between saving human lives and protecting wildlife. At the end of the day, short of killing every living wild animal, the only way to guarantee protection of human lives is to ensure that airplanes are strong and sturdyand can survive a ‘bird strike’ when it does occur, and pilots are alert and aware. Instead, the burden has been placed on taxpayers to finance the removal of Canada geese, among other wildlife. Killing geese has not made New Yorkers safer, but we are poorer – financially and morally. Protecting airplanes and wildlife are not mutually exclusive, we can and must do both.
GooseWatchNYC is a coalition of New Yorkers committed to the preservation of New York City’s Canada Geese. We stand against the Canada goose roundups which have been conducted in New York City by the United States Department of Agriculture, and we are committed to their protection and preservation. Our supporters include animal advocates, pilots, biologists, policy makers, community leaders, and members of the general public. GooseWatch NYC is currently organizing groups across New York City in order to bear witness to and document the taxpayer-funded roundups of molting geese in June, which are conducted by a federal agency in public parks. Visit www.goosewatchnyc.com for more information.
Every year they kill goslings and their parents in New York City parks.
Mary Beth Purdy- Artz singing “This Land is Your Land” (adapted to Canada Geese).