New Independent Study Reveals Scientific Basis for DEC’s Mute Swan Control Program is Unsound

Goosewatch NYC, The Pegasus Foundation and The Pettus Crowe Foundation React to the Third Draft of the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Mute Swan Management Plan

New Independent Study Reveals Scientific Basis for DEC’s Mute Swan Control Program is Unsound 

Third Draft of DEC’s Mute Swan Control Program Fails Completely to meet the required standards set in the Legislature’s 2016 moratorium

Early in 2014, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) began a course to exterminate the mute swan population from the waters of New York State. Skeptical about the scientific basis for DEC’s program, the State Legislature passed a law at the end of 2016 imposing a two (2) year moratorium on DEC’s implementation of any mute swan control plan (Sponsors: Sen. Avella, Assemblyman Cymbrowitz) (Senate Bill S6630, Assembly Bill A9289). Among other things, the law requires that the DEC cannot implement a mute swan control program unless it can:

  • “fully document the scientific basis for future population projections”; and
  • “fully document the scientific basis for current and projected environmental damage”.

On September 6, 2017, the DEC released the third draft of its proposed Mute Swan Management Plan. Anticipating correctly that the DEC would ignore the requisites of Senator Avella’s bill, some opponents of DEC’s plan commissioned a report by Hudsonia, Ltd., an internationally renowned, non-advocacy organization that has been conducting scientific research on ecological issues since 1981 (www.Hudsonia.org). Hudsonia was engaged to conduct an independent, objective analysis of the scientific resources upon which DEC’s program relies, and to evaluate DEC’s conclusions drawn from those resources. Hudsonia’s report analyzed and evaluated all available science and research, through and including 2017 data. The Hudsonia report was funded by the Pegasus Foundation (Dr. John Grandy)( www.pegasusfoundation.org ), and the Pettus Crowe Foundation (Dr. Irene Crowe; pcrowefd@gmail.com), and the environmental law firm of Grant & Lyons, LLP (John F. Lyons)(www.grantlyons.com).

Hudsonia is an institution with irrefutable credentials and advocates no position on DEC’s plan. However, their scientific conclusion totally undermines the foundational reasoning on which DEC relies to exterminate New York’s mute swans. The Hudsonia report establishes that the scientific conclusions upon which DEC uses to justify its program, are seriously deficient. They are variously incomplete, anecdotal and the result of flawed methodologies.

Hudsonia’s report begins with:

“Mute swan (Cygnus olor) management and proposed future management in North America have been controversial. Conservation controversies can benefit from an impartial and transparent evaluation of available scientific evidence, including its gaps and uncertainties. Conservation practice is often guided by myth rather than evidence, or by evidence drawn from flawed studies. This paper reviews what we know of mute swan ecology relative to its potential effects in northeastern North America, to assess the scientific underpinnings of proposed management goals and methods.”

And Hudsonia’s report ends with:

“In conclusion, our analysis of the scientific literature on mute swan ecology and environmental impacts indicates that some of the negative impacts imputed to mute swans are unsubstantiated or anecdotal, whereas others may be of management concern. There are methodological problems, insufficient hard data, and a lack of distinction between short-lived and long-term impacts associated with some of the research that has been used to justify control programs.”

The copy of the full Hudsonia Report is linked below.

For the reasons cited in Hudsonia’s report, the DEC’s third draft plan fails completely to meet the mandate of the moratorium law.

Mute swans are splendid beautiful birds that have been in our State for more than 150 years and they are beloved by many. They must be allowed to live in their various suitable habitats throughout the State. It is time for the DEC to abandon its attempts to implement this unjustified program, and redirect its time, energy and resources to other environmental programs that are justified and genuinely protective of the environment.

Notable Comments:

John Lyons, Esq., whose firm funded the report in part says:

“The Hudsonia report shows that the emperor has no clothes. The report shows the existing body of scientific knowledge and data on the mute swan, and its impact on habitat and other species, is insufficient to support these draconian measures in this program.”

Dr John Grandy, director of the Pegasus foundation, Representative of Goosewatch NYC and the Pettus Crowe Foundation and also contributed to the report’s funding, says:

The Pegasus Foundation and the Pettus Crowe Foundation are proud to have worked with Grant and Lyons to have commissioned this important analysis.

The Hudsonia Mute Swan report is a breath of fresh air.  After years of biased and unsubstantiated DEC reasoning, we now have objective science and an honest unbiased analysis that demonstrates conclusively that there is no scientific justification for killing, mutilating or penning wild free-ranging mute swans in NY.  From a scientific perspective, mute swans are not an invasive species and their population density is so low that any problems can be handled with compassionate wildlife management techniques.

Wayne Thompson, Esq., a Poughkeepsie based attorney and part of the grass roots organization that has been pushing this forward since February 2014, adds that

“This report convincingly shows that DEC has failed to substantiate their plan with accurate scientific underpinnings. The third draft is merely a regurgitation of prior drafts and DEC ignored the directives of the legislation. It is unfortunate that private citizens must undertake such measures to protect the magnificent mute swan from the DEC.”

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