04/02/14 7:46pm
04/02/2014 7:46 PM


Opponents — and supporters — of a deer cull being carried out by the United States Department of Agriculture are still waiting, and will continue to wait, for court proceedings to resume after a court date scheduled for last Friday was indefinitely delayed by a state judge, who sought more time to read up on the facts on the case before hearing both sides.


04/01/14 7:00am
04/01/2014 7:00 AM
grossman_karl150Hands down, what is the dumbest thing the Department of Environmental Conservation has ever come up with?

How about the DEC’s plan to slaughter 2,200 beautiful, elegant, graceful birds, the total population of mute swans in New York State?

“It is real stupid,” said Larry Penny, for 28 years East Hampton Town’s director of natural resources and environmental preservation. The DEC claims it needs to kill the swans because they’re an “invasive” species.

“Nonsense,” says Mr. Penny.

They were brought to North America from Europe after the Civil War and “they’re not doing any harm.” Also, there “are natural checks on their population — raccoons and foxes take them. They’re subject to a lot of pressure,” Mr. Penny said.

Hugh Rafles, anthropology professor at The New School in an op-ed prominently featured in The New York Times last month — “Speaking Up for the Mute Swan” — wrote: “There’s a larger issue here.

The real environmental problems faced by New York State are created not by birds but by people. In the nearly 150 years that the mute swan has been among us, it has witnessed a radical decline in the extent of the state’s wildlife habitat, and in the quality of its waters and soil.”

Because “of their limited diet, mute swans are a sentinel species, concen- trating contaminants in their livers and revealing the presence of chemical toxicities in fresh water. Rather than eliminating swans, we should pay attention to their struggle to survive and what it can tell us about the state of our state.”

From the celebration of mute swans in “Swan Lake” by Tchaikovsky to the ballet of mute swans gliding on Long Island ponds and bays in the summer leading a line of signets, they represent their species at its loveliest.

The DEC grew out of the state Conservation Department, established in 1911, which, in turn, replaced the Fisheries, Game and Forest Commission, formed in 1895, both mainly created to regulate hunting. The legislation creating the DEC was signed into law on the first Earth Day, April 22, 1970, reflecting the upsurge of environmental consciousness in the state and the U.S. in the 1960s.

The outrageous swan kill isn’t the only wrong-headed move by the DEC in recent times. For example, last year it issued a report on pollution from the Long Island Compost facility in Yaphank that stated: “This investigation points to the need to modify the operation practices at these facilities in order to prevent such occurrence.” Yet months later the DEC rubber-stamped a fi ve-year permit renewal for the 50-acre Sand Land operation in Noyac where comparable production of mulch is going on.

Suffolk Health Commissioner Dr. James Tomarken and Southampton Town asked the DEC to require monitoring wells be installed to check on any Sand Land pollution as a permit condition. The DEC ignored this, said Bob DeLuca, president of the Group for the East End, speaking before the Noyac Civic Council last week. “The DEC has a lot of problems,” Mr. DeLuca said. “It’s incapable of doing a lot of things.”

There have been some terrific people at the DEC. Tony Taormina, long its Long Island-based director of marine resources, was an extraordinary environmental watchdog, a crusader against DDT and a key fi gure in the 1970s involved in enacting state laws protecting wetlands.

But, overall, Mr. Penny said, the DEC has been “a mixed bag.” It’s “been generally pretty good,” but “they have so much on their plate. Their problem is they never have enough staff.” And, he added, the DEC has trouble “finishing things.”

Fortunately, the harebrained scheme to eradicate mute swans will not be moving ahead right away. There has been, rightfully, a public and official uproar. The state agency admits it has received over 1,500 comments from individuals and organizations and 16,000 letters overwhelmingly opposed to the idea and petitions with 30,000 signatures against it.

State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. (I-Sag Harbor) is co-sponsoring legislation requiring a moratorium on the plan and asking the DEC to prove the swans cause “actual damage to the environment or other species.” State Senator Kenneth LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) has introduced his own bill for a moratorium and “independent study” of the DEC’s justification.

DEC Commissioner Albert Martens now says there will soon be “a revised plan.”


He and the DEC should pack it in now and forget about murdering swans.

03/05/14 3:20pm
03/05/2014 3:20 PM
USDA sharpshooters reportedly started culling the deer herd on private land early last week. (Credit: Mike Tessitore/Hunters for Deer)

USDA sharpshooters reportedly started culling the deer herd on private land early last week. (Credit: Mike Tessitore/Hunters for Deer)

After recent litigation against Southold Town was dismissed, opponents of a plan to cull deer on the East End using U.S. Department of Agriculture sharpshooters — a plan that’s already underway — now intend to take the state Department of Environmental Conservation to court for allowing the program to move forward.  (more…)

02/28/14 2:14pm
02/28/2014 2:14 PM
A mute swan mother with her cygnets in East Marion. (Credit: Katharine Schroeder)

A mute swan mother with her cygnets in East Marion. (Credit: Katharine Schroeder)

After getting pushback from lawmakers and thousands of residents, state environmental officials are considering major changes to a management plan that called for the eradication of New York’s wild mute swan population by 2025.

Included in those changes is a plan to achieve newly revised population goals that are unique to various areas of the state, and to achieve those goals through “non lethal means,” state Department of Environmental Conservation officials said.


01/19/14 1:00pm
01/19/2014 1:00 PM

VERA CHINESE FILE PHOTO | The DEC aims to kill or capture all mute swans by 2025.

Citing “aggressive behavior towards people” and “destruction of submerged aquatic vegetation,” the state Department of Environment Conservation has released a new plan to kill or capture all wild mute swans by 2025.

The DEC’s Management Plan for Mute Swans in New York State aims to reduce the population of mute swans, which has grown considerably in recent years on Long Island.

A non-native and invasive species, the mute swan was brought to North America from Eurasia in the late 1800s. By 1993, New York’s mute swan population had increased to about 2,000. The population peaked at more than 2,800 birds in 2002 and is currently estimated at about 2,200 birds statewide, according to DEC statistics.

Long Island and the lower Hudson Valley currently have the largest numbers of mute swans, but a rapidly increasing population has taken hold in the Lake Ontario region, the DEC stated.

The birds cause a variety of problems, including aggressive behavior towards people, destruction of native plants, displacement of local wildlife, degradation of water quality, and potential hazards to aviation, according to the DEC.

To help eliminate the problems, the organization recently proposed listing mute swans as a “prohibited species” under new Invasive Species regulations. This would prohibit the sale, importation, transport or introduction of this species in New York.

Ultimately, the DEC is looking to eliminate all free-ranging mute swans from New York by 2025. However, people that choose to keep the birds as pets may do so under the proposal.

“Wildlife management can present challenges in trying to balance populations, hunting opportunities and environmental impacts,” DEC commissioner Joe Martens said in a press release.  “These plans will guide the management of these species for the next 10 years.”

The DEC is accepting comments on the mute swan plan through Feb. 21. Mail your thoughts to NYSDEC Bureau of Wildlife, Swan Management Plan, 625 Broadway, Albany, NY 12233-4754 or e-mail your comments.

[email protected]

11/13/13 5:30pm
11/13/2013 5:30 PM

One of the four local men citied by the Department of Environmental Conservation for illegally taking and pursuing wildlife and posting the evidence online is speaking out after he says officers have exaggerated the circumstances behind the incidents.

George Salzmann

George Salzmann

Eighteen-year-old George Salzmann of Calverton said he and his friends were trying to help the two deer they found while driving home from a friend’s house in Wading River about 2 a.m. on Oct. 27.

The first deer was found trapped inside a fence near Grumman Memorial Park when Mr. Salzmann said he found and quickly released the animal. The other, he said, was found running parallel to the car on Hulse Landing Road with a bloody face.

Noticing the deer’s wound, Mr. Salzmann said they captured the animal to clean up its face. He chose not to call DEC to handle the situation because of the late hour, he said.

His account differs from the DEC statement that said the men trapped and wrangled the deer between the vehicle and the fence in order to hop out and catch it.

“They said we chased down the deer and cornered into the fence which is false,” Mr. Salzmann said to the Riverhead News-Review in a phone interview Wednesday. “We pulled one of the deer out and we were trying to help it. I go out and I try to do the right thing and it came back to bite me in the butt.”

The animals were released unharmed, according to DEC.

Officials said that on Halloween, they were forwarded pictures from the two separate incidents, one of which included one of the men drinking a Natural Ice beer. The following day, Mr. Salzmann said he and his friends were approached by Environmental Conservation Officers at Bean & Bagel, a bagel shop on Route 25 in Calverton.

While remorseful for taking photos with alcohol, Mr. Salzmann believes the group did the right thing for the deer.

“The photo that was taken with the beer was probably not the best photo, but the photo of us holding it and smiling – I don’t see any harm in that,” Mr. Salzmann said. “We didn’t have to bring it inside. It was just bleeding and we figured we’d clean it up and give it water.”

Mr. Salzmann said he and his friends were not intoxicated at the time of the incident.

Instagram photo courtesy of the Department of Environmental Conservation

The four men – ranging from ages 18 to 20 – were issued citations for illegal take and pursuit of protected wildlife. Officials said Mr. Salzmann, seen holding the deer in both photos, was given three tickets — two for illegally taking and pursuing deer, and one more for having an untagged deer head at his home.

Mr. Salzmann said that the untagged deer found on his property was the fault of Riverhead Police, and plans to fight that ticket.

“Riverhead Police Department was supposed to issue me a tag for a dead deer that was on the side of the road and that I took to my home, they said that the Ridge officer – where DEC is located – was unavailable, and the cop followed me home so I wouldn’t get in trouble from the DEC,” Mr. Salzmann said. “For that ticket, I blame the police department for not doing their job and not making out a deer report and issuing me a tag.”

Conor Lingerfelt, 19, of Jamesport, was given two citations for illegally taking and pursuing deer. He is spotted in both photos with Mr. Salzmann, officials said. Joseph Sacchitello, 20, of Riverhead, and Anthony Infantolino, 20, of Wading River, were each charged once. DEC officials said one of the photos has all four individuals with one stressed deer.

“Although these young men may have thought their actions were harmless and trivial, serious consequences can occur due to these types of actions,” said DEC Regional Director Peter Scully. “Wildlife can be dangerous and unpredictable, and DEC’s environmental conservation offices deserve recognition for their successful pursuit of this case.”

The four men are due in Riverhead justice court on Nov. 27. Each offense carries a $250 fine.

Mr. Salzmann said there is no danger of him losing his hunting license.