Ban on feeding birds will be scaled back

08/12/2010 12:00 AM |

Forget about that proposed ban on feeding waterfowl in Riverhead Town, and the possible $250 fines for violators.
The Town Board on Thursday decided it will only ban feeding Canada geese, with fines only amounting to $50.
The board held a hearing on the wider ban July 20, during which the town’s assistant town engineer, Christine Fetten, said federal regulations require the town to adopt such a policy because feeding birds causes them to lose their migratory instincts, which means they stay here longer and put more waste into local waterways.
The original proposal applied to white ducks, barnyard geese, Muscovy ducks, seagulls, swans, geese and other forms of both domestic and migratory wildfowl.
Deputy town attorney Dan McCormick had also said the town is required to have such a ban on the books as a condition of its 2003 stormwater management permit from the state or it could face fines of up to $3,700 per day.
But Town Board members said the language of that permit only mentions geese.
“If that’s what they limited it to, I don’t want to make [the ban] any broader than it has to be,” said Supervisor Sean Walter, who opposed the measure from the start.
“I have a problem with limiting people’s liberties, that’s not what government was established for,” Councilwoman Jodi Giglio added. “And we’d be adopting legislation that we have no intentions of enforcing. I don’t think the police are going to give a 4-year-old girl a fine for feeding geese.”
Councilman George Gabrielsen also opposed the wider ban, while Councilman John Dunleavy supported it.
“How is a normal person supposed to differentiate between a goose or a swan?” Mr. Dunleavy asked.
Ms. Fetten noted that by feeding swans or ducks, geese may also end up eating the food. Councilman Jim Wooten was not at Thursday’s work session, where the issue was discussed.
The Town Board plans to adopt the revised goose-feeding ban at its formal meeting on Tuesday night at Riverhead Town Hall.
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