Archive for the tag 'ecology'

I wonder if there's a policy about taking trees on the subway... (Source: NYRP/Flickr)

I wonder if there’s a policy about taking trees on the subway… (Source: NYRP/Flickr)

The New York Restoration Project, a non-profit dedicated to building greenspaces and the lead partner of the MillionTreesNYC initiative, is going all out this spring with a huge giveaway of 12,000 trees distributed directly to residents throughout New York City.

Here are some details from the group:

NYC home and property owners can choose from over 90 events where they can pick up trees to bring home and plant in their front or back yards. Participants can visit www.nyrp.org/treegiveaways to check out dates and locations and find out more. They can register online approximately two weeks in advance, to reserve a tree. If registration is full, a limited number of trees is available on a first-come, first-served basis at the event. We’re offering popular tree species, including various dogwood, fig, magnolia and serviceberry trees to New Yorkers. Aside providing cleaner air, planting trees has many benefits, including enhanced curb appeal, offset of climate change, cooler temperatures, and more.

Giveaways are scheduled between March and May for Marine Park, Coney Island, Gravesend, Borough Park, Bay Ridge and elsewhere – so there’s no shortage of nearby locations to pick one up in the coming months. Just check their schedule and register in advance.

The MillionTreesNYC program is a public-private initiative. Seventy percent of the trees will be planted in parks and public spaces, while 30 percent are being given to private organizations, homeowners and community groups. More than 800,000 trees have been distributed to date.

Source: Riverhead Foundation

Source: Riverhead Foundation

A baby harp seal was spotted on the shores of Brighton Beach on Saturday morning sunning himself.

The seal was seen at approximately 8:30 a.m. Police were called to the scene as a precaution, and they closed off the area using crime-scene tape for the animal’s safety, according to the Daily News.

The Riverhead Foundation, an advocacy organization that studies, rescues and rehabilitates marine mammals, was summoned to the scene. They transported the seal to a laboratory for medical evaluation where, according to Gothamist, they determined it was dehydrated due to parasites.

Harp seal and dolphin sightings in New York’s waterways have been on the rise in recent years as their population appears to boom amid cleaner waters and increased food stock.

Seals have been spotted in Jamaica Bay, the Sheepshead Bay marina and Brighton Beach, and one area cruise boat has launched occasional seal spotting trips.

Over the summer, pods of humpback whales and dolphins off the coast of the Rockaways made headlines. With the boom has also come some concern: dead and dying dolphins have washed up in Coney Island creek, the Gowanus canal and elsewhere.

Photo by Brian Hoo

Queens State Senator Tony Avella has introduced a bill that would establish a two-year moratorium on the state Department of Environmental Conservation’s plan to eliminate 2,200 mute swans – the same scenic species that populates Sheepshead Bay’s marina. Local Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz announced today that he will follow suit with an Assembly version, having previously spoken out on the issue.

The Senate bill has been referred to the Senate’s environmental conservation committee.

The news was announced last week in a press release by Friends of Animals, an animal protection organization. From that release:

“I was horrified to learn that our state wildlife agency would make such an extreme, unfounded proposal, and do not believe that the DEC has provided evidence to justify the elimination of these beautiful swans,” Avella said. “The public outcry has been severe—many New York residents do not want to see mute swans eliminated and animal advocacy organizations, wildlife experts, rehabilitators and others have also joined the chorus of opposition.  In addition, to imposing a two-year moratorium, my bill requires DEC to illustrate the necessity of eradicating this non-native species by demonstrating the actual damage to the environment or other species caused by mute swans.”

… Donald S. Heintzelman, ornithologist, author and authority on Northern migratory swans and mute swans states,  “My professional opinion is that these public disputes about mute swans are overblown and unnecessary. These birds do not cause catastrophic damage, although most state wildlife agencies have engrained in their official mindsets the notion that mute swans should be destroyed merely because they are non-native species that might compete with native tundra swans and more rarely trumpeter swans. In fact, tundra swans very rarely are seen in New York State (and hence are irrelevant to the agencies’ mindsets).

“As for the few trumpeter swans living at two locations in the state, they are geographically far removed from Long Island and thus are not impacted by mute swans on Long Island. Certainly, mute swans are not pushing out New York’s small population of trumpeter swans. Furthermore, arguments that mute swans are aggressive, and also consume large amounts of submerged aquatic vegetation, are greatly overblown—and represent bad science.”

Cymbrowitz’s office issued a release this afternoon confirming that he would be the Assembly sponsor. From their release:

“Wildlife experts and environmentalists are not unanimous in their belief that exterminating the mute swan population is justified, and there’s plenty of debate over whether eradicating mute swans will be even minimally beneficial to the ecosystem or our environment,” Assemblyman Cymbrowitz said. Also, while it makes for a good anecdote, there is evidence that nary a human has been attacked by a mute swan, he said. While the graceful birds may hiss in an effort to protect their young, experts said the swans are rarely if ever moved to unprovoked aggression against people.

He noted that three other states – Vermont, Rhode Island and Connecticut – currently use non-lethal methods to control their mute swan populations. Only Maryland exterminates the birds, “which demonstrates that the precedent is there for using a humane alternative,” he said.

The community can comment on the DEC’s plan until February 21. To do so, write to: NYSDEC Bureau of Wildlife, Swan Management Plan, 625 Broadway, Albany, NY 12233-4754 or by e-mail to fwwildlf@gw.dec.state.ny.us (please type “Swan Plan” in the subject line).

IMG_0075

Down by the water on Webers Court, swans have become a common sight, unless the state changes that.
Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

Paige Strackman has lived for eight years in her home on Webers Court, a bungalow-lined private street off Emmons Avenue that ends in a sandy lump on the water’s edge. It’s a haven for the area’s mute swans, who live alongside their human neighbors in what may be the most intimate cohabitation between the waterfowl and city dwellers.

Strackman has come to regard the big white birds standing about or looking for food on the waterfront as a part of her community, where there is usually a group of 10 or more . But if the state gets its way, the birds will vanish from the landscape.

The state recently released plans to kill and remove all of New York State’s mute swans. According to a report released by the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), mute swans like the one in Strackman’s community are a problem. We recently summarized the department’s justifications:

  • Swans destroy aquatic vegetation
  • Swans can be aggressive towards people
  • Swans are territorial, and displace native wildlife species
  • Waste produced by swans can upset the chemical balance of waterways like Sheepshead Bay

Strackman doesn’t know anything about the plans, nor does she agree with the characterization of swans being aggressive or territorial.

“For us, they’re part of a landscape.” she said. “It seems like they’re a natural part of the environment.” But the DEC categorizes the swans as an “invasive species.”

Peter Feeds The Swan

Peter, a local landlord, attempts to herd a stray swan back to Webers Court by feeding it bread. Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

While Strackman was talking about the swans, a landlord for an Emmons Avenue apartment attempted to herd a stray swan back to Webers Court and its sliver of beach head. The landlord, Peter, didn’t want to reveal his last name. As he led the swan away from the car-filled streets with bread, he explained that every so often swans get lost and end up on the avenue away from their group.

Aware of these dangers, Strackman said, “I worry more for their safety. It’s an urban environment and you have the cars that could hit them and then there’s the problem with polluted water.”

The DEC traces the swan’s history back to the late-1800s, when they first began to appear in North America. Since then the population boomed to more than 2,220 across the state. But 25 years ago, swans were not as common of a sight as they are today in Webers Court and Sheepshead Bay, according to Strackman’s neighbor, Cliff Bruckenstein.

“I don’t see them destroying anything,” said Bruckenstein, who has lived on Webers Court for 25 years. Bruckenstein went on to challenge the DEC’s claim that the mute swan can be bellicose. “They’re really not an aggressive species. They only get protective around their nests.”

Among the many things the department plans on doing if the plans aren’t altered is to kill and capture them, as we previously reported. If approved, the agency would conduct mute swan control on any accessible public or private lands in the state – including Webers Court and the Sheepshead Bay marina. Any swans removed will be euthanized. Nests will be destroyed, and eggs will be oiled or punctured.

“They want to kill a species that has been bred into [New York State],” Bruckenstein said in response to the plans. “I think it’s very much the wrong thing to do when there are many other things to do.”

“They’re no longer an invasive species,” he said. “They’re good neighbors.”

The Department for Environmental Conservation is taking comments on the draft plan. Deadline for comments is February 21. You can write to: NYSDEC Bureau of Wildlife, Swan Management Plan, 625 Broadway, Albany, NY 12233-4754 or by e-mail to fwwildlf@gw.dec.state.ny.us (please type “Swan Plan” in the subject line).

Photo by Brian Hoo

We recently published an article announcing New York State’s newest plan to eliminate mute swan, the iconic species the dot the Sheepshead Bay waterfront, from the state. Many of the news reports – including our own – were somewhat vague about the plan, so we read through it and compiled a list of things you should know about the “Management Plan for Mute Swans in New York State” released by the Department of Environmental Conservation. The document can be read in full here.

It may seem like New York State only recently began picking on these swans that have become a part of Sheepshead Bay and other areas. But the state has had its sights on these big white birds since 1993 when the conservation department adopted a mute swan “management policy.” The newest plan only intensifies the state’s efforts to remove mute swans from the whole state by 2025.

Let’s start with why the DEC wants to eliminate mute swans. The overarching concern is that the swans, which are an invasive species brought here from Europe, live a damaging lifestyle that causes harm to the habitat of native species. Here are some of the details mentioned in the report:

  • Swans destroy aquatic vegetation
  • By eliminating vegetation, swans reduce cover and habitat for native marine life, altering their population balance
  • Swans can be aggressive towards people
  • Swans are territorial, and displace native wildlife species
  • Waste produced by swans can upset the chemical balance of waterways like Sheepshead Bay

Below is a list highlighting “the management strategies” the environmental department plans to implement. We’ve left out some that are unlikely to be implemented locally, like allowing hunters to take swan as game:

  • Capture and kill them.  This, of course, is the plan that has received the most attention. This plan is simple enough: authorize the DEC to conduct mute swan control on any accessible public or private lands in the state. This plan will be emphasized downstate, in the Lower Hudson Valley and Long Island, and especially near airports – making Sheepshead Bay a prime target. Any swans removed will be euthanized. Nests will be destroyed, and eggs will be oiled or punctured.
  • Feeding is bad. User “sadeyes” commented on the last article and wrote that “the problem is not the swans, but the humans who constantly overfeed them,” a sentiment that is similar to the government’s. In the DEC’s plan, they write that part of the mute swan problem is that people provide them “with supplemental feeding,” and the DEC hopes to combat this with a public information campaign, and new laws that prohibit the feeding of swans.
  • Prevent flight and sex.At 20 to 25 pounds and a wing span of nearly seven feet, adult mute swans are the biggest bird in the state, according to the DEC. They often migrate and the DEC wants to prevent that by removing a bone in their wings to prevent flight, a process known as pinioning. With over 2,200 swans in the state that they would have to pinion, pinioning seems a little too resource intensive to be used for the majority of the population. They also seek to pursue sterilization, and egg oiling.
  • No more selling a swan. The DEC wants to make it illegal for people to sell and buy swans. This goes back to ultimately eliminating wild swans by preventing people from releasing bought mute swans back in the wild.
  • Allow for the adoption of free-ranging mute swans. While pursuing a ban on the importation of mute swans, the DEC is also proposing that those who wish to own them obtain a license and capture them from the free-ranging population. Adopted swans would then have to be pinioned or sterilization, and permanent markings.

These strategies are supported by the field research of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation from 2004-2007. The underlying reasoning is that mute swans live a damaging lifestyle.

Our community seems to have a lot to say about these swans. There are a number of petitions going around, but the best way to be heard on this issue is to directly comment on the plan using the Department of Environmental Conservation’s methods.

Deadline for comments is February 21. You can write to: NYSDEC Bureau of Wildlife, Swan Management Plan, 625 Broadway, Albany, NY 12233-4754 or by e-mail to fwwildlf@gw.dec.state.ny.us (please type “Swan Plan” in the subject line).

Photo by Brian Hoo

The water gently lulls as the seagulls echo each other and the swans create the soft ripples that circle outwards towards idyllic sidewalks filled with baby strollers and joggers wearing winter gloves.

The picturesque Sheepshead Bay waterfront might lend itself to such poetry now, but if the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation gets its way, we might have to omit those iconic swans.

The DEC issued a report in December 2013 called the “Management Plan for Mute Swans in New York State,” in which the particular species of swan – mute swan, hailing from Europe – are considered “invasive species.” Although they have been in North America since the late-1800s, and failed to garner much complaint from pretty much anybody, the agency has instituted a timeline for their removal.

In the more than a century that they’ve been here, the mute swan population has flourished in Sheepshead Bay, and even become a much commented upon icon of its waterfront. Statewide, there are about 2,200 mute swans, according to the report.

The DEC claims that the mute swans have caused problems “including aggressive behavior towards people, destruction of submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV), displacement of native wildlife species, degradation of water quality, and potential hazards to aviation.”

But some New Yorkers, like these involved with a Change.org petition feel this is “wrong—it is cruel, and not how New Yorkers want our taxpayer dollars spent.”

The Change.org petition notes that the DEC’s “outline for management seeks complete and total decimation of the species by the year 2025.”

This announcement follows the euthanized geese at Jamaica Bay and the decision, since reversed, to shoot Snowy owls out of the sky around New York airports.

You can sign the petition here.

– Vanessa Ogle

File:JamaicaBay2778.JPG

(Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Rockaway Beach Assemblyman Phillip Goldfeder announced last week that a project to restore and maintain Jamaica Bay’s wildlife reserve, a sprawling 18,000-acre wetland estuary, has won a $400,000 from the Regional Economic Development Council for habitat restoration.

The project, Jamaica Bay Habitat Restoration and Waterfront Revitalization, will not only be used to protect wildlife but also to protect the coast from future hurricanes. Goldfeder explained this plan to The Forum,

“Jamaica Bay has been a longtime community gem, but its breathtaking views and grassy marsh also serve a significant purpose — storm protection,” Goldfeder said in a prepared statement. “Jamaica Bay contains natural barriers that have proven to be more effective than any man-made sea wall or levee. This funding toward Jamaica Bay will not only help attract visitors and increase economic development, but it will enable our community to become more resilient against potential future storms.”

The grant will be administered by the city Parks Department along with the city Department of Environmental Protection.

Source: Williams

As we recently reported, the proposed construction of the Rockaways Pipeline Project crossed another hurdle towards reality when President Obama recently signed H.R. 2606, approving the measure that would connect a 3.17-mile natural gas line from the Atlantic Ocean underneath Jamaica Bay to a meter and regulating station in Floyd Bennett Field. The proposed project, which still needs the approval of the Federal Energy Regulation Commission, is still facing harsh and growing concern from residents, environmentalists, and local politicians, especially in the light of the devastation wrought by Superstorm Sandy, according to a report in the Gotham Gazette.

The report, which details much of what we’ve previously covered, highlights the new argument against the pipeline, growing from concerns over the risks and dangers of building a natural gas pipeline in an area already devastated by Sandy.

The damage Sandy visited upon Jamaica Bay was summed up by Dan Mundy, vice-president of Jamaica Bay Eco-Watchers,

“The Bay has taken a big hit,” [Mundy] added that “tremendous amounts” of fuel oil and debris had entered Jamaica Bay as a result of the storm, and that two freshwater ponds had breached “in a very dramatic fashion.” Mundy explained that tides had flushed out much of the oil, but he added that the post-storm period was a “critical time for mitigation”.

Local politicians have also begun speaking out against the project since the events of Superstorm Sandy. U.S. Representative Yvette Clarke emailed the Gotham Gazette stating, “Our need for independent energy cannot precede the safety of our community and environment.” State Senator Joseph Addabbo stressed the importance of  helping people of the local community recover from Sandy over starting a massive new pipeline project saying, “Doing this simultaneously with Sandy becomes a daunting task. People are trying to get their lives back.”

Another major concern are the changes that will be heading to Floyd Bennett Park should the project proceed. Karen Orlando, a local resident and member of the Floyd Bennett Garden Association told Gotham Gazette that, “This bill puts a pipeline under a popular beach and introduces private industrial use of a federal park, and it does so with no public input,” and that an “industrial infrastructure,” placed in Floyd Bennett field itself, “a couple hundred of feet from a community garden used by four to five-hundred members and their families,” would have negative impact as well.

Source: Williams

Issuing what appears to be the final nail in the coffin for opponents of the proposed natural gas Rockaway Pipeline Project, President Obama signed the New York City Natural Gas Supply Enhancement Act (H.R. 2606) this past Tuesday. Obama’s signature paves the way for the commencement of the project, which now only needs the approval of the Federal Energy Regulation Commission, according to a report by WYNC.

The proposed construction of the pipeline has faced fierce criticism from environmentalists who gathered thousands of signatures in opposition to the pipeline, and led dozens of protests.

The plan calls for a 3.17-mile pipeline connecting an existing line in the Atlantic through an underground path that cuts through the bottom of the Rockaways and Jamaica Bay to Floyd Bennett Field.

Chris Stockton, a representative of the Williams Companies, which is constructing the pipeline, promises that they will take great care in protecting Jamaica Bay telling WNYC that, “We’re not only burying it underground, but they put concrete mats over the pipe to make sure it doesn’t float to the surface, because you’re filling it with a gas. You want to make sure it doesn’t float.”

Environmentalists are concerned about the a meter and regulation station that will be built on Floyd Bennett Field. They warn that if another storm with Sandy’s power strikes the area, the field and station would be flooded.

 

The proposed placement of natural gas pipelines from Williams and National Grid. Source: Williams

According to the legislative calendar for the House of Representatives, H.R. 2606, better known as the New York City Natural Gas Supply Enhancement Act or the Jamaica Bay pipeline, is set to be voted on today. After the area where the pipeline will be installed was badly damaged due to Sandy, advocates against the pipeline warn that a major storm could happen again, and with the pipeline there the consequences could be far worse than ever before.

The proposed construction of this pipeline has been marred by dozens of protests and thousands of anti-pipeline petition signatures. Now that they’ve seen Sandy’s aftermath, advocates against the pipeline have added another reason not to ahead with construction to their list.

The Coalition Against the Rockaway Pipeline (CARP) writes:

It’s complete insanity to build a high-pressure gas pipeline and metering station in an area that has just been destroyed by Hurricane Sandy, and will REGULARLY experience such events, or worse, in the decades to come. We don’t need this gas — we need to stop climate change and switch to renewables.

This bill permits construction of a gas pipeline in a national park – right next to a wildlife refuge that is home to a dozen endangered and threatened species; right under a public beach that is used by thousands of New Yorkers every year; and right by the largest community garden on the East Coast.

In the wake of the Hurricane Sandy stopping this bill is imperative. The bill authorizes construction of a high-pressure gas pipeline and metering station in an area that has just experienced major flooding and fire – and will do so again as the oceans rise because of climate change. Thousands of lives could be jeopardized in the event of another hurricane or storm surge.

They urge others to join them in their opposition of the pipeline by calling local congressmembers Tuesday morning and telling them to vote “no” on H.R. 2606.

You can find your congressperson’s Washington number by going here.

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