ASK A SWAN SPECIALIST
THE QUESTION by Guest Vanessa Lamot
Mute swans can be beneficial to their ecosystems, but does your foundation support removing them from areas where they have become invasive (particularly New York)? Isn’t it more important to protect native species than it is to try to save an invasive? Many groups are calling for their protection purely for their aesthetic value regardless of how harmful they have become to species like the Black Tern and I just wanted to get your opinion on this.
THE ANSWER to Vanessa
We are one of the main groups trying to keep the New York DEC from killing Mute Swans. Mute Swans are not and never have been an “invasive species”, but rather labeled such so that the public would go along with the killing program designated by wildlife officials and hunting groups. Fact: There never has been an environmental impact assessment or a collaborative systemic count of Mute Swans in the U.S. (this statement was provided by federal and state wildlife officials at the 2014 International Swan Symposium). FACT: A federal court ruled in 2004 that a National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) study must be conducted prior to the killing of any Mute Swan in the U.S. FACT: In 2017, a non-partisan study conducted by Hudsonia, LLC, an environmental organization used by the NY DEC in many environmental studies, found that Mute Swans were not an “invasive species”, detrimental to the habitat or any more aggressive than any other species. FACT: The negative misrepresentation of Mute Swans by NY DEC and other federal/state wildlife officials could not be substantiated.
Federal wildlife officials and hunting groups (Audubon (yes the executive director of Audubon stated in a Wall Street Journal Article that Audubon was becoming more of a hunting and trapping organization), Sierra Club, Ducks Unlimited enacted a counter suit to the 2004 court to remove the Mute Swans from protection with the new tactic of stating that Mute Swans were not native. The court ruled that the Mute Swan was a swan under the constraints for the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) and with the US Wildlife Services admittance that Mute Swans were migratory, the Mute Swans were to be protected.
Maryland began killing the Mute Swans (“under the radar from the public, media and politicians with no NEPA study as directed by the court—statement made by Maryland DNR officials at the 2014 International Swan Symposium). Yet, these Maryland officials proceeded to kill the Mute Swans in Chesapeake Bay based upon no scientific justification. No reliable valid research study was every conducted, but a group of wildlife officials, state and federally paid biologists began the systematic anecdotal misrepresentation of Mute Swans as being Non-native (there are actual Mute Swan like fossils found throughout North America), that they were invasive (no NEPA or any other environmental impact assessment was ever conducted to establish this fact, only anecdotal misrepresentation by state and federal wildlife officials. This began the killing of the Mute Swans across the U.S.
Then, in 2004, a group of unscrupulous legislators illegally passed a bill under an Omnibus Appropriations Bill on the last day of Congress that supposedly reformed the MBTA (The Migratory Bird Treaty Reform Act of 2004). Immediately upon signage of the Omnibus Appropriations Bill, US Wildlife Officials immediately released a public notice in the Wildlife Register that Mute Swans and 836 other Bird Species could be removed from the MBTA. The problem with this Reform Act was that it was illegally passed outside the legal scope of how a Treaty is to be modified and President Bush never ratified the Act nor other member countries of the Treaty. Bottom line, the MBTA Reform Act of 2004 does not exist because it was never ratified and is basically a moot point.
However, from 2004 until the present, the MBTA is being violated by the killing of Mute Swans and removal of 836 other bird species. The Obama Administration and many other public officials were notified of this fact and they continued violating the Treaty with a “yes we know”. Not one animal advocacy group other than The Regal Swan Foundation, brought this information to the public and politicians and not one other than The Regal Swan Foundation, has been willing to state that this is an international violation of a Treaty.
This taxpayer based hoax began approximately 20+ years ago when unscrupulous wildlife officials and hunting groups began the meticulous and collaborative efforts to remove Mute Swans from their habitats. The reason: to introduce the larger Trumpeter Swans so that this larger species could be used for Trophy Waterfowl hunting. Trophy Waterfowl hunting permits are more expensive than regular waterfowl hunting permits (i.e., ducks) and are being used to maintain and enhance hunting populations which are rapidly declining. This decline has caused wildlife budgets to drop dramatically and there has been a concerted effort on federal and state wildlife officials to enhance and maintain hunting opportunities to maintain status quo wildlife budgets. The problem with this strategy is that less than 7% of the population hunt and taxpayers are ultimately paying for these programs. Even though wildlife officials state that hunters and gun sales pay for these programs, current studies show that actual funding comes from taxpayers and excise taxes on boats. Another reason to remove swans is so that waterways can open for skiing, jet-skiing, boating etc.
The US Wildlife Service has stated that less than 7% of the population hunts, $65 billion dollars are generated from hunting activities while $550 billion dollars are generated from non-hunting activities such as kayaking, photography, feeding and observing wildlife. Clearly, you can make more money off a live animal from many people to fund and enjoy than to kill one animal and lose the potential for future monetary gain. The use of wildlife as a commodity to kill rather than save and have many people fund is a strategy that wildlife officials are not smart enough to realize.
As far as Black Terns, there has never been a reliable valid scientific study showing that Mute Swans were responsible for any detrimental influence. FACT: The NY DEC in their Mute Swan killing program, admitted that they saw no detrimental effect on Black Terns by Mute Swans. In the late 90’s, Maryland biologists used anecdotal information to blame Mute Swans regarding Black Terns, but again no reliable valid scientific study was ever conducted and in 2016, wildlife and other officials stated that the loss of subaquatic vegetation (SAV) was directly impacted by leaking septic tanks, run-off pollution from animal waste farms and other run-off (a fact that was known in 2000 while the Mute Swan killings were continuing based upon the misrepresentation that they were responsible for SAV loss). This loss of SAV habitat was directly attributed to Black Tern issues.
The Invasive Species of Act of 1992 was based upon the premise of preventing aquatic species from being introduced into the ballasts of ships into U.S. waters. The major species that was to be prevented from entering U.S. waters was the Zebra Mussel because it costs millions of dollars to unclog Electrical plants and their intake valves. Then, because this was an instant money making tool to monitor, prevent, and remove the mussels, unscrupulous politicians and wildlife officials began the point of introducing other species, such as the Rock pigeon, starlings, etc. This list has now expanded to other species whether there is or has ever been any environmental impact assessment conducted. Basically, if someone does not like a certain species, they can be labeled as “invasive” if enough people get behind the effort and billions of dollars are allocated to monitor, prevent and control these species. Point: If you look at the list of “invasive species” it has exponentially expanded since 1992 and now includes Cardinals, brown pelicans, etc., while starlings and rock pigeons are now de-listed because (according to wildlife officials), they cannot control their numbers even though millions of dollars have been spent to try and do so. In some instances, zebra mussels have been de-listed because wildlife officials are now having to admit that the zebra mussels have actually improved water quality in some of the most polluted waterways in the nation.
In the 2014 book by Ken Thompson, Where Do Camels Belong, invasive species and the amount of money spent for a non-existent problem is addressed. Follow the money. Camels actually originated in Florida, but if a camel were returned to Florida, it would immediately be labeled as non-native and invasive.
Look at the invasive species problem from the government’s perspective. There are billions of dollars that are appropriated for monitoring, prevention, control and removal of “invasive species”, so it is very profitable to find a species that supposedly doesn’t belong (even though scientific studies show that a native species can have more negative impact on the environment that a non-native species).
The government (federal and state) spends billions of taxpayer dollars annually to control and remove invasive species with many more dollars spent on a marketing campaign alerting the public to the negative aspects of such species. The problem is that federal and state wildlife officials and programs are making money on the backside of this issue.
Take for instance the boa constrictor and the Cane Toad problem in Florida. Boa constrictors, pythons and other such snakes as well as the Cane Toad are listed as an invasive species in Florida and of major concern to native wildlife. Millions of dollars are being spent to control these species. However, look on the back side. Which government entities allowed the introduction and ownership of these species? USDA, US Wildlife Services, Florida Dept. of Agriculture and Florida Fish & Wildlife offer permits (money incoming to the wildlife budget) for individuals to own boa constrictors and pythons. When the snakes get away from their owners and can’t be found, these same officials then fine (more money coming into the budget) these owners and try to find the species (money spent from federal and state wildlife budgets to control the species). Then, when a bigger problem results, state and federal wildlife officials can show that they used the initial “invasive species” money and need more money to further control the problem. If there had been no ownership or importation permits for ownership/pet trade, would there be a problem with these snake species? The Cane Toad was introduced to control insects in the Sugar Cane Industry of Florida. This species was allowed introduction by the USDA and Florida Dept. of Agriculture. Now, the Cane Toads are spreading, causing problems and the taxpayer is being asked to clean up the problem that could have been prevented from their “legal” introduction.
Look at the issue in New York. Audubon and Cornell University back the labeling of Mute Swans as an invasive species. Remember (Audubon) is now a hunting and trapping organization. Cornell University receives millions of dollars for housing and maintaining the Invasive Species program. Yet, not one of these entities that are so concerned about Mute Swans will acknowledge that U.S. and state wildlife officials introduce hundreds of thousands of species that are listed as “invasive species” into the environment on a yearly basis.
Hundreds of Chukar partridges and Asian Ring-necked pheasants are hatched in federal and state poultry farms, vaccinated against parasites and then released into the environment for hunting purposes. Scientific studies show that parasites are shed into the environment from the poultry raised birds even though vaccination has occurred. Furthermore, since the poultry raised birds are not vaccinated against other pathogens, they can and do pick up zoonotic diseases from the environment. Once released into the environment, these birds are then used for hunting permits.
Finally, hundreds of thousands of European Brown Trout are raised in state and federal fish hatcheries throughout the U.S. Then, the fish are released into the environment. These fish are listed as one of the top 100 invasive species in the world because they use habitat from native salmon, trout and other fish species. European Brown Trout are vectors for “Whirling Disease” which can be detrimental to native fish. Yet, Whirling Disease is now found in New York and other areas that the European Brown Trout has been introduced for Trophy Fishing permits.
Again, not one word from Cornell University of Audubon about the introduction of these “invasive, non-native species”. The reason:, both receive grants from state and federal government funding and would not dare buck multi-million dollar poultry, hunting, fishing, hatchery industries. So, as you can see, there is an unbelievable amount of taxpayer money funding the “invasive species” cash cow.
US and state wildlife officials have lied from day one about the issue of Mute Swans being killed so that Trumpeter Swans could be used for hunting purposes. In 2014, US Wildlife Services issued a hunting permit to native Americans to hunt Trumpeter Swans for religious purposes. This, after taxpayers spent billions of dollars to kill Mute Swans and introduce Trumpeter Swans. Immediately, following this permit issuance, hunting organizations began asking biologists when the Trumpeter Swans numbers would be sufficient to open a general hunting season for Trumpeter Swans.
Yet, the MBTA specifically states that no swan can be hunted except the Tundra Swan by indigenous people of Alaska. This portion of the MBTA was ratified by Clinton and other members of the Treaty in 1994. Since that time, no other ratification of the Treaty has ever occurred, so that means that if any Trumpeter or any other swan species is allowed to be hunted in the U.S., we are again in violation of the international Treaty.
Finally, U.S. and state wildlife officials attend Flyway meetings held throughout the U.S. These public owned areas are used for hunting and fishing, with hunting the primary emphasis. At no time, is any private citizen allowed to attend these closed door meetings with hunting organizations such as Ducks Unlimited, Audubon and other hunting/trapping organizations. Decisions are made as to how many and what species can be hunted on an annual basis. Again, not one taxpayer is allowed to have any voice in these meetings. When asked the cost of their attendance, wildlife officials state that hunting/gun revenues help offset their expenditures. If you look on the Flyway websites, there is little information on who is maintaining the Flyways, the cost of maintenance, listing of any entities state or federal officials in attendance and when the meetings are conducted. A clear point that wildlife officials do not want the taxpayers to know what is being discussed at these meetings or have any input on the decisions made.
Each time taxpayers have funded “endangered species reintroduction”, i.e., black bear, grizzly bear, Trumpeter Swans, etc., hunting has resulted to control “the exponential expansion of numbers by these species.” It is time to call out politicians and wildlife officials for their misfeasance of taxpayer dollars and misuse of wildlife habitat and species management. Any of the information in this response can be found through research and public records. And, this is how we feel about the false “invasive species” labeling of Mute Swans. The Regal Swan