The Prospect of Goosegate

Goose Gassers Ignored
Own Seven-Mile Rule
On Airport Proximity
Henry J. Stern is the founder and president of New York Civic.
Friday, July 16th, 2010

In the last two days, we received 28 emails in response to our article on the slaughter of the 400 Prospect Park geese because they were viewed as hazardous to air travel.

Our attitude has been not to condemn or to approve the action, which was said to have been taken by the United States Department of Agriculture with the concurrence of local authorities. We want to know more about the decision and the basis on which it was made. Is there a general policy of exterminating Canada geese? Are there reasons for singling out the Prospect Park geese for the mobile gas chamber, followed by the landfill? Does it make any difference if these geese were migratory or non-migratory, or whether they ever left the precincts of the park?

We posted the emails that we received on our blog, you can find them here. They range from readers supporting or condemning the killing of the geese on principle to others seeking more information, which we are finding is not that easy to elicit from the government agencies involved.

We will continue our inquiries, so we can get the facts for you on this matter. We read in the Times where the bodies are buried – in a landfill.

What we do not know is how, why or by whom this gaggle of geese was selected for termination with extreme prejudice. If the standard is proximity to an airport, who draws the lines and on what basis are they determined? The radius from the airport was said to be seven miles in the multi-agency press release, increased from five miles in 2009. Prospect Park was alleged to be between six and seven miles from both LaGuardia and JFK airports.

The determination of distance should be made as the crow (or goose) flies. With the aid of Google Earth, a tool equally available to the authorities, we measured the distance from the Prospect Park Lake to JFK airport at over 9 miles, and to LaGuardia at over 10 miles. We derive from this a certain lack of confidence in government data and a suspicion of ansercide (slaying of ducks and geese, cf. arborcide, the wanton murder of trees - see NY Times, 7/15/10, AFTER ARREST IN ATTACKS ON TREES, THINKING MORE THAN JUST OAKS NEED HELP).

The justification for the removal of geese appears in a June 17 press release from the Department of Environmental Protection, which we link to here. It explains the plan, but does not discuss its execution, either out of squeamishness or fear of public distaste.

The issue of ansercide is also discussed in a New York Times blog today, with two contrary views expressed. One is “Kill Them, Don’t Gas Them” by Steven Garber, CEO of Worldwide Ecology, a consultant to airports, and the other is “Death Isn’t the Answer”, by Sharon Pawlak, Coalition to Prevent the Destruction of Canada Geese. As of this writing, the Times has received 143 comments from readers of its opinion blog. The first one is “Maybe we could kill them and eat them?  After all, we kill many animals to eat, and killing to eat is more justifiable than killing to eliminate a nuisance.”

This controversy is likely to continue. We will keep trying to get the facts for you, which may not be easy in the face of bureaucratic reluctance to discuss the details of the issue. The Prospect Park geese are gone, but nature has great capacity to restore what is snatched from it. We do not believe that Prospect Park will be bereft of geese forever.

And we certainly hope that there is no threat to the Central Park ducks. What would Holden Caulfield say if he knew they were endangered by overeager officials carrying canisters of carbon dioxide?




StarQuest #689 07.16.2010 630 words



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