2010-08-13 / Columnists

It’s My Turn

By Jerry Berlin

Jerry Berlin is a Rockaway resident who is interested in environmental issues.

Who Killed the Canada Geese of Riis Park?

You might remember as you drove over the Gil Hodges Memorial Bridge towards Rockaway, that there were hundreds of geese grazing on the wonderful lawns that surrounded the park.

Often you had to slow down to avoid these birds that would fly in over Rockaway Inlet to feed and breed in this area. They were a spectacular sight and if you listened attentively you could hear them honking and calling to each other as if in conversation. That rhapsody of sound was unlike any other wild sound within the confines in a city of asphalt and concrete that is New York.

Since June of 2010, you may have asked yourself the question, what’s happened to these magnificent birds? I don’t see them anymore. New York State and the Department of Agriculture have decreed that these flocks of birds are an endangerment to the airways and consequently decided to destroy them. Were they part of the flock in Prospect Park that was rounded up and gassed to death or a separate killing that our government hasn’t admitted to yet? The state is slow in answering these questions.

What is clear is that approximately 400-500 birds were destroyed in The Prospect Park massacre. Another 300- 400 birds are missing from Riis Park. You might think that New York State and the Department of Agriculture would figure out a way to use the meat as food for people in need but New York State is now telling us that the meat might not be safe. Wait a minute; they’ve been issuing permits to hunt these birds up and down the East Coast for 50 years, now they’re not safe.

Something isn’t kosher.

So what happened to the birds? They dumped them in a plastic garbage bags and stuck them in a landfill, about as tragic and abrupt an ending to the story as you could write.

If your Audubon Society inclinations haven’t been riled up by the state’s ex cathedra decision to exterminate this breed of bird without so much as a notice let alone a meeting with the general public, well you ain’t heard nothing yet. Along comes a proclamation from N.Y. State that this fall, they will kill an additional 170,000 geese. Yes as in, one hundred seventy thousand geese. The quote attributed to Stalin was if you kill one decent and moral man for a political reason that is a tragedy. If you kill a thousand it’s merely a statistic.

Maybe the state is acting in the same way. If they kill a thousand birds and there is only a little backlash, let’s kill 170,000. What can the people do? Most of the birds will be gassed; thousands of eggs will be destroyed. There’s a good chance your children or their children will never see a V formation of geese flying in low over Jamaica Bay during a harvest moon with the sky sparkling with stars and the lead goose honking to his wingmen to tighten the formation before they land in the bay. But then maybe that’s a picture for the poet and the thinker who holds truths to be self evident.

What is truly troublesome is that there is no recourse. These decisions are made in an office by men who were appointed by other men. They don’t see the big picture and they are not accountable to anyone. If they were wrong someone else will get their job tomorrow. Heck, we don’t even know that it’s happening. This represents government at its worst. Anonymous decisions made by people who are not accountable, living in a vacuum. We’ll find out tomorrow what happened today. A little piece of our lives was taken from us in June. An important part that connects us to all that’s wild. It can never be returned. It was taken without our permission or knowledge and we don’t even know what will happen next.

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