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New York State Department of Environmental Conservation

Supervisor Ed Romaine, Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro and Suffolk SPCA Chief Roy Gross pose with a 32-inch female American alligator turned in on Amnesty Day. Photo from Brookhaven Town

Long Islanders turned in three American alligators and eight turtles at a recent animal amnesty event in Brookhaven Town, and all of the reptiles are shipping up to a Massachusetts sanctuary.

Brookhaven’s Holtsville Ecology Center hosted the event on Oct. 10 to allow residents to turn in any protected, endangered or threatened animals that require special New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service permits without fear of penalties or questioning. It was the second annual event of its kind for the town, which operated with the help of those two agencies and the Suffolk County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

People with dangerous or illegal animals were able to turn them over to professionals, no questions asked.

Suffolk SPCA Chief Roy Gross called the recent amnesty event a success, saying the three alligators turned in “had the potential of ending up endangering the public.”

According to Brookhaven Town, the average length a fully grown female American alligator is a little more than 8 feet, and a fully grown male can be longer than 11 feet. Of the three alligators turned in, two were males, measuring 27 and 29 inches, and one was a 32-inch female.

“People should think twice before acquiring illegal reptiles or mammals,” Gross said in a statement from the town. “They do not make good pets and you are risking fines and possible jail time.”

At last year’s animal amnesty event, people turned in 25 animals, including a western diamondback rattlesnake, a green anaconda, four boa constrictors, an American alligator and two marmosets.

“These animals were turned in before the people harboring them as pets released them into the wild, creating a potentially dangerous situation in our local communities,” Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro said in a statement about the alligators and turtles turned over this year. “These animals will now receive proper care without posing a threat.”

Owners of potentially dangerous animals have dumped them in public places in the past, creating a public safety issue. In late August, a 25-pound alligator snapping turtle was discovered in a stream of the Nissequogue River opposite the Smithtown Bull on Route 25. The reptile is not indigenous to Long Island — it is a freshwater animal with enough power to bite off a human toe or finger, and is usually found in places from eastern Texas to the Florida panhandle.

“People need to understand that many exotic animals can be very dangerous if not handled properly or allowed to grow to their adult size,” Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) said in a statement. “They are even more threatening if released into the wild, where they could harm people or other animals.”

Some Eaton’s Neck residents have set their sights on terminating deer through bow hunting. Stock photo

Residents of Eaton’s Neck are still divided on how to deal with what they say is an overpopulation of deer in their community, and it looks like the Huntington Town Board hasn’t come to a decision on the matter either.

The board held a public hearing last month to consider allowing longbow hunting during hunting season on private proprieties on Eaton’s Neck and in unincorporated areas of Asharoken to anyone who has a hunting license issued by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. It brought out those in support of the proposal and some against the idea. In interviews this week, board members said they have not currently made up their minds on how to proceed with the issue.

Residents expressed concerns about the deer population at the July 14 board meeting.

“Our major concern is safety — traveling our roads at night is hazardous,” Ken Kraska, a resident of Eaton’s Neck said at the meeting then.

After that meeting, the board hosted a public hearing about the longbow hunting proposal, where nearly 30 people took to the podium to speak about the issue. While some residents were very supportive of bow hunting to reduce the population, others felt it was an inhumane way to deal with the issue.

Some are still divided on this idea.

Doug Whitcomb, an Eaton’s Neck resident and member of the Eaton Harbors Corporation board, said in a phone interview this week that he supports longbow hunting. He spoke at the public hearing last month on the issue.

“We are overrun with deer,” Whitcomb said. “They no longer run from you. I was personally challenged by one yesterday, and not even my 150-pound Great Dane scared the deer.”

Whitcomb said that many of his neighbors now have Lyme disease, and he doesn’t want to wait until a member of his family contracts it before something is done.

“We want the same quality of life as every other resident, and we’re being denied that,” he said.

According to the DEC, which manages the state’s deer hunting, the Long Island deer population has been steadily increasing since the 1980s. The DEC considers hunting, or culling deer, is the most cost-effective and efficient way to stabilize or reduce deer populations, while also alleviating associated damages to private property and natural resources.

Christine Ballow, an Eaton’s Neck resident, said she supports more humane ways to handle this issue. She said she didn’t feel longbow hunting was 100 percent effective.

“I’m hoping this doesn’t go through,” Ballow said in a phone interview.

Wendy Chamberlin, president of the Wildlife Preservation Coalition of Eastern Long Island, also shares the belief that bow hunting is a cruel and ineffective option.

“For sentient animals, that have thoughts and feelings, it is particularly cruel … it is a long, drawn-out, agonizing death,” she said in a previous interview.

Ballow supports hormonal sterilization of the male deer. “It’s a peaceful solution,” she said.

Joe DeRosa, an Eaton’s Neck resident, spoke at both board meetings, and is expecting a decision from the Town Board at the Sept. 16 meeting.

DeRosa is president of the Eaton Harbors Corporation, which conducted a survey of Eaton’s Neck residents. He said 85 percent of residents were found supporting some type of hunting to reduce deer numbers.

“The problem is getting worse by the day,” DeRosa said. “And we are running out of time. Hunting season starts soon. Our hope is that [the board] approves this idea.”

Suffolk County hunting season begins on Oct. 1 and ends on Jan. 31.

Town Board members this week either said they had no comment on the issue or that they had not come to a decision on the matter.

Town Supervisor Frank Petrone said he is “still weighing the testimony from the public hearing and the input from the public that has come in and may still come in before the board meeting,” according to an email from town spokesperson A.J. Carter.

Deer rutting season means more of the animals running out on local roads. Photo by Rohma Abbas

Belle Terre residents are up in arms, or ready to take up arms, over a village government proposal to allow bow hunting as a means of reducing the community’s deer population.

The village board of trustees set a public hearing for Sept. 15 to consider a law amendment that would allow the hunting, a notion that has split the community, with some calling for more “humane” approaches to the issue.

The deer population, in the absence of predators, has increased such that “people are having multiple deer sleeping on their lawns at night and eating all their vegetation,” and making driving in the area more treacherous, Trustee Bob Sandak said in a phone interview this week. “We’ve had an outcry from the population to please do something.”

According to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, which manages the state’s deer, the Long Island deer population has been steadily increasing since the 1980s. It calls hunting, or culling deer “still the most efficient and cost-effective way to stabilize or reduce deer populations and alleviate associated damages to private property and natural resources.”

But calling bow hunting “a very cruel way to kill,” resident Natalie Brett said she worried an injured deer would wander into her yard and die.

Brett said she has noticed the deer population increase and the animals eat her plants, but “I don’t have a problem; I just go with it.”

She said she wants to see a more “humane” approach to the deer, using sterilization to prevent breeding, tick control to prevent Lyme disease, or stop signs to slow down traffic in deer crossing areas.

But her main concern is whether allowing bow hunting will “open the door” to other types of hunting in a residential area.

“I didn’t move to a state hunting ground and put up a sign, ‘You shouldn’t hunt,’” Brett said in a phone interview. “I don’t want my neighbor, if he’s 150 feet from my house, having a hunter come in.”

Sandak said any Belle Terre bow hunting would be subject to the same state regulations as in any other community. Among those regulations are minimum distances from homes where hunting can take place, ruling out smaller properties. Sandak estimated a property would have to be three acres or more to legally support bow hunting.

The DEC said fertility control is not as effective as hunting in managing deer populations and does not “quickly reduce deer-human conflicts.” And Sandak said he would not necessarily count sterilization as a more humane method, as it puts deer under “unnatural stress” and could leave the animal open to infection.

It is also costly to pay for anesthetic and a marksman to hit the deer, and “doesn’t reduce the size of the herd because you’re not taking any of the herd away, as hunting would do,” the village trustee said.

Dori Scofield, founder of Save-A-Pet Animal Rescue and Adoption Center in Port Jefferson Station, confirmed that sterilization is a costly and tricky method that unnaturally stresses out the deer, but she also said she has at least six veterinarians who would donate time to sterilize deer, and the village is small enough to monitor such a program.

Scofield, a Stony Brook resident, also said in an email that having fewer deer would not reduce Lyme disease cases, as other animals like mice and raccoons also carry ticks. Furthermore, killing deer would not necessarily reduce that population, because it would leave more food for deer from neighboring areas to move in and motivate them to procreate.

“Ideally I would like them to leave the deer be,” Scofield said. “We need to protect the animals in our towns.”

Belle Terre is not the only area considering deer hunting as a means to control the population. The Town of Huntington is mulling a similar proposal for parts of Eaton’s Neck and Asharoken, and residents there are equally split.

Scofield said people who move to a wooded area should expect wildlife.

“I have deer in Stony Brook and, yes, they eat my shrubs and I sip my tea and watch them,” she said. “Then I feed them some horse feed and we all go about our day.”

Sandak said he is leaning toward allowing bow hunting in the village because “I don’t have strong feelings against it” and he wants to vote for what the majority of the community wants.

The Sept. 15 public hearing on the amendment to Belle Terre’s code chapter on hunting and firearms starts at 8 p.m. in the Belle Terre Community Center on Cliff Road.

“I would like everyone to come to the public meeting and express themselves,” Sandak said.

A horseshoe crab no more than 4 years old. Photo by Erika Karp

The Brookhaven Town Board has officially backed Supervisor Ed Romaine’s push for a horseshoe crab harvesting ban at town parks and properties.

At a meeting on July 16, councilmembers unanimously supported a resolution that requests the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation close North and South Shore parks and underwater lands to horseshoe crab harvesting and recommends strategies to reduce the harvesting. State Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) also spoke at the meeting and threw in his support for the effort, as it would help protect the crab population — which, according to some reports, has decreased.

“I support this resolution and encourage its passage and compliment the very fact that it has been initiated,” said Englebright, who chairs the Assembly’s Committee on Environmental Conservation.

State Assemblyman Steve Englebright, right, and a local fisherman, left, speak at a Brookhaven Town Board meeting. Photo by Erika Karp
State Assemblyman Steve Englebright, right, and a local fisherman, left, speak at a Brookhaven Town Board meeting. Photo by Erika Karp

In May, Romaine announced he would seek a horseshoe crab harvesting ban for areas within 500 feet of town-owned waterfront properties. Fishermen often use horseshoe crabs for bait, but the crabs are also used for medicinal purposes, as their blue blood, which is worth an estimated $15,000 a quart, is used in the biomedical and pharmaceutical industries to detect bacterial contamination in drugs and supplies.

Advocates for the ban have said the crabs, whose species is 450 million years old, play a vital role in the ecosystem, as birds like the red knot eat the crabs’ eggs.

Local parks covered within the town’s request include Port Jefferson Harbor; the western boundary of the Mount Sinai inlet; underwater lands and town-owned shoreline of Setauket Harbor; and Shoreham Beach.

The DEC already has bans in place at Mount Sinai Harbor and West Meadow Beach.

In addition, the town asked the DEC to consider mandating fishers to use bait bags and/or artificial bait; banning the harvesting of horseshoe crab females; and establishing full harvest bans several days before and after full moons in May and June — the crabs’ nesting season.

Those latter recommendations were not included in the original resolution, but were added after weeks of discussion on the issue.

Local baymen have said their livelihoods would be jeopardized by any further restrictions, and the seamen remained opposed to the resolution last Thursday. Many also disagreed with officials that the crab population was decreasing.

“If you were with us you would know the quantities are there,” Florence Sharkey, president of the Brookhaven Baymen’s Association, said at the meeting.

Sharkey added that alternative baits have been tried, but don’t work.

Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine holds a horseshoe crab as he calls on the state to ban the harvesting of the crabs within 500 feet of town property. Photo by Erika Karp
Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine holds a horseshoe crab as he calls on the state to ban the harvesting of the crabs within 500 feet of town property. Photo by Erika Karp

Despite the testimony, the Town Board moved forward with resolution, which had been tabled for nearly two months. Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) called the decision a difficult one.

During public comment, Englebright invited the fishers to speak before his committee, as the state is wrestling with the issue as well.

The assemblyman introduced legislation in March that would impose a moratorium on harvesting horseshoe crabs and their eggs until 2021. While the bill wasn’t voted on in the last legislative session, a different bill, which outlines similar recommendations to the DEC regarding crab conservation and management, was approved.

Englebright said the law would be revisited in two years. He said he hoped the DEC would get better data on the crabs in the future as well.

While the state continues to grapple with the issue, Englebright noted the town’s requested ban is different, as it pertains to parkland.

“This is a park and public expectation is different than [at] the general shoreline,” he said. “A park is usually a place that animals have the opportunity to have refuge.”

Photo from the health department

Blue-green algae has made some waters in Suffolk County unsafe for residents, according to the county health department.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation reported recently that in seven nearby bodies of water, levels of cyanobacteria, also known as blue-green algae, have exceeded health criteria, according to the Suffolk County Department of Health Services.

While cyanobacteria appear naturally in lakes and streams in low levels, the department said, they can become abundant and form blooms that are green, blue-green, yellow, brown or red in color. The algae can appear in “floating scums on the surface of the water, or may cause the water to take on [a] paint-like appearance.” Contact with those scummy or discolored waters should be avoided.

Currently affected waters include parts of Lake Ronkonkoma; Old Town Pond, Agawam Lake and Mill Pond in Southampton; Maratooka Lake in Mattituck; Kellis Pond in Bridgehampton; and Wainscott Pond in Wainscott.

Lake Ronkonkoma Beach has already been closed to bathing for more than a week, a health department official said on Monday, because test results showed high levels of a different bacteria — E. coli, caused by fowl droppings.

The levels of cyanobacteria and “associated toxins” are particularly high at Agawam Lake, the health department said in a recent press release, so residents should avoid direct exposure to water there.

At all of the affected locations, the health department said, residents should not use the water, and should not swim or wade in it. Officials also advised residents to keep both children and pets away from the areas.

If people or pets come in contact with the affected water, health officials said, they should be rinsed off immediately with clean water. If the affected person experiences symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, allergic reactions, breathing difficulties or irritation in the skin, eyes or throat, he should seek medical attention.

More information about cyanobacteria is available on the county health department’s website.

To report a cyanobacteria bloom at a county beach where bathing is permitted, call the Suffolk County Department of Health Services’ Office of Ecology at 631-852-5760. To report one at a body of water in Suffolk County without a bathing beach, call the Division of Water at the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation at 518-402-8179.

DEC Forester John Wernet addresses the beautification of Patriots Hollow State Forest. Photo by Giselle Barkley

As the North Shore battles both the decline in the number of pollinators and the intrusion of invasive plant species, Three Village residents have taken an interest in developing Long Island’s first state forest.

These residents, alongside members of New York State’s Department of Environmental Conservation and the office of state Assemblyman Steve Englebright’s (D-Setauket), gathered in the Setauket Neighborhood House ballroom on Thursday, June 25, to discuss what is next for the new Patriots Hollow State Forest.

Currently, invasive plant species overrun the 518-acre forest. The DEC’s Region 1 Forester John Wernet and Real Property Supervisor Heather Amster acknowledged the state of invasive plants in the forest and said removing all of these plants from the area is not only impossible but also not feasible.

Residents such as conservation biologist Louise Harrison added to the issue of invasive plants saying that establishing a native plant forest is also problematic.

“It’s very difficult to get a native forest to grow from there,” Harrison. “The soils layers have all been mixed together and you don’t have a usual soil profile that supports the right kind of life.”

Black locust trees are among the most invasive species in the area. While some residents suggested this tree served as a food source for pollinators until more native plants are introduced to the area, other residents such as business owners Steve Carolan and Andrew J Heeran said they believed the tree is misunderstood.

Carolan and Heeran both run a saw mill business and said they thought the black locust tree would help develop the forest.

“Black locust is a wonderful wood for establishing infrastructure, especially in outdoor situations,” Heeran said.

Heeran also proposed creating a woodland forest garden, which would provide local produce for consumption. He said that “scarred areas that have so much human impact” have potential to help the community when guided by a vision.

Harrison suggested the community draft and submit a plan for the forest for the DEC to consider and endorse. But Amster said this might not be possible.

The DEC’s mission does not always align with that of the local community, and Amster said she does not want to anger area residents who contributed to drafting a plan, if their plan is not approved.

Although the forum was the fourth and final opportunity for community members to brainstorm ideas for the forest, residents will have the opportunity to comment on the plan before it is finalized.

Currently, there are no safe entries into the forest due to the overgrowth in plants. According to Amster, the forest will not be developed and ready for the public any time soon. However, she said residents do not need to wait until the DEC approves a management plan for the forest to clean up the property.

Wernet said he is not sure how long it will take to clean up the area or how much it would cost to hire workers to remove heavier objects such as fallen trees within the forest.

DEC Commissioner Joe Martens opened Patriots Hollow State Forest on April 22 of this year in honor of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D) Earth Week initiative.

The DEC purchased the property using funds it acquired from environmental law and regulation violations that were “slated for the Three Village community’s benefit from the Northville spill fines,” according to Three Village Community Trust President Cynthia Barnes.

According to the DEC, the area also provides timber management, watershed protection and a natural habitat for surrounding wildlife. Patriots Hollow State Forest will provide residents with more recreational opportunities year-round. However, Amster said camping or campfires might not be allowed in the forest once it is open to the public.

The DEC may also allow residents to hunt on the property although bow-hunting restrictions may limit the number of bow-hunters on the property. According to Amster, one bow-hunter at a time may be allowed to hunt on the property. However, this was not finalized.

Mute swans peruse the Setauket Harbor waters. Photo by Maria Hoffman

By Susan Risoli

Mute swans might soon have an easier relationship with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, if a bill recently passed through the York State Legislature is signed into law.

The legislation was written to require DEC to provide scientific documentation that mute swans are a threat to the environment. Also, before taking any action to control the state’s mute swan population, the DEC would have to hold at least two public hearings and give the public at least 45 days to comment on its plans for dealing with the birds.

The legislation package passed the state Assembly June 9 and had passed the state Senate on April 22.

Mute swans, a non-native species from Europe, are considered an invasive species, according to the state DEC. Trumpeter swans, also found in New York, are native to the region and are not included in the DEC’s management plan.

The agency’s proposed mute swan management plan, released in March, called for limiting the statewide population to 800 birds. By 2002, there were more than 2,000 mute swans downstate and 200 upstate, the report said.

State Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket), chairman of the Assembly’s Committee on Environmental Conservation, said in a phone interview Tuesday that the mute swan legislation was a response to public concern “that had been raised, particularly about the lack of appropriate science to justify this eradication of a very beautiful animal” that inspires “a sense of curiosity about the environment,” particularly among children.

In April, Englebright and Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz (D-Brooklyn), also a member of the Committee on Environmental Conservation, sent DEC’s Bureau of Wildlife a letter saying the agency disregarded the state Legislature’s requests for “full documentation of the scientific basis for management decisions” and requests for “less reliance on lethal management measures. The DEC has failed to provide compelling scientific information as to why such an aggressive management strategy is being pursued.”

DEC spokesman Jomo Miller said in an emailed statement Tuesday that the agency is reviewing the letter from Englebright and Cymbrowitz “as part of its review of the comments received” on the draft management plan. The DEC hopes to adopt a final plan later this summer, Miller said.

“At that time, we will provide a response to the principal comments received, as we did for comments on the first draft of the plan,” he said.

In an interview, Englebright said the legislation is “not just an exercise in willfulness on our part but an exercise in democracy,” and it reflects “a very high interest” from the public about the fate of the swans.

The legislation would require DEC to “give priority to nonlethal management techniques” for controlling the mute swan population. The proposed plan said it does not advocate any specific method of controlling the population, and because many people object to the use of lethal control methods, especially killing adult birds, the DEC will use “nonlethal” methods where practical and timely to achieve the management objectives, the report said.

Research shows that mute swans “can significantly reduce the availability of submerged aquatic vegetation in wetland ecosystems” depending on the number of swans relative to the size of the area being considered, the spokesperson said.

The DEC said in the draft management plan that mute swans hurt the environment by eating and uprooting large quantities of plants that are food for fish and other wildlife. Swan feces have high levels of coliform bacteria, which can make waters unsafe for drinking, swimming and shell fishing, the document said. Their presence near airports poses “a serious threat to aviation,” the plan said. It also said that territorial swans have been known to attack people and other birds.

Young horseshoe crabs at West Meadow Beach, Stony Brook. File photo

Local fishermen came out to Brookhaven Town Hall last Thursday to let officials know they oppose Supervisor Ed Romaine’s push to limit horseshoe crab harvesting.

Earlier that week, Romaine (R) announced he and the town board would consider urging the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, which regulates the industry, to ban horseshoe crab harvesting within 500 feet of town-owned property in an effort to protect the crab population and allow them a safe place to mate.

Romaine moved to table the idea after hearing the baymen’s concerns.

The 450-million-year-old species are used for bait and in the biomedical and pharmaceutical industries, as their blue blood is used to detect bacterial contamination in products. At a May 19 press conference, officials said if the crab population shrinks, other species — like those that eat the crabs’ eggs — could be negatively affected.

Stony Brook’s West Meadow Beach and Mount Sinai Harbor already have harvesting plans in place, and a ban would broaden the restriction area.

However, the fishermen said the restriction was not based on any facts and the horseshoe crab population is not declining. In addition, they said further regulation would affect their livelihoods.

Ron Bellucci Jr., of Sound Beach, said horseshoe crab harvesting is a vital part of his income. He added that he knows the crabs are important to the larger ecosystem, which he is a part of as well.

“I’m just a man, but I’m a vital part of the food chain and I think I’m at the top,” he said.

According to the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, a partnership between East Coast states to protect fisheries, a 2013 assessment of the horsecrab population showed a decrease in the New York and New England regions, while crabs have increased in the southern states — North Carolina through Florida — and remained stable from New Jersey through coastal Virginia.

David Klopfenstein, of the North Shore Baymen’s Association, urged the board to speak with the DEC before supporting a ban. He said there was a lot of misinformation regarding a very complex issue that is already being controlled.

“It’s also the most well-managed fisheries that we have up and down the East Coast,” he said.

The DEC did not immediately comment on the issue.

This state Department of Environmental Conservation map hilights special groundwater protection property in yellow, which includes a lot in the center on which a North Shore developer hopes to build.

A Setauket-based civic group is drawing a line in the sand as a North Shore developer looks to build three houses on an environmentally sensitive area.

Brookhaven is home to two of Long Island’s nine special groundwater protection areas, designated by the state Department of Environmental Conservation, and Charles Krohn of Windwood Homes, Inc. has applied for variances to divide his land within one of them — in East Setauket near Franklin Avenue and John Adams Street —  into three separate plots. But Shawn Nuzzo, president of the Civic Association of the Setaukets and Stony Brook, argued the town should adhere to existing zoning laws there to protect the area’s aquifer.

The DEC’s special groundwater protection area in question is a large, oddly shaped chunk of land on the North Shore that includes Stony Brook University, St. Georges Golf and Country Club, Ward Melville High School, wooded properties on the southern part of Setauket, pieces of Lake Grove and more.

“[This area] is critical to ensuring the future potability of our underground water supply,” Nuzzo said in a statement read aloud at the April 22 Brookhaven Town Board of Zoning Appeals meeting. “Granting variances to allow for these substandard lots would serve to undermine not only the state environmental conservation law, but also … Brookhaven’s own adopted comprehensive land use plan.”

The civic president said the town granted the area special protection in its 1996 land use plan — the most recently adopted plan to date — because of its environmental significance. In his testimony, Nuzzo asked the town to deny the requested variances solely to protect the environmental standards already in place, adding he was not opposed to development all together.

“If the applicant wishes to develop this property, we recommend they adhere to the town’s existing zoning ordinances,” he said.

Krohn, who lives in East Setauket, purchased the land from the town in September 2014 and said he was looking to build three homes between 3,000 and 3,500 square feet in the same community where Windwood Homes has already been developing for years.

“The houses might, in fact, be smaller than this footprint,” he said at last month’s Board of Zoning Appeals meeting. “These are not sold right now.”

Diane Moje of D&I Expediting Services in Farmingville represented Krohn at the hearing and said the goal was to make three equal lots for development.

East Setauket resident Thomas Cardno has lived near Franklin Avenue for nearly a decade and said he worries that overdevelopment would create a safety risk for young children, referring to the variance proposals as “jamming three homes on there” as a means to maximize profits at the expense of the families in the area.

The cul-de-sacs in the area are too crammed already, he said. “Just put two homes in there and call it a day, at this point.”

Moje, however, said the town has already granted similar variances for other homes in the surrounding area, making the current proposal nothing out of the ordinary.

“This is not out of character and not something this board hasn’t addressed previously, and granted,” she said.

Christopher Wrede of the Brookhaven Town Planning Department reviewed the proposal and said the variances posed no significant environmental impact. The Board of Zoning Appeals held the public hearing open, to get additional information in the coming months.

Following public outcry against a plan to eliminate wild mute swan populations over the next decade, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has released a new draft of its plan that focuses on “nonlethal” methods to control the birds.

Thousands of people, including animal rights advocates and environmentalists, had sent in comments last year on the previous draft of the plan, whose stated long-term goal was “to eliminate free-ranging mute swans from New York State by 2025.” Many took issue with the DEC’s plans to euthanize the adult birds and questioned the validity of the department’s research on mute swans’ impact on the environment.

In addition, state legislators approved a two-year moratorium on any plan to euthanize the swans and required the DEC to “give priority to nonlethal management techniques.”

The first draft of the plan also called for using some swans for zoological purposes and transferring others to people licensed to hold them in captivity.

According to the DEC, mute swans, which have orange beaks and make less noise than other types of swans, can contribute to high fecal coliform bacteria counts on bodies of water used for drinking or swimming. They can also attack humans, which can make them “a serious nuisance and render some land or water areas inaccessible for outdoor recreation during the nesting season.”

There are about 2,200 free-ranging mute swans in New York, the DEC has estimated, and they can be found on Long Island, in New York City and in the lower Hudson Valley and Lake Ontario regions. The population has jumped from where it was in the 1970s, when mute swans numbered fewer than 700.

New York has other species of swan, but mute swans are considered invasive and non-native — they were brought here in the late 1800s and used for ornamental purposes — and thus were targeted for management. The DEC’s goal, as stated in the plan’s most recent draft, is to reduce the mute swan population to its 1980 numbers: fewer than 800 birds.

The DEC has been operating under the same species management plan since 1993, and the new mute swan plan would replace the older one. In preparation for the plan, the DEC conducted research between 2004 and 2008 “to document abundance, survival, reproduction, movements, ecological impacts and management of mute swans in New York.”

Following public backlash of the first draft, the department this month released its new draft of the management plan, which focuses on alternatives to euthanization, and a document responding to public comments it received.

“Because many people object to the use of lethal control methods, especially killing adult birds, DEC will use ‘nonlethal’ methods … where practical and timely, to achieve the management objectives,” the new plan stated. Those methods could include terminating embryos in the swans’ eggs or placing the birds in licensed facilities.

“However, this will require some commitment of funding and assistance from organizations and individuals who wish to see nonlethal options used to the extent possible. Placement and proper care of swans in public parks or other controlled settings can be costly to local governments or communities.”

Despite the emphasis on nonlethal methods, the DEC said in its response to public comments, officials would still resort to lethal methods “wherever immediate removal of birds is necessary to alleviate a site-specific conflict … and live-capture is not practical or no facility is readily available to accept the birds.”

The new DEC plan’s agenda for minimizing the impacts of mute swans on other wildlife and habitats includes increasing public support and awareness; preventing new swans from entering wild populations “through intentional releases, escapes or natural reproduction”; and controlling the number of mute swans on downstate tidal waters.

Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson), one of the legislators who worked to place a moratorium on the swan euthanization, said in a statement last week that the DEC “has heard our concerns and has begun to move in the right direction.”

But the new plan still allows for swans to be eliminated under certain circumstances, and he cautioned that the birds “should only be destroyed as the absolute last resort, and only when they are posing public danger.”

The public can comment on the plan until April 24. Comments can be submitted to [email protected] or to NYSDEC Bureau of Wildlife, Swan Management Plan, 625 Broadway, Albany, NY 12233-4754.