Sunday, July 17, 2011

GooseWatch 2011 Nears End

As the Canada Geese like these in Prospect Park start to test their flight feathers, as I understand, this will be the last week of round-ups in NYC parks. I was told there are still 3 parks on the list. We have a few parks where we suspect these round-ups may occur, and we are going to be there in case this is the case, but there is no guarantee our efforts will lead to documenting or preventing a round-up. We also know now that USDA agents are accompanied by Parks Department PEP officers, so that anyone "interfering" with a round-up can be quickly arrested. We will do what we can to protect NYC geese, but it seems our window of opportunity is nearly closed.

This was always the goal of GooseWatch: to document, and if possible, prevent a round-up, which are done in secret.

A simple goal that required a lot of coordination:

Step 1 - Put together GooseWatch team
Step 2 - Organize a Schedule
Step 3 - Create a Mass Alert System (like
Step 4 - Pack supplies: video / digital camera, cell phone, noise makers
Step 5 - Wait for USDA

...but it was worth it. I couldn't sleep knowing that the Prospect Park geese might be rounded up in the early hours of one hot summer morning, and no one would be there to see it happen. I am so grateful that the community rallied around the idea of a stake-out, and that we were able to protect the Prospect Park geese.

I am also proud that we have created a model which might be implemented in other areas where geese are under threat.

Our work is not nearly done, but so far I am incredibly impressed with and proud of the success of GooseWatch, both in terms of protecting the Prospect Park geese, 35 of whom remain at peace, and attracting public and media attention to the brutally inhumane round-ups, which are potentially extremely dangerous to public safety, and in violation of the democratic process, unilaterally denying rights of animals to live, and people like myself to appriciate such life.

Once the round-ups are behind us in NYC, you'll still find me in Prospect Park, and when possible I will continue to visit parks around the city where we have found geese (and other animals) living in peace, but my focus will shift towards the legal and political battle ahead of us to fight and stop the attack on Canada geese, and all wildlife.

Friday, July 8, 2011

2011 Round-ups Underway

Not a very celebratory Fourth of July for Canada Geese in NYC.

Americans celebrated our independence and freedom this past weekend, while as expected, the USDA began Canada goose round-ups in NYC. Specifically we know the USDA rolled through Inwood Hill Park on Tuesday, June 28, 2011 (at around 9:30 am) for 20-30 geese and goslings. Later in the week they hit Marine Park Golf Course and other parks in Staten Island.

Unfortunately there were no eyewitnesses with cameras present at these round-ups, so there we have no way to prove or show exactly how brutal the operation was. We are left to best guesses and educated speculation (and naturally we can only assume the worst).
Images sent to me by Jim Pfeil, Delafield, WI – June 20, 2011

The goal of “GooseWatch” is simple: to be at a round-up site and document the USDA operations which they prefer to remain clandestine, and for most people not to know much about. In the instances we have been able see images of round-ups being conducted across the country, we know these are cases of extreme animal cruelty.

The government intends to conduct their operations without any oversight or public witnesses. We need help, and not only from neighbors of Prospect Park, but all across NYC.

“Hands Around the Lake” – March 26, 2011

Since the 2010 massacre, neighbors of Prospect Park have united to do what we could to understand what factors led to the decision to come to our park last year, and what we could do to prevent a repeat occurrence.

These yearlong efforts also attempted to keep the population of Prospect Park geese “under control.''

Last week, on the day we rallied, pamphleted, and gathered signatures outside the gates of City Hall, a last minute announcement from the DEP cleared our park from the round-ups, but announced that 800 others would be rounded up.

Operation “GooseWatch” seems to have been successful, at least in part, to deterring the USDA from coming back to Prospect Park to conduct round ups in 2011. But our community remains concerned about the other 800 geese across the city.

Over the past year, we have learned a great deal about the facts surrounding goose removal program in New York City, and beyond. I believe we could fill a book (and a film - link) to cover the history of geese and human relations in North America, and the lies (or distortions of truth) we have been told by the government and media - about the “War on Geese.” Also unfortunately, the public is ill informed about even who and what geese are. We have come to understand the battle we are fighting and (some of) the forces we are up against. As previously said, they made a mistake coming to Prospect Park last year, they awoke a sleeping giant. We are now determined to protect geese anywhere we can, any way we can.

While the passionate and determined local community continues to keep our eyes on Prospect Park, we are hoping people all across NYC go to their local parks, photograph the geese, get to know them – and your neighbors, and do what you can to make sure someone is there when the USDA rolls through with their trucks, kayaks, crates and cages.

We know the goose round ups are cruel and unusual; we have seen it in other places. Only footage of these round-ups can provide us the ammunition we need to convince our fellow New Yorkers that it is WRONG for the government to unilaterally decide that there are “too many” geese, for any reason that can be most easily justified (in this case the false pretense of “air safety”), and hire the USDA to carry out their brutal round-ups on our publicly shared (and sometimes private) land.

Please, if there are geese living in a park near you, and the park falls within the ambiguously determined 7 mile zero tolerance radius (or even if not), please visit as often as possible between 6am and 12pm, when round ups are expected to take place, and please make sure to bring a camera.

Please email, people from all across NYC are getting in touch with us, and we would like to be able to match people who live near one another to combine efforts and increase intercommunication.

My comment / response to the article this week, “Goosewatch is (Still) On Duty”:

I live about a mile from Prospect Park and for a few years I have been biking around the park before work, usually from about 7:30 – 8:30am. So for me, what is described by Ms. Brown is not a major lifestyle change. It’s actually very enjoyable. Instead of racing around to get a few miles in before work, I take an extra hour or two and actually enjoy the park which is teeming with life. Knowing there are always 5-10 other neighbors who are doing the same, and on-call ready to fill in, makes it easy and comfortable. (Personally, I was always kind of impressed with birdwatchers, now I definitely have a new hobby which I am learning lots about. Birds are very graceful and interesting creatures, with complex lives it seems, and I feel blessed to be able to come to Prospect Park, admire them, and enjoy their company.)

The members of “GooseWatch”, are deeply concerned about a number of issues, including but not limited to: the general condition, health and cleanliness of Prospect Park, the welfare of wildlife in all NYC parks, and the air travel safety of all people, including NYC residents, and the millions of individuals that cross our city’s borders every year. These are issues that can only be addressed in a meaningful way by our government – and we are failing / have been failed on all three counts. Perhaps the community has let these problems get out of hand to the point where drastic action was needed on our part. Prospect Park (along with several others in NYC) is a designated wildlife refuge. It should be the job of our civic leadership to protect our parks, and the wildlife living there. Yet, it seems that in the absense of such actions, the responsibility gets picked up by the community. We need our local and federal government agencies to take a proactive stance on this responsibility, not to do the opposite, and allow our parks to become garbage dumps and killing fields. Since the 2010 massacre, neighbors of Prospect Park have been united by our love for geese, wildlife, and LIFE in general, and we are appalled that our taxes and our public park space was taken and used to sponsor brutal and baseless death.

In the time since, we have engaged in research and correspondence with others who have been involved on both sides of the issue for many years. Many of our questions were answered by misdirection, and we have taken a long road to get to where we are today.

While we have much to learn, we have come a long way in understanding the problems at hand, and we would like to share the wealth of information we have accumulated with our neighbors across NYC and beyond, and help them put efforts such as “GooseWatch” in place in their neighborhood parks.


Many members of “GooseWatch” surpass my knowledge and expertise on the subject, but a few key points should be made to address the concerns to my neighbors in NYC, who are not in favor of the goose round ups but, (as I do) fear a repeat of the “Miracle on the Hudson”:

It seem clear that there are serious risks to passenger safety at JFK and La Guardia, but also that these threats do not stem from geese or other birds – which the FAA states account for .068% of fatal accidents out of a million flights, and listed under “other”, far below a host of other possibly preventable causes.

The geese that were struck by Sully’s plane were not NYC Canada geese - they were high-flying long-range migratory birds, and were completely distinct from NYC’s populations. …which is not to say efforts should not be taken to prevent another accident, such as the radar systems which other countries have employed to map bird migration paths, and other techniques which can decrease risk. Even Sully himself acknowledged that our sever underfunding of pilots, air traffic controllers, and airplane maintenance, are the biggest impediments to a safe sky.

Meanwhile, no goose has ever brought down a commercial airline anywhere – EVER. And so, without any science to justify their position, or real understanding or acknowledgment of the problems that led to the “Miracle on the Hudson”, such as faulty aircraft, our city government’s response was to bring a violent war against urban wildlife to NYC.

Actually, it seems to me that by removing all the geese from our parks, we may be creating a very dangerous situation which invites more geese from other areas where they are under attack to try to make a home in NYC, and their arrivals will only INCREASE the risk of another accident taking place. In light of the recent NY Times piece about a huge garbage dump attracting all kinds of birds sitting less than a mile from La Guardia airport, it almost seems that we are asking for another accident, and may have created a worse a problem than there ever was.

I really find it hard to believe the decision to kill geese in NYC was borne out of a concern for airline safety, there just is no scientific logic for this, and it simply seems to be a crowd-pleasing rationale that decision-makers are happy to employ. Geese are not being killed only in NYC, but around the country, and it is not only because of airline safety, but for a litany of reasons. Other offenses we have seen used to justify a round up include toxic and uncontrollable poop, and having a long life span.

We understand this is a world of pressing, heartbreaking and important social issues, and we live in time when many people are in great need. However, that understanding does not minimize our local cause. I personally could not feel comfortable with myself just sitting around letting these seriously innocent geese living less than a mile from my home be crated off due to their inconvenience to some people’s productivity and/or irrational fears.

This blog sums up what I am trying to say: