West BloomfieldJune 28, 2012
WB to revisit mute swan issue after concerns, complaints
By Eric Czarnik
C & G Staff Writer
Some West Bloomfield Township Board of Trustees members are sounding less resolute over a mute swan resolution that came up at the June 18 meeting.
The board voted unanimously to have the township attorney write up a resolution allowing the Michigan Department of Natural Resources to conduct a mute swan population control program in West Bloomfield. The program would reportedly target the birds, their eggs and their nests.
Although the proposed resolution was supposed to be modeled after one that Bloomfield Township passed in April, West Bloomfield’s was also supposed to allow subdivisions to vote to opt out of the program.
But a mixture of mistaken assumptions, confusion over the program’s requirements and wildlife activist complaints have led some officials, like Clerk Cathy Shaughnessy, to have second thoughts about the issue.
“Sometimes people make mistakes,” she said. “We’re human.”
Shaughnessy said Township Attorney Gary Dovre contacted her the day after the meeting to raise some concerns he had over the resolution. She said there was confusion over whether 70 percent or more of a lake’s riparian property owners would have to sign a petition favoring the swan program before the DNR could act.
Dovre had originally thought a petition was necessary, but Shaughnessy said she later found that wasn’t true.
“It has to be reconsidered because it is not what the board voted on,” she said.
In addition, township board members received numerous emails from activists protesting the DNR’s program.
Supervisor Michele Economou Ureste said she received around 100 emails about the mute swans. She said she learned after the meeting that the DNR program contains a euthanasia component. She explained that she has lost confidence in the organization ever since it held a mineral rights auction in Michigan earlier this year.
“The DNR should be stewards of our environment,” Ureste said. “After doing more research, (the swans) are not aggressive like the DNR has explained. They’re not as great of a health and safety risk as we have been led to believe.”
The mute swan agenda item was prompted by a complaint from West Bloomfield resident Mandi Mankvitz, who said the birds are aggressive, territorial and not native to the state.
“We have had multiple attacks,” she said at the June 18 meeting. “We just had a man sitting on his jet ski — the jet ski wasn’t even running — with his 7-year-old grandson just this weekend. The swan came up and attacked him and his grandson.”
Mankvitz said the birds’ voracious eating habits and territorial demeanor have negatively affected other wildlife.
“It is chasing away the loons, the native fish, the native ducks and things like that … just like the trumpeter swans have gone,” she said. “Over a period of time, it’s going to change the ecological makeup of the lake.”
Michigan DNR spokesman Edward Golder confirmed that his organization believes mute swans are an aggressive, invasive species that is threatening to native trumpeter swans. He said that with a municipality or a lake association’s consent, the swan control program culls the mute swans through third-party help.
Golder added that the DNR’s program has earned endorsements. “The Michigan United Conservation Club, which is the largest conservation group in the state, supports our mute swan control efforts, as does the Audubon Society,” he said.
Despite the township board’s earlier action, Shaughnessy said the township has not yet signed onto any such resolution for West Bloomfield, and the board will revisit the issue July 16.
To learn more about West Bloomfield, visit www.wbtwp.com or call (248) 451-4800.
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