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Drones, Pilots Descend on County Executive's Office to Outline Non-Lethal Deterrents at Airport


August 20, 2014

Kiley Blackman

USDA under Scrutiny as Airport Advocates Seek Technology instead of Slaughter

Westchester County, NY - Several aviation experts, advocates and area residents will meet with top airport and Westchester County officials on August 20, 2014 at 4 PM per experts' schedule, at the office of the Westchester County Executive, 148 Martine Ave in White Plains, 9th Floor, to request the airport forgo its policy of killing birds in favor of more modern and effective technology.  A conference of this nature has never been held before in NY.  

The result of a recent FOIA request to the USDA revealed documents that showed the airport is still killing a number of birds, including geese, sparrows and starlings, to avoid 'bird strkes', which they freely admit to; but the fact is other airports have abandoned this ineffective method in favor of modern technology and even simple landscaping

It is commonly thought that Capt. Sullenberger of 'Miracle on the Hudson' fame which involved a bird strike, supports geese slaughter - but he does not.  A National Geographic article entitled 'Bloody Skies: The Fight to Reduce Deadly Bird-Plane Collisions' clearly states Sullenberger does not support bird slaughter: 'Sullenberger defers to Yossi Leshem, a senior researcher in Tel Aviv University's zoology department. Leshem's research has helped the Israeli Air Force dramatically reduce bird strikes through non-lethal means, which consist of avian radar, motorized gliders and drones.'

At the meeting will be noted pilot, aviation expert and longtime aviation advocate Ken Paskar.  Mr. Paskar is the Aircraft Owners & Pilots Association’s (AOPA) Airport Support Network Volunteer for Westchester County Airport.  AOPA is the largest aviation organization in the world representing over 400.000 pilots and aircraft owners worldwide.  Mr. Paskar is also President of Friends of LaGuardia Airport and is on the Legislative Committee for the New York Aviation Management Association based in Albany.  Paskar is also a sought after expert on aviation issues from local and national news services and elected officials at all levels of government.  Accompanying him will be Steven Taber of Taber Law Group, one of the nation’s foremost experts in aviation and environmental law. Mr. Taber represented Ken Paskar in several Federal and State actions  including the Federal lawsuit last year to prevent the FAA from closing over 150 contract control towers nationwide and the furloughing of air traffic controllers due to sequestration.  Mr. Taber is a former FAA attorney now in private practice in Irvine, CA.

According to Ken Paskar, some pertinent information has been withheld thus far:  “It is very likely that Westchester County has contracted with the USDA Wildlife Services (WS) to conduct Wildlife Hazard Assessments (WHA) at Westchester County Airport in violation of FAA’s guidance pursuant to FAA’s Program Information Memorandum #3 (PIM3).  However, I don’t believe there was any wrong doing on the part of Westchester County because this is a highly technical and complicated process and they would have had to rely heavily on the FAA and the USDA for assistance.  The USDA should have provided Westchester County with this information and advised them to solicit qualifications from the private sector because the WA is a government entity and not a firm and may not be considered in the qualifications selection process.  Since the WA must provide the oversight of the WHA and wildlife mitigation measures I feel contracting with the WA is clearly a conflict of interest.  The WA as a government agency should not do the work then have oversight over their own work.  Westchester Airport’s management team is undeniably one of the finest in the nation.  They’re commitment to safety, the environment and its stakeholders is second to none and I am confident that our meeting with the County will be extremely productive“

The fact is, pilot error accounts for the vast majority of collisions; air traffic controllers and weather conditions make up the remaining bulk - bird strikes represent only the tiniest portion of accidents (http://www.planecrashinfo.com/cause.htm)

In addition, local governments and private ranchers have little incentive to try nonlethal methods of predator control when they can buy federal lethal control at a fifty-percent discount; as for Wildlife Services’, its budget and staffing becomes captive to securing cooperator agreements.  Thus, an agency which should be serving the public interest gets transformed into a private pest control business, operating on the public dole (NRDC 'Switchboard' 12/4/13)

Also at the meeting, Rob Guadagno will demonstrate his Geesebusters method that uses a decoy predator and whistle training for non-lethal disbursal.  In addition we will be joined by David Karopkin, who founded GooseWatch NYC as a result of the USDA's needless slaughter of geese at Jamaica Bay Wildlife 'Refuge' and NYC parks, on the pretense of 'air traffic safety' - slaughters which have been done despite NYC's ill-advised decision to to build a waste transfer station, which is a bird attractant, near LaGuardia airport.  

Kiley Blackman, founder of Westchester4Geese and the organizer of this meeting, said,  'The head of airport mgmt said he is 'very satisfied' with the USDA use of bird slaughter as a control; we are not.  We are Westchester residents and taxpayers who want zero lethal methods.   We have purchased drones for visual aid show-and-tell, and a mock predatory peregrine bird that has a robotic version in the works.   The USDA perpetrates this supposed 'need' for slaughter to give the appearance of 'something being done' while they get enormous amounts of taxpayer dollars to do keep doing the same useless activity, especially in light of the fact that nature abhors a vacuum, meaning more birds will come as others are slaughtered.    It's time for change - its time the airport stop relying on negligent information from the USDA and denying technological advances...as well as granting advocates' desire for an end to 'bloody skies' at airports.' 

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