From Peter L. Schappach, Commerce Township:
I am writing in response to the recent letter from Debby Glascock Gentry (“‘Sinister’ swan plan, ” March 16, 2011).
While I fully support the opportunity for every voice to be heard, I have difficulty with misinformation being presented as fact in a public forum, particularly misinformation which may be used by the citizens to influence public policy. To wit, Ms. Glascock Gentry claims in her letter that mute swans are native species based on fossil records and “accounts from pre-settlement Jamestown.” Ample evidence is presented in the U.S. EPA’s (Environmental Protection Agency’s) “Final List of Bird Species to Which the Migratory Bird Treaty Act Does Not Apply” [Federal Register, March 15, 2005 (Volume 70, No. 49)] to refute this claim, with the conclusion being “statements regarding the supposed presence of mute swans in North America prior to human settlement … are not scientifically credible.”
The writer also states the reason for the implementation of a mute swan management program in Michigan is to introduce trumpeter swans (a native species), “which are larger and make greater trophies for hunters.” True, the trumpeter swan is the largest native waterfowl species in North America, however, with an estimated population of only 756 individuals in 2010 (personal correspondence with Christopher Hoving, Michigan Department of Natural Resources), trumpeter swan numbers could not support a hunting season. Indeed, for many years, no swan species has been legal to hunt in Michigan, and as such, there is neither a tradition of harvesting nor consuming trumpeter swans, all of which makes it unlikely such a hunting season would be implemented in the future. In my opinion, the issue of hunting, which is often used to polarize public opinion, has no place in the current discussion.
The stated purpose of the mute swan management plan, according to a Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment Informational Memorandum dated Dec. 13, 2010, is “to reduce the mute swan population over time and thereby reduce the negative impacts of this invasive species.” Negative impacts identified in the memorandum include out-competing native species for breeding habitat, destruction of aquatic vegetation and physical encounters with humans.
The Michigan DNR wildlife management professionals perform quite a balancing act when implementing their programs. They have to consider scientific data regarding habitat, species population, public health, economic impacts, recreational and aesthetic value, as well as public opinion and a myriad other details prior to making their recommendations. Lucid arguments can be made for and against altering the existing mute swan management plan in Michigan. And while part of the equation includes public and/or personal opinion, ultimately these decisions must be formulated on the basis of facts. I encourage parties on every side of this issue to rigorously check their facts and include citations, where appropriate.