Public hearings should have preceded decision on geese

Is wildlife preservation and wild- life management one and the same thing? That question goes to the heart of the debate now raging in the Mahoning Valley and beyond over the Mill Creek MetroParks’ killing of 238 Canada geese that park officials said had become a health and environmental hazard and a danger to park visitors.

Emotions are running high, as last week’s meeting of the governing body of the urban park showed. No explanations or expressions of regret will appease the vocal opponents of euthanasia as a method of dealing with the problem of geese.

“Dennis, the board and myself are truly saddened by the fact that we had no choice but to euthanize the geese,” said Louis Schiavoni, board chairman. Dennis Miller is MetroParks executive director.

Goose droppings had created unpleasant conditions at Newport Wetlands and ruined newly planted vegetation at the Lily Pond.

In addition, the public’s insistence on feeding the geese, despite signs prohibiting the practice, had led to an explosion of the geese population and aggressive behavior on the part of some of the birds.

Park officials insist the decision to round up and gas the 238 geese was not made lightly and was undertaken with the assistance of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

There had been other methods employed to try and chase the geese away from the park, to no avail.

As the Letters to the Editor published in The Vindicator on July 4 and July 13 and the comments at last week’s meeting illustrate, critics are unwavering in their belief that a mass killing was unnecessary.

And that prompts the discussion of whether preservation and management are intertwined.

The issue is one that communities around the country and even around the world are being forced to address as human beings encroach on the natural habitat of wildlife.

It’s a discussion that’s worth having and one that the board of commissioners of Mill Creek MetroParks should have facilitated through public meetings prior to a decision being made about how to get rid of the geese.

The park is largely funded through a special countywide levy, which means it is a public entity governed by local, state and federal laws.

Controversial decisions

We aren’t willing to join those residents who portray Miller, the executive director, his staff and others as inhumane, but we would lend our voice to those who say that area residents must be included in decisions that are inherently controversial.

Indeed, had there been public hearings, the board of commissioners may well have heard from the The Humane Society of the United States.

We did — in a letter to the editor from Corey Roscoe, Ohio state director for the society.

Roscoe’s letter published July 4 said, in part, “Other important considerations in providing a long-term and sustainable solution would be to modify the park habitat to make it less attractive to geese and to curb the feeding of geese by the public.

“The Humane Society of the United States has helped communities across the country solve their goose conflicts using humane and effective solutions.”

The park board should seek the advice and guidance of the society.

The killing of the geese has been a public relations disaster for Mill Creek Park.

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