Kirsten Gillibrand United States Senator for New York

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Gillibrand Introduces Legislation to Rid NYC Airports of Bird Strikes by Cutting Through Federal Bureaucratic Red Tape

Common Sense Legislation Would End Bureaucratic Wrangling Between Federal Agencies and Finally Remove Canada Geese Posing Public Safety Risk to Air Travelers

April 25, 2012

Washington D.C. – After another plane departing from a New York area airport was struck by geese last night forcing an emergency landing, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, introduced new legislation today that would cut bureaucratic red tape between the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and National Park Service (NPS) allowing for the swift removal of Canada geese currently posing a public safety risk at major New York airports. 

Since the ‘Miracle on the Hudson’ in 2009 where US Airways Captain Sully Sullenberger made a heroic water landing protecting the lives of all 155 passengers and crew onboard shortly after taking off from LaGuardia Airport due to a bird strike, the problem has not been fully addressed by federal authorities. Just last week, a Los Angeles-bound Delta Airlines flight was forced into an emergency return to JFK Airport shortly after takeoff due to bird strike. According to recent news reports, LaGuardia and JFK airports saw increases in bird strikes of 28% and 53%, respectively, between 2009 and 2011.   

“We cannot afford to sit back and wait for a catastrophe to occur before cutting through bureaucratic red tape between federal agencies,” said Senator Gillibrand. “We cannot and should not wait another day to act while public safety is at risk.”  

After the heroic landing of Capt. Sully Sullenberger, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and National Park Service vowed to address the public safety problem posed by Canada geese residing at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge. Due to the lack of a coordinated effort between federal agencies, this problem has still not been fully addressed more than three years later and continues to post safety risks to flights departing New York airports. 

Senator Gillibrand’s legislation would cut federal red tape and expedite the removal of the Canada geese from the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge by requiring USDA to act within 90 days of a determination by the FAA Administrator that Canada Geese residing on National Park Service lands within 5 miles of a commercial airport pose a threat to flight safety.  It would also require USDA, in consultation with the Department of the Interior and FAA, to remove geese by the end of the subsequent molting period.  Finally, the amendment requires USDA to issue a final decision on the supplemental environmental impact statement for the bird hazard reduction program at JFK International Airport no later than June 1, 2012 and complete a removal of the geese by August 1, 2012.  The National Park Service, which manages the wildlife refuge, has cited the need for the completion of this study before allowing USDA workers to remove birds from the refuge area.