Illegals: Invasive Species in the Hamptons

Both Southampton and East Hampton Towns made progress recently in spending money and creating legislation that would uproot invasive species.

In Southampton, the Town agreed to set aside up to $3,500 to help rent a small herd of goats from farmers in upstate New York. The move came at the request of an environmental group known as The Friends of Long Pond Greenbelt, which attend to a meandering strip of woodland, fields and vegetation that extends from the outskirts of Bridgehampton to the outskirts of Sag Harbor five miles away. The goats would be used to munch on and destroy invasive autumn olive plants that keep sprouting on this land in Bridgehampton.

In East Hampton, meanwhile, the Town is working on legislation that would limit or ban taxicabs from outside the area who invade the community in the summertime and take away the business of local cabbies who live here year around. Reportedly, especially in Montauk, they gouge the customers, cut the lines of cabs at the train station, fail to post fares and are otherwise unruly and obnoxious in an invasive sort of way.

Possible recommended changes to address these and other taxi problems were brought to the attention of the board by Councilman Peter Van Scoyoc, who is the official liaison between the Montauk Advisory Board and the East Hampton Town Board, which administers the laws there. He said at a recent meeting that “we have very few tools to limit commerce,” but added that they would find a way.

The autumn olive plants (Elaeagnus umbellata) are native to China, Japan and Korea and are thought to have made their way to North America by freighter beginning around 1830.

The goats, meanwhile, are invasive species as well. Native North American Indians did not have goats. A breed of them from Spain was first brought here by Christopher Columbus in 1493. Later, Captain John Smith brought milch goats with him on the Mayflower in 1620. The breed of goats we see most in North America today, called American Goats, are a hybrid of Swiss, Spanish and Austrian goats. In other words, they are mutts.

In East Hampton, invasive taxicabs drive here from places like Brookhaven Town, 50 miles away. East Hampton was settled in 1640. Brookhaven was not settled until 1655. So they are invaders here. Also, the whole idea of the motorized taxicab dates in New York State only from 1897, when Samuel’s Electric Carriage and Wagon Co. opened in Manhattan and Brooklyn.

All this follows the shocking announcement that the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) intends to eradicate the beautiful, stately white mute swans that inhabit many ponds and estuaries in the state of New York. The mute swans are indeed an invasive species, having been brought to New England from Europe in the late 1800s to become decorative accessories to zoos, parks and aviaries in the area.

Many countries in Europe treasure their mute swans. As for the 500 that were brought over from 1910 to 1912, all were kept in captivity here in America because the swans are beautiful. However, on several occasions some of the mute swans escaped into the wild.

Today, mute white swans are found in ponds around New York State, mostly on Long Island and on Lake Ontario’s eastern shore near Plattsburgh. They are scheduled to disappear by 2025 unless all the groups being formed to protest this savagery against nature are successful.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, by the way, is an invasive species itself, having only been established on April 22, 1970 during the presidency of Richard Nixon.

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