David Feld, director of GeesePeace, answers questions
With what environmental organization are you affiliated?
I am the national program director of GeesePeace.
What does your organization do?
GeesePeace is an educational nonprofit organization that helps communities humanely resolve wildlife conflicts. Currently our specific focus is Branta canadensis — the Canada goose. Many communities in the U.S. have a growing problem with resident Canada geese that were born in the area and have no need to migrate. Canada geese born in Canada will migrate in the spring to nest in Canada and fly south in the winter.
What are you working on at the moment?
In March we have regional training meetings for GeesePeace communities. We have projects in Oyster Bay, N.Y., the New Jersey Shore, and Stratford-upon-Avon, U.K., to name a few. Our largest project is one covering an area of 60 miles around New York City. It covers areas as far north as Greenwich, Conn., and as far south as Spring Lake, N.J., and includes a good portion of New York’s Hudson Valley. We call this the 60 Mile Tri-State Regional Canada Geese Populations Stabilization Project.
The program in the U.K. is run by the Stratford Town Management Partnership. They will have a symposium next year in Stratford for other communities in the U.K., like Chesterfield, which has expressed an interest in starting a program.
How do you get to work?
Everyone in GeesePeace has a “virtual” office. We use technology to keep in touch and meet, eliminating the need to commute to a fixed office site and minimizing unnecessary work-related travel.
What long and winding road led you to your current position?
Actually, it was a very direct road. My community had a problem with Canada geese. Some people wanted to kill the geese, others did not. As a community leader, I chose to find a humane solution and committed to helping other communities do the same. I said, “We went to the moon — we can figure out how to solve a goose problem humanely and without controversy.” That is how GeesePeace began; now it is an organization with international reach and effectiveness.
Where were you born? Where do you live now?
I was born in Brooklyn, N.Y. Now I live in Lake Barcroft, Va.
What has been the worst moment in your professional life to date?
There has been no worst moment. Even when things do not work out as expected or there is a disappointment, there is always some good that is derived from the experience or the journey.
What’s been the best?
Making the decision to get GeesePeace under way, and then doing it.
What environmental offense has infuriated you the most?
Smoking in public places. With regard to geese, it’s how this problem started in the first place.
Millions of Canada geese used to migrate north in the early spring to the Hudson and James Bays to nest and have their young, then migrate south in the late fall. Along the way, the geese were hunted by commercial hunters for down feathers and for meat, and by recreational hunters for sport. To increase the “take,” or kill, the commercial hunters would bait fields with corn, capture migratory birds, and clip their feathers so the geese could not escape. Then the geese were placed as live decoys in lakes, sometimes with weights on their legs so they would stay put. Migrating flocks saw these geese, assumed everything was fine, flew in, and were blasted out of the air or on the water when they landed. Needless to say, this very efficient hunting practice was devastating to the migratory flocks of Canada geese.
Thus begins the story of one of the greatest cases of mismanagement by wildlife agencies (federal and state) in America. In 1965, a single flock of geese was discovered in Missouri after over-hunting drove them to near extinction. Wildlife agencies took these geese and encouraged them to nest all over the country by taking eggs, incubating them, and encouraging geese to double clutch (produce two nests). Unfortunately, migration is a learned process, so all of the geese that were born under this program did not know of Canada. They had no need to migrate, because the weather was temperate enough. So now we have Canada geese that do not migrate. These are the ones who are causing problems in communities. It’s not the geese’s fault. By nature they return to the place where they were born to build their own nests; then, in June, they molt (lose flight feathers) and are stuck in the area.
The geese problem in the U.K. began in the 1600s when King Charles II brought a few geese to England for his wildlife gardens.
Who is your environmental hero?
Holly Hazard, chief innovations officer of the Humane Society of the United States. She was previously the executive director of the Doris Day Animal League and is responsible for many programs that protect animals and improve their lives.
What’s your environmental vice?
I’m not yet a vegetarian.
How do you spend your free time (if you have any)?
I watch for ways to stimulate serendipitous events.
What’s your favorite meal?
Pasta and salad.
Which stereotype about environmentalists most fits you?
I do not litter.
What’s your favorite place or ecosystem?
Keukenhof tulip gardens in Lisse, Holland. There are 7 million tulips, arranged by thoughtful people.
If you could institute by fiat one environmental reform, what would it be?
Each year, I would ask each agency or department of every government to identify and implement at least one change in their operation or activities or institute a new idea that would lead to a cleaner, friendlier, or safer environment for all living things.
Who was your favorite musical artist when you were 18? How about now?
What’s your favorite movie?
The Red Tent, a 1969 film about an expedition to the North Pole by Italian explorers.
Which actor would play you in the story of your life?
Joe Friday from Dragnet.
If you could have every InterActivist reader do one thing, what would it be?
The next time you see someone litter, pick up the paper or cigarette butt, catch up to the person, say, “I think you dropped this,” and return it to them.