The Florida Keys Mosquito Control District and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service appear to agree on a compromise that could have spray trucks back on Big Pine Key later this year.
A roughly 130-page draft environmental assessment prepared by staff from both agencies was released on March 10 and outlines various "alternatives" to approach mosquito control on Big Pine. Fish and Wildlife banned adulticide inside the National Key Deer Refuge in mid-June last year.
Fish and Wildlife says adulticide negatively impacts habitat for dwindling Bartram's hairstreak and Florida leafwing butterfly populations. Both are candidates for the Endangered Species List.
The public has an opportunity to comment on the draft environment statement until April 10. The assessment is available on the refuge's web site at www.fws.gov/nationalkeydeer/. Click on the "Mosquito Management Plan EA" link.
"Fish and wildlife can take [public comment] into account. It's technically a draft so it can be edited," Mosquito Control Director Michael Doyle said.
The compromise both agencies have been negotiating would largely restrict adulticiding, released as a fog from trucks, in "critical" and "occupied" butterfly habitat on Big Pine. That's where the butterflies could either reside or lay eggs, according to Doyle.
The Fish and Wildlife letter outlines four alternatives, but says that "Alternative B is the refuge's preferred alternative."
That method "is an integrated approach that would balance the missions of both [Mosquito Control and Fish and Wildlife] by allowing for a level of flexibility in mosquito control operations," it says.
Doyle said he agrees.
"I like the fact that it's not an extreme view of spray anytime or never. They know where the butterflies are, where they would go if they move and where they aren't," Doyle said.
Comments can be submitted to Fish and Wildlife via the refuge by sending an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.