Big Pine Key closer to seeing a return of mosquito spraying

rmccarthy@keynoter.comMay 7, 2014 

Big Pine Key residents should begin spotting Florida Keys Mosquito Control District spray trucks again pretty soon.

Barred in mid-June last year from spraying adulticide, released as a fog, inside the National Key Deer Refuge, the district and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service appear on the verge of approving a compromise that could have the district up and running on Big Pine this month.

Fish and Wildlife was concerned that adulticide negatively impacts habitat on Big Pine for dwindling Bartram's hairstreak and Florida leafwing butterfly populations. Both are candidates for the Endangered Species List.

Mosquito Control and Fish and Wildlife collaborated on a roughly 130-page environmental assessment outlining various alternatives to treat the refuge without affecting those species.

Refuge Manager Nancy Finley said she has a briefing scheduled with Fish and Wildlife Southeast Region Director Cindy Dohner "if not this week, the top of next week" to discuss the assessment.

A 30-day public comment period for the assessment passed ended on April 10 with very little resident response. Mosquito Control Director Michael Doyle said the district received "two phone calls the whole month, if that," while Finley said she received five letters.

"It would be appropriate to respond to each of the letters, which I would like to do," she said. "In doing that, I'm sort of formulating how we need to address those comments in the document itself."

"There was some substance to them in the sense of providing gaps in the information. Unfortunately, there are gaps. We can't know everything about the area and the ecology and the species," she added.

Finley said she couldn't predict the ultimate decision, but environmental assessment was clear that both parties preferred "alternative B."

That alternative would largely restrict adulticiding in "critical" and "occupied" butterfly habitat on Big Pine. That's where they could either reside or lay eggs, according to Doyle.

Finley said "integrated pest management" staff at Fish and Wildlife's Washington, D.C., office have also signed off on the compromise.

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