Distressing news: State greenlights permit—only legal action can stop destruction of beach bird habitat

A letter from Eric Draper to Audubon Members


Let me tell you about a special place called Little Estero Island. Plovers, skimmers, and terns nest there, Red Knots winter there, and Reddish Egrets forage in the lagoon. I love watching the birds from a distance – egrets chasing fish in the shallows and shorebirds feeding their chicks on the beach.  
Recently, the state signaled its intent to give out-of-state investors a permit to build a boardwalk the length of a football field from vacation rental houses through the heart of the island and nesting habitat. A boardwalk will lead to trampled eggs and nests and invite deadly nest predators like coyotes and raccoons. An approved permit will set a horrible precedent undermining protection of other Florida coastal conservation sites.  
Audubon and the Town of Ft. Myers Beach went to court to stop the state permit – but the owners of these rental houses are fighting for the habitat-destroying boardwalk. We need your help to save one of the last safe nesting areas on the Gulf Coast.
I was shocked when Julie Wraithmell told me about the terrible idea. 
When Julie, who leads Audubon’s coastal conservation, asked me to approve going to court to protect the Little Estero Island colony, I did not hesitate. Litigation is expensive but who is going to defend the birds if not us?
The speculators and State of Florida ganged up on us – their lawyers dragged our scientists out of the field to be deposed for hours. They tried to wear Dr. Marianne Korosy down, but she came out of the deposition resolved to defend the birds. She told me, “Go raise money Eric, we can’t let this happen.”
That is why I am writing to you today. I just wrote a check to our Little Estero Island Defense Fund, and we need your help defending these nesting birds. Today’s gift will be matched dollar for dollar, up to $5,000. Please join me by making a generous donation now. 

Eric Draper
President, Florida Audubon Society
Executive Director, Audubon Florida

P.S. We rarely get involved with legal fights, but the precedent that could be set in this case is far too dangerous to ignore. Thank you for your support.

About Little Estero Island Critical Wildlife Area: This area hosts nesting sites for state threatened and declining species including the Snowy Plover, Least Tern, Black Skimmer and Wilson’s Plover. It also provides foraging habitat for North America’s rarest heron, the threatened Reddish Egret, and winter habitat for the threatened Red Knot and Piping Plover and dozens of other migratory coastal bird species. The site was designated as a Critical Wildlife Area in 1992 due to its importance to rare and declining coastal birds.