The Collier County Board of Commissioners (Board) voted unanimously on Tuesday to revise a proposed boundary expansion of the Collier Mosquito Control District to exclude over 100,000 acres of state and federal conservation and restoration lands. The Board originally voted in July to expand the mosquito district boundaries for new urban areas and these uninhabited conservation lands like Picayune Strand Restoration Project, Collier Seminole State Park, Rookery Bay Reserve, and part of Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge.
Audubon Florida, Audubon Western Everglades, and Florida Wildlife Federation objected to the expansion onto conservation lands and collaborated with all the public land management agencies to communicate their collective concerns with mosquito treatment of these public lands to the Board.
“With this revised boundary, the Board, the Mosquito District and all the State and Federal land agencies can now protect both public health and the significant public investments in restoring Picayune Strand and all these unique natural treasures of the Western Everglades,” said Brad Cornell, Southwest Florida Policy Associate for Audubon Florida and Audubon Western Everglades.
The Picayune Strand Restoration Project will restore over 100,000 acres of wetlands, uplands and estuaries when complete in 2024. To date, agencies have invested $600 million in this project through a partnership between the South Florida Water Management District and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. State and federal agency land managers emphasized the conflict pesticides, like the commonly sprayed organophosphate Naled (Dibrom), have with restoration of wetland ecosystems and wildlife. Pesticides can interrupt the food web by eliminating insects which serve not only as food, but also as pollinators. Audubon and its allies underscored the ecologically and economically preferable ways the mosquito district currently uses some of these public conservation lands outside their boundary, to protect public health using research and mosquito management agreements. These agreements and research efforts should continue and be extended to any public lands where viruses may be found, all without the use of spraying harmful pesticides.
“Research and monitoring of viruses in mosquitoes found in remote areas is vital to protect public health as we restore wetlands and wildlife habitats. This will more effectively guide any needed treatments against any virus-laden mosquitoes near and within urban areas,” said Dr. Shawn Clem, Research Director at Audubon’s Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary.