(By Kim Ryan) That was a comment from Councilman Bill Veach Monday regarding the plan by FWC to spray a broadcast herbicide called Imazapyr at the Carlos Beach imperiled bird nesting area. The herbicide is used to control the growth of sandspurs and crowsfoot grass, an invasive weed.
Back in February FWC Southwest Regional biologists Becky Schneider (Conservation Biologist) and Tyson Dallas (Shorebird Biologist) gave the town a presentation on Beach Nesting Birds. According to the biologists the temporary refuge located at the south end of the island on Carlos Beach is home to “the largest seabird colony in Southwest Florida.”
They said it was the biggest stronghold of Black Skimmers on a natural beach that they’ve seen pretty much anywhere on the Gulf Coast of Florida. There is no alternative nesting area for this colony. Therefore, maintaining this large, open, sandy area, which is so desirable to these birds, is important and it’s accomplished through strategic vegetation management which includes chemical and mechanical methods.
During the town council meeting Monday Councilman Veach referenced a letter from FWC Regional director Allie McCue seeking approval from the town to go forward with a plan to use Imazapyr. The didn’t really need the approval but they did want the town’s blessing. The state was not going to treat the vegetation without the town onboard.
Veach went on to express how tough the situation is. He’s worried about setting a precedent that it’s ok to use herbicide on the beach and noted the objection to the use of the herbicide by the town’s Marine Resources Task Force committee which was backed up by committee chair Steve Johnson earlier at the council meeting during his committee report.
Alternatively, is the concern about the birds themselves if the vegetation is not managed properly. In the past, Black Skimmer chicks suffered increased mortality rates due to staph infections from injuries possibly created from sandspurs. Veach explained that while Imazapyr has a better “sheet” than Glyphosate (another herbicide the town previously tried to prevent from being used but was unsuccessful due to state preemption) there may be a risk the herbicide will negatively impact seagrass and other aquatic plants.
Other options to manage vegetation such as vinegar, salt and other mixtures containing cinnamon oil have been debated in the past. According to FWC these can not be used due to state and federal regulations because they don’t have an EPA label.
Veach also recalled FWC’s prior comments indicating those other solutions are more toxic than the herbicide being considered. Additionally, the MRTF questioned FWC as to the use of a propane torch to manage vegetation however for a variety of reasons FWC did not determine this to be a viable option.
Ultimately the town council voted unanimously to give its blessing for the herbicide Imazapyr to be used.