(Beyond Pesticides, December 20, 2007) Responding to numerous requests from the public for more time to comment, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has opened an additional 60-day public comment period on a draft mosquito management policy until February 17, 2008. The original press release on the proposal, issued on October 15, 2007, and the Federal Register Notice (72 FR 58321-58333) outlines guidance for determining the conditions under which national wildlife refuges will control mosquitoes. Notification of the public comment period was published in the Federal Register December 19, 2007.
The Service received 35 comments during the original 45-day comment period, which closed on November 29, 2007. Mosquito Control Districts in several states as well as members of the public asked for more time to respond.
The Service currently allows some form of mosquito control by state or local vector control agencies under Special Use Permits on approximately 40 national wildlife refuges, most of them in coastal areas. An interim Director’s Order, issued in May 2005, provided guidance for mosquito management on refuges while a permanent policy was being developed.
The draft policy states that the Refuge System will allow populations of native mosquito species to exist unimpeded unless they pose a specific wildlife or human health threat. The draft policy also establishes guidelines for determining when mosquito populations occurring on national wildlife refuges pose a significant enough health threat or health emergency to either humans or wildlife that pesticides may be used on Refuge System lands to control them. When practical, the Service may also reduce mosquito populations on refuges using management actions that do not involve pesticides. All mosquito management regimes on Refuge System lands must use effective means of control that pose the lowest risk to wildlife and habitat, according to the draft policy.
“Mosquitoes are a natural component of most wetlands. Therefore, the Service will control populations of native mosquitoes on refuge lands only when they pose a threat to animals or humans,” said Service Director H. Dale Hall. “Control measures on refuge lands must comply with Federal laws and be compatible with the purposes and mission of the refuge.”
The Service allows pesticide treatments for mosquito population control on National Wildlife Refuge System lands when local, current mosquito population monitoring data have been collected and indicate that refuge-based mosquito populations are contributing to a human or wildlife health threat. Before any pesticides are applied on refuge lands, an approved pesticide use proposal must be in place.
The draft policy requires that refuge-specific mosquito management plans be developed in coordination with federal, state and/or local public health authorities responsible for vector-borne diseases, vector control agencies, and state fish and wildlife agencies. The plans will identify the specific conditions under which mosquito populations would be managed on the refuge, taking into account the local environment as well as current and historical mosquito-associated health threats.
The Service would also, where appropriate, collaborate with federal, state and/or local wildlife agencies, public health authorities, agriculture departments and vector control agencies to conduct education and public outreach activities to protect human and animal health from threats associated with mosquitoes.
Comments on the draft policy can be submitted by mail to: Michael J. Higgins, Biologist, National Wildlife Refuge System, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, Room 670, Arlington, Virginia 22203; by fax to 703-358-2248; or by e-mail to [email protected]. A copy of the draft policy can be found at www.fws.gov/refuges/policyMakers/NWRpolicies.html.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 97-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System, which encompasses 548 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 69 national fish hatcheries, 63 fish and wildlife management offices and 81 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Assistance program, which distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.
For more information about the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, visit http://www.fws.gov/.