EDITOR'S NOTE: The Santiva Chronicle publishes opinions and letters on topics that are important to Sanibel and Captiva. They may be submitted via e-mail at news@santivachronicle.com.

To the Editor:

We attended the meeting at Ding Darling on April 21, 2018 at which Refuge officials Paul Tritaik, Nate Caswell and Jeremy Conrad discussed the proposed changes at the Bailey Tract. We are birders and frequent visitors to the Bailey Tract.

We understand the science behind the proposal to fill, convert and restore Ani pond to marsh land — principally to provide more marsh habitat for the threatened Sanibel rice rat and other marsh wildlife inhabitants.

However, as we stated at the meeting, Ani Pond is at the entrance to the Bailey Tract and serves as a very special gateway to the Tract where birders, photographers and other visitors can be very close to a beautiful pond and rookery island habitat often populated by many bird species and alligators.

Therefore, we would greatly prefer the alternative of filling and restoring all or parts of the two Eastern Sloughs to marsh habitat and leaving the Ani Pond intact.

We are hopeful, as acknowledged by the Ding officials, that there may be time to consider filling the Eastern Sloughs rather than Ani Pond in implementing the Bailey Tract marsh restoration project.

Gary Dutton, Mike Dutton, Lesley Simmons, Jim Boughton, Annie, Dod and Mark Wainwright