EagleWatch Volunteer Celebrates Conservation Win on Marco Island

Rosemary Tolliver started a grassroots campaign to protect the land where she monitors a Bald Eagle nest on Marco Island.

Southwest Florida celebrates a conservation win after the Collier County Board of Commissioners approved the purchase of a total of 3.22 acres of preservation land on Marco Island under its Conservation Collier program on October 24. For Rosemary Tolliver, the decision was a personal victory: She has monitored a Bald Eagle nest on one of the purchased parcels since 2019, and along with members of Audubon Western Everglades, she advocated for the purchase for two years.

“The nest has quite a history,” Tolliver says. In four years of nest monitoring, she has worked with construction crews to mitigate noise as they expanded the nearby Publix, appealed to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission in order to remove dangerous netting from the nest, and rescued a fallen eaglet. She has made an effort to reach out to residents of the nearby houses, who are supportive of her monitoring of their feathered neighbors.

It was late 2021 when Tolliver learned that the land, which is also home to Burrowing Owls and gopher tortoises, was up for sale. She decided to nominate it for protection under Conservation Collier, but soon learned that only the property owner is eligible to nominate it. She worked with a city councilman to contact the realtor, and the owner was fully supportive of taking the property off the market to nominate it for purchase by the county.

Tolliver tracked the progress of the nomination, watching virtual commission meetings, speaking at in-person meetings, and sending letters of support before key votes took place. She created a grassroots campaign, sharing flyers she created with businesses surrounding the property and posting updates on social media. For their part, Audubon Western Everglades mobilized its membership, driving dozens of calls and emails to the Board of County Commissioners and sending email alerts when key stages of the process required members’ voices. In an email sent to members the day before the vote, Executive Director Andy Wells-Bean pointed out that Marco Island “contributes a large portion of tax revenues for Conservation Collier but has seen very little habitat preserved by the program. It is fair to use Conservation Collier funds to preserve these unique urban wildlife habitats.” Audubon Florida has further advocated for its membership to support Conservation Collier during ballot initiatives and as the program faces budget cuts.

When the Board of County Commissioners announced their approval of the purchase at an October 24 meeting, Tolliver says she burst into tears of joy, relief, and exhaustion. “I went to the nest site the next morning and told the eagles their home was safe,” she adds.

While the eagles may not be able to thank Rosemary Tolliver for her efforts, the nest’s human neighbors are grateful that their back yards will look out on a nature preserve rather than a shopping center. Thank you to Tolliver for her efforts, and to the EagleWatchers across the state who contribute to the protection of Bald Eagles!

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