Manatees could lose endangered status
Conservationists say manatee deaths are evidence of the vulnerability of the walruslike mammals, which were included on the endangered-species list in 1967.
Los Angeles Times
About 2,500 manatees have died in Florida in the past four years, heightening tension between conservationists and property owners as federal officials prepare to decide whether to down-list the creature to threatened status.
Conservationists say the deaths are evidence of the vulnerability of the walruslike mammals, which were included on the endangered-species list in 1967 because of boat collisions and destruction of sea grasses in the shallow coastal inlets they inhabit.
But owners of waterfront property and businesses filed a lawsuit in April in federal court accusing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service of failing to adhere to its own 2007 recommendation that down-listing is warranted because there are now more manatees than ever. Most of the 4,800 pudgy, sea-grass-munching mammals in the U.S. gather each year in Florida.
The agency’s delay in implementing the recommendation prompted the Pacific Legal Foundation to sue on behalf of a group called “Save Crystal River Inc.” “Environmentalists want to turn the entire Crystal River into a sanctuary, which would hurt our clientele,” said Christina Martin, a Pacific Legal Foundation lawyer.
Opponents of down-listing fear that decreasing protection would leave manatees more vulnerable to potentially catastrophic die-offs.
The Fish and Wildlife Service is expected to take comments until Sept. 2, then make a decision within a year.