Good news! Florida is opening a public comment period from May 1-June 14, and the decision about whether to downgrade their status from endangered will be postponed until after that period.
The final plan will be presented to commissioners in September. If approved, the state will upgrade the manatee’s status from endangered to threatened. That would mean scientists believe the species has rebounded from the brink of extinction.
The US Fish and Wildlife Service had recommended changing the manatee’s federal status from endangered to threatened in Florida and Puerto Rico after deeming it no longer meets the requirements to be deemed endangered. The change won’t take affect until after the public comment period
And check out this excellent opinion piece in the Bradenton Herald (Bradenton, FL):
From an administration that is notorious for denying global warming and for editing scientific documents whose findings do not mesh with its ideology, this move is no surprise. Time is running out for the lame-duck administration to circumvent Congress by undermining through the administrative process laws it can’t repeal outright. It had already begun that process in weakening the Endangered Species Act.
In defending the lifting of endangered status from the manatee, USFWS staffers had to overlook the criteria that are supposed to regulate such a downgrade in protections. For example, lowering the classification of protection is supposed to be conditioned on eliminating five threats to the manatee. Among them are fewer deaths from boat collisions and less degradation of habitat. Last year, 86 manatees died as a result of boat strikes, the second-highest year on record and a 43 percent increase over 1996. Manatee mortality from all causes in ’06 totaled 417, an all-time record, coming on the heels of a near-record fatality year in ’05. As to habitat degradation, who could look at a Florida shoreline today and argue that manatees are better off than they were when the mammal was declared endangered in 1967?
Another criterion for reclassifying the endangered rating is supposed to be an increase in manatee populations in all four regions that make up its habitat. That was not achieved. In the Southwest Florida region stretching from Pasco County south to Monroe, the population has declined. That stretch, which includes Manatee County, includes more than 40 percent of the estimated manatee population of 3,300.
The changed status comes, too, in the face of a federal study showing there is a 50-50 chance that the manatee population could shrink to just 500 animals on either coast during the next 50 years. The reasons: boats and red tide, plus shrinking of natural springs and possible closing of ancient power plants, the two sources of warm water the manatee needs in winter.
In other words, throw the dice; too bad for this species if luck isn’t in its favor.
Right on! You can bet that I’ll find out the proper forum for voicing “public comments” on this issue, and will let you know. I’m gonna send a doozy of a comment their way.