North Florida Ecological Services Office
Southeast Region

Frequently Asked Questions - Service 12-Month Warranted Finding on Petition to Revise the Critical Habitat Designation for the Florida Manatee (Trichechus manatus latirostris)

Updated: January 8, 2010

Q1: What is a petition?

A1: A petition is a request filed under the Endangered Species Act (Act) by an interested party asking that a species be listed on, delisted from, or reclassified on the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants, and/or a critical habitat designation be revised.

Q2: What is a 12-month Finding?

A2: Section 4(b) of the Act requires the Service to make a finding on whether a petition presents substantial scientific or commercial information to indicate that the petitioned action may be warranted; this is referred to as a 90-day finding.  If the Service finds the petitioned action may be warranted the Act requires the Service to initiate a formal review to determine if revision of the critical habitat designation is warranted and, if so, how it intends to proceed with the requested revision.  This second determination is referred to as a 12-month finding, and normally made 12-months following the receipt of the petition.

Q3: Who petitioned the Service and what did they request?

A3: On December 19, 2008, the Service received a petition requesting that it revise the critical habitat designation for the Florida manatee (a subspecies of the West Indian manatee) as provided under the Act.  The petition was submitted by Wildlife Advocacy Project, Save the Manatee Club, Center for Biological Diversity, and Defenders of Wildlife, hereinafter referred to collectively as the petitioners, and included supporting information related to the request.

Q4: What did the Service conclude?

A4: After a thorough review of best available scientific and commercial information, the Service found that revisions to critical habitat for the Florida manatee are warranted.

Q5: What did the Service consider in reaching its conclusion and finding?

A5: In making this finding, the Service conducted a thorough status review used the best available scientific and commercial information in accordance with the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR): 50 CFR 424.14(c).  This included any new data or information provided during the public comment period.

Q6:  What led the Service to reach this finding?

A6:  The original critical habitat designation for the Florida manatee was made before critical habitat regulations and guidance was developed.  Therefore, it does not identify those essential features needed for the species conservation.  Instead, it only describes specific waterways that were known to be important concentration areas for manatees at that time.  Service biologists also recognize that the geographic areas originally described as manatee critical habitat need to be updated, based on recent scientific studies of manatee distribution, habitat use, and habitat needs.

Q7: What is the next step?

A7:While the Service found the petitioned action – revision of the critical habitat – was warranted, sufficient funds are not yet available to initiate the revision due to higher priority actions such as listing-related actions pursuant to court orders and judicially-approved settlement agreements.  The Service intends to initiate rulemaking when it completes the higher priorities and have the necessary resources to do so.

Q8: Will the public have an opportunity to comment of the future proposal to revise critical habitat for the Florida manatee?

A8: Yes.  Any future change or revision to the critical habitat designation will include a proposed rulemaking process with ample opportunity for public review and comment. 

Q9: What impacts would revising the Florida manatee’s critical habitat designation have on landowners?

A9:  The regulated public will see negligible change in how the Service conducts business, now or in the future. The Service will continue to consult with federal agencies on projects that may impact manatees, regardless of whether these projects occur in designated habitat or not.

Q10:  How is critical habitat defined?

A10:  Critical habitat is a term defined in the Endangered Species Act (ESA).  It identifies geographic areas containing features essential to the conservation of a threatened or endangered species that may require special management considerations or protection.  The designation of critical habitat does not affect land ownership or establish a refuge, wilderness, reserve, preserve, or other conservation area.  It does not allow government or public access to private lands.

Q11: What area makes up the Florida manatee’s current critical habitat designation?

A11: Critical habitat was originally designated for the Florida manatee in 1976. Habitat was designated in areas including Citrus, Hillsborough, Manatee, Sarasota, Charlotte, De Soto, Lee, Collier, Monroe, Dade, Palm Beach, Martin, West Palm Beach, Volusia, Brevard, Nassau and Duval Counties.  That listing was one of the first ESA critical habitat designations for an endangered species and the first for an endangered marine mammal.  The Federal Register document, including the full textual description, can be found at http://www.fws.gov/northflorida/Manatee/Documents/FR-Notice-76-28066-manatee-critical-habitat.pdf.

Q12: Where can I find more information on current and future actions related to the Florida manatee and the status review?

A12: Visit the Service’s web site at http://www.fws.gov/northflorida.

Finding

Bookmark and Share

Last updated: September 12, 2014