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North Florida Field Office


For Immediate Release

Date: March 1, 2001

Release #: 002-01

Media Contact: Chuck Underwood 904/731-3332

Revised manatee recovery plan release postponed

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today that it is postponing the previously scheduled release of the Third Revision to its Manatee Recovery Plan.

The final plan scheduled for release yesterday could not be adequately revised by the deadline.

"The response to our draft plan was tremendous," said Bill Brooks, biologist and the planís revision leader in the Serviceís Jacksonville, Florida office. "We received more than 500 comments and recommendations from the general public, researchers and other agencies. The quality of the suggestions and the concerns noted require substantive changes to the plan, and the revisions will result in a significantly different end product."

Release of a viable, effective plan is a top priority for the Service.

"We want to end up with a quality plan that addresses the factors that make the manatee an endangered species, and provides a solid framework for guiding us in the recovery of this species," noted Dave Hankla, field supervisor at the Jacksonville office. "Developing this plan has always been a partnership effort and we strongly feel that releasing a revised plan that did not address all the comments and concerns of that partnership would be a disservice to all."

The original deadline of February 28, 2001 was agreed upon as part of the settlement of the Save the Manatee Club et al v. Ballard case in January 2001 which provided time frames for the Service to initiate or complete specific tasks related to the protection and recovery of the manatee. According to Hankla the original date was a good-faith goal based on no major changes to the draft revision.

"While we are sensitive to the terms in the settlement," Hankla said, "we believe holding off on publishing the final revised plan will, in the long run, be in the best interests of all concerned."

This revised plan will be released for another round of public comments prior to final approval.

Once the new revision is complete, the Service will provide another opportunity for public review and comment by announcing the planís availability in the Federal Register and on the Jacksonville Field Office website at http://www.fws.gov/northflorida

In addition to the recovery plan, the Service continues to work on several other actions agreed to in the settlement, such as manatee protection areas, and is committed to meeting all obligations.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Services manages the 93-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System which encompasses more than 531 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 66 national fish hatcheries, 64 fish and wildlife management assistance offices, 64 Fishery Resource Offices and 78 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces Federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitats such as wetlands, and helps foreign governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Aid program that distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.

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Last modified January 14, 2004