[Federal Register: December 6, 2004 (Volume 69, Number 233)]
[Proposed Rules]               
[Page 70412-70414]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 17

RIN 1018-AT65

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Establishment of 
an Additional Manatee Protection Area in Lee County, FL

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Proposed rule; notice of public hearing and reopening of public 
comment period.


SUMMARY: We, the Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), provide notice 
that the public comment period for the proposed rule to establish the 
Pine Island-Estero Bay Manatee Refuge in Lee County, Florida, is 
reopened to allow all interested parties to submit written comments on 
the proposed rule. We are reopening the public comment period to 
accommodate those individuals and communities that are continuing to 
recover from the effects of both Hurricane Charley and Hurricane 
Frances. Comments previously submitted during the initial comment 
period need not be resubmitted as they will be incorporated into the 
public record and will be fully considered in the final determination 
on the proposal.

DATES: The original comment period closed on October 5, 2004. The 
comment period is hereby reopened until February 2, 2005. Comments from 
all interested parties must be received by the closing date. Any 
comments received after the closing date may not be considered in the 
final decision on this proposal. Furthermore, the public hearing that 
was originally scheduled for Wednesday, September 8, 2004, has been 
rescheduled for Wednesday, January 12, 2005, from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 
p.m. in Fort Myers, Florida. See additional information on the public 
comment process in the SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION section.

ADDRESSES: A formal public hearing will be held on Wednesday, January 
12, 2005, from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. at the Harborside Convention 
Hall, 1375 Monroe Street, Fort Myers, Florida.
    If you wish to comment, you may submit your comments by any one of 
several methods:
    1. You may submit written comments and information by mail to the 
Field Supervisor, South Florida Field Office, U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service, Attn: Proposed Manatee Refuge, 1339 20th Street, Vero Beach, 
Florida 32960.

[[Page 70413]]

    2. You may hand-deliver written comments to our South Florida Field 
Office, at the above address, or fax your comments to (772) 562-4288.
    3. You may send comments by electronic mail (e-mail) to 
verobeach@fws.gov. For directions on how to submit electronic comment 

files, see the ``Public Comments Solicited'' section.
    We request that you identify whether you are commenting on the 
proposed rule or draft environmental assessment. Comments and materials 
received, as well as supporting documentation used in the preparation 
of this proposed rule, will be available for public inspection, by 
appointment, during normal business hours from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at 
the above address.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Jay Slack or Kalani Cairns (see 
ADDRESSES section), telephone (772) 562-3909; or visit our Web site at 


Public Comments Solicited

    We solicit comments or suggestions from the public, other concerned 
governmental agencies, the scientific community, industry, or any other 
interested party concerning this proposed rule. We particularly seek 
comments concerning:
    1. The reasons why this area, particularly the waters known as Long 
Cut and Short Cut as well as any shallow water embayments within the 
proposed area, should or should not be designated as manatee refuges, 
including data in support of these reasons;
    2. Current or planned activities in the subject areas and their 
possible effects on manatees;
    3. Any foreseeable economic or other impacts resulting from the 
proposed designations;
    4. Potential adverse effects to the manatee associated with 
designating manatee protection areas for the species; and
    5. Any actions that could be considered in lieu of, or in 
conjunction with, the proposed designations that would provide 
comparable or improved manatee protection.
    We request that you identify whether you are commenting on the 
proposed rule or draft environmental assessment. Comments and materials 
received, as well as supporting documentation used in the preparation 
of this proposed rule, will be available for public inspection, by 
appointment, during normal business hours from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at 
the above address. You may obtain copies of the draft environmental 
assessment from the above address or by calling (772) 562-3909 or from 
our Web site at http://verobeach.fws.gov.

    Comments submitted electronically should be embedded in the body of 
the e-mail message itself or attached as a text-file (ASCII) and should 
not use special characters and encryption. Please also include ``Attn: 
RIN 1018-AT65,'' your full name, and return address in your e-mail 
message. Comments submitted to verobeach@fws.gov will receive an 
automated response confirming receipt of your message. If you do not 
receive a confirmation from the system that we have received your e-
mail message, contact us directly by calling our South Florida Field 
Office (see ADDRESSES section).
    Our practice is to make all comments, including names and home 
addresses of respondents, available for public review during regular 
business hours. Individual respondents may request that we withhold 
their home address from the rulemaking record, which we will honor to 
the extent allowable by law. In some circumstances, we would withhold 
also from the rulemaking record a respondent's identity, as allowable 
by law. If you wish for us to withhold your name and/or address, you 
must state this prominently at the beginning of your comments. However, 
we will not consider anonymous comments. We will make all submissions 
from organizations or businesses, and from individuals identifying 
themselves as representatives or officials of organizations or 
businesses, available for public inspection in their entirety.
    Our final determination on the proposed rule will take into 
consideration comments and any additional information received by the 
date specified above. Previous comments and information submitted 
during the original comment period need not be resubmitted. The comment 
period is reopened until February 2, 2005.


    Manatees are a federally protected under both the Endangered 
Species Act (ESA) and Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA). Currently, 
collisions with watercraft probably constitute the greatest human-
caused threat to the species. Historically, these collisions are 
responsible for about 25 percent of all manatee deaths and about 80 
percent of all human-caused mortality in manatees.
    In November 2002, a judge in Florida's 20th Judicial Circuit Court 
ruled that five State-designated manatee protection zones were invalid 
because the rule for four regulated areas did not meet the State 
standard for frequency of sightings and unduly interfered with the 
rights of voters. Since January 2004, the Florida Fish and Wildlife 
Conservation Commission have recovered four manatee carcasses in the 
affected areas. Subsequent necropsies reveal these animals died of 
wounds suffered from a boat collision. There have been at least 18 
boat-related manatee deaths in these five areas since 1999.
    For these reasons, we believe that there is imminent danger of take 
of one or more manatees in these areas and the designation of a manatee 
refuge is necessary to prevent such taking. Manatees utilize these 
areas, there is a history of take at these sites, future take is 
imminent, protection measures are insufficient, and we do not 
anticipate any alternative protection measures being enacted by State 
or local government in sufficient time to reduce the likelihood of take 
    On April 7, 2004 we published an emergency designation of this 
area. This designation expired on August 5, 2004. The second emergency 
designation will be in effect until December 4, 2004. At that time, we 
plan to publish a third emergency designation in order to have adequate 
time to complete the normal rulemaking process (currently underway). 
Due to recent hurricanes in the area of Lee County, we are reopening 
the public comment period to allow all interested parties to provide 
    Federal authority to establish protection areas for the Florida 
manatee is provided by the ESA and the MMPA and is codified in 50 CFR, 
part 17, subpart J. We have discretion, by regulation, to establish 
manatee protection areas whenever there is substantial evidence showing 
such establishment is necessary to prevent the taking of one or more 


    The primary author of this document is Kalani Cairns (see ADDRESSES 


    The authority to establish manatee protection areas is provided by 
the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (16 U.S.C. 1531 et 
seq.), and the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 (16 U.S.C. 1361-
1407), as amended.

[[Page 70414]]

    Dated: November 4, 2004.
Cynthia K. Dohner,
Acting Regional Director.
[FR Doc. 04-26709 Filed 12-3-04; 8:45 am]