FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 2, 2001
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today that the parties in the lawsuit Save the Manatee Club, et al. v. Ballard, et al have agreed, to extend the time line by which the Federal agency must complete a proposed rule for new manatee refuges and sanctuaries throughout peninsular Florida. The new publication date is July 2, 2001.
The new extension provides 60-days for the Service to meet with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and work out details on how any Federal proposal would compliment state actions.
"The Service made its position clear at the Commission's recent meetings," said Sam Hamilton, regional director for the Service's Southeast Region, "we have always said we supported the State taking any necessary manatee protection actions. This extension reflects that position and continues to allow us to work toward a balance that can better serve Florida's public interests, as well as those of the manatee."
The Service believes the State of Florida should be the primary regulatory authority in State waters to conserve manatees, have the responsibility to identify protective areas for manatees, and establish manatee speed zones in Florida. The Service and State are committed to working together to ensure comprehensive planning and coordination for the overall protection of the manatee.
Governor Jeb Bush said, after hearing of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's action today, "I am glad the Service has recognized the State's leadership in protecting the Florida manatee. We have been working with the federal government to devise a process that will prevent any confusion and burdensome regulation on Florida's waterways. Under the State's settlement agreement, we will have input from boaters, environmental groups, industry, law enforcement, and other affected parties in determining appropriate safe havens and the management of them for the protection manatees. I commend the Service and the plaintiffs on the federal case for accepting our invitation to sit at the table and work with our citizens to develop comprehensive measures that will preserve the privileges of boaters and provide safe areas for the manatee. This action today reflects the Bush Administration's and Secretary Gale Norton's new federalist approach to governing that supports state leadership and I thank the Secretary for her support."
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 Service manages the 94-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System which encompasses more than 535 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 70 national fish hatcheries, 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 habitat 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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