U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Withdraws Federal Designation of Two Manatee Refuges
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today announced its decision to withdraw its Federal designation at two manatee refuges in Florida: the Pansy Bayou Manatee Refuge in Sarasota County and the Cocoa Beach Manatee Refuge in Brevard County.
Service officials pointed out that withdrawing the Federal designations would not diminish manatee protection in these areas.
"Our first priority remains the protection of manatees," said Sam D. Hamilton, the Service’s southeast regional director. "The Service believes that its original designations were warranted and prudent to prevent take at the time. However, because the State later provided comparable protections in these areas, it is now appropriate to withdraw the Federal designations."
Hamilton also noted that this proposed withdrawal is consistent with the Service’s position regarding State regulatory actions.
"The Service has long been on record saying that when we find the State or local protection measures comparable to ours, we will consider withdrawing Federal protection," Hamilton said.
In November 2002, the Service designated 13 manatee protection areas in Florida, including the Pansy Bayou Manatee Refuge in Sarasota County and the Cocoa Beach Manatee Refuge in Brevard County (67 FR 68450). In designating these areas, the Service recognized that the State might provide comparable protection in some areas.
The Pansy Bayou Manatee Refuge and Cocoa Beach Manatee Refuge were two such areas. State and Federal manatee-protection regulations both called for slow, year-round vessel speed. As such, the Service decided to withdraw its refuge designation and to defer to the State’s regulations governing waterborne activities currently in effect in both of these areas (F.A.C. 68C-22.026 and 22.006, respectively).
Service officials also noted that they believed the State’s variance and exemption regulations will not decrease manatee protection in these particular areas.
The Federal withdrawal of its designations is effective immediately.
The withdrawal rule, fact sheet and a list of frequently asked questions are available online at http://northflorida.fws.gov. Paper copies may be requested in writing by email to email@example.com, by fax at 904-232-2404, or by regular mail to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Attn: MPA Withdrawal Rule, 6620 Southpoint Dr., South, Suite 310, Jacksonville, FL 32216-0958.
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 95-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System, which encompasses 544 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 69 national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resources offices and 81 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 and Native American tribal governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Assistance program, which distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.
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