Andrew Gude, Refuge Manager
352-563-2088 ext. 202
352-563-2088 ext. 205
Tom MacKenzie, Public Affairs
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wants to increase manatee protections and improve visitor experiences at Three Sisters Springs.
The Service seeks public review of a draft environmental assessment for management actions to protect manatees and still allow public access at Three Sisters Springs during the winter season.
“We have incorporated sound, professional judgment and safety considerations for manatees and people with this approach,” said Gude. “Our goal is to protect manatees and also allow a quality wildlife viewing experience.”
Three Sisters Springs, a unit of Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge, provides a place with consistently warm water for about 250 to 300 manatees to avoid potentially lethal colder temperatures in the open waters away from the springs during the winter months. Potential crowding with manatees may occur from November to March because as many as 100 swimmers and paddlers per hour enter Three Sisters Springs to see the manatees.
“We appreciate the support of the entire community as we go through this effort together,” said Andrew Gude, who manages Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge, as well as Lower Suwannee, Cedar Keys, and Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuges. “Swimming with manatees is a tremendous experience, and I know that when done properly, everybody benefits. For people, it is the experience of a lifetime. For the manatee, they will now have a lifelong supporter who appreciates the value of wildlife in their natural environment. That’s good for conservation and good for future generations.”
The public is encouraged to review the draft Environmental Assessment at http://www.fws.gov/crystalriver and provide comments by January 2, 2015, to firstname.lastname@example.org. Comments may be addressed to, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Crystal River NWR, ATTN: Andrew Gude, 1502 SE Kings Bay Dr., Crystal River, FL, 34429 or via e-mail at email@example.com.
Three Sisters Springs is the only confined-water body in the United States that is open to the public while wintering manatees are present. Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge manages Three Sisters Springs under a Management Agreement with the City of Crystal River and the State’s Southwest Florida Water Management District.
The proposed actions will implement interim strategies to address increased crowding between manatees and the public for the 2014-2015-manatee season and better inform future management. The proposed actions would also, if approved, allow the Service to meet commitments and obligations to the City of Crystal River and the Southwest Florida Water Management District.
Proposed Management Measures
The Service is proposing the following interim measures for the winter months (December through March 2015) to help reduce the chance of adverse impacts on manatees associated with watercraft and manatee viewing activities and to inform future management actions:
Download the draft environmental assessment (Word).
For more information, view our Questions and Answers (PDF).
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