North Florida Ecological Services Office
Southeast Region

Frequently Asked Questions - Service 90-Day Substantial Finding on Petition to Revise the Critical Habitat Designation for the Florida Manatee (Trichechus manatus latirostris)

Updated: September 25, 2009

Q1: What is a petition?

A1: A petition is a request filed under the Endangered Species Act (Act) by an interested party asking that a species be listed on, delisted from, or reclassified on the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants, and/or a critical habitat designation be revised.

Q2: What is a 90-day Finding?

A2: Section 4(b) of the Act requires the Service to make a finding on whether a petition to list, delist, or reclassify a species or revise a critical habitat designation presents substantial scientific or commercial information (see Q6 below for more information on this standard) to indicate that the petitioned action may be warranted. The Service bases this finding on information provided in the petition, supporting information submitted with the petition, and information otherwise available in agency files. To the maximum extent practicable, the Service is to make this finding within 90 days of the receipt of the petition, and publish notice of this finding promptly in the Federal Register.

Q3: Who petitioned the Service and what did they request?

A3: On December 19, 2008, the Service received a petition requesting that it revise the critical habitat designation for the Florida manatee (a subspecies of the West Indian manatee) as provided under the Act. The petition was submitted by Wildlife Advocacy Project, Save the Manatee Club, Center for Biological Diversity, and Defenders of Wildlife, hereinafter referred to collectively as the petitioners, and included supporting information related to the request. In a January 17, 2009 letter to the petitioners, the Service responded that it had received the petition and would make a finding, to the maximum extent practicable within 90 days, as to whether or not the petition presents substantial information.

Q4: Why was there a delay in the issuance of a 90-day finding?

A4: Funding constraints precluded the Service from initiating the processing of the petition in a timely manner. This notice constitutes the Service’s substantial finding in response to the petition to revise the critical habitat designation for the Florida manatee submitted by the petitioners and received by the Service on December 19, 2008.

Q5: What did the Service conclude?

A5: Based on the information provided in the petition, supporting information submitted with the petition, and information otherwise available in the Service’s files, the petition did provide substantial scientific information indicating that revision to the critical habitat designation for the Florida manatee may be warranted.

Q6: What did the Service consider in reaching its conclusion and finding?

A6: In making this finding, the Service evaluated the information provided by the petitioners in accordance with the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR): 50 CFR 424.14(c). The process of coming to a 90-day finding under section 4(b) of the Act and section 424.14(c) of the Service’s regulations is limited to a determination of whether the information provided in the petition, supporting information submitted with the petition, and information otherwise available in agency files meets the “substantial information” threshold. The Service does not conduct additional research at this point, nor does the Service subject the petition to rigorous critical review.

The standard for substantial scientific or commercial information set forth in our implementing regulations with regard to a 90-day petition finding is “that amount of information that would lead a reasonable person to believe that the measure proposed in the petition may be warranted” (50 CFR 424.14(b)).

Q7: What area makes up the Florida manatee’s current critical habitat designation?

A7: Critical habitat was originally designated for the Florida manatee in 1976. Habitat was designated in areas including Citrus, Hillsborough, Manatee, Sarasota, Charlotte, De Soto, Lee, Collier, Monroe, Dade, Palm Beach, Martin, West Palm Beach, Volusia, Brevard, Nassau and Duval Counties. That listing was one of the first ESA critical habitat designations for an endangered species and the first for an endangered marine mammal. The Federal Register document, including the full textual description, can be found at

Q8: What is the next step?

A8: The Service is initiating a review of the current critical habitat designation for the subspecies to determine if revision of the critical habitat designation is warranted and, if so, how it intends to proceed with the requested revision.

Q9: Is the Service seeking information from the public for the status review?

A9: Yes. The Service is requesting information from the public, including governmental agencies, Native American Tribes, the scientific community, industry, and any other interested parties. The agency is seeking information regarding:

(1) The historical and current status and distribution of Florida manatee, its biology and ecology, and ongoing conservation measures for the species and its habitat;

(2) Physical and biological features essential to the conservation of the species;

(3) Information on threats to the species and its habitat; and

(4) Data on the increase in growth of Florida’s human population since manatee critical habitat was designated and examples of related increased threats to the species and subsequent changes to manatee habitat.

In 2007, the Service conducted an extensive review of all available information on the Florida manatee while preparing the Act-mandated five-year status review of the species. Therefore, it is particularly seeking information about manatee habitat or manatee use of habitat that has been made available since publication of the review. Please include sufficient information with your submission to allow verification of any scientific or commercial information or data provided.

Submissions merely stating support for or opposition to the action under consideration without providing supporting information, although noted, will not be considered in making a determination, as section 4(b)(2) of the Act directs that “the Secretary shall designate critical habitat, and make revisions thereto, on the basis of the best scientific data available.”

Q10: How do I submit information?

A10: You may submit information by one of the following methods:

  • Online at the Federal eRulemaking Portal: Follow the instructions for submitting comments.
  • U.S. mail or hand-delivery: Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS-R4–ES–2009–0066; Division of Policy and Directives Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, Suite 222; Arlington, VA 22203.

The Service will post all information received on This generally means that any personal information provided also will be posted. (see the Information Solicited section of the Federal Register notice for more details).

In order to allow sufficient time for biologists to review and consider submitted information and conduct the review, submissions must be received on or before October 29, 2009.

Q11: Where can I find more information on current and future actions related to the Florida manatee and the status review?

A11: Visit the Service’s web site at

Federal Register Notice

PDF of original petition - 1.2KB


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Last updated: June 21, 2016