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North Florida Field Office

News Release

For Immediate Release

Date: March 26, 2001

Release #: 004-01

Media Contact:
Chuck Underwood 904/731-3332
Tom Mackenzie 404/679-7291

Parties Agree to Extend Deadline for Proposed Designation of Federal Refuges and Sanctuaries for Florida Manatees

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 timeline by which the Federal agency must complete a proposed rule for new manatee refuges and sanctuaries throughout peninsular Florida. The original terms of the settlement (document in PDF version) required the rule to be published in the Federal Register by April 2, 2001. Under the new agreement the deadline has been extended to May 2, 2001.

This extension will allow for coordination between the Service and the State of Florida if the State proceeds with a similar rule making process for the protection of manatees. The State is currently in settlement negotiations on their own lawsuit with the same plaintiffs.

"The people of Florida are better served and a great deal of potential confusion can be avoided if there is Federal and State coordination when identifying areas where additional protections may be afforded to the manatee." said Sam D. Hamilton, Regional Director for the Southeast Region of the Fish and Wildlife Service.

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 will work with the State to ensure that a Federal proposal compliments the State’s proposal for the designation of manatee protection areas. The Service and State are committed to working together to ensure comprehensive planning and coordination for the overall protection of the manatee.

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 93-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System which encompasses 531 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 66 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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Last modified January 14, 2004