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North Florida Field Office

News Release

For Immediate Release

Date: July 10, 2001
Release #: 009-01
Media Contact:
Chuck Underwood, 904-731-3332
Tom MacKenzie, 404-679-7291

Public input sought on draft recovery plan for Florida manatees

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today it is seeking public input for the second time on a draft revised recovery plan for the Florida subspecies of the West Indian manatee, an endangered species native to the coastal and intercostal waterways of the southeastern United States.

This is the third revision of the recovery plan for Florida manatees. The original plan was approved in 1980 and revised in 1989 and 1996. The Service initially sought public comment on the 3rd revision to the recovery plan last November. As a result of the comments received, significant changes were made to that draft. Therefore, the Service felt it appropriate to release a second draft for public comment prior to finalizing the plan.

This revision presents criteria for reclassification to threatened as well as delisting. The criteria set benchmarks for standard population demographics such as survival and growth rate, as well as targets that evaluate the success of conservation measures to remove existing and long-term threats to recovery. The recovery criteria specifically relate to the threats identified in the Endangered Species Actís (ESA) five (5) listing factors.

"The key feature of the plan is the focus on the future security of the species," said Sam D. Hamilton, the Service's Southeast Regional Director. "We recognize that significant progress has been made towards recovery, although we still need to control threats."

The most prevalent threat continues to be injuries and deaths caused by watercraft. The plan addresses the need for adequate protection in areas where manatees and humans coexist, and calls for monitoring of key population statistics, such as adult survival rates, as a means for determining how well such protection measures are working.

The Service lists the greatest long-term threat as the need to maintain adequate sources of warm water for the species to survive the cold in winter. In its plan, the Service calls for protection of flow rates at key natural springs and other warm water sources, particularly in areas where manatees have become dependent on power plant discharges.

In this revision to the manatee recovery plan, the Service recognizes that significant progress has been made towards recovery and that the current manatee population may warrant reclassification to threatened status within the next few years, if recovery criteria are met and threats are controlled. However, even under the best circumstances, complete recovery of the species is difficult to predict. Resolving long-term threats may take many years.

"We know what is necessary for the survival of the manatee," Hamilton said, "and if we choose to be good stewards, we will have manatees as part of our natural heritage for our future generations to enjoy."

Copies of the second draft of the revised plan may be obtained:

Additional details regarding the plan, as well as answers to the most frequently asked questions, are available via the internet at http://www.fws.gov/northflorida

The Service is seeking written public comments on the second draft of the revised recovery plan. All comments must be received by August 9, 2001. Comments may be mailed, hand delivered, faxed or submitted electronically. Please mail or deliver comments to: Field Supervisor, Revised Manatee Recovery Plan, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 6620 Southpoint Dr., South, Suite 310, Jacksonville, FL 32216-0958. Fax comments to 904-232-2404. Comments submitted electronically should be as ASCII text files, and please include your name and return mailing address in your e-mail. Send electronic comments to: northflorida@fws.gov

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.

- FWS -

For more information about the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,
visit our home page at http://www.fws.gov

NOTE: You can view our Florida releases, as well as find additional information on this issue and others, at http://www.fws.gov/northflorida

For more info, or to sign up to get FWS releases via e-mail, visit: http:/southeast.fws.gov, or the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service home page at: http://news.fws.gov/newsreleases/

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Last modified January 14, 2004