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Federal Finding Means Florida Manatee Critical Habitat Designation Merits Further Review


September 29, 2009


Chuck Underwood,, 904-731-3332
Tom MacKenzie, 404/679-7291, 678/296-6400,


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The critical habitat designation for the Florida manatee may warrant revision, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today, following an initial review of a petition seeking a revision to the 1976 critical habitat designation under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

The Service is initiating a review of the current critical habitat designation for the subspecies to determine how it intends to proceed with the requested revision.

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.

Today’s decision, commonly known as a 90-day finding, is based on scientific information about the species provided in the petition received from the Wildlife Advocacy Project, Save the Manatee Club, Center for Biological Diversity, and Defenders of Wildlife requesting the revision to the Florida manatee’s critical habitat designation under the ESA. This finding is the first step in a process that triggers a more thorough review of all the biological information available to determine if revision is warranted, and if so, how best to proceed with a revision of the designation.

Critical habitat is a term defined in the ESA. It identifies geographic areas containing features essential to the conservation of a threatened or endangered species that may require special management considerations or protection. The designation of critical habitat does not affect land ownership or establish a refuge, wilderness, reserve, preserve, or other conservation area. It does not allow government or public access to private lands.

To ensure this review is comprehensive, the Service is soliciting scientific and commercial data and other information regarding the critical habitat designation for the Florida manatee.

Specifically, the Service is seeking information regarding:

  • The historical and current status and distribution of the Florida manatee, its biology and ecology, and ongoing conservation measures for the species and its habitat;
  • Physical and biological features essential to the conservation of the species;
  • Information on threats to the species and its habitat; and
  • 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 ESA-mandated five-year status review of the species. Therefore, the Service is particularly seeking information about manatee habitat or manatee use of habitat that has been made available since publication of the review.

Anyone wishing to submit information regarding the Florida manatee critical habitat designation may do so via one of the following methods:

  • 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.

Please note that 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 ESA directs that “the Secretary shall designate critical habitat, and make revisions thereto, on the basis of the best scientific data available.”

Information must be received by October 29, 2009.

For more information about the Florida manatee and this finding, please visit the Service’s web site at

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting, and enhancing fish and wildlife and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. Visit the Service online at or


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2009 News Releases.

Last updated: September 29, 2009