2014-2015 Three Sisters Springs management strategy to remain in place until draft environmental assessment is finalized
Earlier this year, Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge developed a Draft Environmental Assessment for in-water activities at Three Sisters Springs for public review and comment. The Service received more than 2,600 suggestions during the comment period. Additionally, the City of Crystal River made substantive recommendations with an alternative approach. As a result, the Refuge is currently evaluating comments and revising the Draft Environmental Assessment based on the public’s input.
“The comments from the public and our partners were very helpful, and we thank you for your interest,” said Andrew Gude. “The community’s feedback and suggestions led to our evaluation and revision of our proposed alternative.”
The Service is working diligently on developing the Final Draft Environmental Assessment; however, it is not expected to be finalized before the 2015-2016 manatee season begins. In the interim, the Service will be implementing the management plan from the 2014-2015 manatee season.
The preferred alternative contained in the Draft Final Environmental Assessment is expected to be available for public review and comment in the coming weeks. When the in-water management plan and Environmental Assessment are finalized, they will replace the interim management plans. To review the management measures that will remain in place now, please see the February 26, 2015 press release.
Manatees are protected under the Endangered Species Act and Marine Mammal Protection Act, both of which prohibit ‘take’ – a term broadly meaning harm, including killing, injuring, and harassing. During winter months, manatees gather in large numbers at Three Sisters (sometimes exceeding 500) while they take advantage of the warmer waters at these springs. Crowding by humans in attempt to get close to the manatees in the confined habitat of the springs may unintentionally displace manatees or otherwise affect their natural behaviors. Throughout the manatee season, the Service will be monitoring the activities at the springs to determine if potential temporary closures are needed to prevent any possible disturbance to manatees inside the springs.
Ivan Vicente, 352-563-2088 x211
Phil Kloer, USFWS
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