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Feds take first steps to reclassify manatees July 7, 2014

Jim Waymer

FLORIDA TODAY

10:52 p.m. EDT July 1, 2014

Federal wildlife officials are moving ahead with a review of the West Indian manatee’s “endangered” status in response to a 2012 petition to reclassify the species to the lesser status of “threatened.”

On Tuesday, the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced it would conduct the status review, just two months after a libertarian law foundation sued the agency over the matter.

In May, the The Pacific Legal Foundation sued the wildlife service for continuing to list the manatee as “endangered,” despite the agency’s own research that says the species should be reclassified as “threatened.”

“We’re happy to see that the Fish and Wildlife Service has finally acknowledged our petition,” said Christina M. Martin, a PLF attorney.
The Pacific Legal Foundation is pursuing the lawsuit on behalf of Save Crystal River, Inc. That nonprofit citizens group was concerned about new manatee idle-speed rules and expanded manatee refuge areas in Kings Bay in Citrus County.

So in late 2012, the Pacific Legal Foundation, on behalf of Save Crystal River, Inc., submitted a petition asking the wildlife service to reclassify the manatee as “threatened.”

As supporting information, PLF cited the wildlife service’s 2007 West Indian Manatee Five-Year Review which had recommended the status upgrade.
But citing budget and manpower issues, the agency balked at making the change. It also was busy responding to PLF’s 2006 lawsuit that forced the agency to review the listing status of hundreds of other species, as required by the Endangered Species Act, including 89 species in Florida.

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