US Agrees to Update Critical Habitat for Florida Manatees
By Curt Anderson.
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — U.S. wildlife officials have agreed to revise the critical habitat designation for Florida manatees, which have been dying in record numbers because water pollution is killing a main food source.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said in a court settlement made public Wednesday that it will publish a proposed revision by Sept. 12, 2024. The agreement comes in a long-running court case involving the Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife and the Save the Manatee Club.
The rule would bring enhanced federal scrutiny to projects that might affect the manatee in waterways in which the marine mammals are known to concentrate. One such area is the Indian River Lagoon on Florida’s east coast, where this winter officials successfully fed manatees tons of lettuce in an unprecedented experiment to prevent more starvation.
Last year, more than 1,100 manatees died largely from lack of food, a Florida record. This year, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission reports 562 manatee deaths as of late May. Dozens more manatees have been rescued and are being cared for at zoos, marine facilities and aquariums around the country.
The manatee critical habitat designation has not been updated since 1976; it’s something manatee advocates…
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