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Feds: Manatees No Longer Endangered

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
Jim Reid
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

One of the symbols of Florida is no longer an endangered species. That's according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which announced Thursday they're downlisting the manatee from endangered to threatened. Manatees have been classified as endangered since the first federal endangered species list was issued in 1967.

More manatees than ever - 6,300 - were counted during the winter, when they congregate around springs and warm power plant outfalls. But last year, more than one hundred manatees were killed, mostly by boaters.

Several environmental groups have already said they'll sue to overturn the decision.

The downlisting is the result of a legal challenge by Pacific Legal Foundation, a group that advocates limited government. They represent business interests in Citrus County, where large numbers of manatees winter in springs, which has led to restrictions on boating and building of docks.

In a news release, the group said:

“Everyone who values accuracy and integrity in environmental regulations should be pleased with this news,” said PLF attorney Christina Martin.  “Finally, the federal government is formally acknowledging what its experts first recognized a decade ago: The manatee has substantially improved and is no longer in danger of extinction. This is a victory for PLF and for PLF’s client, Save Crystal River, Inc., a group that is restoring habitat in the river in Citrus County, and pursues government accountability. This is also a victory for everyone who believes that government must follow the requirements of the law and align its regulations with sound science."

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Steve Newborn is WUSF's assistant news director as well as a reporter and producer at WUSF covering environmental issues and politics in the Tampa Bay area.