Government acknowledges downlisting manatee might be warranted

July 01, 2014 | By CHRISTINA MARTIN

Today, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced its plan to publish a 90-day finding acknowledging that the petition we filed on behalf of Save Crystal River presents substantial scientific evidence that warrants further review. Our arm-twisting has paid off. We filed a lawsuit a couple of months ago to compel the government to pay proper attention to our petition.

Our readers will recall that it usually takes a lawsuit or a threat of a lawsuit to get the Fish and Wildlife Service to take any step that might result in a need to downlist or remove a species from the endangered and threatened lists. We had to sue the government in 2005 to get them to review the status of the manatee and 88 other species. The Fish and Wildlife Service finished that review in 2007, concluding that the manatee should be downlisted. It ignored its own experts’ advice and did nothing, so we filed a petition a year and half ago asking the government to act on its own recommendations. The Service then ignored our petition. By law, the Service should have responded within 90-days, but after more than one year of broken promises and no response, we sued.

The 90-day finding triggers a requirement that the Service now conduct a 12-month review of the manatee, which will then decide whether the Service should propose to downlist the manatee. If the past is any indication of the future, then we will have to threaten lawsuits a little over a year from now to get the Service to release its 12-month review.

We are glad that the Service has finally responded by acknowledging the merit of our petition. It is essential to any free society that the government follows the law. We hope going forward that the Service will finally stop shirking its duties and ignoring the law.