Florida Today reports on its front page this morning that the federal government intends to downlist the manatee from endangered to threatened in the coming year. The report prominently features Pacific Legal Foundation and its role in pushing the feds to follow the law. Reporter Jim Waymer explains:
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service expects by fall 2016 to propose a rule to reclassify the Florida manatee from “endangered” to a less-serious status of “threatened.”
Word of the potential reclassification came via a Nov. 19 notice within an 181-page semiannual agenda of rules that federal agencies intend to review or develop between fall 2015 and fall 2016.
Waymer then highlights how PLF forced the government’s hand:
In May 2014, the Pacific Legal Foundation sued the wildlife service for continuing to list the manatee as “endangered,” despite the agency’s own research that said the species should be reclassified as “threatened.”
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.
As supporting information, PLF cited the wildlife service’s 2007 West Indian Manatee Five-Year Review which had recommended the status change. PLF also cites a stock assessment by the Fish and Wildlife Service in January 2014 that estimated the minimum current manatee population at 4,976 manatees, including 4,834 in Florida.
Citing budget and manpower issues, the wildlife service had balked at reclassifying the manatee. 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.
This past February, state spotters counted a record 6,063 manatees in Florida, topping the previous record set in 2010 by almost 1,000 manatees.
As the report mentions, PLF has pushed for this reclassification for years. Although the article mentions that reclassification is not a sure thing, the article also makes clear that PLF’s demand that the feds follow the law forced the Fish & Wildlife Service to this position.