Thursday, June 08, 2006

Whores to Business and Hunting the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission Voted To Downgrade the Manatee From Endangered To Threatened



Predicted this one as well. Now the doors are open to developers, hunters, boaters, etc.

For more on the Manatee and how you can help protect it, visit the Save the Manatee Club at http://www.savethemanatee.org/

Article:

State shuffles animals on protection lists

http://www.news-journalonline.com/NewsJournalOnline/
News/Headlines/frtHEAD01060806.htm

Protests don't sway wildlife commission
By VIRGINIA SMITH
Staff Writer

WEST PALM BEACH -- Unmoved by the waving of manatee flags, tearful pleas and heirloom china broken in protest, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission on Wednesday voted unanimously to downgrade the Florida manatee from endangered, a title it has held for more than 30 years, to threatened.

The change came as a result of a scientific review that showed Florida's approximately 3,000 manatees to be increasing in some locations, declining or stable in others, and not facing an immediate risk of extinction.

Commissioners also moved Wednesday to de-list the bald eagle, declare the Panama City crayfish threatened, and upgrade the gopher tortoise from a species of special concern to threatened.

The bald eagle's removal was met with little protest, and the crayfish's and the gopher tortoise's upgrades were widely applauded.

In the manatee's case, only fishermen and representatives of boating and dock-building interests spoke in support of a change. Five years ago, said Ted Forsgren of the Coastal Conservation Association, a fishermen's organization, "groups were claiming the manatee to be on the brink of extinction and that's false."

The commission says the threatened designation won't result in reduced protections for manatees, and until it approves a formal management plan, a process that will take at least until 2007, the manatee keeps its status under Florida law as endangered. Its endangered designation under federal law won't be affected.

But advocates for sea cows fear that public perception will be affected, and on Wednesday the fruits of their efforts to delay the change ranged from the purely logical -- arguing that the state's system for evaluating threat is flawed -- to the flat-out theatrical.

Lee County resident Virginia Splitt, one of more than 50 people to address the commission on the manatee issue, presented its seven members with something wrapped in pink tissue paper. After assuring one skeptical commissioner that it would not explode, she crushed the object (an antique porcelain pitcher) with her foot, likening it to a manatee hit by a boat.

More pointed objections were raised by representatives of Florida environmental and animal-rights groups. Last week 17 of them, including the Save the Manatee Club, signed a petition saying the state had set the bar for endangerment too high and moved prematurely to downgrade the manatee.

And they asked the commission to delay any change until, at the very least, a controversy over wording is resolved.

Florida's three-tiered system for classifying species, adopted in 1999, is modeled after the World Conservation Union's internationally recognized standards, but differs in one important way: The names don't match up.

What the international group calls critically endangered, Florida calls endangered, and what the group calls endangered, Florida calls merely threatened. (A third international category, vulnerable, matches the state's species of special concern). If Florida had adopted the international group's names as well as its standards, manatees would still be called endangered.

Manatee advocates feel the endangered label is essential to keeping sea cow protections from being eroded, but commissioners disagreed.

"The key is the management plan," said Herky Huffman of Enterprise. "If you don't have a good plan you can call them 'endangered-endangered-endangered' and it won't matter."

"Going from 1,200 manatees a couple decades ago to 3,200 today and calling them 'endangered' is confusing to me," said commissioner Brian Yablonski of Tallahassee. "When someone hears the term 'threatened,' it doesn't mean 'happy campers.' "

Judith Vallee, executive director of the Save the Manatee Club, said her group would work on the state's new management plan for manatees, but it would also consider measures, including litigation, to force the state to adopt the international names.

"We'll look at everything in our toolbox," Vallee said. "Whatever legal remedies we have."

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