Feds are threatened with suit unless manatee’s “endangered” listing is dropped

Contact: Alan DeSerio

STUART, FLORIDA; December 14, 2012: The United States Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) should abide by its own scientific findings, and downlist, from  endangered” to “threatened,” the manatee species found in the warm waters of Florida and elsewhere on the Atlantic Coast.

That is the demand of a petition filed today with the FWS by attorneys with Pacific Legal Foundation (PLF).

Donor-supported PLF is a nonprofit watchdog organization that litigates for limited government, property rights and a balanced approach to environmental regulations, in courts nationwide. PLF’s Atlantic Center office is located in Stuart, Florida.

PLF attorneys represent Save Crystal River, Inc., a nonprofit organization of citizens from Crystal River in Citrus County, Florida, who advocate for property rights and a quality of life that preserves the proper balance between nature and human activity. As with all its clients, PLF represents Save Crystal River free of charge.

Feds’ 2007 review called for downlisting the manatee – but nothing happened

In 2007, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service conducted a status review of the West Indian Manatee, the species found in Florida, which includes the subspecies Florida and Antillean manatee. The purpose of the status review, required every five years by the Endangered Species Act, is for the government to ascertain on a regular basis whether a listed species still requires ESA protection, and if so, to what degree.

The 2007 review recommended that the West Indian Manatee should be downlisted from its current endangered status to the status of threatened. The review relied heavily upon information provided by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. “Despite the finding of its own legally required review, which occurred five long years ago, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has made no effort to initiate the process to downlist the manatee,” said Alan DeSerio, managing attorney with Pacific Legal Foundation’s office in Stuart, Florida. “Because the federal government has failed to abide by its own scientific review, it is necessary to petition the agency and, if necessary, to file a lawsuit.

“We are bringing this action because honesty and accuracy are essential in environmental regulations,” said DeSerio. “If the government’s own science says a species shouldn’t be classified as ‘endangered,’ regulations need to reflect that fact, or they lose credibility. As a practical matter, a downlisting to ‘threatened’ won’t immediately lessen the manatee-related restrictions on landowners, businesses and the Florida economy. But integrity in the regulatory process is essential, and we don’t have that as long as the federal government insists on ignoring its own findings and labeling species as ‘endangered’ when they aren’t.”

Save Crystal River says: “Government must follow its own rules”

In filing this petition, PLF attorneys represent Save Crystal River, Inc. (a non-profit 501© 3 corporation). Save Crystal River is a coalition and partnership of friends and neighbors, young parents and retirees, career professionals and business owners, residents and community leaders, who became united by their commitment to maintain and protect the unique quality of life for all people in the community of Crystal River and Citrus County, on Florida’s West Coast.

The mission of SCR is to educate the public regarding current environmental, property, and riparian rights, and to represent the interest of the citizens of Crystal River against excessive government regulation of the Crystal River and the resources of the surrounding area.

Recently, the FWS has moved to effectively take over the entire bay that the City of Crystal River sits on – the 600-acre Kings Bay — because manatees come into the bay for four months of the year, from November through February. The threat of onerous federal regulations endangers the fishing industry and the tourist industry.

“We believe in protecting a sound and healthy environment, and we also believe that the federal government must follow its own rules,” said Steve Lamb, vice president of Save Crystal River. “That’s why we’re petitioning the government to abide by its findings on the manatee.”

PLF’s petition, and a podcast on the issue, may be read at PLF’s Web site: www.pacificlegal.org.

About Pacific Legal Foundation and its Atlantic Center

Donor-supported Pacific Legal Foundation (www.pacificlegal.org) is a nonprofit public-interest watchdog organization that litigates for limited government, property rights, and a balanced approach to environmental regulation, in courts across the country. PLF’s Atlantic Center is located in Stuart, Florida. Among PLF’s noteworthy victories: The federal court ruling that led to the bald eagle being removed from the ESA list.

PLF attorneys recently won their sixth direct-representation case at the United States Supreme Court, challenging overreaching government regulations: Sackett v. EPA.

PLF’s latest direct-representation case at the United States Supreme Court, for property rights and a balanced approach to environmental regulations, comes from Florida: Koontz v. St. Johns River Water Management District. Oral argument in Koontz will be held at the Supreme Court on January 15, 2013.