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Rule Change Means More Federal Oversight of Development Projects That Could Negatively Impact Manatees

A Florida manatee cow and calf.
Photo courtesy FWC
Keith Ramos/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will publish the proposed revision by Sept. 12, 2024.

Florida - Wednesday June 1, 2022: U.S. wildlife officials have agreed to update the list of Florida waterways that are critical to the survival of manatees. A record number of manatees have been dying in recent years because water pollution has killed off the sea grass they need to survive.

The rule change means enhanced federal scrutiny over development projects that might negatively impact the waterways in which the manatees are known to concentrate, like the Indian River Lagoon.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said in a court settlement made public Wednesday that it will publish the proposed critical habitat revisions by Sept. 12, 2024. The agreement comes in a long-running court case involving the Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife and the Save the Manatee Club. The critical habitat update will be the first in over four decades.

In 2001, more than 1,100 manatees died largely from starvation because of the lack of sea grass. This year's number is 562 deaths so far.