WASHINGTON, July 13, 2001 (PRIMEZONE) -- The draft manatee recovery plan released by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) on Tuesday is ``sending shockwaves through the community of Americans concerned about endangered species,'' according to Brock Evans, executive director of the national Endangered Species Coalition. Evans called on ``everyone who cares about protecting manatees and other endangered species'' to speak out during the comment period for the proposed plan.
``This so-called `recovery' plan arrived four months late,'' Evans said, ``and instead of giving us a plan for recovery, it is a blueprint for taking manatees off the endangered species list. It is a shortcut for the fast-profit crowd to despoil and destroy what is left of the natural beaches and wetlands where manatees live.''
The Florida manatee recovery plan published by FWS in the Federal Register on July 10 suggested that by the year 2003, manatee status could be downgraded to ``threatened,'' and then the popular marine mammals could be removed from the list entirely in subsequent years. Evans questioned the validity of the science used to project this de-listing plan and called on the scientific community outside the government to review the plan and ``to make decisions based on biology, not wealth and politics.''
The plan is being issued eight months late under a settlement reached in January on a landmark lawsuit for manatee protection, in which the Fish and Wildlife Service had agreed to have the manatee recovery plan ready by February 28. Eighteen environmental and animal protection organizations are plaintiffs in that suit and earlier this week their attorney wrote to the Interior Department stating that since April 2, FWS has also missed four other deadlines in the suit, for setting up sanctuaries and refuges where manatees could be safe.
Evans pointed out that manatee deaths from boat injuries have been increasing and Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has reneged on a promise to force counties to adopt manatee protection plans. ``Manatees are more threatened than ever by the burgeoning overcrowding of Florida's coast. Under the Endangered Species Act, the Fish and Wildlife Service is supposed to be saving them from extinction, not writing plans to wash the government's hands of its responsibility to protect them,'' said Evans.
The Endangered Species Coalition represents over 430 scientific, environmental, religious and sporting organizations throughout the United States.
CONTACT: Endangered Species Coalition
Ed Lytwak, Communications Director