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ENVIRO-NEWS  June 2011

ENVIRO-NEWS June 2011

Subject:

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Proposes Broadened Florida Manatee Protections in Kings Bay

From:

"Makuch, Joseph" <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Makuch, Joseph

Date:

Tue, 21 Jun 2011 12:01:05 -0400

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (289 lines)

-----Original Message-----
From: [log in to unmask]
[mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of FWS News and
Information
Sent: Tuesday, June 21, 2011 11:12 AM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: [fws-news] U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Proposes Broadened
Florida Manatee Protections in Kings Bay

Contact: 
Chuck Underwood, 904-731-3332
[log in to unmask]

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Proposes Broadened
Florida Manatee Protections in Kings Bay

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) announced today a proposal
to 
expand federal protection areas for manatees in Citrus County, Florida,
by 
creating a manatee refuge including all of Kings Bay in Crystal River.
The 
proposed area of the Kings Bay manatee refuge has not changed from what 
was identified in the emergency designation.

The manatee refuge would include all waters of Kings Bay, its
tributaries 
and adjoining water bodies upstream of the confluence of Kings Bay and 
Crystal River. In addition to the proposed rule, the Service is making 
available its related draft environmental assessment (EA) for comment.

The proposal reflects the first part of the rulemaking process that
would 
permanently establish the November 2010 emergency designation of a
federal 
manatee refuge in Kings Bay. This action, taken under the provisions 
contained in the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and the Marine Mammal 
Protection Act (MMPA), would provide the Service with management options

to address the needs of the increasing number of manatees using the
Kings 
Bay area throughout the year. 

The Service designated the first manatee sanctuaries in 1980. At that 
time, about 100 manatees were using the network of springs and the
number 
of people viewing manatees was estimated at 30,000 to 40,000 per year. 
Today, more than 550 manatees use Kings Bay and winter manatee viewing 
activities are estimated to exceed 100,000 people each winter. In recent

years, manatees have also been observed using Kings Bay during the
summer 
months.

"The number of manatees using Kings Bay throughout the year has simply 
outgrown the capacity of existing protected areas," said Dave Hankla,
the 
Service's North Florida Ecological Services Office supervisor, adding, 
"and human use of the bay has increased beyond the impacts originally 
considered when the existing protections were created."

Manatee mortalities within Kings Bay have also increased during this 
period of time. Of the 16 watercraft-related manatee deaths known to
have 
occurred in Kings Bay, 13 of those were in the last 10 years. Seven of 
these deaths occurred during the summer months between May 1 and August 
30.

By regulations established under the authorities of the ESA and the
MMPA, 
the Service can establish manatee protection areas when there is 
substantial evidence showing such establishment is necessary to prevent 
the taking of one or more manatees. Take is generally defined as the 
harassment, harm, death or injury of a listed species, along with a 
variety of other harmful actions. Manatee protection areas can be either

manatee sanctuaries or manatee refuges.

Manatee refuges are areas where certain waterborne activities, such as 
watercraft speed, are restricted to prevent the taking of one or more 
manatees. Manatee sanctuaries are areas in which all waterborne
activities 
are prohibited. The Kings Bay manatee refuge joins an existing federal 
manatee protection network of 11 sanctuaries and 13 refuges. The Kings
Bay 
manatee refuge will not eliminate the 7 existing sanctuary areas already

established in Kings Bay but compliment them by addressing take
resulting 
from waterborne activities in the remaining areas.
 
The proposed area of the Kings Bay manatee refuge has not changed from 
what was identified in the emergency designation, however, additional 
provisions are being proposed. 

The new provisions include watercraft speed restrictions in Kings Bay to

slow speed year-round except in those areas where more restrictive 
measures are in place. Also, the ability to create temporary no-entry 
areas around lesser springs like House Spring, in addition to those
areas 
identified in the emergency designation is included. The provisions also

provide the ability to establish temporary no-entry areas for no more
than 
14 days if a cold front hits before the manatee season begins or after
the 
manatee season has closed to prevent manatees from being harassed in
Kings 
Bay.

If made final, manatee viewing guidelines, many of which have been in 
place for several years, would be permanently incorporated into the rule

as prohibited acts and would be legally enforceable by federal and state

marine law enforcement officers. Activities identified in the proposed 
rule that would be specifically prohibited throughout the manatee refuge

include: 

Chasing or pursuing manatee(s).
Disturbing or touching resting or feeding manatee(s).
Diving from the surface on to resting or feeding manatee(s).
Cornering or surrounding or attempting to corner or surround manatee(s).
Riding, holding, grabbing, or pinching or attempting to ride, hold,
grab, 
or pinch manatee(s).
Poking, prodding, or stabbing, or attempting to poke, prod, or stab 
manatee(s) with anything, including hands and feet.
Standing on or attempting to stand on manatee(s).
Separating a mother and calf or attempting to separate a mother and
calf.
Separating manatee(s) from a group or attempting to separate manatee(s) 
from a group.
Giving manatee(s) anything to eat or drink or attempting to give 
manatee(s) anything to eat or drink.
Actively initiating contact with belted and/or tagged manatee(s) and 
associated gear, including any belts, harnesses, tracking devices, and 
antennae.
Interfering with rescue and research activities.
Using mooring and float lines that can entangle manatees.

In addition to the above prohibited activities, the following waterborne

activities would be prohibited within Three Sisters Springs from
November 
15 to March 31: 

o       Entering Three Sisters Spring between 6:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m.
o       Scuba diving
o       Fishing, including but not limited to fishing by hook and line,
by 
cast net, or spear.

Manatee protection areas are designated in the water and do not include 
land acquisition or land parcels. Public and private waterfront property

owners and their designees retain riparian access to their properties
and 
can maintain property and waterways when their property adjoins or is 
located in a manatee refuge. Public and private waterfront property
owners 
would be required to obtain a sticker and letter of authorization
allowing 
them to operate their boats and conduct property and waterway
maintenance 
activities in a manner consistent with the refuge or sanctuary measures 
that are in effect adjacent to their property.

The Service encourages all stakeholders to comment on the proposed 
designation. Comments are particularly sought concerning: (1) the
reasons 
why this area should or should not be designated as a manatee refuge, 
including information supporting the need for any changes; (2) current
or 
planned activities in the subject area and their possible effects on 
manatees; (3) any foreseeable economic or other impacts resulting from
the 
proposed designation; (4) any substantive information on real or
potential 
effects of the proposed manatee refuge on manatees; and (5) any actions 
that could be considered in lieu of, or in conjunction with, the
proposed 
designation that would provide equivalent protection to the manatee 
against the threat of take.

Please note that submissions merely stating support for or opposition to

the proposed rule without providing supporting information, although 
noted, will not be considered in making a final decision, as the ESA and

our implementing regulations direct decisions be made ?solely on the
basis 
of the best scientific and commercial data available.?

You may submit comments on the proposed rule and EA by one of the 
following methods:

        Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. Follow
the 
instructions for submitting comments to Docket No.
[FWS?R4?ES?2010?0079].
        U.S. mail or hand-delivery: Public Comments Processing, Attn: 
Docket No. [FWS?R4?ES?2010?0079]; Division of Policy and Directives 
Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, MS 
2042?PDM; Arlington, VA 22203. 
        Verbally by attending the formal public hearing. You may also 
submit written comments at the public hearing.

Comments must be received within 60 days, on or before August 22, 2011. 
The Service will post all comments on http://www.regulations.gov. This 
generally means the agency will post any personal information provided 
through the process. The Service is not able to accept email or faxes.

The Service has scheduled an informational open house and formal public 
hearing on July 7, 2011, as follows:

Location:
College of Central Florida - Citrus Campus
CF Conference Center
3800 S. Lecanto Hwy.
Lecanto, FL 34461-9026

Informational Open House: 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.

Formal Public Hearing: 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.

The open house affords the interested parties an informal opportunity to

hear information and ask questions about the proposed manatee refuge
rule. 
The formal public hearing provides a formal, structured opportunity for 
interested parties to verbally express their comments on the proposed 
rule.

For more information about the manatee and this proposed rule, please 
visit the Service at http://www.fws.gov/southeast/  or 
http://www.fws.gov/northflorida/ . 

Follow the regional office?s Twitter feed: #floridamanatee,
#crystalriver, 
#endangeredspecies

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others

to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their 
habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both
a 
leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for 
our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, 
dedicated professionals, and commitment to public service. For more 
information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit 
www.fws.gov. Connect with our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/usfws, 
follow our tweets at www.twitter.com/usfwshq, watch our YouTube Channel
at 
http://www.youtube.com/usfws and download photos from our Flickr page at

http://www.flickr.com/photos/usfwshq.

-FWS-

************************************************************************
***
News releases are also available on the World Wide Web at 
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Questions concerning a particular news release or item of
information should be directed to the person listed as the
contact. General comments or observations concerning the
content of the information should be directed to Malcomb Barsella
([log in to unmask]) in the Office of External Affairs.

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