Target: US Fish and Wildlife Service Deputy Director for Policy Steve Guertin
Goal: Maintain the current protected status of the West Indian manatee
Despite record deaths among Florida’s manatee population since 2010, these animals are in danger of losing government protection. Save Crystal River, Inc. and libertarian watchdog group the Pacific Legal Foundation decided in 2012 that the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) should follow through on a five-year-old recommendation that Florida manatees be downgraded from “endangered” status to “threatened.” This so-called ‘demotion’ means that the West Indian manatee, along with its two subspecies the Florida manatee and the Antillean manatee, would no longer be considered on the brink of extinction.
The FWS recommended the downgrade in 2007 after a five-year study that observed steady population growth and reduced threats to manatee populations. However, 2010 saw a new high of 766 Florida manatee deaths, and 2013 marked an even more depressing record with 803 manatees dead, due to a variety of environmental conditions in addition to habitat loss and collisions with boats. The last survey of their population in 2011 placed them at under 5,000 individuals, so in 2013 Florida manatees lost around seventeen percent of their population. Such a high rate of population loss should give us cause to be more concerned about Florida manatees, not less.
Save Crystal River, Inc. rightfully points out that Florida manatees are long overdue for a reevaluation by the FWS, which is supposed to happen every five years, according to the Endangered Species Act of 1973. But in their continued petitioning to the FWS to reduce protections for Florida manatees, Save Crystal River, Inc. has neglected to use current data or acknowledge that manatees are still very much in danger. Local conservation groups and state organizations have expressed concern over humanity’s involvement in the decline of the species (such as climate change and irresponsible boaters), and if manatees are stripped of their protected status, people may see that as a green light for more invasive or destructive behaviors. According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, between 25 and 30 percent of manatee deaths yearly can be attributed to collisions with boats.
By signing this petition, you are calling on the FWS and Deputy Director Guertin to support Florida manatees by rejecting Save Crystal River, Inc.’s petition to reduce their protections.
Dear Deputy Director Guertin,
I am contacting you regarding the petition by Save Crystal River, Inc. and the Pacific Legal Foundation to reduce the status of the West Indian manatee, Florida manatee, and Antillean manatee from endangered to threatened. This petition relies on outdated information, including a now seven-year-old FWS report recommending the move; however, as you probably know, Florida’s manatees have suffered more intense losses than ever in the last few years thanks to irresponsible boaters and environmental conditions like climate change and red algae.
Save Crystal River, Inc. claims that this petition has been filed in the name of reducing government, but these protections, for species suffering silently at the hands of humanity, are some of the most important aspects of government that exist. Freedom is not about ruining the lives and habitats of the animals with which we share this planet. The fact is that manatees are still on their tumultuous path to get off the endangered species list, and reclassifying them as merely threatened could worsen their recent downward spiral. I urge you to see the impact that this decision might have on Florida’s manatee populations, and to reject Save Crystal River, Inc.’s petition.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: US Fish and Wildlife Service Southeast Region via Flickr