Florida is Ignored by USFWS


Florida’s Conservation Agency Opposed USFWS Regulations in Florida

 

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) opposed USFWS manatee rules in 2003 documents, citing:

  • Unwarranted new Federal manatee refuges and sanctuaries that are inconsistent with state manatee conservation efforts and that do not meet United States Fish and Wildlife Service site-selection criteria.
  • A USFWS Section 7 Consultation Directive that cannot reasonably be implemented and that hurts Floridians.
  • Result: USFWS ignored the FWC.

The FWC again voiced opposition to the USFWS on September, 30, 2011, requesting USFWS to withdraw the proposed Kings Bay Rule and return to the community to work with local stakeholders.

  • Result: Again, FWC was ignored by USFWS.

 

Local and State Elected Officials Opposed the Kings Bay Rule

 

The City Council of Crystal River:

  • Special Meetings held in opposition of Kings Bay Rule
  • Council Members speak against proposed Kings Bay Rule in Public Hearings
  • Unanimous vote resulted in Notice of Intent to Sue letter to USFWS
  • Unanimous vote in favor of Resolution to Support Save Crystal River’s Petition to FWCrequesting changes to the Cooperative Agreement between FWC and USFWS.
  • Result: Crystal River City Council is ignored by USFWS.

 

Citrus County Board of County Commission:

  • County Commissioners speak against Proposed Kings Bay Rule in Public Hearings
  • Unanimous vote resulted in Notice of Intent to Sue letter to USFWS
  • Unanimous vote in favor of Resolution to Support Save Crystal River’s Petition to FWC requesting changes to the Cooperative Agreement between FWC and USFWS.
  • Result: Citrus County Board of County Commission is ignored by USFWS.

 

Florida House of Representatives:

  • Representative Jimmy T. Smiith speaks against Kings Bay Rule in Public Hearings
  • Florida House Memorial passed by Florida Legislature in opposition to Kings Bay Rule.
  • Result: Florida Legislature is ignored by USFWS.

 

Florida Senate:

  • Senator Charlie Dean speaks against Kings Bay Rule in Public Hearings
  • Florida Senate Memorial passed by Florida Legislature in opposition to Kings Bay Rule.
  • Result: Florida Senate is ignored by USFWS.

 

U.S. Congressman Rich Nugent:

  • U.S. Congressman Rich Nugent writes letter of opposition to USFWS against Kings Bay Rule.
  • U.S. Congressman Rich Nugent seeks to block funding in Congress for Kings Bay Rule.
  • Result: USFWS ignores U.S. Congressman.

 

Local Opposition from Residents:

  • Vast Majority of speakers at Public Hearing by USFWS voiced opposition to Kings Bay Rule.
  • Numerous LOCAL residents wrote individual letters of opposition to USFWS.
  • Save Crystal River, Inc. residents travel to USFWS in Jacksonville to discuss opposition to Kings Bay Rule.
  • More than 1,500 LOCAL residents sign petition to USFWS against Kings Bay Rule.
  • Result: USFWS ignores Local Residents Against Kings Bay Rule.

 

Fact #1:   We believe neither the ESA nor the MMPA provide the USFWS the authority to draw a line around a body of water and seize total regulatory control within that line within the state of Florida. The USFWS has  overstepped their regulatory authority as granted by Congress through their own agency self-written regulations while ignoring opposition from state and local elected officials.

 

Fact #2:    The MMPA limits USFWS to issuing permits for swimming, fishing, boating, etc. in waters under United States Jurisdiction, and United States Territorial Seas, not Florida Coastal Waters.

 

Fact #3:   We believe USFWS regulation 50 CFR 17.100-103 where USFWS gave itself the authority to “create manatee refuges” is simply not in the ESA nor MMPA. Thus, this regulation was written outside the authority granted by Congress, and is therefore an “agency action in excess of statutory authority.”.

 

Fact #4:   The Kings Bay Rule establishes a “de facto” designation of Kings Bay as a manatee critical habitat under the ESA. However, USFWS has not met the rulemaking requirements required for this designation by assessing Kings Bay for  ioaccumulation, herbicide and pesticide levels, and food supply adequacy that would affect the health of manatees.

 

Fact #5:   Kings Bay can only be considered a critical warm water habitat for manatees during approximately 5 months of the year. According to NOAA data (http://www.nodc.noaa.gov/dsdt/cwtg/egof.html), the Gulf of Mexico water temperatures are warmer than the spring fed 72 degree waters of Kings Bay during the other 7 months of the year. Winter population (approx. 500), Summer Population (avg/day 45 or less)

 

Fact #6:   USFWS essentially drew a line around a Bay that bears no relationship to food, warmth, etc. They also ignored their own studies which stipulate Kings Bay as a “winter critical habitat”. In other words, it is not a habitat critical for the survival of the species in summer. 50 CFR 17.103(c) allows the Secretary to designate zones which are “seasonal” in nature. These were ignored, and thus “the best science available was ignored”.

 

Fact #7:    The average manatee consumes 33.4 kg/day or 550m2 of plant material. However, hydrilla (a primary food source for manatees) virtually disappeared from Kings Bay following salt water intrusion that began in the 1990’s. Substantial mats of lyngbya blue green algae now exists in Kings Bay. Manatees either do not eat this material or they can become sick if they do. Therefore, an inadequate food supply exists in Kings Bay for the current manatee population.

 

Fact #8:    The 10 year GIS data collected by USFWS indicates that less than an average of 45 manatees per day are present in Kings Bay from May 1 to August 31 and those are located primarily along the edges of the rivers and in residential canals. Rarely were manatees located in the boating channels according to this data. Therefore, the selection of the 10 designated weeks for recreational boating in the rule appears to be arbitrary and based on inadequately substantiated data.

 

Fact #9:    The geographic range of the species has not been adequately identified in Kings Bay. The manatee population is believed to have exceeded 5,000+ with a range now recognized as far north as South Carolina and Georgia and as far west at Texas during migratory seasonal warm water months. USFWS states: “The Florida manatee has not experienced any curtailment in the extent of its range throughout the southeastern U.S. To the contrary, Florida manatees have expanded their summer range to other states along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. It is now not uncommon to find manatees in coastal waters of Georgia, North and South Carolina, Alabama, and Louisiana.” Therefore, it is not inconceivable that USFWS will ventually seek to expand their regulatory control to other states in addition to Florida.

 

Fact #10:   The carrying capacity for manatees in Kings Bay has not been identified. No assessment was made of the sufficient availability of food or space for this population increase. Nor was consideration given to the consideration of population stress and disease transmission among such high aggregations of manatees. In addition, rehabilitated manatees are still being reintroduced to Kings Bay by USFWS and others at Three Sisters Springs further stressing the available resources.

 

Fact #11:   The rule states that the northwest region where Kings Bay is located, has an adult mortality rate almost equally split between human-related and natural causes. However, regional data was extrapolated and applied to Citrus County and Kings Bay. Data from FWC states, from 1999 – 2010, 48.8% of manatee deaths in Citrus County were from natural causes, 31% were human related, and 20% were undetermined. During the same time period, in Kings Bay 53.5% were from natural causes,  4.8% were human related, and 11.6% were undetermined. The highest cause of deaths in both cases was perinatal death, not human related.

 

Fact #12:    There is no evidence to support that the manatees “discovered” in ANY location were actually injured or killed in those tidally influenced locations. Therefore, the best available science is not used in assigning mortality rates to counties and waterways.

 

Fact #13:   USFWS frequently cites “reports or observations of manatee harassment” as justification for rule implementation and regulatory expansion. However, no statistical evidence is given and a two year citation report that was obtained under the Freedom of Information Act indicated zero citations had been issued by USFWS for manatee harassment.

 

Fact #14:    The final rule cites no significant number of cold-related injuries and mortalities in the Northwest Florida region, even in the recent extreme cold events. This concern for cold weather events was cited as the reason for the Emergency Rule in 2010 at the hearings held by USFWS. However, there were zero cold related deaths in Citrus County 2009 and only 2 cold related deaths in 2010 (neither of which was in Kings Bay). The Florida FWC website lists only 3 cold stress deaths in Kings Bay in 10 years: one each in 2003, 2004, and 2006.

 

Fact #15:   USFWS regulations state manatee protection areas can be established when “substantial evidence” show these areas are necessary to prevent the take of one or more manatees. However, USFWS sets a low bar. “The substantial evidence standard” means that the Service can appropriately consider “any valid, reliable evidence” and does not limit itself under section 17.106 subpart J regulations to information “limited to scientific or commercial (i.e. species trade) data”. This leaves the door open to subjective interpretation of unsubstantiated data that may be provided by untrained or unqualified volunteers or citizen observers in reporting “manatee harassment”.

 

Fact #16:    No clickable links were provided in the rule for citation evaluation by the public. The public’s opportunity for public input was limited due to the lack of clickable links to the studies cited in the Proposed Rule. Statements were made but there was no opportunity for the public to access the studies to evaluate the accuracy and applicability of the assertions in the rule.

 

Fact #17:   No evidence was provided for the inclusion of residential canals and associated riparian rights in the rule.

 

Fact #18:    Regional Director of USFWS, Cynthia Doehner stated in a 2009 letter that the species was doing fine in Crystal River and Homosassa, turning down 2 petitions for heavier regulations presented by environmental groups. Contradicting itself, in 2010, the “Emergency Rule” was issued in Kings Bay. However, invoking the “Emergency Rule” in the ESA –  16 USC 1533(b)(7) – requires an “emergency” which poses a “significant risk” to the species. In USFWS’ own words, there was no significant risk to the species in the Kings Bay, Crystal River and Homosassa region.

 

Fact #19:   Both the USFWS and FWC recommend downlisting the manatee in 2007 and have cancelled synoptic surveys for the Winter of 2012.

 

Fact #20:   No meaningful economic impact study was conducted in the establishment of this rule. USFWS stated that they did not have to conduct this study because they did not think the community would reach the $100,000,000/yr. economic impact threshold. This is the same threshold applied in industrialized counties such as Dade, Hillsborough, and Duval. It is an unfair and arbitrary standard when applied to any rural community. USFWS ignored the Economic Significance of Boating in Citrus County from 2009 hosted by Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission done through Michigan State University’s Recreational Marine Research Center.

 

Fact #21:    In the proposed rule, USFWS cites statistics for the increased number of boat registrations in Citrus County as evidence of significant boating traffic on Kings Bay.  However, Citrus County has 7 rivers, the Cross Florida Barge Canal, and a multitude of lakes on the eastern side of the county – all of which are used by the boating public. No evidence was given for the number of boats on Kings Bay, nor the demographics of the types of watercraft that were registered and whether or not multiple boats were registered to the same family. The extrapolation of data from a larger region followed by the application of that data to Kings Bay as evidence for the need for the rule is arbitrary and capricious.

 

Fact #22:   The proposed rule cited a study commissioned by the Save the Manatee Club to determine the effect of slow speed zones on property values. USFWS concluded that property values would increase as a result of the rule. However, the study was conducted 15 years ago in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida on the inland waterway and includes a conclusion that states that the greater the distance (time required) to reach open water (the Gulf in our case) had an inverse relationship to property values. This fact was omitted from the rule discussion and invalidates their conclusions of economic impact on the Citrus County and Kings Bay residents. The failure to conduct a proper economic analysis resulted in the conclusion that the Final Rule had little or noeconomic impact upon Crystal River or its citizens.

 

 

Statistical Support Opposing the Necessity of Rule and Refuge to Protect the Species

 

Citrus County and the City of Crystal River have led the nation in developing protection policies and regulations in the interests of protecting the manatee species.

 

  • Our community has been the best stewards of manatee protection with an ongoing annual adult survival rate of 94-96% which surpasses the EPA standards of 90% adult survival rate.

The manatee is the symbol for the City of Crystal River.

  • The State of Florida has recognized the Citrus County Manatee Protection Plan as one of the top 2 plans in the state for manatee protection.
  • Citrus County was the first county in the state of Florida to establish a county manatee protection plan which was also incorporated into the County Comprehensive Plan.
  • Citrus County has had a strong Save the Manatee local presence since 2000.
  • Manatees are protected by the Florida Manatee Sanctuary Act (§379.2431(2), Florida Statutes)
  • Florida Fish and Wildlife Service protects manatees through:
    • The Division of Habitat and Species Conservation
    • The Fish and Wildlife Research Institute
    • The Division of Law Enforcement
  • USFWS recommended downlisting the manatee from Endangered to Threatened status in 2007.
  • Florida Fish and Wildlife Service recommended downlisting the manatee from Endangered to Threatened status in 2007.
  • Number of manatees reported in Kings Bay in January, 2012 was 546. Number of manatees reported in Kings Bay in March, 2012 was 26. (Source: USFWS)
  • 99.8% of all manatees deaths ever reported in the state of Florida occurred in other locations – not in Kings Bay. Kings Bay has only .2% (a total of 16 manatee watercraft related deaths reported)

These are manatees that were “found” in Kings Bay – some extremely decomposed. There is no evidence to support the conclusion that they were actually hit by a watercraft in Kings Bay. In fact, a recent newspaper article reported Ivan Vincente of the local USFWS as saying that the majority of injuries manatees sustain from watercraft props heal and do not result in death.

  • There were ZERO manatee watercraft related deaths in Kings Bay during the summer recreational speed days in the past three years. From 2001-2010 (years USFWS accessed in the rule) there were a total of 12 manatee watercraft related deaths ‘discovered’ in Kings Bay, 8 of those mortalities occurred during slow speed days, 6 were during recreational speed days.
  • There were ZERO manatee cold stress related deaths reported in Kings Bay during 2009 and 2010 when the Emergency Rule was enacted in Kings Bay. The reason given for the emergency was to provide manatee with maximum access to our warm spring fed waters during severe cold weather events. However, manatee cold stress deaths in Kings Bay have only been recorded as follows: 2003 (1), 2004 (1), 2006 (1).
  • From 1973 to 2010 there has been a 500% increase in the manatee population in Kings Bay. During this time there were a total of 16 manatee watercraft related mortalities ‘discovered’ in Kings Bay and 3 from cold stress. Source: http://research.myfwc.com/manatees/search_individual.asp
  • USFWS stated at a meeting in Jacksonville with members of Save Crystal River, City of Crystal River, and Citrus County that increasing numbers of manatees are staying in Kings Bay during summer months when more people are using the Bay. However, an analysis of the GIS data supplied by USFWS to Dr. Quinton White, Executive Director of the Marine Science Institute and renowned manatee expert at Jacksonville University, determined that over the past 10 years of results supplied, that an average of less than 45 manatees were present on any given day in Kings Bay and the majority of those were located in canals and along the river’s edge, not in the middle of the bay and river where boats were present. In March, 2012 a total of 26 manatees were counted by USFWS in Kings Bay.
  • According to NOAA data (http://www.nodc.noaa.gov/dsdt/cwtg/egof.html), Crystal River/Kings Bay is only a warm water refuge for manatees for five months of the year. Our water is a year round 72 degrees. The Gulf Temperatures are warmer than the Bay temperatures from April-October. Manatees begin leaving Crystal River/Kings Bay in large numbers in March every year.
  • A 2011 IFAS Study from the University of Florida indicated that there was virtually no hydrilla, a primary food source for manatees in Kings Bay, left in Kings Bay as a result of salt water intrusion. It has been replaced by a toxic blue-green algae called Lyngbya. The result is an inadequate food supply available for the number of manatees frequenting Kings Bay.