Fla. Republican blasts feds for loosening manatee protections

Fla. Republican blasts feds for loosening manatee protections
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Florida Rep. Vern Buchanan (R) is slamming the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) for downgrading protections for manatees in his home state, calling the agency announcement Thursday a “huge disappointment.”

“The decision to weaken protections under the Endangered Species Act threatens the survival of the manatee, one of Florida’s most beloved animals,” Buchanan said in a statement. “It needs to be reversed.”

The FWS announced Thursday that it is down-listing the status of the West Indian manatee, which includes the Florida manatee subspecies, from endangered to threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) following “notable increases in manatee populations and improvements in habitat.”

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The agency said the status change means the manatee is no longer considered in danger of extinction, but is likely to become so in the future without continued ESA protections. 

Though the change does not affect federal conservation laws, Buchanan said it could trigger a broader reassessment of state and local protections for the animal.

Buchanan said he is planning to reach out to the secretary of the Interior to reconsider and overturn the decision.