Monday, October 8, 2007

Earth Justice Lawyer on Manatees

The Tallahassee Democrat features an opinion piece on Governor Crist and his influence on the recent decision by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's delay in changing the status of manatees from endangered to threatened (see previous posts here). The column is by attorney David Guest a longtime environmental attorney with Earth Justice. In addition to crediting the governor with taking action to prevent the change in status, Guest notes that the reason the move is even a possibility can be traced back to a change in the definition of what it means to be endangered:

Two years ago, the FWCC changed the definition of “endangered.” That's why the manatee's status is now up for a vote. Under the state's new criteria, a species would have to undergo, or be at risk of undergoing, an 80 percent decline in its population in order to be listed as endangered.

Once a species has lost 80 percent to 90 percent of its numbers, you are talking about an emergency crisis. It is would be difficult and costly to recover - if it could be recovered at all.

Florida's manatees shouldn't get less protection just because someone in Tallahassee changed the yardstick on them, most likely under pressure from politically powerful developers. This is an imperiled species, period.

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