(An irregular column to capture insults to wildlife)
It seems hard to believe that the Florida manatee would have many enemies, but it appears that the gentle giant has more to worry about these days than deadly boat propellers. The Tea Party, joined by the Crystal River City Council and Citrus County Commission, has come out in opposition to new restrictions on boating and other human activities proposed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to protect the state’s slow-moving mammals.
Due to its naturally occurring warm water springs, Kings Bay, Fla. has been increasingly popular among wintering manatees. But a controversial summer water sport zone, which allows fast-moving boats to zoom through the bay, poses a deadly threat to the animals. In fact, Pat Rose of the Save the Manatee Club said, ”I don’t know of a more dangerous place for manatees in the summer.”
If the proposed regulations are approved, all of Kings Bay would become a refuge, and a set of temporary rules posted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service this winter would become permanent. The rules enable the federal agency to establish closed areas or other rules anywhere in the bay, such as in the event of a cold front or after manatee season has closed. A move like this would be great news for manatees, and the 100,000 people who show up each year to see them.
Not everyone is cheering the regulations. Edna Mattos, the leader of the Citrus County Tea Party Patriots, is coming out strong against the marine mammals. According to the St. Petersburg Times, she claims the protections elevate nature about humans, a move that’s “against the Bible and the Bill of Rights,” and that protections will erode private property rights, particularly for those citizens with docks.
Huh? Apparently she hasn’t done her homework. According to Rose, people whose property sits on a manatee sanctuary (where boat traffic is not allowed) may have to get stickers on their boats allowing them exclusive access, but that’s it. That’s a compromise that even Mattos – who admits she enjoys showing off the animals to her grandchildren – shouldn’t find much to complain about.
Kings Bay is a part of the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge, the only refuge created for the purpose of protecting manatees. And with manatee deaths reaching a record high last year, protecting this area is more important than ever. By moving forward with the proposal, the Fish and Wildlife Service will help the refuge better serve its purpose – to safeguard this vulnerable and unique animal.