MIAMI (AP) - Federal wildlife officials have announced their decision to propose the reclassification Florida's iconic manatees as "threatened" instead of "endangered."
A Florida business group and the conservative Pacific Legal Foundation petitioned the government in 2012 to reclassify the manatee, citing a 2007 federal review that recommended listing the species as threatened because the population is recovering.
Florida's manatee population has grown from several hundred in 1967 to more than 6,000 counted last year in an annual statewide survey.
The Endangered Species Act defines an endangered species as one currently in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range, and a threatened species as one that is likely to become endangered within the foreseeable future. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the West Indian manatee no longer falls within the ESA’s definition of endangered and should be reclassified as threatened.
The manatee protection measures currently in place would remain in force if the species is downlisted from endangered to threatened.
The Service will publish its proposal in the Federal Register Friday, beginning a 90-day comment period during which the public is invited to submit scientific or technical information that will aid the agency in reaching its final decision.
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