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    Groups say actions hurt manatees

    By Times staff reports

    © St. Petersburg Times,
    published October 24, 2001

    A coalition of environmental groups has accused federal officials of greenlighting more than 200 new waterfront developments in manatee habitat around Florida, shirking its promise to create manatee refuges and failing to enforce boating speeds.

    The coalition of 18 groups settled a lawsuit last year against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Army Corps of Engineers that was hailed as a major advance in protecting the endangered marine mammal. But today they planned to head back to federal court to ask a judge to force the agencies to comply with the settlement.

    "The federal government hasn't been doing its job," Judith Vallee of the Save the Manatee Club said Tuesday. But Dave Hankla of the Fish and Wildlife Service said that "flat out, in every aspect, we think we're meeting the terms of this agreement."

    Instead of curtailing waterfront development, Vallee said, officials have allowed 1,400 new boat docks in manatee habitat, increasing the risk that manatees will be hit by boats in those areas. They have postponed creating a system of manatee sanctuaries, as promised in the settlement, and failed to clamp down on speeding boaters, she said.

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