Florida wildlife agency adopts new species classification system

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission on Wednesday approved a new process for identifying threatened species that would replace the controversial state listing process.

The agency faced a firestorm of opposition in 2007 when it considered moving the manatee from endangered to the less protective “threatened” category on the state list. The commission delayed action at the request of Gov. Charlie Crist.

Scientists said the new agency listing process, adopted in 2005, incorrectly matched categories developed by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. In response, the commission brought together landowners, boaters and environmentalists to help develop a new listing process, which was adopted Wednessay during a meeting in Pensacola Beach.

“We are all glad they did,” Pat Rose, executive director of the Save the Manatee Club said after the vote. “It gave us a chance to find common ground where not very much existed before.”

Under the new process any species on the federal endangered and threatened species list will be included automatically on the state list with those federal designations. Any species now listed by the state as endangered or threatened that are not on the federal list also will be placed automatically on the state “threatened” list. The state’s “species of special concern” category, the least protective category, will be eliminated but those species will first be evaluated to determine if they should be placed on the state threatened list.

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