U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service considers manatees-vs.-military debate
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is considering a bid from environmental groups to expand the areas designated as critical habitat for manatees in Florida and Georgia. That's all well and good, if you're a manatee -- but the U.S. Navy fears that more protected habitat for manatees may mean less available space to be used by the military. David Fleshler has the story; here's an excerpt:
The coastlines of [Florida and Georgia] are home to naval installations including Pensacola Naval Air Station, where World War II aviators trained; Kings Bay in southern Georgia, which houses nuclear-armed Ohio-class submarines; and the South Florida Testing Facility in Dania Beach, where the Navy operates an undersea range to determine ships' acoustical signatures.
Although the Navy doesn't object in principle to an increase in protected areas -- and points out the many measures it takes to prevent harm to endangered species -- it says that an overly broad expansion could have "significant impacts" on Navy operations.
"Manatees and their habitats overlap Navy training and operation areas through the Southeast," said a letter from C.R. Destafney, the Navy's regional environmental program director. "Navy's training involves activities necessary to maintain proficiency in mission-essential areas such as mine warfare, strike warfare, electronic combat and maritime security."
Among the military's concerns are security arrangements for Ohio-class submarines entering and exiting Kings Bay. The Navy does not want protections for a marine mammal, no matter how lovable, to compromise security arrangements for submarines approaching shore armed with nuclear weapons.
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Handout photo courtesy of Sea World