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Thou Shalt Not Smite Thy Manatee
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The humble Florida manatee has joined Barack Obama, the United Nations, and the federal deficit as a target of the Citrus County (Florida) Tea Party Patriots. Up to 500 of the gentle, vegetarian "sea cows" overwinter in Citrus County's warm Kings Bay, drawing thousands of visitors but often getting run over by speedboats. After two endangered manatees were killed last year, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed making the bay a manatee refuge, where boat speeds would be greatly reduced.
That set off the Tea Party. "We cannot elevate nature above people," local leader Edna Mattos told the St. Petersburg Times. "That's against the Bible and the Bill of Rights."
Further fueling the controversy, explains Patrick Rose, the executive director of the Save the Manatee Club (savethemanatee.org), is the fact that a number of local bigwigs, including the chairman of the local Chamber of Commerce, have houses on the bay and don't want to be prohibited from water-skiing. Should the issue go to court, Rose predicts, manatee protections will be even greater than in the compromise Fish and Wildlife proposal. "The science is so strong on this," he says. "There really is no place more dangerous in warm weather for manatees than here in Kings Bay." —Paul Rauber
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