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Tea Party takes aim at manatee regulations

July 13, 2011 at 3:57 PM   |   Comments

CRYSTAL RIVER, Fla., July 13 (UPI) -- A Tea Party group on Florida's west coast has taken aim at proposed federal regulations intended to prevent manatee deaths.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed rules last month that would make all of Kings Bay into a wildlife refuge, the St. Petersburg Times reported Tuesday.

Edna Mattos, 63, leader of the Citrus County Tea Party Patriots, charges that federal regulators "don't want people here."

"We cannot elevate nature above people," she said. "That's against the Bible and the Bill of Rights."

Kings Bay, a spring-fed expanse of water in the Crystal River, is famous as a winter home for manatees. About 550 now come there, up from 100 in 1980 when parts of the bay became a wildlife sanctuary.

The manatees attract about 100,000 visitors every winter.

The Citrus County Commission and Crystal River City Council are also unhappy about the regulations. On the other side, the Save the Manatees Club says the number of deaths from boat collisions has increased in recent years.

The regulations would end a summer-only zone where boats can be operated at high speed. People who own water-front property on the bay might also be required to get stickers allowing them boat access.

Mattos said she likes manatees and enjoys showing them off to her grandchildren. But she argues the increasing numbers show no more regulation is needed.

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