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Governor Ron DeSantis Announces Historic $30 Million in Funding for Manatee Rescue Programs and Habitat Restoration

Press release from the Office of Governor Ron DeSantis

Today, Governor Ron DeSantis announced his commitment to supporting more than $30 million in the Fiscal Year 2022-23 budget to enhance and expand manatee rescue and rehabilitation efforts and provide habitat restoration for areas where manatees are highly concentrated. This record investment in manatee care and protection is an over-$17 million increase over the current year budget. The Governor made the announcement while visiting the Manatee Critical Care Center located at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens.

“This historic funding will support important restoration efforts across the state to benefit our manatees and Florida’s natural environment,” said Governor Ron DeSantis. “My administration will continue working to find new and innovative ways to support our native species, like the manatee, so that the generations to come can experience Florida’s natural resources.”

The more than $30 million included in the budget includes:

  • $20 million to enhance and expand the network of manatee acute care facilities, restore access to springs, provide habitat restoration in manatee concentrated areas, expand manatee rescue and recovery efforts, and implement pilot projects like the supplemental feeding trials that took place this past winter.
  • $5.3 million to expand Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) manatee mortality and response efforts, including 12 new positions.
  • $160,000 to support increased aerial surveys.
  • $4.7 million in base funding to support manatee acute care facilities and research, rescue, and conservation activities.

“Governor DeSantis has provided great support for addressing the manatee unusual mortality event in the Indian River Lagoon, and we appreciate his efforts,” said FWC Executive Director Eric Sutton. “This historic investment in manatee rescue efforts and habitat restoration will expand the state’s critical care network, increase access to warm water environments, and restore access to manatee foraging habitat.”

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“Today’s announcement is continued evidence of the Governor and Legislature’s commitment to water quality in our state, which is essential to health of our environment, our economy, and our fish and wildlife,” said DEP Secretary Shawn Hamilton. “The state is focusing on short and long-term science-based strategies to improve water quality, including expanded monitoring and investment in long-term water quality improvement projects to reduce the amount of nutrients going into our waterways. With the historic levels of support under this administration, we have unprecedented resources to address challenging water quality concerns throughout the state.”

FWC and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced the formation of a Joint Incident Management Team to address the unusual mortality event for manatees along Florida’s Atlantic coast. The Joint Incident Management Team has implemented a variety of approaches to bring immediate relief to manatees in need of assistance, including conducting supplemental feeding trials to reduce the number of manatees in need of rescue. At FPL’s Cape Canaveral Clean Energy Center, a temporary field response station was set up and staff deployed more than 200,000 pounds of produce, which fed at least 800 manatees. More information on efforts of the Joint Incident Management Team can be found here.

FWC is a member of the Manatee Rescue & Rehabilitation Partnership (MRP), which is a cooperative of agencies, organizations, and oceanaria that rescue, rehabilitate, release, and monitor Florida manatees. Learn more about this program and the partner rehabilitation facilities. More on the MRP can be found here.

Since taking office, Governor DeSantis has worked to achieve more now for Florida’s environment and has taken bold action to protect our state’s water quality, beginning with signing Executive Order 19-12 on his first full day in office. Under Governor DeSantis’ leadership, historic funding has been invested to restore water quality across the state, including in the Indian River Lagoon. In September 2021, Governor DeSantis announced the first round of Wastewater Grant Program awards for projects to reduce nutrient pollution, with a focus on the Indian River Lagoon. In November 2021, Governor DeSantis announced an additional $481 million for water quality improvements across the state. The Wastewater Grant Program was created in the Clean Waterways Act, and in 2021, a dedicated funding source for the program was established.

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