Florida county finalizes speed-zone plan

FORT MYERS, Fla. – A committee comprised of Lee County, Fla., citizens has finalized plans to ease speed restrictions for boaters in manatee protection zones, according to a story in today’s Fort Myers News-Press

However, federal wildlife managers say they aren’t likely to go along with the plan if it eases current protections, the newspaper reported.

“If the rules are as restrictive or better than what we have, we would remove our zones,” Chuck Underwood, spokesman for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service in Jacksonville, was quoted as saying. “If they’re less restrictive, we wouldn’t consider making changes.”

Most of the committee’s recommendations are less restrictive with some committee members saying their revisions are better, based on their knowledge of local waters and manatee statistics that relate to Lee County, the News-Press reported.

The group’s final recommendations would include eliminating slow speed zones in a couple of areas and modifying zones in others.

Nearly all of the manatee speed zones in Lee County have been under federal control since new rules were adopted in September and April. The Lee County committee will meet today to approve a final report of how Lee residents see manatee protection. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission plans to take those recommendations and craft a new set of rules for the area, according to the News-Press.

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