July 14th, 2011

Tea partiers have a new target: manatees


A Florida tea party has taken another step in its effort to protect the citizens of the United States. While its current list of enemies of the state is expansive — including taxes, high-speed rail, and socialized medicine — it has not yet expanded into the realm of wildlife. While all three species of manatees are listed by the World Conservation Organization as vulnerable to extinction, the Citrus County Tea Party Patriots have declared the mammal “dangerous.”

The Florida political group recently announced its plan to fight U.S. Fish and Wildlife restrictions on boating and other human activities.

“We cannot elevate nature above people,” said Edna Mattos, 63, leader of the Citrus County Tea Party Patriots, in an interview. “That’s against the Bible and the Bill of Rights.”

The Kings Bay wildlife refuge, located in Citrus County, has been under federal protection since 1980. A wonderful example of the potential success of conservation efforts, the Bay is now home to a thriving population of 550 manatees, up from its original dwindling number of 100. Jacques Cousteau’s 1972 documentary Forgotten Mermaids featured the Kings Bay manatees. It’s also one of the only places where humans can actually swim with the giant mammals.

In recent years, however, the number of manatee deaths from boating accidents in the bay has increased.

Responding to the threat, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service expanded the protected portion of the bay to encompass the entire area last month.

Dave Hankla, the Service’s North Florida Ecological Services Office supervisor, said, that “human use of the bay has increased beyond the impacts originally considered when the existing protections were created.”

Hankla added, “The number of manatees using Kings Bay throughout the year has simply outgrown the capacity of existing protected areas.”

The area’s tea partiers disagree.

“We believe that (federal regulators’) aim is to control the fish and wildlife…the use of the land that surrounds this area, and the people that live here and visit. … As most of us know, this all ties in to the United Nations’ Agenda 21 and Sustainability.”

Agenda 21, a program adopted by the U.N. in 1992, was charged with the intent of encouraging countries to promote development that does not harm nature. Glenn Beck and other conservatives have called Agenda 21 an attempt to impose an unjust form of world government. According to the Citrus County tea party group’s website, Agenda 21 is “designed to make humans into livestock.”

Although tea partier Mattos said she brings her grandchildren to see the manatees, she doesn’t see a point in the Save the Manatee Club. “If some of these environmental movements had been around in the days of the dinosaurs, we’d be living in Jurassic Park now,” she said.

American Manatee

Does the Florida Tea Party have a point?

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About the Author

Erin Brodwin
Erin Brodwin is a freelance multimedia journalist specializing in urban and environmental reporting. She currently works for the NYCity News Service, a student-powered initiative of the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. A Southern California transplant to New York City, Erin has worked as a Student Director of the Student Sustainability Center at the University of California, San Diego, where she was instrumental in writing policy which made UCSD one of the first Fair Trade Certified campuses in the nation. Erin’s eye for design, her background in critical race and gender studies, and her passion for all things sustainable has taken her to places like the City of Los Angeles Workforce Investment Board, where she lead their Communications division, and Goodwill Industries International, where she worked as a grant writer and provided vocational services to low-income residents of East Los Angeles. Erin speaks English and Spanish and has lived and studied in Southern California, Morelia, Mexico, Tarragona, Spain, and Salvador, Brazil. She currently resides in New York City. You can view her portfolio (although it's still a work-in-progress!) at


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  1. carlos

    Manatees, Manatees OF COURSE!

  2. Katherine

    Oh yeah, gotta look out for manatees… they’ll get ya. When you’re not paying attention, they might float right up to you and bump you or something…. (sarcasm font desperately needed)

  3. Objective writing police

    This article is well written. It is also misleading and so biased that it sacrifices all credibility. I mean really, you’re making it seem like manatee hating is one of the main tenets of the tea party movement. And you obviously took the most idiotic quotes you could find from the other side to further validate your point. Terrible journalism. dont get me wrong, tea partiers are mostly misguided idiots, but this is just a left wing circle jerk .

  4. Ally

    wow i love manateess they are my mom’s and my favorite animal so i could never hate them

  5. save earth man

    Ilove mannatees and hope they dont go extinct just like so many animals already have because of human activity

  6. save earth man

    and i also think that people that are in high places should care for the environment instead of just thinking about money!!!!!!!

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