The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, with Florida agencies more than complicit, made a mistake in 2017 when they took the manatee off the list of endangered species.

The challenge for sea cows, as many of us love to call them, to survive has grown greater each year it seems. Weather, the prolific expansion of boat traffic and, most recently, the degradation of the sea grass that serves as their main diet, have taken a toll on the lovable beasts.

We’re glad to see a bipartisan approach to returning what protection the endangered label can provide through a proposal by Republican Rep. Vern Buchanan and Democrat Rep. Darren Soto to return the manatee to an endangered species. That would be a needed upgrade from the threatened species tag it now carries.

Buchanan, who has shown a soft spot for nature and the environment in his service as a congressman, said the record-break number of manatee deaths this year is “staggering and extremely concerning...” He called the upgrade in their status under the Endangered Specie Act critical.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission statistics are numbing when it comes to manatee deaths. So far in 2021, 890 have died in just the first seven months. That breaks a 12-month record for deaths set in 2013.

The cause is not simple, but the killing of sea grass that the manatee relies on for food is a big culprit. Fertilizer runoff and the overall decline in water quality has taken its toll — most notably on the East Coast.

We applaud Buchanan and Soto for their initiative in seeking more protection for the manatee. While we realize merely changing their status will not bring immediate results, especially when it comes to cleaning up our waterways, it is a step that is needed before we can make real progress in making sure manatees are around for our grandchildren and their children to see.

Homeowners weighing down Citizens Insurance

Remember when we told you Florida insurance companies were bleeding money and the rush to switch to Citizens Property Insurance Corp. was a concern?

Remember when the state Legislature this year passed a bill aimed at lowering our home insurance rates and raising rates for Citizens (the state-backed insurer of last resort) to dissuade homeowners from changing policies?

Well, the changes aren’t working well.

As of this week, the number of homeowners running to Citizens for coverage swelled to 661,000 policies, according to the insurers’ website. That is up from 638,263 in June and way more than the 486,773 this time last year.

This is happening despite the fact the Legislature allowed Citizens to raise its rates 15%.

The problem is too many private insurers, who lost a ton of money the last five years in Florida, are abandoning the state and Citizens is the target for homeowners looking for the best deal or who have no one else that will insure them. Citizens President and CEO Barry Gilway says he expects the company to be loaded down with 766,000 policies by the end of the year.

And what’s the problem with that?

Well, as Tropical Storm Fred reminded us, the state is vulnerable to hurricanes. And, one real bad one will hit Citizens like a hammer and that means all of us will pay since the state is on the hook for Citizens profits and losses.

There is no easy solution. The Legislature will have to make another attempt next year to remedy the problem and figure out incentives to lure more private insurers to Florida.


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