A three-judge panel of the Fifth (Florida) District Court of Appeals has sustained a ruling issued in April 2002 by Judge Fred Buckine. Judge Buckine had upheld a portion of a broader settlement that involves requiring waterways in Brevard County to become slow-speed zones to protect endangered manatees. The settlement had been challenged by boating interests, and environmental organizations had intervened to defend the rules.
The settlement sets strict speed limits on boats on more than 90 miles of rivers and lagoons where manatees are known to frequent. Brevard county is a favorite spot for the giant sea cows, and record numbers have perished there, largely from being hit by fast-moving boats.
The rules were first proposed in April 2001 and immediately challenged by boating interests. A long, acrimonious trial was held late in the year, in which Earthjustice attorneys Ansley Samson, David Guest, and Allison Finn represented the Save the Manatee Club and the Florida Wildlife Federation in defending the rules called for by the federal settlement. The ruling was doubly welcome because it will serve as a template for manatee-protection rules in other Florida counties.