Manatee management causes tremendous conflict between the boating/angling community and conservation groups. Years and millions of dollars have been expended litigating disputes. Resource managers believed that encouraging stakeholder dialogue could help.
Group Solutions was engaged to design a governance structure and facilitate a multi-year process for stakeholder engagement to frame and address manatee management issues.
A 22-person forum representing recognized boating, marina and conservation organizations was formed to seek solutions.
Eight forums identified consensus-based positions to USFWS and FWC for more effective manatee research, protection and regulation. These events explored manatee genetics, population count methodologies, wound analysis and speed zone compliance and minimum spring flows. Each forum included topical research team presentations, vigorous facilitated debate and the search for consensus-based positions.
The process fostered meaningful exchange of perspectives between stakeholders and the agencies charged with federal manatee protection. This identified and helped resolve conflicts between federal and state species protection efforts and provided a shared space for addressing stakeholder issues and concerns.
As a result of the forums and scientific peer review, improved population monitoring protocols were implemented. The improved accuracy of these counts, and resulting higher populations documented supported a decision by FWS to de-list the manatee from endangered to threatened.