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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Feds release new winter regulations to protect manatees in Three Sisters Springs

Published 12/15/2014
The number of snorkelers and boaters visiting the springs to see the manatees has nearly doubled from 67,000 permitted visitors in 2010 to more than 125,000 in 2013.

So on Monday, wildlife officials proposed new rules blocking the public from paddling canoes, kayaks and inflatable floats into two-thirds of Three Sisters Springs from December through March. The sections that would be off-limits are the eastern and western sections known as Pretty Sister and Little Sister.

The land around the spring was privately owned until four years ago. Then it was added to the Crystal River National Wildife Refuge, but access for the public has been limited to the water until this year.

Three Sisters Springs is the only confined-water body in the United States that is open to the public while wintering manatees are present, wildlife agency officials said.

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