WASHINGTON – Congressman Vern Buchanan today announced that his legislation, the Little Manatee Wild and Scenic River Act, has passed the House Natural Resources Committee.
Buchanan’s Little Manatee Wild and Scenic River Act (HR 4358) would formally designate the approximately 51-mile-long segment of the river, beginning at its source in southeastern Hillsborough County flowing downstream to the point at which the river enters Tampa Bay, as a scenic river.
“Protecting Florida’s beautiful lands and pristine waterways will remain one of my top priorities,” said Buchanan. “Designating the Little Manatee River as ‘scenic’ will ensure that it is kept in its current, pristine condition for future generations to enjoy.”
The House Natural Resources Committee amended Buchanan’s bill to authorize a formal National Park Service study of the river before an official designation can occur. Designating the river as scenic would add Little Manatee River to the National Park Service’s Wild and Scenic River System, whose primary goal is to conserve free-flowing rivers across the United States.
The designation will protect this river for public enjoyment without the fear of intrusive development. The designation ensures the river remains available for a full range of recreational activities, such as canoeing, kayaking, boating and fishing.
Manatee County Commissioner At large Carol Whitmore said, “I’m ecstatic that Congressman Buchanan has advanced this bill. The Little Manatee River is one of the most beautiful natural rivers in the area. The outstanding scenic, recreational, fish and wildlife attributes should be protected for future generations.”
Hillsborough County Commissioner Stacy White said, “From canoeing and fishing for bass or panfish upriver to skiing and fishing for various saltwater species downriver, this natural treasure has much to offer in terms of recreation and scenic beauty. I have spent a lifetime enjoying all that this river has to offer and my hope is to see it preserved for many more generations of Hillsborough County residents to enjoy. We are blessed to have such a beautiful river right in our own backyard.”
Once formally added to the National Park Service’s Wild and Scenic River System, the National Park Service would collaborate with local government officials in Florida to develop a management plan for the Little Manatee River. The management plan must include how the existing natural environment will be preserved including allowing for continued public use. The plan is designed to achieve the “goal of protecting and enhancing the values that caused it to be designated.”
The National Wild and Scenic Rivers System was created by Congress in 1968 to safeguard rivers and encourage robust river management that promotes public participation in developing goals for river protection. The Loxahatchee River and the Wekiva River are the only rivers in Florida currently recognized under the federal program.
The Little Manatee River is also recognized at the state level as an ‘Outstanding Florida Water’ and is one of the most pristine blackwater rivers in the state.
Buchanan has a long history fighting to protect water quality and the environment in Florida and elsewhere, including leading efforts in Congress to increase federal funding into red tide research and reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). In November, Buchanan chaired a meeting of Florida’s 29-member congressional delegation to discuss some of the most pressing water quality issues affecting the Sunshine State, including harmful algal blooms, the Everglades, offshore drilling and wildlife conservation.