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The Little Manatee River moves a step closer to receiving federal protections

Horizontal image of  water body flowing straight ahead, surrounded by lush green trees and plants.
Rep. Vern Buchanan's office

The recently passed omnibus spending bill includes moving the Little Manatee towards a federal Scenic River designation.

A push to provide federal protections for the Little Manatee River in Hillsborough County is moving closer to reality thanks to a massive spending bill passed by Congress last week.

Within the $1.7 trillion omnibus spending bill is the Little Manatee Wild and Scenic River Act, which would designate 51 miles of the Little Manatee as part of the National Park Services Wild and Scenic River System.

The act, originally introduced by Republican Congressman Vern Buchanan in 2020, has been amended to require that a formal National Park Service study be done before the Little Manatee becomes part of the Wild and Scenic Rivers system. That will take a couple of years.

The designation would help preserve and protect the river from intrusive development, from its source in southern Hillsborough County to its mouth where it enters Tampa Bay. Recreational activities, such as canoeing, kayaking, boating and fishing would still be permitted.

In a statement, Buchanan said the designation will ensure the river is "kept in its current, pristine condition for future generations to enjoy."

Once the river receives the scenic designation, the National Park Service will develop a management plan that includes ways to preserve the existing natural environment.

Only two other rivers in Florida are recognized under the federal program: The Loxahatchee River near Jupiter and the Wekiva River north of Orlando.

I started my journalism career delivering the Toledo Blade newspaper on my bike.
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