Petty Controversy

Petty controversy: Tea Partiers vs. endangered manatees

A Florida Tea Party group is fighting new federal restrictions meant to protect the gentle marine mammals from killer boats. Why?

The controversy: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is joining the IRS and "ObamaCare" on the Tea Party's list of Big Government enemies, after it proposed new rules to protect the endangered manatees in Florida's Kings Bay. In the past decade, boats have killed 13 manatees there, and the feds have now proposed ending a "summer water sport zone" that allowed boats to zip through the bay. So what's wrong with saving gentle sea cows from being killed by speeding motor boats? "We cannot elevate nature above people," says Citrus County Tea Party Patriots leader Edna Mattos, 63. "That's against the Bible and the Bill of Rights." There are larger issues at stake, too, Mattos tells the St. Petersburg Times. "As most of us know, this all ties in to the United Nations' Agenda 21," a Glenn Beck–targeted 1992 U.N. program that encourages countries to promote only development that's in harmony with nature.

The reaction: So let me get this straight, says Kate Sheppard at Mother Jones. Because the federal government wants to protect an endangered species in a bay that's been a federal wildlife refuge since 1980, we're all supposed to fear "a one-world government run by manatees"? To be fair, locals have "legitimate concerns that some of the regulations may harm business by dampening tourism to the refuge," says Kirsten Boyd Johnson at Wonkette. But even so, the Tea Party's epic "manatee vs. human" battle, featuring cameos by Beck, the Bible, and the Constitution, is just nuts.

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