Manatees have been on the federal Endangered Species List since 1967, but according to biologists at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, manatees aren’t actually endangered.

Despite outside attempts to spur the agency into “down listing” the adored marine mammal, or perhaps sacred sea cows, the government has refused — even as the manatee population continues to rise.

Critics say the misrepresentation of animals undermines the credibility of the government’s environmental efforts and can lead to policies that stunt economic activity and infringe on property rights.

Ground zero is Florida’s Citrus County.

Eight years ago, the Fish and Wildlife Service, responsible for protecting endangered species, determined the number of manatees in Florida was well above the risk of extinction at 3,300. Accordingly, an internal recommendation was made to reclassify the Florida favorite from “endangered” to “threatened.”

But it never followed through.

Fast forward to 2014, and the federal agency revised its population estimate indicating Florida’s minimum number of manatees was more than 4,830 — a 46-percent increase. Yet, manatees remain on the endangered list.

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