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April 17, 2024 8 mins
Former Florida governor and U.S. Senator Bob Graham has died at age 87. One of his major initiatives involved manatee protection and conservation. We speak with Patrick Rose, executive director of the Save the Manatee Club, which was co-founded by Graham and singer Jimmy Buffett, who died last September. 
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Gordon Bird herewith Beyond the News youmay have heard at this time of the
recent death of Bob Graham, whowas certainly one of the most prominent politicians
and leaders and many would say statesmenin the history of the state of Florida.
He was a governor for two terms. He was a US Senator for
three terms. He was a statelawmaker before all of that. One of

the many issues that he turned hisattention to during his long political career,
particularly when he was governor, wasthe status of manatees. And he was
a co founder of the Save theManatee Club, which has done a great
deal over the decades to help preserveand conserve the manatee species. Pat Rose

is executive director of the Save theManatee Club. He is an aquatic biologist.
He has been involved from the beginningand knew of both Governor and Senator
Graham, as well as the otherco founder of the group, Jimmy Buffett
and Pat Rose. Welcome in toBeyond the News. Glad to be here

today and even very sad circumstances,but I'm super proud of about legacy and
thank you for reaching out now.Of course, we unfortunately had to speak
with you back last year when JimmyBuffett passed away, and their cooperation they're
working together was a critical, acritical factor in getting this issue really on

the public radar and making people awareof it. So let's talk a little
bit about that and how the thingsthat Governor Graham did when he was governor
to increase awareness of manatee, ofof the dangers facing manatees, and what
he did to help keep them viableas a species in Florida. Absolutely,

And I think one of the firstnotable things, in addition to his broad
for environmental protection and cleaner water andso forth, was that in nineteen seventy
nine, Bob Graham had made manateAwareness Month in November and designate officially and
we continue to celebrate that every Novemberuntil today. And so that's very I

think notable, has made a bigdifference in drawing attention. But I think
the start of what really grew intoSave the Manitee Club was when Bob took
his daughter's backstage with Jimmy Buffett ata Jimmy Buffett concert in nineteen eighty one.
And at that point in time,Jimmy really really reached back out to

the governor and asked, can't wedo more for manatees, And being that
Governor Graham had already been, ofcourse concerned about these kinds of issues,
that led to the formation of whatwas called to Save the Manitee Committee,
and I was I was honored tobe able to be appointed by Governor Graham

as the first scientific advisor to thatcommittee that later became Save the Manite Club.
And that was, you know,more than forty years ago. Did
have a brief, you know,update in terms of the right time to
talk about it. It was ableto talk to Mob Graham and I think
it was twenty twenty as we wereheading to the fortieth anniversary for Save the

Mnite Club, and I could shareabout that if you wanted to, yes,
please do. And before we getto that, maybe if you could
expand a little bit on how thewhat needed to be done in the legislative
process in Florida as far as gettingmore protection from natees and what role the
governor at that time, Bob Grahamplayed in that. Absolutely, so there

really was no significant protection for manateesin terms of the state programs. They
were basically had the federal MARI MammalProtection Act and the Endangered Species Act were
important federal legislation, but we sorelyneeded better protections for manatees at a state
level, and so in nineteen seventyeight, actually the Manite Sanctuary Act was

adopted with strong, strong support fromGovernor Graham, and of course he also
served in the governor and cabinet.There were many different elements in addition to
the protections afforded directly by the ManiteSanctuary Act in terms of protecting manatees from
high speed voting and setting up sanctuariesand protected areas. There was also a

major role to play in terms ofthe Board of Trustees and the Governor sitting
as the head of Board of Trustees. He was also quite active in adopting
protections and reviewing leases and development inFlorida, helping Florida grow more sustainably,
which is really one of our problemssince then, as we are in Florida

really not growing sustainably any longer.And you mentioned the update that you had
with the Governor and Senator Bob Grahamback in twenty twenty, and where do
you and where did he think thatthings stand for the state right now as
far as manatee protection in the futureof the species, well, in just

really before COVID got out of hand, was able to meet with him in
fact at the Bob Graham Center andwe got discussing and he offered actually the
Center for a place to come togetherfor the fortieth anniversary celebrating that of Save
the Anti Club, and talked aboutasking us good friend Jimmy to come and

be a part of that. Asit turned out that wasn't able to happen
because of COVID and the restrictions andso forth. But it was very clear
to him that he was proud ofboth the helping to establish Save the Manite
Club but also his close relationship withJimmy Bobby as well. A little bit
later on in twenty one, notonly had were we experiencing what was happening

with COVID and all of those events, but we had the worst manity mortality
events in history really of Florida.We ended up losing over a thousand vanities
to starvation, and Jimmy and Bobleading that effort, worked with Jimmy Buffett
and penned and op ed that ranin the Tampa Bay Times and really it

was spot on identifying what the problemsare and what would need to be done
going forward in order to not onlysave vanities but also save those aquatic ecosystems
and our seagrasses. And one thingI can say that we all shared and
I probably picked it up by osmosisfrom the governor, and that was that
if you do what you need todo to protect the mnities, then that

is going to be what is alsogoing to be necessary to protect those aquatic
resources and ecosystems, including the seagrasses. So he was absolutely, you know,
very knowledgeable about the details as wellas how to get things done,
if from a political standpoint as well. And finally, if someone looking back

in history wants to look back atamnatees and with the quantic resources and all
the environmental issues that touch on thatthat Bob Graham was involved with, which
Bob Graham was involved, and youwere asked to sum it up in a
sentence or a paragraph, how wouldyou describe his role? He was both

knowledgeable, but he was a greatmaster of being able to bring people together
for the right reasons and I thinkthat, but he also cared about the
details. I remember different conversations withhim about anadromis fish and different things like
that. But I think mostly hebrought people together for good causes and he

established them in a way that theycould carry on and move on even past
their direct involvement. And I docredit that to Bob. And I'm so
very very grateful from Save the ManiteClub's perspective that we have been the voice
for manatees now since nineteen eighty oneand that wouldn't have happened without him,
and of course is good for himJimmy Buffett, which we miss both of

them terribly. Patrick Rose would theSave the Manateee Club, the executive director
and aquatic biologist. Thank you verymuch for joining us on this sad occasion
and remembering the life and the effortsof Bob Graham, governor, US senator,
state lawmaker. Thank you again forjoining us on beyond the news.
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