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Monday, July 22, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Wood Stork Makes Recovery Progress

WASHINGTON (CN) - The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed to downlist the U.S. breeding population of wood stork from endangered to threatened status under the Endangered Species Act.

The reason for the action, the agency said, is because the species is breeding over a larger range than previously believed, and is steadily increasing the number of nesting pairs. The proposal also comprised the agency's 12-month petition finding that a 2009 petition to delist the stork, filed by the Pacific Legal Foundation on behalf of the Florida Homebuilders Association, was warranted, according to the action.

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The U.S. distinct population segment, only found in Alabama, Florida, Georgia and South Carolina when listed in 1984, is now also found in North Carolina and Mississippi.

The agency noted that the downlisting target of 3-year population averages of 6,000 nesting pairs has been met since 2003, but the 5-year average number of 10,000 nesting pairs required for delisting has not yet been achieved.

The nesting pairs plummeted to 2,700-5,700 pairs between 1977 and 1980, down from 15,000 to 20,000 pairs in the 1930s, and the birds still face continued loss, fragmentation, and modification of wetland habitats, the action noted.

The storks have responded to the threats by expanding their range, adjusting reproductive timing, and utilizing a variety of wetlands, including manmade wetlands, for foraging, roosting and breeding.

"Despite the growth and expansion of the wood stork population, we continue to have grave concerns about the status of the Everglades and Big Cypress National Preserve colonies and expect the Service will continue important restoration to recover the species in its historic nesting grounds," Jaclyn Lopez, a Florida attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity said in a press release.

The reclassification would not significantly change the protection for this species under the Endangered Species Act, the USFWS said.

The agency requests comments on the proposal and will provide one public hearing, if requested.

Learn more by clicking on the document icon for this action and others.

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