Wood Stork Down-listing from Endangered to ThreatenedThirty-Year Recovery Effort Has Brought Bird Back from Brink of Extinction+U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
is down-listing the wood stork from endangered to threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
Interior Secretary Sally Jewell made the announcement at the Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge, home to the largest wood stork rookery in Georgia.
Under the ESA, a species is considered endangered when it is at risk of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range. It is considered threatened when it is at risk of becoming endangered throughout all or a significant portion of its range.
When wood storks were listed as endangered in 1984, their population was dropping a precipitous 5 percent a year. Since then, the U.S. breeding population has shown substantial improvement in the numbers of nesting pairs as a whole and an expansion of its breeding range.
Since 2004, the three-year averages (2003 to 2012) for nesting pairs ranged from 7,086 to 10,147, all above the 6,000 three-year average identified in the 1997 recovery plan as the threshold to consider reclassifying the species to threatened status. However, the five-year average of 10,000 nesting pairs, identified in the current recovery plan as the threshold for delisting, has not yet been reached.
When the Service originally listed the U.S. breeding population, the wood stork’s range included Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and Alabama. Breeding was primarily in Central and South Florida. Historically, the Florida Everglades and the Big Cypress ecosystems supported large breeding colonies. Since listing, its range has expanded north and west, and now includes portions of North Carolina and Mississippi, with significant nesting in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina.
The down-listing of the wood stork to threatened status follows a comprehensive review by Service biologists of the best available scientific and commercial information about the wood stork’s status as required by the ESA, and after peer and public reviews, that shows conservation efforts under the Act have helped increase populations and reduce threats.
The down-listing recognizes the wood stork’s ongoing recovery and the positive impact that collaborative conservation efforts over the last two decades are having on the status of the breeding population. With continued population growth, breeding range expansion and the minimization or removal of threats, the species could approach the biological milestones where it could be considered for delisting.
The Service continues to work with conservation partners such as the Natural Resources Conservation Service through its Wetlands Reserve Program, to protect natural wetlands and manage public lands to continue the recovery of the wood stork. For example, the Wetlands Reserve Program has restored more than 200,000 acres of wetlands in Florida and more than 115,000 acres in Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina.
Addressing the threats associated with habitat loss, protecting natural wetlands through partnerships, managing public lands and restoring the Everglades, all remain high priorities for the Service and the Department. In addition, as new information emerges, climate change adaptation measures will be considered to address changes that may be projected in the location of suitable habitat.
As part of the reclassification decision, the Service also determined that the stork’s U.S. breeding population is a “Distinct Population Segment” under the ESA, separate from wood storks that breed in Central and South America. The U.S. Distinct Population Segment is protected by the ESA and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA). Populations breeding in Central and South America are not listed under the ESA, although wood storks in Mexico are protected by that country’s domestic equivalent to the MBTA, pursuant to Mexico's migratory bird treaty with the United States.
For more information about the wood stork’s status reclassification, including statements from conservation partners and links to images of wood storks and their habitat, please visit http://www.fws.gov/southeast/
For the full press release (including pullable quotes): http://on.doi.gov/1v9Cdu5 #science #endangeredspecies #endangered