North Florida Ecological Services Office
Southeast Region

September 21, 2010

Media Contacts:
Florida: Chuck Underwood, 904-731-3332
Alabama: Denise Rowell, 251-441-6630
Georgia: Tom MacKenzie, 404-679-7291
Mississippi: Connie Dickard, 601-321-1121
North Carolina: Patty Matteson, 919-856-4520 ext. 25
South Carolina: Jennifer Koches, 843-727-4707 ext. 214

Fish and Wildlife Service Calls for Review of Wood Stork’s Status

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today announced it will review the endangered status of the wood stork under the Endangered Species Act. The decision to initiate a status review is the result of a 90-day finding in response to a petition seeking to reclassify this American wading bird to threatened. The Service has determined that reclassification may be warranted.

This finding triggers a more thorough review of available biological information for the species throughout its range. In recent years, the stork’s U.S. breeding population has expanded from Alabama, Florida, Georgia and South Carolina to include portions of Mississippi and North Carolina. It is the only stork and the largest wading bird that breeds in the U.S.

The Pacific Legal Foundation and Biological Research Associates submitted the petition to reclassify the stork on behalf of their client, the Florida Home Builders Association. The groups’ supporting information included the Service’s 2007 Wood Stork Five-Year Review, which recommended reclassification to threatened status.

To ensure the status review is thorough, the Service is soliciting all existing scientific and commercial data and other information regarding the wood stork throughout its range in the Southeastern U.S. The information must be received by November 22, 2010.

Based on the status review, the Service will make one of three possible findings:

  • Reclassification is not warranted, in which case no further action will be taken. This finding will be published and the petitioner notified.
  • Reclassification from endangered to threatened is warranted. In this case, the Service will publish a proposed rule, solicit scientific peer review, seek input from the public, and consider the input before a final decision about reclassifying the species is made.
  • Reclassification is warranted but precluded by other, higher priority actions. This means the proposal to reclassify the wood stork is deferred while the Service works on listing, delisting, or reclassification rules for other species.

Existing protections would remain if the Service determines that reclassifying the wood stork to threatened is warranted; a reclassification would not make it more difficult to implement future protection measures if deemed appropriate. The wood stork is protected under the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act and receives protection at the state level, where it is listed as endangered in Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Alabama; it is listed as critically imperiled in North Carolina.

Historically, the wood stork was found mainly in the Florida Everglades, which once supported large breeding colonies. Scientists believe the man-made changes in the Everglades are at least partially responsible for the stork’s expansion of its breeding grounds. Possible impacts due to the April 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill will be considered during the review.

Anyone wishing to submit information regarding the wood stork throughout its Southeast U.S. breeding range may do so via one of the following methods:

  • Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. Follow the instructions for submitting comments.
  • U.S. mail or hand-delivery: Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS-R4-ES-2010-0067; Division of Policy and Directives Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 4401 N. Fairfax Dr., Suite 222; Arlington, VA 22203.

The Service will post all information received on http://www.regulations.gov. This generally means that any personal information provided also will be posted.

Please note that submissions merely stating support for or opposition to the action under consideration without providing supporting information, although noted, will not be considered in making a determination, as section 4(b)(1)(A) of the Act directs that determinations as to whether any species is a threatened or endangered species must be made “solely on the basis of the best scientific and commercial data available.”

For more information about the wood stork and this finding, please visit the Service at http://www.fws.gov/northflorida.

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit www.fws.gov.

-FWS-

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2009 Petition - PDF - 112KB

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Last updated: September 12, 2014