North Florida Ecological Services Office
Southeast Region

Wood Stork (Mycteria americana)
2007 Five-Year Review
Frequently Asked Questions


Updated: September 28, 2007

Q1: What is a five-year review?

A1: A five-year review is an Endangered Species Act (ESA) mandated process which is conducted to ensure the listing classification of a species as either threatened or endangered is still accurate. The five-year review is not a rulemaking in and of itself. It provides analysis and a staff "recommendation," rather than a "determination" and as such is not a decision document.

Q2: Who conducted the reviews?

A2: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) conducted the review.

Q3: What species was considered for this review?

A3: The listed population of the wood stork (Mycteria americana).

Q4: What is the range for the listed population of wood storks?

A4: The range for the listed population of wood storks includes Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina. Since its original listing this species has expanded its range into Mississippi and North Carolina.

Q5: What are the results of this review?

A5: After extensive data review and analysis, the Service concluded the U.S. breeding population of wood storks status better fits the ESA definition of threatened and as such has recommended reclassification. Currently the species is classified as endangered under the ESA. The five-year review analyses considered the best available science and information which shows the wood stork is increasing and expanding its overall range.

Q6: Is a recommendation to upgrade the wood stork's status premature given the low numbers of nesting pairs in 2007?

A6: The 2007 nesting season was affected by the 100 year drought conditions that the Southeast U. S. is experiencing with preliminary data indicating around 5,000 nesting pairs as compared to more than 10,000 in 2006. However, the long reproductive lifespan of the wood stork allows it to tolerate reproductive failure in some years, and naturally occurring events (prolonged drought or unseasonably heavy rainfall) have undoubtedly always affected the breeding success of this species.

Q7: How do you address concerns that the wood stork's reproduction in the Everglades and Big Cypress Ecosystems which is still very sporadic and related low nesting numbers that have only slightly increased since listing and not approached nesting goals for that region?

A7: The Service review notes this as a concern but adds that the overall distribution of wood storks is also in transition. The wood stork appears to have adapted to changes in habitat in South Florida in part by expanding its breeding range into North Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina. Additionally, wood stork nesting has increased in South Florida and the Everglades since listing, but the timing and location of nesting has changed in response to alterations in hydrology and habitat.

Q8: What will happen as a result of this five-year review?

A8: As a result of the review, the Service is recommending that the wood stork's status on the federal list of threatened and endangered species be upgraded to threatened. Service biologists and managers also outlined additional recommendations in Section IV of the review entitled Recommendations for Future Actions. These recommendations identify what is needed to further address knowledge gaps and assess threats to the species. See Q17 for brief overview of these recommendations.

Q9: What opportunities did the public have to participate in this review?

A9: Public notice of this review was given in the Federal Register (71 FR 56545) on September 27, 2006, announcing a 60-day comment period that closed on November 27, 2006. Additionally, in October 2005, a Wood Stork Ecology Workshop with invited papers was held and the proceedings are currently being published in a special edition of “Waterbirds,” a scientific peer reviewed journal of the Waterbird Society. These papers, other wood stork literature and information presented at the Wood Stork Research and Monitoring Working Group's annual meeting were used in this review.

Q10: What information was considered in the review?

A10: For this review, we reviewed new information and data in the following categories:

  • species biology, including but not limited to, population trends, distribution, abundance, demographics, and genetics;
  • habitat conditions, including but not limited to, amount, distribution, and suitability;
  • conservation measures that have been implemented that benefit the species;
  • threat status and trends; and
  • other new information, data, or corrections, including but not limited to, taxonomic or nomenclatural changes, identification of erroneous information contained in the Listing, and improved analytical methods.

Q11: How does the Service determine whether a species is endangered or threatened?

A11: The ESA defines “endangered” as “…in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range…” whereas “threatened” is defined as “…is likely to become an endangered species within the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its range…”

Section 4(a)(1) of the ESA establishes that we determine whether a species is endangered or threatened based on one or more of the five following factors:

  1. The present or threatened destruction, modification, or curtailment of its habitat orrange;
  2. Over utilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or educational purposes;
  3. Disease or predation;
  4. The inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms; or
  5. Other natural or man-made factors affecting its continued existence.

Section 4(a)(1) of the ESA also requires that our determination be made on the basis of the best scientific and commercial data available.

Q12: In what context was this information reviewed and analyzed?

A12: The best scientific and commercially available data and information was reviewed within the context of the ESA's five listing factors and the most recent recovery plan. Service biologists and managers looked at the status and trend of the wood stork's population, the ESA listing factors that categorize threats, and recovery plan actions or tasks. In all, over 45 individual sources of literature and data were reviewed during this process.

Q13: When will you formally propose reclassification of the Southeast U. S. population of wood storks?

A13: This five year status review is a significant body of work that will inform any future rulemaking. In the immediate future Service managers will be evaluating staff workload and balancing funding priorities. The Service has many five-year reviews in varying stages of completion, and the results of those reviews may also impact Service priorities. With limited resources, the Service may not be able to pursue all recommendations immediately. For example, a recommendation to reclassify a species from threatened to endangered or to remove a species from the list of threatened and endangered species would likely take priority over reclassification from endangered to threatened. Service staff will also be evaluating the specific recommendations in the wood stork five-year review regarding the highest priority recovery actions that need to be pursued to ensure the wood stork continues to move towards full recovery.

Q14: Will the public be given an opportunity to provide comments on the Five-Year Review?

A14: No, the five-year review is an internal agency staff analysis which makes a classification recommendation. As such, it is not a decision document nor is it a proposal for change. Therefore, the Service is not soliciting formal public comments on its review or recommendation. See Q9 for details on public comment opportunities during the review process.

Q15: Will the public be given an opportunity to participate in any proposed status change?

A15: Yes. A proposed change in status requires a separate formal rulemaking process, including ample opportunity for public review and comment. No change in classification would occur until the completion of that process; so the wood stork would remain listed as endangered until we are able to complete the formal rulemaking process.

Q16: When would the Service be able to remove the wood stork from the Federal List of Threatened and Endangered Species?

A16: The five-year review identifies threats of potential habitat loss, fragmentation and modification and whether or not adaptations to these changing conditions are sufficient to sustain this population as the primary reasons the species should be listed as threatened. The specific recommendations include several actions that are needed in order to address these threats and concerns. The Service will not propose removal of the wood stork from the ESA list of threatened and endangered species until it is confident that the future of the species is secure.

Q17: On what recovery aspects are your future recommendations focused?

A17: The Service's recommendations for future actions encompassed seven key aspects of wood stork conservation and recovery:

  1. Reclassification -– formally propose reclassification to threatened, expansion of the known range of this population of wood storks, and whether or not application of the Service Distinct Population Segment (DPS) policy might be appropriate for this population.
  2. Habitat -- Efforts to protect wood stork habitat, including mitigation measures, updating existing habitat management guidelines, and a detailed review of current conservation laws associated with this habitat.
  3. Recovery Plan -- Update and revise the recovery plan for the wood stork to reflect the best available and most up-to-date information, as well as develop recovery criteria to address the relevant listing factors and current known threats.
  4. Recovery Monitoring -- Develop a long-term program to monitor productivity at fewer selected (index) colonies within the major regions of the breeding range.
  5. Population Model -- Continue to support the development of a demographic model by establishing and refining population parameters and other factors to improve the model.
  6. Genetics -- Conduct genetic studies to better understand genetic diversity in wood stork populations in the Southeast U.S., Caribbean, Latin America and South America.
  7. Contaminants -- Develop baseline contaminant information. Develop an understanding of how man-made wetland systems affect wood stork health.

Q18: How can I stay current or find out more information on the wood stork and your conservation efforts?

A18: The most current wood stork information is available online at http://www.fws.gov/northflorida.

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Last updated: September 12, 2014