For Immediate Release, June 26, 2014

Contact: Jaclyn Lopez, (727) 490-9190 or

Rare Wood Stork Found in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina
Declared Recovered to "Threatened" Status  

Endangered Species Act Working to Recover Stork, Hundreds of Other Species

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla.— Interior Secretary Sally Jewell announced today the downlisting of the wood stork from “endangered” to “threatened,” finding that the birds, which breed only in Florida, Georgia and coastal South Carolina, no longer face imminent extinction. The change in designation by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service marks an important step toward full recovery but will not reduce the species’ legal protection.

Grizzly bears
Photo courtesy USFWS. Photos are available for media use.

“Restoring these magnificent birds has helped to preserve and rebuild vital wetland habitats throughout the Southeast, something that has benefited countless other species of wildlife and improved water quality for all of us,” said Jaclyn Lopez, a Florida attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity.

Wood storks were protected in 1984 after the species had declined from approximately 20,000 pairs in the late 1930s to 5,000 pairs in the late 1970s, largely due to draining and development of wetlands. After the species was designated as endangered, work began to preserve and restore wetlands and protect nesting areas. The most recent three-year population average ranged from 7,086 pairs to 10,147, however, the five-year average of 10,000 nesting pairs identified in the recovery plan as the target for delisting has not been reached.

“The growth and expansion of the wood stork population is great news, but substantial work remains to fully recover the species in south Florida,” said Lopez. “These ecosystems are still under severe threat and making sure this iconic species always has a home there is essential before we declare the wood stork to be completely recovered.”

The 1997 wood stork recovery plan calls for downlisting to “threatened status” once the species reaches 6,000 nesting pairs, with a strong, multiyear record of successful reproduction. However, the Fish and Wildlife Service noted in 2007 that an updated recovery plan with new delisting criteria based on the most current information — including satellite tracking data of individual birds — must be completed before the agency can determine whether the species warrants removal from the list of protected species.

Today’s announcement reinforces what studies have already shown — that that the Endangered Species Act has not only prevented the extinction of 99 percent of the plants and animals under its protection, but has consistently helped those species to recover. In the past few months it has been responsible not only for guiding the substantial increases in wood stork populations but the recovery of several plants and animals, including the island night lizard, a songbird called the Inyo California towhee, two West Coast fish species and two California plants.

The success of the Act is evidenced in a 2012 report published by the Center called “On Time, On Target: How the Endangered Species Act Is Saving America’s Wildlife,” which evaluates more than 100 species and finds that nearly all the animals and plants are recovering on time to meet federal goals.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 775,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

Go back