The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently 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 United States.
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 Nov. 22.
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.
Anyone who wants to submit information may do so by going to www.regulations.gov and following the instructions for submitting comments.
Comments also may be mailed to:
Division of Policy and Directives Management
U.S. Fish and
4401 N. Fairfax Dr.,
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.