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North America's Only Native Stork is Thriving Again

The wood stork is the only stork that breeds in North America. In 1984, it was declared an endangered species after its population plummeted to just 5,000 mating pairs. At the time, scientists predicted that the bird would be completely wiped out by 2000.

The American native wood stork wading in wetlands
The American native wood stork | Unsplash

Today, happily, it numbers 10,000 mating pairs, and the Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing a delisting of the wood stork as an endangered species. So how did the population bounce back?

The success is in part down to the resourcefulness of the wood stork. The wood stork’s native home was in the Everglades in Florida, but it migrated north as the Everglades were being destroyed by development. In 1987, former Savannah Coastal Refuges biologist John Robinette noticed stork nests in Georgia as stork populations moved to safer wetlands.

According to Stephanie Kurose, a senior policy specialist at the Centre for Biological Diversity, the Endangered Species Act is also to thank for this recovery: “The act saved the wood stork and it helped preserve and rebuild vital habitats throughout the southeast, which has improved water quality and benefited countless other species who call the area home.”

The Endangered Species Act has been a remarkable success. It has saved 99 percent of the species that were on the list since 1973. Better yet, a hundred types of plants and animals have been delisted as their populations become stable again. The wood stork could be next.

If it is indeed delisted, it will remain protected by other laws and a monitoring plan will be put in place to ensure the population remains stable.


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