U.S. wildlife managers made good on a promise to reclassify the wood stork from endangered to threatened Wednesday, triggering a quick reprimand from conservationists.
Citing three decades of effort, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe said the move does not “diminish protection measures” for the bird that nests in wetlands from the Carolinas to Florida, including the Everglades, and was the only Florida wading bird on the list. He also vowed to continue trying to increase the number of birds. When originally listed as endangered in 1984, the wood stork’s population was dropping at 5 percent a year. But since its range has expanded to North Carolina and Mississippi, average nesting pairs have exceeded targets.
Audubon Florida said the move undermines billions of dollars being spent on Everglades restoration.
The decision “ignores the ongoing threat of continuing major wetland losses,” said Jason Lauritsen, director of the Corkscrew Swamp, a rookery that produced as many as 4,500 chicks in the 1960s but now averages less than 950.