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Environment

U.S. Wood Storks May Not Be Endangered Anymore

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Wood stork populations in the southeast U.S. are making a comeback. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Commission announced today a proposal to change the bird's status from endangered to threatened.

The commission attributes large-scale restoration projects in Florida, and South and North Carolina to the birds recovery.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service director Dan Ashe says the wood stork's comeback is a sign of more healthy wetlands.  

He says wood storks rely on healthy wetlands ranging from North Carolina to South Florida for breeding. Those nesting areas have almost doubled in the past few years. 

Ashe adds the birds aren't the only ones benefiting from its habit restorations.

"I think we saw the value both in Hurricane Katrina and in Hurricane Sandy," Ashe says. 

"The value that these wetlands systems bring in buffering the impacts of storm damage to human and natural systems," Ashe continued. "Certainly, the water quality benefits associated with good healthy wetlands, and then the recreational benefits."

Ashe says the change in listing from endangered to threatened is subtle but it does offer more leeway when dealing with landowners. He says it would allow regulators to have more flexibility when dealing with private landowners to conserve their land.

Commission members say they are still addressing wood stork habitat loss, especially in areas of South Florida.

The wildlife commission will be gathering public comments on the proposal for the next 60 days.