Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, February 14, 2023


Stephanie Kurose, (202) 849-8395,

Recovery of Once Rare Wood Stork Is Latest Endangered Species Act Success

Ongoing Monitoring Still Needed in Southernmost Habitat

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla.— The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today that it’s proposing to remove the wood stork from the endangered species list because the bird has recovered.

Wood storks were down to only 5,000 nesting pairs in the 1970s, but there are now more than 11,000 pairs across Florida, Georgia and other states in the Southeast.

“There’s no better way to celebrate the Endangered Species Act’s 50th anniversary than with the recovery of this magnificent bird,” said Stephanie Kurose, a senior policy specialist at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The Act saved the wood stork, and it helped preserve and rebuild vital habitats throughout the Southeast. That has improved water quality and benefited countless other species who call the area home.”

Wood storks were protected in 1984 after the species had declined from approximately 20,000 nesting pairs in the late 1930s to 5,000 pairs in the late 1970s. That decline was largely due to the draining and development of wetlands. After the species was designated as endangered, work began to preserve and restore wetlands and protect nesting areas.

Today, the wood stork’s range includes north Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi and the Carolinas. Where few or none had existed in these areas historically, multiple breeding colonies now exist today.

But the wood stork’s Everglades habitat remains threatened by poor water-management practices, which have greatly changed the natural flooding and drying patterns of the ecosystem. When this cycle is upset by human-controlled activities, wood storks fail to feed and nest successfully.

For example, wood stork nesting has crashed in Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, which was once the largest wood stork nursery in North America. The stork’s fate in South Florida underscores the need to protect and restore naturally functioning wetlands for the species who depend on them.

“The wood stork has made a remarkable comeback, but wetland destruction from urban sprawl still looms large over the species,” said Kurose. “The Service needs to ensure that wetlands will be protected. It’s also crucial to continue to adequately monitor the stork’s population to make sure ongoing threats don’t undo this hard-fought success.”

Today’s announcement reinforces what studies have already shown — that that the Endangered Species Act has not only prevented the extinction of 99% of the plants and animals under its protection but has consistently helped those species to recover.

RSWood_stork_Eric Horan_USFWS_FPWC-scr
Wood stork. Credit: Eric Horan / USFWS. Image is available for media use.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

center locations