Environmental activists angry over wood stork recovery


Author: Reed Hopper

Although U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologists have recommended reclassifying the wood stork from endangered to threatened because the stork's range and population have doubled in recent years, activists rage over the Florida Home Builders' request that the Service take action on its own recommendation. Rather than lauding the success of the Endangered Species Act in bringing this majestic bird back from the brink of extinction, some see the possible upgrading of the wood stork as a nefarious plot by developers to destroy the pristine environment.

"They don't give a [expletive deleted] about the wood stork or anything else," said Cynthia Plockelman, the first vice president of the Audubon Society of the Everglades. "It's totally unprincipled. We have an oversupply of housing, plus foreclosures. They are trying to take advantage in unsettled times."

It is unclear why Ms. Plockelman says reclassifying a thriving species is "totally unprincipled," but no one can mistake her anger. Apparently, the Audubon Society doesn't give a … well … hoot … about the wood stork as much as stopping growth.  So much for the ESA's conservation goals.

According to the Service, "A recovery plan was drafted and the wood stork could not be reclassified as threatened until the population reached at least 6,000 nesting pairs over a three-year-average. Between 2001 and 2006 the three-year nesting averages were consistently above the threshold of 6,000 pairs, prompting the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to recommend that the wood stork's status be down-listed.

"And the nesting pairs have continued to climb."

"However, the wood stork will still be protected even if it is down-listed to threatened, said Steve Godley, a vertebrate biologist who specializes in endangered and threatened species and is long-time consultant to the builders. Reclassifying the wood stork will not make it easier for homebuilders to pull permits, Godley said. [Because the same protections apply to both threatened and endangered species] The only benefit to homebuilders is that it brings the wood stork one step closer to being de-listed altogether, he said.

"There may be a battle among people, but not among the storks. They are doing fine," Godley said. "If you want the public to have confidence in the Endangered Species Act, the list needs to be accurate. Why have a list at all if it's not accurate?"

For the complete text of the article quoted in part above, see The Palm Beach Post: Builders, environmentalists at odds over wood stork's spot on endangered species list.