US declares wood storks no longer endangered

Wood Storks fly together at Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge on March 12, 2009 in Merritt Island, Florida.  The 140,000-acres refuge was created in 1963 as part of NASA's John F. Kennedy Space Center to home more than 1,500 species of various animals and plants. (Joe Raedle, Getty Images)
Wood Storks fly together at Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge on March 12, 2009 in Merritt Island, Florida. The 140,000-acres refuge was created in 1963 as part of NASA's John F. Kennedy Space Center to home more than 1,500 species of various animals and plants. (Joe Raedle, Getty Images)
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Updated: 6/26 1:28 pm

TOWNSEND, Ga. (AP) —The American wood stork, a bird scientists once feared would be extinct by the year 2000, is now getting a status upgrade -- 30 years after it was first listed as an endangered species.

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell announced Thursday that the federal government is upgrading the wood stork to a "threatened" species — a step up from endangered that indicates the birds are no longer considered at risk of extinction. She made the announcement at a Georgia wildlife refuge with a large wood stork colony.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates wood storks have increased from roughly 10,000 breeding adults in the 1970s to about 18,000. They nest in wetlands from Florida to the Carolinas.

The Audubon Society said more research should have been done before changing the stork's status.

©2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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