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Contact: M. Reed Hopper
Principal Attorney
Pacific Legal Foundation
mrh@pacificlegal.org
(360) 279-0937
Alan E. DeSerio
Managing Attorney
Pacific Legal Foundation – Atlantic Center
aed@pacificlegal.org
(772) 781-7787

PLF welcomes feds’ move toward ending wood stork’s unjustified “endangered” listing

Wood StorkStuart, FL; December 18, 2012: Pacific Legal Foundation today welcomed the federal government’s proposal that the wood stork be downlisted from “endangered” to “threatened,” on the U.S. Endangered Species Act list.

Today’s announcement by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service came in response to a petition for downlisting filed by PLF on behalf of the Florida Homebuilders Association. This was followed by a formal warning, last January, that PLF attorneys would launch a lawsuit if the government did not reclassify the wood stork as “threatened” rather than “endangered.”

M. Reed Hopper, PLF Principal Attorney
M. Reed Hopper

Principal Attorney

Alan DeSerio, PLF Managing Attorney
Alan E. DeSerio

Managing Attorney
Atlantic Center

“Today’s announcement is good news for everyone who believes that environmental policy should reflect the real facts on the ground,” said Alan E. DeSerio, managing attorney with Pacific Legal Foundation’s office in Stuart, Florida. “After years of delay, the federal government is finally acknowledging that progress has been made toward wood stork recovery, and it’s wrong to continue to use the ‘endangered’ label. Four long years have passed since the federal government’s own studies said that the wood stork should be downlisted from ‘endangered’ to ‘threatened.’ It is unfortunate that the government had to be threatened with a lawsuit before it acted on its own findings. But now, at last, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is doing the responsible thing and finally following through on its own wood stork survey of 2008. Environmental regulations must have credibility. No legitimate purpose is served by calling a species ‘endangered’ when it isn’t.”

The wood stork, a bird prevalent in Central and South Florida, was listed as “endangered” in 1984. But in 2008, the Fish and Wildlife Service determined that the listing was no longer warranted, and the bird could be downlisted to “threatened.” However, although four years have passed, the agency has not acted on that finding, until the proposal announced today.

Although a downlisting to “threatened” will not trigger immediate change in any regulations, ending the wood stork’s classification as “endangered” would be the first step toward ending ESA coverage of the species, altogether.

“Our ultimate goal is to have the federal government recognize the good news that the wood stork is now a healthy species, and there should be an end to unjustified, unneeded restrictions on the productive use of private property,” said DeSerio.

The PLF legal victory that forced review of the wood stork’s status

The ESA requires the government to review the status of all species listed as endangered or threatened at least every five years. However, this requirement has been widely flouted over time. In a landmark PLF legal victory, a federal court in 2007 rejected government excuses for further delay in species reviews in Florida, and ordered all listed species in the state to be reviewed within the following three years.

Among the first reviewed after that ruling was the wood stork, in 2008. That review found that the species was no longer in need of being classified as “endangered” under the ESA.

Just last week, based on another government five-year review, PLF attorneys petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to downlist the West Indian manatee, the species found in Florida, which includes the subspecies Florida and Antillean manatee.

About Pacific Legal Foundation and its Atlantic Center
Donor-supported Pacific Legal Foundation (www.pacificlegal.org) is the leading watchdog organization that litigates for limited government, property rights, and a balanced approach to environmental regulations, in courts nationwide. PLF’s Atlantic Center is located in Stuart, Florida. Among PLF’s noteworthy victories: The federal court ruling that led to the bald eagle being removed from the ESA list.

PLF attorneys recently won their sixth direct-representation case at the United States Supreme Court, challenging overreaching government regulations: Sackett v. EPA.

PLF’s latest direct-representation case at the United States Supreme Court, for property rights and a balanced approach to environmental regulations, comes from Florida: Koontz v. St. Johns River Water Management District. Oral argument in Koontz will be held at the Supreme Court on January 15, 2013.