Florida’s Everglades once boasted wood storks as far as the eye could see. But for five of the past six years, Audubon’s Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary—which at its peak had 6,000 nesting pairs—has seen no nests at all (see “Bait and Switch”). The problem is food, says Jason Lauritsen, Corkscrew’s acting director.
This Audubon priority species needs water deep enough to support an abundance of fish but shallow enough for adult birds to hunt. “This was the breadbasket for wood stork production historically,” Lauritsen says. “We’ve lost 82 percent of core foraging areas.” To stop the bleeding, as he puts it, Audubon and its allies worked out a settlement with a developer who’s building on 562 acres of wetlands.
The agreement will preserve water flow patterns between the sanctuary and the Gulf of Mexico—providing the precise levels that endangered wood storks need for foraging—while also protecting and restoring large swaths of vital wetlands. Despite the construction, the deal will ultimately result in an ecological net gain of acreage, Lauritsen says. “The benefits from this settlement are going to directly answer the greatest need for wood storks.”
This story originally ran in the January-February 2013 issue as "Pop the Cork for Storks."