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Endangered Birds Benefit from Wetlands Reserve Program

By Ron Morton, Assistant State Public Affairs Specialist, Athens, Georgia

In the 1930s, a rural Georgia wetland was drained to help control the spread of malaria. As the land dried, water-loving wildlife like the endangered wood stork had to find a new home or perish. Eventually, the land became dry and tillable and was converted to farmland.

More than 70 years later, property owners James and Sue Adams had a desire to return the land back to its original state and applied for assistance via the Wetlands Reserve Program, administered by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Today the land is once again covered with water and that’s the kind of home the wood stork and other wildlife find just dandy.

Wood storks are long-legged wading birds with black-tipped wings and tails. These birds, which have a wingspan of 5 feet when fully grown, need wetlands to survive. Their populations reached a low of 2,500 pairs by 1978, causing them to be listed as endangered in 1984.

Last year the Georgia Department of Natural Resources tracked a banded wood stork from Florida to this Georgia wetland and discovered a whole community containing a variety of bird species. This year they found 125 wood stork nests, several hundred cattle egrets, little blue heron, and anhinga.

The Adamses did not restore the wetland specifically for endangered species, but they love that these animals have returned.

“The land might be in my wife’s and my name, but it’s only in trust,” said James Adams. “I have a real responsibility to not harm the land or creatures that live on it. I try to enhance it.”

For more information about NRCS programs in Georgia, visit http://www.ga.nrcs.usda.gov.

Wood storks are long-legged wading birds with black-tipped wings and tails. These birds, which have a wingspan of 5 feet when fully grown, need wetlands to survive. Their populations reached a low of 2,500 pairs by 1978, causing them to be listed as endangered in 1984.

Wood storks are long-legged wading birds with black-tipped wings and tails. These birds, which have a wingspan of 5 feet when fully grown, need wetlands to survive. Their populations reached a low of 2,500 pairs by 1978, causing them to be listed as endangered in 1984.

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