FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 28, 2001
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today listed the vermilion darter (Etheostoma chermocki), a small, brilliantly colored, freshwater fish found only in Alabama, as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. A plant or animal is designated as endangered if it is in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range.
"The vermilion darter faces multiple threats, not least of which are its genetic isolation and vulnerability to changes in water quality in the small streams in which it is found. The Service and its partners have already begun stream restoration efforts to benefit the darter, and with the added protection of the Endangered Species Act, we can begin the road to recovery," said Southeast Regional Director Sam D. Hamilton.
The vermilion darter is found only on 7.2 miles of Turkey Creek, a tributary of the Locust Fork of the Black Warrior River in Jefferson County, Alabama, and the lowermost reaches of Dry Creek and Beaver Creek where they intersect Turkey Creek. The vermilion darter is just under 3 inches in length with a short head and small pronounced mouth.
The vermilion darter has a small population size. The darter faces many threats, including those posed by impoundments that have altered stream dynamics and reduced the species' range significantly, as well as excessive sedimentation and the presence of other pollutants, such as excess nutrients, pesticides and other agricultural runoff that wash into the Turkey Creek drainage.
Other threats to the darter include reduced genetic diversity due to the darter's fragmented population, and the potential that catastrophic events, such as a chemical spill, could significantly reduce its already low population.
A local conservation group, the Society to Advance the Resources of Turkey Creek (START), has worked through the Service's Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program to minimize non-point source pollution within Turkey Creek. The Jefferson County Commission and START also have worked together to plan a nature preserve encompassing approximately 630 acres of the watershed. In addition, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has worked with the Black Warrior and Cahaba River Land Trust, Samford University, the University of Alabama, the Alabama River Alliance and Alabama Environmental Council to promote watershed stewardship within Turkey Creek. A Memorandum of Understanding between the Service and Jefferson County Lands Division was signed to provide current locality and ecological data to the County and to help address possible sedimentation and non-point source problems that may impact the vermilion darter.
The vermilion darter will now benefit from the protections and recovery actions provided by the Endangered Species Act. Species listed as endangered are protected from take, which includes killing, harming, or harassing. Federal agencies must consult with the Service to ensure that any action they authorize, fund or carry out does not jeopardize the continued existence of the species.
The Service published the decision to designate the darter as an endangered species in today's Federal Register. The notice can be viewed at the website http://endangered.fws.gov/frpubs/01fedreg.htm.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting, and enhancing fish, wildlife, and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 94-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System that encompasses more than 535 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands, and other special management areas. It also operates 70 national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resource offices, and 78 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Aid program that distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.
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