Endangered Species
Ecological Services
March 8, 2011

Recovery Success Stories| Okaloosa Darter (11:45)

Host: Sarah Leon with Steve Seiber and Bill Tate

Okaloosa darter (click to view larger)
Okaloosa darter
Photo credit: Bill Tate/USFWS

On the Road to Recovery

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed reclassifying the Okaloosa darter (Etheostoma okaloosae) from the status of endangered to threatened under the Endangered Species Act in February 2010, saying that the small fish has made significant strides toward recovery.

Habitat loss and degradation caused by road and dam construction, and siltation from land clearing were the main factors behind the darter's decline. The Service added the darter to the endangered species list in 1973 after finding that land use impacts had caused the species to dwindle to as little as 1,500 individuals.

The darter, which grows to only 1-2 inches long, makes its home in only six stream systems draining into two Choctawhatchee Bay bayous in Walton and Okaloosa counties in northwest Florida. Most of this watershed drainage area is under the management of Eglin Air Force Base, as is most of the darter's present range. Over 97 percent of the habitat occupied by the darter is located on the base.

Eglin has worked in partnership with the Service to restore stream habitat for the darter for more than 15 years. In this time, natural resource managers at Eglin have successfully eliminated 98 percent of the erosion occurring in darter watersheds, significantly reducing the amount of sediment entering into the darter streams. Artificial impoundments have also been removed and stream connectivity restored, which has opened up additional stream habitat. The population of darters on the base has improved dramatically in response to these habitat improvement efforts.

While the future now looks a little brighter for the darter, there are still recovery actions that have to be met in order to remove the species from the endangered species list. This is, however, is a great achievement for the managers working to protect the Okaloosa darter.

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Last updated: July 15, 2013