News Release
Southeast Region


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U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Partners Work to Protect Rare Rush Darter

March 2, 2011

Scott Robinson, 770-361-5639,

Cement atop a dirt road

The finished concrete "saddle" will prevent gravel from degrading the rush darter's habitat. Credit: USFWS.

The rush darter is a small fish that grows to two to three inches long. And it’s even rarer than it is tiny: The species, identified in 1999, is known to exist in only three locations in Alabama. There are no figures on the rush darter population because they are so difficult to find and study.

Because of its rarity, the rush darter has been named a protected species by the state of Alabama, and is proposed for endangered status by the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service. A final decision to list the fish as endangered is expected this summer.

Steps to protect the darter are already underway, however. One recent project in Winston County, Alabama, one of the three places known as a home to rush darters, brought together resources of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Southeast Aquatic Resources Partnership (SARP), the Natural Resource Conservation Service and Winston County.

The site is called the Doe/Mill/Wildcat Branch, a small freshwater stream, which drains into the Clear Creek System and then into the Sypsey River. The darter prefers the cool, clear water of small creeks and the reeds and vegetation found there, where it can spawn, hide from predators and forage for food.

For years, a gravel road crossed the stream, with an inadequate culvert pipe for the water to flow through. High water frequently flowed over the road, washing gravel and sediment down into the stream, which would harm the vegetation and living area of the rush darter, damaging its feeding, spawning and breeding habitat. The gravel on the road would be replaced, and the cycle would be repeated.

In 2009, the partners paved the portion of the road crossing the stream with concrete and installed a new pipe, enabling the water to flow better and ending the gravel wash. The project cost about $70,000, with $36,000 coming from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and $34,000 from SARP’s partners. Winston County contributed labor and services to the project. It not only benefitted the immediate crossing area but helped improve portions of Wildcat Branch downstream as well.

“It’s working just as it was designed,” said Daniel Drennen, recovery and listing biologist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Mississippi Office. “It’s difficult to say if the rush darter population is increasing because of securing the area, but it’s definitely stable.”

The rush darter project is one of a series of collaborations between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and SARP to protect and restore aquatic resources in the Southeast for the continuing benefit, use and enjoyment of the American people.  SARP is a regional collaboration of natural resource and science agencies, conservation organizations and private interests developed to strengthen the management and conservation of aquatic resources in the southeastern United States. Nationally recognized as one of the first groups designated as an official “Fish Habitat Partnership” by the National Fish Habitat Board, SARP is implementing the goals of the National Fish Habitat Action Plan in the Southeast in some of the most ecologically and economically significant watersheds in the country.

For more information on the rush darter, view its species profile. To learn more about SARP and its programs and other resources, visit SARP’s website at or contact SARP Coordinator, Scott Robinson at 770-361-5639 or

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.  Visit the Service’s website at  or


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Last updated: March 2, 2011