Delisting the Okaloosa Darter
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What is the Okaloosa darter? 

The Okaloosa darter is a small fish that grows to about 2 inches long. This darter species has a green-yellow to red-brown coloration with five to eight brown spots along the side of its body.  Male darters have an orange band along the edges of their first fin on the top of the body. 

Where is it found? 

Okaloosa darters live only in six stream systems in Walton and Okaloosa counties in the panhandle of Florida. More than 90% of all Okaloosa darters are found on Eglin Air Force Base. 

What action is the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service taking? 

The Service is delisting the darter, removing it from the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife. Under the Endangered Species Act, endangered species are at imminent risk of becoming extinct, while threatened species are likely to become endangered at a foreseeable point in time. The darter no longer qualifies for either category due to its recovery. 

What role did Eglin Air Force Base play in the recovery? 

Eglin Air Force Base has an Integrated Natural Resources Management Plan that includes specific goals and objectives to improve Okaloosa darter habitat. Eglin’s work in improving darter habitat and monitoring populations since its listing as an endangered species in 1973 has been the driving force behind its recovery. Erosion into streams has been reduced, fish passage fish passage
Fish passage is the ability of fish or other aquatic species to move freely throughout their life to find food, reproduce, and complete their natural migration cycles. Millions of barriers to fish passage across the country are fragmenting habitat and leading to species declines. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's National Fish Passage Program is working to reconnect watersheds to benefit both wildlife and people.

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barriers have been removed, and over 480 acres of land on the base have been restored, reconnecting stream habitat for the darter. Approximately 90% of the 176 square miles watershed drainage area that historically supported the Okaloosa darter is federal property under the management of Eglin Air Force Base. 

What steps did the Service take to accomplish the darter’s delisting? 

The Service listed the darter as an endangered species in 1973, but over time, Eglin’s work improving the darter habitat contributed positively to the species’ status. The Service reclassified the darter from endangered to threatened in 2011 and is now delisting it. 

In 2018, the Service initiated a five-year review of the species. A team of biologists, brought together by the Service to compile and examine all known data and research regarding the darter, produced a species status assessment report. The SSA is a peer-reviewed summary of the fish’s historic and current status and projections of population stability and future trends. That report provides the foundational science for delisting the species.    

What are the criteria for delisting the Okaloosa darter? 

The 1998 revision of the Okaloosa Darter Recovery Plan describes the criteria for delisting the species. These criteria include: 

  • All reclassification criteria have been met. 

  • Historical habitat of all six streams has been restored to support viable populations of Okaloosa darters. 

  • Erosion at clay pits, road crossings, and steep slopes has been minimized to the extent that resembles historical pre-disturbance conditions. 

  • Longleaf restoration and watershed management practices on Elgin AFB are in effect. 

  • Natural, historical flow regimes are maintained. 

  • Water quality and riparian riparian
    Definition of riparian habitat or riparian areas.

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    habitat have been significantly improved and maintained. 

  • Cooperative and enforceable agreements are in place to protect habitat, water quality and quantity for the historic range outside of Elgin AFB. 

  • Management plans that protect and restore habitat, water quality and quantity have been effective and are still in place for 90% of the historic range currently managed by Elgin AFB. 

  • Okaloosa darter populations at monitoring sites consist of two or more age classes and are stable or increasing in all six streams over a period of 20 consecutive years. 

  • No foreseeable threats exist that would impact the survival of this species. 


What will happen to the darter now that it is delisted? 

The Service prepared a post-delisting monitoring plan for the darter that will help ensure the fish remains healthy and secure from the risk of extinction. The plan summarizes the species’ status at the time of delisting, defines thresholds or triggers for potential monitoring outcomes and conclusions, and lays out the frequency and duration of monitoring. It also articulates monitoring methods including sampling considerations, outlines compilation and reporting procedures and responsibilities, and proposes a post-delisting monitoring implementation schedule, including timing and responsible parties.   

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Endangered and/or Threatened species