Freshwater Land Trust and partners are saving one of the rarest fish on earth

Vermilion darter
Vermilion darters found on a new section at Turkey Creek – photo courtesy of Freshwater Land Trust

Here is some fantastic news about the Vermilion darter, one of the rarest fish on earth that resides in Jefferson County.

According to the Freshwater Land Trust, four years after the land trust and its partners removed a 100-year-old dam, the endangered Vermilion darter is making a new home in a section of Turkey Creek.

In October, the Land Trust and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service found a population of Vermilion darter upstream from the former dam site, which previously prevented the endangered fish from moving upstream and caused portions of its habitat to fill with silt. The new population indicates the 2013 dam removal improved the darter’s habitat.

The Vermilion darter, a small, brightly-colored fish, is found only one place on earth: a nine-mile stretch of stream in the Turkey Creek area of north Jefferson County.

Turkey Creek
Vermilion Darter – photo from Outdoor Alabama

Scientists also found the darter on Freshwater Land Trust’s new conservation property, purchased in September. The new property adds over 60 acres of mixed-hardwood forest to the Freshwater Land Trust and Forever Wild Land Trust’s existing conservation holdings in the Turkey Creek area.

“This project shows what we do really well: our ability to acquire land gives the fish a safe home, and our expertise in stream restoration makes that home bigger and cleaner. It is thrilling to see the proof that these beautiful fish are thriving and their population growing with our efforts,” stated Libba Vaughan, Executive Director at the Freshwater Land Trust.

Freshwater Land Trust
Bernie Kuhajda & Eric Spadgenske upstream of former dam site – photo courtesy of Freshwater Land Trust

Charles Yeager, manager of the area’s popular Turkey Creek Nature Preserve, said that partnerships with organizations like the Freshwater Land Trust and Fish and Wildlife Service are critical to protecting the wider Turkey Creek watershed.

“If we only worked within Turkey Creek Nature Preserve itself, we would never solve the real problems that lie upstream. We would be creating band-aids, not solutions,” said Yeager. “Our partners provide resources and unique approaches that make it possible for all of us to make a real impact.”

Thanks to an impressive coalition of groups working together, the Vermilion darter has increased its habitat which will boost its chance for survival.


Want to learn more about Alabama’s aquatic biodiversity?  Bham Now published our second installment on biodiversity earlier this week titled Darters to turtles: Why Alabama’s aquatic biodiversity matters .

Pat Byington
Pat Byington

Longtime conservationist. Former Executive Director at the Alabama Environmental Council and Wild South. Publisher of the Bama Environmental News for more than 18 years. Career highlights include playing an active role in the creation of Alabama's Forever Wild program, Little River Canyon National Preserve, Dugger Mountain Wilderness, preservation of special places throughout the East through the Wilderness Society and the strengthening (making more stringent) the state of Alabama's cancer risk and mercury standards.

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