Golfers + environmental advocates team up to protect rare watercress darter

Southern Environmental Center, Darter Scramble, Roebuck Golf Course
(left to right) Roald Hazelhoff, Dylan Shaw, Sam McCoy and Jeffrey Drummond. (Pat Byington / Bham Now)

Roebuck Golf Course—known affectionally as RoeGusta by local golfers—is one of Birmingham’s grand golf courses, having served as a public course since 1910. The crystal-clear limestone springs on its campus also provide a home to the rare watercress darter, a tiny fish only found in Jefferson County.

Building on these efforts, the Southern Environmental Center will host its annual Darter Scramble at Roebuck Golf Course on September 21, with proceeds support watershed education programs in Birmingham.

Learn more + get your tickets to the Darter Scramble on September 21.

About the Darter Scramble

Southern Environmental Center, Darter Scramble, Roebuck Golf Course
(left to right) Roald Hazelhoff, Dylan Shaw, Sam McCoy and Jeffrey Drummond. (Pat Byington / Bham Now)

Now in its second year, the Darter Scramble is an annual golf tournament put on by the Southern Environmental Center, an environmental educational facility at Birmingham-Southern College. The tournament aims to raise funds to support the protection of the rare watercress darter and spread awareness through the Southern Environmental Center’s watershed education programs for local K-12 schools.

“It’s fitting that the Darter Scramble will be held at Roebuck Golf Course, because this is one of the six locations within Jefferson County—and within the world—that is habitat for the watercress darter. The small fish is one of the many unique species we have in Alabama, so it’s important that each of those six streams are protected. Proceeds from this golf tournament will help the Southern Environmental Center continue to protect and educate people on these rare species that we only have in Alabama.”

Sam McCoy, President, Darter Junior Board

The four-person team, 18-hole scramble will be held at Roebuck Golf Course, a historic public golf course known as the “Augusta of Alabama” and located just a few minutes’ drive from downtown Birmingham.

Tickets to the Darter Scramble will be $400 per team (or $100 per person) and will include a continental breakfast and an awards luncheon. Check-in and registration will be held from 7:00AM to 7:45AM, and the tournament will kick off with a “shotgun start” at 8:00AM.

Get your tickets to the Darter Scramble and learn more about the tournament.

Protecting the rare watercress darter

watercress darter
A rare watercress darter. (Freshwater Land Trust)

All proceeds from the Darter Scramble will help further the education about and protection of the watercress darter. Discovered in 1964 by prominent Birmingham biologist Dr. Mike Howell, the watercress darter is found in only one part of the world—Jefferson County.

“The watercress darter is part of a larger collection of species that are endemic to Alabama—specifically the Birmingham Metro. That collection of species includes the vermillion darter, the rush darter and the watercress darter. If we let these fish disappear, we will never be able to get them back. It’s critically important take safeguards to ensure we are doing everything we can to project their habitat and protect the fish themselves.”

Dylan Shaw, Vice President, Darter Junior Board

Due to the fragility of the rare species’ existence, a large number of public and private organizations have worked together to ensure the preservation of the watercress darter’s habitat. Events like the Darter Scramble and Darter Fest—held earlier this year—raise funds to help these organizations continue their great work.

“Of the six natural populations of the watercress darter, only one of them is in a National Wildlife Refuge. Since the rest of them are on private lands, we have to work with lots of partners to help his fish. We’ve worked with the Freshwater Land Trust, the City of Birmingham, Turkey Creek Nature Preserve, the Southern Environmental Center and Alabama Power—without these partners we wouldn’t be able to protect these natural habitats. These partnerships give the local community the opportunity to get involved with the management of these rare specifies that live in their own backyard.”

Jeffrey Drummond, Private Lands Biologist, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Get your tickets to the Darter Scramble today

Want to support the work of the Southern Environmental Center and help support the rarest fish species on the planet? Get your tickets to the Darter Scramble now!

“I believe that every species has just as much right to exist as we do. And biodiversity is important. Scientists understand a lot about the environment and the way nature works, but we don’t understand everything. If you lose an entire species, there are going to be ripple effects throughout the habitat and the environment. We don’t know what those ripple effects might be. So it’s better to just keep the environment working the way Mother Nature intended.”

Sam McCoy, President, Darter Junior Board

Planning to attend the second annual Darter Scramble on Thursday, September 21? Tag us @bhamnow to let us know!

Nathan Watson
Nathan Watson

Senior Content Producer at Bham Now

Articles: 850