In 1994, the Okaloosa Darter was teetering on the brink of extinction. The tiny Northwest Florida fish, found in only six streams in the world, had been languishing since 1973 on the endangered species list and its future looked grim. The problem was widespread erosion. It was estimated that as many as 70,000 tons of sediment flowed into the Darter's shrinking habitat each year. Two decades later, that figure has fallen by nearly 99 percent, and the once imperiled Okaloosa Darter is making a comeback.
This recovery at Eglin Air Force Base, FL, is a direct result of the efforts employed by Three Rivers RC&D Council, Inc. Over the last several years, we worked with partners in government and the private sector to restore thousands of feet of stream bed and rehabilitated more than 200 acres of Darter Stream Watershed. The results have been startling. In 1994, scientists estimated only 1,500 Darters remained in the wild. Now that figure has risen by more than 19,000 percent to 300,000 individuals-prompting the U.S. Department of Interior to reclassify the fish from endangered to threatened.