Eglin to Host Delisting of Threatened Fish Species

Posted on July 25, 2023 by Staff reports

The Okaloosa darter population, which once numbered fewer than 10,000, has grown to more than 600,000. Photo by Bill Tate/FWS.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on June 27 announced the removal of the Okaloosa darter from the federal list of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife, and an August 2 ceremony has been planned to celebrate the delisting.

FWS first listed the species as endangered in 1973. In 2011, the Service downlisted the Okaloosa darter from endangered to threatened. A five-year review was initiated in 2018, and a species status assessment report supported the decision to delist the species. 

Per FWS, Okaloosa darters live only in six stream systems in Walton and Okaloosa counties, and more than 90% of them are found on Eglin, where habitat restoration efforts on 480 acres of land have reduced erosion into streams, removed barriers to fish passage, and reconnected streams, per FWS.

“This remarkable recovery story was made possible by our partners and the U.S. Air Force’s commitment to improving Okaloosa darter habitat on Eglin Air Force Base,” said acting FWS Regional Director, Michael Oetker. “As we celebrate the Endangered Species Act’s 50th anniversary this year, this is a great example of how the military and the Service collaborate to achieve our respective missions.” 

During the delisting ceremony, leadership from the 96th Test Wing, the Air Force, the Department of Defense, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are scheduled to provide remarks along with Shannon Estenoz, Assistant Secretary of the Department of Interior for Fish, Wildlife and Parks.

“More than 30 years of best management practices and partnerships with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, and the efforts of many others led to the recovery of the Okaloosa darter,” said Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Geraghty, 96th Test Wing commander. “We are grateful to everyone who brought this fish back from the brink of extinction to a thriving population on Eglin.”

The 96th Civil Engineer Group Commander, Jeremiah Hammill, will host the Okaloosa Darter delisting ceremony Aug. 2, 2023, at Anderson Pond on Eglin Air Force Base. The event is scheduled to begin at 8 a.m.