WASHINGTON (CN) – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposes to change the status of the Okaloosa dodger from endangered to threatened under the Endangered Species Act. The agency claims a dramatic increase in the fish’s population and states that substantive habitat restoration projects have been completed.
The agency listed the species as endangered under the act in 1973 due to its extremely limited range, habitat degradation, and apparent competition from a possibly introduced related species, the brown darter.
The Okaloosa darter is known to live in only six clear stream systems that drain into two Choctawhatchee Bay bayous in Walton and Okaloosa Counties in northwest Florida. Approximately 90 percent of the 176 square mile watershed drainage area is under the management of Eglin Air Force Base, and the agency estimates that 98.7 percent of the darter’s extant range is within the base’s boundaries.
As a result, the U.S. Air Force has overseen most of the restoration of the darter’s habitat including erosion control projects that have reduced soil removal from 69,000 tons a year to a little over 3,000 tons per year and the removal of dozens of road crossings from the streams and tributaries where the darter lives, according to Fish and Wildlife.