Rare Alabama Fish Removed From Endangered List as Species Bounces Back

by Blake Ells
Getty Images

A rare Alabama fish is no longer on the endangered species list as its’ population is on the rise. The United State Fish and Wildlife Service removed the snail darter from the endangers list this week. The fish is a small, bottom-dwelling freshwater fish found in a few of Alabama’s lakes and streams.

“The recovery of the snail darter is a remarkable conservation milestone that tells a story about how controversy and polarization can evolve into cooperation and a big conservation success,” said Interior Secretary Deb Haaland in a statement. “By protecting even the smallest creatures, we show who we are as a country; that we care about our environment and recognize the interconnectedness of our lands, wildlife and people.”

The fish is in North Alabama in the Tennessee Watershed. The snail darter is in Paint Rock River, Elk River, Bear Creek and the Guntersville Reservoir.

The snail darter became endangered in 1975. It became a topic of debate during a Supreme Court case in 1978 about the Endangered Species Act. Its’ listing halted construction of of the Tellico Dam for two years. The dam was part of the Tennessee Valley Authority’s power grid. The dam received an exemption. First, the species moved to other bodies of water.

The fish is found in Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee and Mississippi.

Population of Rare Alabama Fish is On the Rise

The population of the snail darter is on the rise. Officials say that efforts to increase the population of the Alabama fish are significant to a larger conversation.

“As we approach the 50th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act in 2023, this little fish is emblematic of what partnerships can do to protect even the most initially controversial species, showing the ultimate importance of the ESA in preserving species for future generations, said Martha Williams, Director of United States Fish and Wildlife Service. “We would like to thank the many partners, including the Tennessee Valley Authority, which made this possible.”

Jim Williams is a former biologist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. He issued a statement declaring that the news is proof that the ESA works.

“The recovery of the snail darter shows the success of the Endangered Species Act and the Clean Water Act,” he stated. “With better management of water releases at hydropower and navigation dams, and removal of a lot of dams that no longer serve their original purpose, we could recover dozens more aquatic species that are still imperiled by decisions from decades ago.”

Meanwhile, Alabama ranks fifth in biodiversity in America. The state’s forests and streams offer a unique environment for various lifeforms. The state contains a portion of the Appalachian Mountains, and its’ Southern border reaches the Gulf of Mexico. It offers many unique environments for wildlife.