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For Immediate Release, December 6, 2010

Contact: Tierra Curry, (928) 522-3681

Colorful Alabama Fish Gains Critical Habitat Protection

BIRMINGHAM, Ala.— In response to litigation brought by the Center for Biological Diversity, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today designated 13 miles of stream in the Turkey Creek watershed in Jefferson County, Alabama, as critical habitat for the endangered vermilion darter, a beautiful, brightly colored fish.

“Today’s critical habitat designation brings new hope for this lovely Alabama fish,” said Center biologist Tierra Curry. “There’s no way to protect an endangered species like the vermilion darter without protecting its habitat.”

The vermilion darter was discovered in 1992 and listed as endangered in 2001 after a lawsuit by the Biodiversity Legal Foundation, now part of the Center. There were once thousands of the bright, red-orange fish in existence, but now only around 100 are known to remain. The darter is unique to Jefferson County, occurring only in the Turkey Creek drainage, a tributary of the Locust Fork of the Black Warrior River.

Vermilion darters face numerous threats, including pollution from urbanization and coal mining, dams, gravel removal, ORV use, inadequate stormwater management and drought. The three-inch fish lives in small- to medium-sized streams and requires clean, clear, flowing water and clean substrate for spawning. It eats insects such as caddisflies and midges on the stream bottom.

“Urban sprawl, industry and agriculture all threaten Alabama’s rivers,” said Curry. “We hope protection for the vermilion darter and other species will place checks on these activities near rivers. Habitat protection will benefit people as well as fish.”

Alabama’s rivers contain more unique species than anywhere else in the country, hosting hundreds of endemic freshwater species, including fish, mussels, snails, crayfish and turtles. The state also ranks second in the nation in terms of the number of species that have been lost to extinction. In April 2010, the Center submitted a petition to protect 135 Alabama freshwater species under the Endangered Species Act, including nine other species of darters.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 315,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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