Watercress Darter: Seven Springs

Two small and very different nonprofit organizations entered into an exciting agreement to accomplish mutually beneficial goals: protect the habitat of a federally endangered animal while providing a nature sanctuary, meditation garden, and community educational resource.

In western Birmingham, Alabama, Faith Apostolic Church shares land with Seven Springs, a small tributary of Valley Creek and a known habitat for the endangered Watercress Darter (Etheostoma nuchale). The population in Seven Springs, discovered in 2002 by Dr. Mike Howell and Dr. Larry Davenport of Samford University, is one of only six known populations.

Interested in protecting the water quality (and thus the Watercress Darter’s habitat) of Seven Springs, Freshwater Land Trust asked the church how it could be of assistance. The church and Freshwater Land Trust agreed to jointly protect Seven Springs while creating a resource for the people in the community around it.

On September 23, 2005, the church and Freshwater Land Trust signed a Memorandum of Understanding to ensure the permanent protection of the Watercress Darter and the aquatic habitat of Seven Springs. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service applauded the efforts to preserve Seven Springs because public-private partnerships are essential in protecting endangered species.

In order to accomplish the goals of the Memorandum of Understanding, Freshwater Land Trust and Faith Apostolic Church have partnered with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Samford University’s Department of Biology, and the Southern Environmental Center to design and plant an attractive nature sanctuary and meditation garden that includes native plant species around Seven Springs, which will serve to improve and protect the Watercress Darter habitat. In conjunction, an environmental educational program highlighting the Watercress Darter and its significance in the local ecosystem will be developed for community residents.

Today, thanks to funding from a Five Star grant, we continue the beautification around Seven Springs, expanding the educational opportunities and improving the habitat for this rare and unique fish found only in Jefferson County.