EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla.— On Nov. 16, the U.S. Department of the Interior Assistant Secretary for the Fish and Wildlife Parks, Shannon Estenoz, united with dignitaries from the Department of the Defense and the United States Air Force to announce the recommended delisting of the Okaloosa darter from the Endangers Species Act (ESA). After years of conservancy by the U.S. Air Force, the Okaloosa darter has made a noticeable recovery. As a result, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) determined the small fish, found exclusively in two counties in Florida, no longer faces the threat of extinction and does not warrant listing under the ESA. “The recovery of the Okaloosa darter is another ESA success story,” said Estenoz in the Nov. 16 press release. “This rare fish would not have recovered from the brink of extinction without the planning, efforts, and long-term commitment of the U.S. Air Force as well as the leadership and dedicated staff from Eglin Air Force Base.” To guarantee that the fish remains healthy and secure from the risk of extinction after it is delisted, the Service is also offering an available draft post-delisting monitoring (PDM) plan. They are seeking information, data, and comments from the public regarding the proposal to delist the Okaloosa darter and on the draft PDM plan.
Accepted comments and information will be received or postmarked on or before Jan. 18, 2022. Comments submitted electronically using the Federal eRulemaking Portal must be received by 11:59 p.m. EST on the closing date. Requests for public hearings must be submitted in writing by Jan. 3, 2022. For more information, contact Lourdes Mena, Florida Chief of Classification and Recovery, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Florida Ecological Services Field Office, 7915 Baymeadows Way, Jacksonville, FL 32256-7517; telephone 904-731-3134. In addition, persons who use a telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD) may call the Federal Relay Service at 800-877-8339.