Consider the Arrow Darter
by Tom Sexton
Cumberland Chapter, Sierra Club
Prior to a few weeks ago, I had never heard of the Arrow Darter; however, over the past few weeks, I believe I’ve learned the reason for my lack of Arrow Darter awareness: its numbers are quickly dwindling.
The colorful little fish matures to around four-to-five inches, and is native only to a small swath of the Appalachians, where it is found exclusively in the drainages of the Upper Cumberland, and Upper Kentucky rivers of Kentucky and part of Tennessee.
The great Kentucky writer, Fenton Johnson, once wisely observed, that, “the prejudice of the fortunate against the ill-favored is among the oldest in the race,” and while Mr. Johnson was referring to the ways in which the haves wield an inordinate amount of influence over the lives of the have-nots, and often times abuse that power, it’s also applicable to the powerless little Arrow Darter’s plight in the face of Big Coal, and their profit-driven ways.
This diminutive little beauty, who once had a home in more than 70 streams but unfortunately today dwells in just over 30, now faces the very real possibility of extinction, if no rule is passed, prohibiting extractive practices near their habitats.
Now, many no doubt will probably say “Hey—this is just a fish, why should we care that much?” But like biologist Tiarra Curry of the Center for Biological Diversity said when it was announced that the Arrow Darter could potentially be listed as a threatened species: “all plants and animals play an important role in the environment, and we don’t necessarily know what that role is. But they’re all there for some reason, and we have a responsibility to protect them.”
The comment period leading up to the decision on whether to list the Arrow Darter as threatened under the Endangered Species Act will be active until December 7.
Let’s all make a final push this last week to get comments in, and help the Arrow Darters keep what little habitat they have left. You can submit your comment for U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service directly through Sierra Club here.
For more information, feel free to contact Tom Sexton, our East Kentucky Organizer by phone at (606) 548-1113, or by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org