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, mediation 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 only the third population known.
Interested in protecting the water quality (and thus the Darter’s habitat) of Seven Springs, the Land Trust asked the Church how it could be of assistance. The Church and the 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 the 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, the 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 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.
On January 11, 2008, Faith Apostolic Church, the Land Trust, the Southern Environmental Center, Samford University, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service celebrated the groundbreaking of the meditation gardens. These beautiful gardens will be a source of community pride and serve to protect the watercress darter’s habitat by filtering pollutants from water runoff.
Assistance from the Freshwater Land Trust and funding from a Five Star Grant have enabled the partners to build, expand, and maintain the gardens. Today, we continue the beautification around Seven Springs, and expand the education opportunities.