More than five years ago, two scientists discovered a thriving population the watercress darter, an elusive and endangered fish, in western Birmingham.

The darters were living in a small tributary of Valley Creek known as Seven Springs, which emerges from the ground onto land owned by the Faith Apostolic Church.

It’s only the third-known population of the fish, and its discovery lead to an unlikely partnership to ensure its survival.

Bishop Heron Johnson of the Faith Apostolic Church explains, “We were at the point of knowing what we has as far as the water and the fish but we didn’t know where to go from there.”

That’s when the Freshwater Land Trust, a nonprofit dedicated to protecting rivers and streams and preserving open space in eight Alabama counties, offered its assistance.

The two organizations agreed to work together to protect the endangered fish and provide an educational resource to the community. “We became partners with the Land Trust and it has been very wonderful to be a part of it,” says Bishop Johnson.

With funding from Southern Company, the Watercress Darter Recovery Project will help protect the wetland habitat of the endangered fish, while providing a nature sanctuary, mediation garden and outdoor classroom for community use.

“I am really excited about that project because it focuses on a community and a partnership where everybody is involved. I think that stewardship is not just about large corporations or environmental groups, but it’s about the community,” says Circe Starks of Southern Company. “And that’s what I love about the Seven Springs project.”

Video courtesy of the Outdoor Channel.