Resuming Habitat Restoration Project

Yesterday the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service marked the resumption of an important habitat restoration project at Topsail Hill Preserve State Park near Destin, FL funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). The project, which was temporarily delayed by the response to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, is a joint effort with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), Division of Recreation and Parks, and Three Rivers Resource Conservation and Development Council.

"The continuation of the Topsail Hill Preserve project is creating environmental and economic benefits for Florida's Gulf Coast region," said Acting Fish and Wildlife Service Director Rowan Gould. "This Recovery Act project is part of a long-range plan to restore Topsail Hill Preserve State Park to its natural state, restore the proper flow of water, and encourage plants and animals more to return and flourish," said Gould. "Our partnerships with multiple agencies on projects such as this are helping the Service to make a tremendous difference in the health of local communities across the nation, while making important contributions to the future of America's wildlife and wild places."

Located in Santa Rosa Beach, 10 miles east of Destin, Topsail Hill Preserve State Park encompasses 14 different natural communities, including wet prairie, scrub, beach dune and rare coastal dune lake habitat. It is also part of the dwindling habitat of the endangered Choctawhatchee beach mouse and endangered flatwoods salamander. The restoration work funded by ARRA will help reestablish the flow of surface and subsurface water, which is essential to the health of both upland and wetland natural communities within the Preserve.

"Restoration of the natural surface hydrology is essential to enhancing the wetlands and uplands in the watershed of two rare coastal dune lakes at Topsail Hill Preserve State Park," said DEP Deputy Secretary Bob Ballard. "This state park provides a direct economic impact of more than $7 million to the local community. This project will further enhance the valuable natural resources at Topsail Hill that attract Florida residents and visitors to the Santa Rosa Beach area."

In 2009, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service awarded $400,000 in ARRA funding to the Three Rivers Resource Conservation and Development Council of Milton, FL., to restore and enhance portions of Topsail Hill Preserve State Park. Three Rivers, in turn, awarded a contract to Middle Creek Contracting Co., a small construction company based in nearby Defuniak Springs, FL.

The project began in the summer of 2010, but was abruptly halted a short time later when Incident Command teams responding to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill needed to use Topsail Hill Road as an access road for beach clean-up and assessment teams. The project was on hold for several weeks and recently resumed.

"The Three Rivers Resource Conservation and Development Council is pleased to be participating in this ARRA-funded project that will help restore habitat at Topsail Hill Preserve State Park," said Travis Davis, project leader for the Council. "This project greatly contributes to our mission of conserving the natural resources and improving the economic condition of citizens in Northwest Florida."

For a full list of ARRA funded projects nationwide, go to the Department of the Interior's Recovery Web Site at // Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar has pledged unprecedented levels of transparency and accountability in the implementation of the Department's economic recovery projects. The public will be able to follow the progress of each project on the recovery web site, which will include an interactive map that enables the public to track where and how the Department's recovery dollars are being spent. In addition, the public can submit questions, comments or concerns at

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen visit

Created in 1935 by the Florida Legislature, the Florida State Park system has grown from eight to 160 parks in the last 75 years. Today, the Florida Park Service manages more than 700,000 acres of Florida's natural environment, including 100 miles of beaches, eight National Historic Landmarks and 39 sites on the National Register of Historic Places. Florida State Parks has been recognized by the National Recreation and Park Association as the nation's first and only two-time Gold Medal winner for the nation's best park service. For more information about Florida's state parks, visit

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