HURLBURT FIELD, Fla. --
-- Hurlburt Field's Soundside salt marsh hosts not only a robust ecosystem, but endangered species and an archeological site along the shoreline in front of the FamCamp--these are some of the reasons that the land is under protection from any construction or developments.
"Development changes which will occur as a result of the Military Housing Privatization Initiative will not fill, encroach or affect wetland areas or salt marshes along the Soundside," said Kristal Walsh, environmental specialist of 1st Special Operations Civil Engineer Squadron.
The MHPI went through multiple official and required channels to start development on the Hurlburt Field Soundside and to be apprised of the salt marsh situation and the location of boundaries.
"The MHPI building and construction plan that has been in progress for eight years and it has been through the required environmental impact statement process to include public hearings," Walsh said. "The record of decision has been signed by the Air Force."
The salt marshes are protected by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
"The salt marshes along the shoreline were created as part of Hurlburt's mitigation plan to offset wetland impacts back in 2000," Walsh said. "In addition, Hurlburt entered into an agreement with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and promised to protect and maintain, in perpetuity, these marshes and almost 3,000 acres of wetlands on the base as compensation for authorized impacts."
The protected salt marshes provide strict guidelines to any construction near the salt marshes.
"The FDEP enforces a set-back of no less than 15 feet and an average 25 feet away from any wetland boundary to ensure that construction debris or other activities do not impact protected wetlands, Walsh said. "The future housing will not extend any further south than the current FamCamp, preserving the forested buffer, shoreline and marshes."
Hurlburt Field received special permission from the multiple authorities such as state and federal agencies for a nature trail to pass through the protected buffer so that it will still be accessible, Walsh said.
The salt marshes are not just protected by the state, it is protected federally due to the archeological site along the shoreline.
"There is an archeological site along the shoreline in front of the FamCamp. Federal laws concerning archaeological and cultural sites also protect many sensitive areas on Hurlburt," Walsh said. "The archeological site is the only reason the FamCamp doesn't extend all the way to the water. The FamCamp stops at the edge of this site, creating a nice forested buffer."
Hurlburt Field boasts environmental treasures all around base, which is why the members of Hurlburt Field go through great lengths to protect them.
"Consults with the Florida State Historic Preservation Office have been coordinated throughout the entire MHPI process to ensure there is no adverse effect," said Walsh.
For more information about the Hurlburt Field salt marsh, visit