Environmentally Endangered Lands Program Land Management

Tree Density Reduction in Florida Scrub-Jay Habitat at Malabar Scrub Sanctuary

The EEL Program will be furthering its efforts to improve the habitat conditions for the Florida Scrub-Jay at the Malabar Scrub Sanctuary. This work will involve the removal of trees where habitat conditions are not suitable to support scrub-jay populations. The Florida Scrub-Jay requires an open landscape of low scrub-oak vegetation and reasonably open adjacent pine flatwoods in order to maintain food resources and breeding success.

Buying lands for conservation requires a pledge to long-term land management. For centuries, natural cycles of fire, water flow, and weather shaped the habitats we see today. Now roads, development, and other human disturbances have fragmented the landscape. These natural cycles can no longer happen on their own, and it is up to land managers to re-create them to preserve our unique species and habitats. Examples of land management activities include: securing property boundaries, implementing prescribed fires, removing invasive plants, restoring hydrological cycles, and creating public access trails. These practices maintain healthy sanctuaries and often restore areas that have been disturbed or neglected. A land manager can be thought of as a doctor for the land, curing ailments and maintaining overall health.

The goals and approaches for management of EEL sanctuaries are outlined in the EEL Sanctuary Management Manual.

The EEL Selection & Management Committee (EEL SMC) plays a very important role in helping the EEL Program conserve land in Brevard County. The Board of County Commissioners selects the eight member volunteer committee based on their scientific knowledge and experience. Seven members are scientists and one represents ecotourism interests, and all live and work in Brevard County, and have years of experience working with the issues facing Brevard's natural areas. It is the EEL SMC job to choose sites that the EEL Program will acquire and protect. Only lands that are recommended by the EEL SMC can be bought with EEL funds.

When the EEL SMC makes a decision about whether to acquire a piece of land, they base their choice on scientific criteria they developed. These criteria are outlined in the EEL Land Acquisition Manual (PDF). The EEL SMC selects lands for acquisition one of two ways. Either the committee evaluates lands presented to them by private landowners to see if the land meets the EEL criteria. Or, the committee identifies lands that meet the criteria for acquisition and staff then contacts the landowners to determine if they are willing sellers.

The EEL Program is currently focused on acquiring land within the Brevard Coastal Scrub Ecosystem project, which targets scrub and related habitats throughout Brevard. A second area for acquisition is within the North Indian River Lagoon Blueways project, which targets lands in North Brevard County to protect the headwaters of the Indian River Lagoon. The EEL SMC will consider acquisition of land outside these project areas if the land meets the EEL criteria for acquisition.