Frequently Asked Questions
About the EEL Program
What is the Environmentally Endangered Lands (EEL) Program?
The Environmentally Endangered Lands (EEL) Program is dedicated to conservation through land acquisition and management. Brevard County's Parks & Recreation Department manages and assists the program. The EEL Program protects Brevard County's unique natural habitats, while managing them for their rare, threatened, endangered, or endemic plants and animals. Three directives guide the EEL Program. The first is to conserve the natural resources of Brevard County through acquisition of environmentally sensitive lands and subsequent management of the natural resources. The second is to provide environmental education opportunities on EEL sanctuaries. Third, the EEL Program provides passive recreation opportunities, such as hiking and wildlife observation, on EEL sanctuaries. Since its start in 1990, the EEL Program has helped to protect more than 28,000 acres of threatened habitat. Much of this land has been bought in partnership with the State of Florida and the St. Johns River Water Management District. The EEL Program also provides outdoor learning and recreational opportunities to Brevard County citizens and visitors.
How was the EEL Program formed?
In September 1990, Brevard's citizens voted to tax themselves for the purchase of environmentally sensitive lands. They approved a referendum authorizing the county to issue up to $55 million in bonds to "finance the cost of acquiring, protecting, and maintaining environmentally endangered lands, and making improvements as appropriative for passive recreation and environmental education…" The bonds are paid for by a .25 mil ad valorem tax, equal to about 25 cents on every $1,000 of tax assessed land value. The tax will be levied annually for 20 years until 2011. Residents reaffirmed the EEL Program in 2004 under a second referendum to protect the natural habitats of Brevard County by acquiring environmentally sensitive lands for conservation, passive recreation, and environmental education.
What is the mission and vision of the EEL Program?
The mission of the EEL Program is to protect and preserve biological diversity through responsible stewardship of Brevard County's natural resources.
The EEL Program's vision statement guides the program. It is based on the following four elements:
- The EEL Program acquires, protects, and maintains environmentally endangered lands guided by science and the best available practices for land management.
- The EEL Program protects the rich biological diversity of Brevard County for future generations.
- The EEL Program provides passive recreation and environmental education opportunities to Brevard's citizens and visitors without taking away from the conservation goals of the program.
- The EEL Program supports active citizen volunteer participation and community involvement.
Acquiring Land/Land Management
How does the EEL Program acquire land?
The EEL Program is a 'willing-seller' program, which means it can only purchase property from people who want to sell their land. The EEL Program does not control or restrict private land rights, or condemn land.
Most of the land the EEL Program has in conservation was purchased in partnership with the State of Florida. In 1990, the State passed a landmark legislation called Preservation 2000, or P-2000, which provided for $3 billion over 10 years for the acquisition of conservation lands throughout Florida. In 2000 the legislature passed the Florida Forever Act, which picked up where Preservation 2000 left off and provided for another $3 billion over the next ten years. Many other local governments in the state have also passed land acquisition referendum and look to the State's P-2000 and Florida Forever funding to match their locally approved funds for land acquisition.
The EEL Program partners with other land conservation programs to purchase lands. These include the St. Johns River Water Management District and the North American Wetlands Conservation Act. These agencies work together to protect important natural resources for the long-term. Sharing costs with partners allows the EEL Program to purchase more lands than it could by acting alone.
How much land is in conservation as a result of the EEL Program's efforts?
The EEL Program has helped preserve approximately 28,000 acres of land with $42 million in partner and grant funding with the State of Florida and the St Johns River Water Management District.
What is land management and how is the EEL Program involved?
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 Program has defined four large management areas within Brevard County:
- South Beaches
One EEL Land Manager is assigned to each region. The EEL Land Managers develop a management plan for each sanctuary within their management region. The plans outline the management goals, which include the type of land management activities required for the habitats and species and identification of appropriate passive recreation and education activities.
What is an EEL sanctuary?
Lands purchased and managed by the EEL Program are called Sanctuaries. They serve three main functions:
- To conserve natural resources and biological diversity
- To offer environmental education opportunities
- To make available passive recreation opportunities that do not impact the natural resources
The purpose of an EEL sanctuary is to provide:
- A protected area for plants and animals
- A place to learn about Brevard's unique natural areas
- A place of wonder, study, and discovery
- A place to experience the real Florida
- A source of community identity
Are there different kinds of EEL sanctuaries?
The EEL Program's Selection & Management Committee identified three Sanctuary Categories. Each EEL sanctuary is assigned a Category of 1, 2 or 3, based on that site's conservation goals and public access needs. The types of activities to be offered at each sanctuary are determined by the assigned Category. A Category 1 ranking has the most options for public access, while a Category 3 has the least.
To balance passive recreational uses and land conservation 'core conservation areas' are identified on all EEL sanctuaries. These are areas that are more sensitive and cannot handle much human disturbance, such as wetlands. These areas will not have trails or other public access features in order to protect the most fragile habitats within a sanctuary.
Category 1 Sites: Centers for Regional Management and Environmental Education
These sites offer opportunities for broad public access and for the development of Management & Education Centers. Four sanctuaries have been selected as Category 1 Sites:
- Enchanted Forest Sanctuary in Titusville
- Pine Island Conservation Area in north Merritt Island
- Malabar Scrub Sanctuary in Malabar
- Barrier Island Ecosystem Center on the barrier island
Together they offer excellent examples of Brevard's rich biological diversity and are located around the county to provide access for all Brevard citizens and visitors.
Category 2 Sites: Intermediate Use Sanctuaries
These sites have some degree of public access development that is usually limited to nature trails, limited parking areas, interpretive signs along trails, and limited facilities (i.e. open shelters, educational kiosks, trail signs, etc.).
Category 3 Sites: Primary Conservation and Research Sanctuaries
These sites have little or no public access development due to fragile habitats and sensitive land management projects. Public access is limited to less fragile areas on the site and/or through organized EEL tours.
What is there to do at an EEL sanctuary?
The EEL Program is committed to providing the public with opportunities to enjoy the beauty of Brevard's natural areas. The best way to protect a sanctuary and to provide public access to the site is to support passive recreation activities. These are activities that do not adversely impact the natural resources, biological diversity, or environmental qualities of a site.
Examples of passive recreation activities provided on EEL sanctuaries:
- Guided nature tours
- Wildlife observation
- Canoeing and kayaking
- Nature photography
- Bird watching
- Horseback riding
- Catch-and-release fishing
These are examples only and not all activities will occur on every sanctuary.
Who can access an EEL sanctuary?
Universal access is a term used to describe a philosophy of access for all people regardless of age and ability. A major goal of the EEL Program is to provide universal access to its sanctuaries. To help reach this goal the EEL Program held a one-day workshop in June 1995. People with physical disabilities and organizations that support and serve them were invited. At the workshop they were asked what the EEL Program could do to make natural areas more accessible. The participants' ideas were summed up in a booklet called Bridging the Gaps to Experiencing Nature: A Workshop on Ideas for Making Nature Accessible to People of Diverse Needs. (To obtain a copy, make your request by calling 321-255-4466 or EMAIL)
The EEL Program is using the suggestions and ideas from the workshop in the development of its sanctuaries. Special attention is given to the four Centers for Regional Management. Universal accessibility was a key feature in the design of the Enchanted Forest Sanctuary's Management & Education Center and trails. A Universal Design Review Group was formed to help this sanctuary meet a wide variety of needs. As other sanctuaries are opened to the public, the EEL Program will continue to look for ways to provide access for everyone.
How and where are EEL sanctuary sites chosen?
How: The EEL Selection & Management Committee (EELSMC) plays a very important role in helping the EEL Program conserve land in Brevard County. The Board of County Commissioners selects the seven member volunteer committee based on their scientific knowledge and experience. Each member is a scientist who lives and works in Brevard County, and has years of experience working with the issues facing Brevard's natural areas. It is the EELSMC job to choose sites that the EEL Program will acquire and protect. Only lands that are recommended by the EELSMC can be bought with EEL funds.
When the EELSMC 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. The EELSMC 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.
Where: Currently the EEL Program is 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 EELSMC will consider acquisition of land outside these project areas if the land meets the EEL criteria for acquisition.
Does the EEL Program have professional staff?
Success in reaching the goals of the EEL Program requires not only concerned and involved citizens, but also professional staff who are trained in land management, public relations and environmental education. In addition, staff members develop and apply management plans to EEL Sanctuaries, and apply for grants to aid in conservation efforts.
The EEL Program staff can be reached by the contact information listed below:
Environmentally Endangered Lands Program
91 East Drive
Melbourne, FL 32904
Regarding Email Sent to Brevard county employees:
Under Florida law, e-mail addresses are public records. If you do not want your e-mail address released in response to a public records request, do not send electronic mail to this entity. Instead, contact this office by phone or in writing.
- Program Manager— Mike Knight
- Prescribed Fire Coordinator - Evan Hall
- Land Acquisition Coordinator— Jenny Warner
- Volunteer Program/Public Use Coordinator — Brad Manley
- North Region Land Management Superintendent— Damien Keene
- Central Region Land Management Superintendent — David DeMeyer
- South Region Land Management Superintendent — Steve McGuffey
- South Beaches Land Management Superintendent — Raymond Mojica
How is the EEL Program involved in public education?
The EEL Program's goal is to create an inspiring environmental education program. This will be done through partnerships with the school system, local organizations, and citizen volunteers. Trailhead kiosks (information panels), illustrative trail signs, guided tours, and four regional Management & Education Centers are being created to help meet this goal. The EEL Program's environmental education goals are outlined in its Environmental Education Manual. (To obtain a copy, make your request by calling 321-255-4466 or EMAIL)
The four planned Management and Education Centers, one in each EEL region, will serve as hubs for environmental education, land management, and public access activities. Each Center will provide volunteer programs and will have features planned for universal access.
Enchanted Forest Sanctuary — North Region
Located in Titusville on State Road 405 just west of U.S. Highway 1, this 393-acre site is the flagship sanctuary of the EEL Program and was purchased because of its unique geology and high biological diversity. The sanctuary is one of the few places in Brevard where visitors can experience majestic oak hammocks, swamps, and the Atlantic Coastal Ridge in one short hike. The Management and Education Center for the EEL North Region is located at the Enchanted Forest.
Pine Island Conservation Area — Central Region
Located in North Merritt Island on the eastern shore of the Indian River Lagoon, this 879-acre site was acquired in partnership with the SJRWMD to preserve its diverse habitat--pine flatwoods, cabbage palm hammocks, hardwood hammocks, mangrove forests, and salt marshes--as a refuge for West Indian manatee, bottlenose dolphin, alligator, woodstork, osprey, gopher tortoise, bobcat, eastern indigo snake. With restoration of the Historic Sams House, Pine Island Conservation Area will host the Central Region's Management & Education Center.
Malabar Scrub Sanctuary — South Region
Located on Malabar Road next to the Town of Malabar's Community Park & Fire Station, the 395-acre Malabar Scrub Sanctuary is a refuge for the Florida scrub-jay, gopher tortoise, and eastern indigo snake. The habitat variety on this site makes it an ideal place for visitors to experience the interconnection of the wetland and upland communities and associated species. Development of the Management & Education Center is currently on hold due to budgetary limitations.
Barrier Island Ecosystem Center — South Beaches Region
Located about 3-miles north of the Sebastian Inlet State Recreation Area, this 28-acre site is in the heart of the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge. The property was donated to Brevard County by the Richard King Mellon Foundation and includes the old Chuck's Steakhouse Restaurant. This building was renovated into the Barrier Island Management & Education Center. The properties preserved throughout the south beaches are excellent examples of barrier island habitats, such as coastal dunes, maritime hammocks and mangrove swamps that provide ideal educational and recreational opportunities. The Barrier Island Ecosystem Center Grand Opening is May 10, 2008.
How can I get involved?
Volunteers are an important part of the EEL Program. The EEL Volunteer Program offers Brevard County citizens the opportunity to become involved in local land conservation efforts. Volunteers help the program build partnerships with organizations and businesses. They also expand the EEL Program's ability to manage the EEL Sanctuary Network.
EEL volunteers help Brevard's natural resources by contributing their valuable time and skills. There are a wide variety of volunteer opportunities that include removing invasive exotic plants, leading nature hikes, posting sanctuary boundaries, building boardwalks and trail signs, studying habitat recovery, and developing educational materials. Volunteers' time and skills have a positive impact on today's citizens and future generations.
Email the EEL Staff for information on volunteer opportunities.