Malabar Scrub Habitat Restoration Project Common Questions

Have stakeholders been engaged in the management plan for the sanctuary?

All sanctuary management plans go through a significant public review process that includes user groups, EEL Recreation Education Advisory Committee, EEL Selection and Management Committee, municipalities, Advisory groups, Board of County Commissioners, and the State of Florida.

Does the EEL Program typically engage stakeholders when undertaking restoration projects?

Currently there is no formal process for additional stakeholder engagement when restoration work is being done under a publicly approved management plan.  The initial scrub restoration phase at Malabar Scrub was completed in 2012, 2014 and 2015 as a result of several private development mitigation projects.  At that time, due to significant concerns from the mountain bike community, staff agreed to minimize tree removal along some portions of the trail against the advice of the EEL Selection and Management Committee.  This compromise was done with the understanding that if the initial restoration work resulted in the expansion of the scrub jay population, additional work would be needed along the trails and other parts of the site in the future.  
In light of the recent concerns expressed about this particular project, it is clear that the EEL Program should have been more proactive in re-engaging the user groups prior to establishing a start date for the project.

How does this restoration work compare to land clearing for a development project?

Land clearing for a development project involves the complete removal of vegetation and root systems from the ground.  Scrub and pine flatwoods habitat restoration involves the lowering of vegetation height through mowing, roller chopping and selective tree removal without significant disturbance to the underlying root structure.  The primary goal for habitat restoration is to prepare the landscape for prescribed fire in order to improve the habitat conditions for the plants and animals that depend on that particular habitat type.  When habitats remain unburned for long periods, they grow up into unnatural ecosystems that no longer support the species that depend on them for their survival.  All the plants with the exception of cut pine trees will continue to grown in place but will just be maintained at a lower height.

Why is there no concern for soil erosion?

The restoration work involves timber cutting and vegetation mowing.  It does not involve the digging of soil and removal of roots from the ground.  Some soil disturbance will occur due to equipment moving around the site, and there are no plans for soil disturbance along the drainage systems.

Doesn’t the EEL Program also have an obligation to provide public recreation on the land it manages?

Yes, The original ballot language stated “Shall Brevard County issue bonds, in a principal amount not exceeding Fifty-five Million Dollars and No Cents ($55,000,000.00), to finance the cost of acquiring, protecting and maintaining environmentally endangered lands, and making improvements as appropriate for passive recreation and environmental education….”

The EEL Sanctuary Management Manual defines passive recreation as “a recreation type of use, level of use and combination of uses that do not individually, or collectively, degrade the resource values, biological diversity, and aesthetic environmental qualities of a site.”

The EEL Land Acquisition Manual states that “The 1990 and 2004 voter-approved referendums direct the EEL Program to provide sanctuary management, passive recreation, and environmental education consistent with the conservation goals of the program.  All Sanctuary activities will consider resource protection as the primary program goal, with public access and passive recreation as important secondary considerations.  Public access will be allowed at all EEL Program sites; however, public access and types or levels of public use may be controlled to ensure the conservation and management goals of the program are achieved.  No land use practices will be allowed that degrade the natural resource values of the sanctuary site or decrease the long-term sustainability of those natural resources.”

Isn‘t there already plenty of open space for scrub jays on Malabar Scrub?

Unlike other bird species, the Florida Scrub Jay lives in family groups and have designated family territories of approximately 25 acres each.  Current monitoring data suggests there are between 5 and 6 small families on the property currently and with improved habitat conditions the site can support up to an additional 15-16 families. 

Who owns the Malabar Scrub?

Malabar Scrub was originally purchased by the County in 1993 and 1994 under the EEL Program referendum.  The property is within the County’s Florida Forever Project boundary which made it eligible for State acquisition funding.  The State reimbursed the County 50% of the purchase price and holds title to the property.  The County manages the property under a management lease with the State and is subject to management progress reviews every 5 years by the State of Florida Division of State Lands.

Why was Malabar scrub protected?

The property was acquired to protect scrub habitat for the Florida Scrub Jay and other scrub species such as the gopher tortoise.  The property was the first scrub property to be acquired under the EEL referendum.

Was the Town of Malabar informed about the project?

The EEL Program initiated the process for obtaining a land clearing permit from the Town in February of 2021 and received the permit in May of 2021.  The EEL Program only recently became aware that the permit expired on November 17th.  The commencement of the project was delayed to the length of time it took to get the grant funding approved and obtain bids for the timber sale through the Florida Forest Service.

How does the removal of trees help the Florida Scrub Jay and other scrub species?

The Florida Scrub Jay is considered an umbrella species for the Florida Scrub which means that the habitat conditions they require for their survival is consistent with the needs of all other scrub species.  Scrub jays by nature are not agile fliers and are always at risk of predation from raptors such as the Cooper’s Hawk.  When scrub jay territories have high tree densities, Cooper’s hawks and other raptors can easily hide and prey on the population making it difficult for families to achieve reproductive success and maintain a stable population.  This is even more important now since most scrub habitat is limited to small and isolated sites within their range.  Scrub jays have developed a sentinel system where individual family members carefully watch the surrounding area for predators while the rest of the family forage for food.  Adequately alerting the family members to the presence of raptors and other ground dwelling predators such as snakes, bobcats, and domestic cats is much more difficult when trees are prevalent and understory vegetation is overgrown.  Under natural conditions where regular fire cycles kept the scrub maintained, the vegetation would not become overgrown like it is today.

Are other species being considered under this scrub restoration plan?

Florida Scrub habit is home to many plants and animals that also require similar conditions for long-term survival.  Many of these scrub species are either threatened or endangered due to overall scrub habitat loss throughout the State.

Is this plan in compliance with State and Federal endangered species protection laws?

Yes.  All the previous scrub restoration work done up to this point has been approved by both State and Federal regulatory agencies.  The guidelines used for the restoration of the habitat have been adopted by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service and the Florida Wildlife Conservation Commission as a result of over 30 years of scrub and scrub jay research.

Isn’t this work contrary to the habitat needs of the endangered Red-cockaded Woodpecker at the Micco Scrub Sanctuary?

No.  The southwest portion of the Micco Scrub area is outside the 1000-foot scrub territory buffer.   Although this location is included in the timber removal plan, it will be timbered to a much higher density than the scrub areas for the primary goal of improving habitat conditions for the Red-cockaded Woodpecker.

What is the purpose of the orange ribbons on some of the trees at Malabar Scrub?

Staff has identified some trees along the trail in specific locations that are planned to be kept in place.

Why is the timber being sold?

The pine trees cannot be left on the ground because they limit the ability of equipment to move around the site during prescribed fire operations and create extensive smoke management issues.  Disposing of the biomass from the pine trees at the landfill is very expensive.  Selling the timber is a common practice that helps to offset the overall cost of restoration and ongoing management.

What opportunities will there be for public input on this restoration plan?

Due to the recent concerns expressed about the restoration plans, there will be several opportunities for public input prior to the commencement of the project which include:

  1. Malabar Town Council Meeting – December 6th, 7pm.  Town Council Chambers.
  2. Malabar Scrub Sanctuary Restoration Plan Public Webinar from December 9, 2021
  3. EEL Selection and Management Committee Meeting – December 17.  EEL Admin. Office at 91 East Drive Melbourne and also available through Zoom. https://us02web.zoom.us/j/81511853310
    Or One tap mobile :
    US: +13017158592,,81511853310# or +13126266799,,81511853310#
    Or Telephone:
    Dial(for higher quality, dial a number based on your current location):
    US: +1 301 715 8592 or +1 312 626 6799 or +1 929 205 6099 or +1 253 215 8782 or +1 346 248 7799 or +1 669 900 6833
    Webinar ID: 815 1185 3310
    International numbers available: https://us02web.zoom.us/u/kbcdCwF5Wd
  4. Malabar Town Council Meeting – January 3rd, 7pm.  The EEL Program will provide a formal presentation to the Town Council about the restoration project.
  5. Brevard County Board of County Commissioners – TBD.

The EEL Program will be accepting public input on the restoration plan leading up to the EEL Selection and Management Committee meeting on December 17th. Any additional public input received after this date will be compiled and made available for all subsequent public meetings related to the restoration project.

Public input can be sent via email to Mike.knight@brevardfl.gov OR via postal mail:

Brevard County EEL Program - Attn. Mike Knight

91 East Drive, Melbourne, FL 32904 or by phone at 321-255-446