Florida’s threatened jays will soon leap across more open housing space in the Malabar Scrub Sanctuary after workers cut down several thousand trees in the name of conservation. The biologists say the tree clearing that began last week will bring in the gregarious but vulnerable birds that need sandy open spaces to forage and watch out for predators.
But mountain bikers, hikers, and others who use the park are still freaking out that so many trees have to be removed. Malabar threw in the towel too soon, they say, on a lawsuit Brevard County filed against the city to allow trees to be removed from the sanctuary, part of Brevard County’s Environmentally Endangered Lands (EEL) program.
“Our work just showed them that they could leave some marginal oaks and not change the overall restoration plan a bit,” said Murray Hann, Malabar Greenways and Trails Committee Member and Brevard Mountain Bike Association Board Member. which has helped improve the shrine for years. “But all EEL has to say is ‘this is against the science’ and everyone just nods their heads.”
The county and city have been at odds for more than a year over how many and which trees to remove to restore the sanctuary’s overgrown scrub habitat.
EEL only anticipates having to temporarily close some trails during logging. Some entrances can be closed if necessary when trees are removed from trucks. The work is expected to take six to eight months.
Moreover:Judge orders Brevard and Malabar to meet for logging on conservation land
It is unclear at this point how many trees at the shrine will be spared out of the 20,000 that are set for removal. EEL wants to reduce the sanctuary to two trees per acre to restore open bush habitat.
EEL officials say they have identified 105 trees for preservation along the paths and perimeter of the sanctuary. That doesn’t include trees along the perimeter between the fire control line and the border fence, they say, which EEL estimates to be another 110 or more trees.
City advocates wanted to save 500 trees and say it wasn’t so much about the shade as what is scientifically based and reasonable.
County officials estimate they will have to remove 10,000 to 20,000 trees to bring the 577-acre sanctuary to its desired one or two acres per tree. Those who have walked, traded and admired the canopied paths for years do not understand why so many trees have to disappear.
Brevard reopened the sanctuary in May after the city agreed to theoretically the county’s least drastic tree removal plan.
The city, in turn, agreed to waive the new tree removal permit fees, in exchange for saving some of the park’s most prized trees.
Hikers and bikers can now re-enter Malabar Scrub Sanctuary, after being locked out for nearly a year and a half over a dispute with the county over how many trees need to be cleared to save the sanctuary’s endangered jays.
The clearing is intended not to disturb the nesting jays.
The sanctuary has been closed to the public since January 2022, after Brevard County commissioners decided to block its entrances until the city renewed an expired permit to allow the county to cut down trees, many of which block the way. sunlight and hide birds of prey that feed on threatened jays. .
Malabar had issued a permit to the county, which started the land reclamation project in early December 2021. But when visitors saw a sign about the project posted at the shrine and brought the concerns to the city’s attention, the City officials noted that the county’s permit had expired. And meanwhile, the city code had changed, now requiring a $40 per tree permit fee but not addressing protected lands.
After the parties failed to agree on which trees should go, Brevard County filed a lawsuit against Malabar in April 2022, asking the court to declare the city’s new regulations “null, invalid or unenforceable.” and banning its enforcement against the county.
But in March, a county judge ruled that the parties must first go through a state-mandated conflict resolution process. A meeting between county and city officials, which conceptually agreed on ways to resolve the matter, was part of that process.
The sanctuary is a refuge for endangered species such as the Florida jay, gopher tortoises and eastern indigo snake. Eel-protected habitats include xeric (dry) hammocks, brushwood, brushwood, pine forests, stone pine bushes, ponds, bogs, and depression swamps.
Biologists and county officials say the removal of the trees will recreate the jay’s sandy, open habitat. Hawks and other birds of prey occupy present-day trees and are natural predators of scrub jays. The argument is that thinning trees will reduce the number of predators.
The Environmentally Endangered Lands (EEL) program was established in 1990 to protect natural habitats by acquiring sensitive lands for conservation, passive recreation and education.
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