Environmentally Endangered Lands Program: 27 Years of Preserving Brevard

In 1990, Brevard county citizens approved the first of two environmental referendums that would authorize $110 million dollars earmarked for conservation, resulting in three incredible education centers and over 24,000 acres of sanctuary lands representing a legacy of natural Florida habitats in a network of sites throughout the county. This visionary program became  a model for land acquisition efforts for other communities around the nation. The Brevard County Environmentally Endangered Lands (EEL) Program captures our citizens’ desire for the long-term protection of Brevard’s outstanding biological diversity, natural communities and rare, threatened and endangered species. Working with State, Federal and Non-profit Organizations, Brevard County established a regional nature sanctuary network that complements the State and Federal network of conservation lands. Those sites represent every major Florida ecosystem natural to central Florida.

Three education centers provide environmental education opportunities to citizens, school children and visitors. Flagship of the EEL Program, the 471-acre Enchanted Forest Sanctuary in Titusville encompasses one of the last remaining large tracts of coastal hardwood forest in east central Florida. Walking and learning trails wander through timeless scrub, mesic and hydric ecosystems with their wide variety of endangered and threatened species. Here you can descend 15 to 20 feet from the desert-like scrub on the ancient Atlantic Coastal Ridge into the shadowy, moist mesic hammock with its huge tree canopy. The inter-relationship of elevation, soil, water, nutrients, and botany becomes evident as plants of the temperate climate overlap with the plants of the sub-tropics in an unusual display of vegetation. The Education Center offers a hands-on Exhibit Room, Discovery Room, gift shop, reference library and restrooms. There is an outdoor, open-air butterfly garden and the screened porch and amphitheater provide venues for outdoor education.

Sams House is a historical complex within the 880-acre Pine Island Conservation Area located on North Merritt Island. From Ice Age animals to Native Americans to early pioneers, this site has a rich history. Mastodon tusks, pottery shards and 19th century farm tools found here help piece together the story of this special place. Come inside the oldest standing home in Brevard County, the 1875 Sams family cabin. Travel back in time here and along the paved trail where interactive exhibits highlight Pine Island’s many past inhabitants. Enjoy hiking, biking, horseback riding, fishing, canoeing, and kayaking through five different habitats and over six miles of trails. Wading birds, bald eagles, alligators, manatees, and bobcats are just a few of the animals that you may see.

With access to the Atlantic Ocean, the Indian River Lagoon and everything in between, the Barrier Island Center is located inside the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge. The focal point for the Carr Refuge, Barrier Island Center is a 34-acre sanctuary that offers nature enthusiasts and visitors a place to explore the barrier island’s diverse habitats through interactive exhibits, a presentation hall, a small research library, ongoing educational programs and a hiking/nature trail. This stretch of beach within the Archie Carr NWR is home to the most important sea turtle nesting habitat in the United States. Public passive recreational opportunities that are consistent with conservation goals within the EEL Program include over 70 miles of trails that provide opportunities for hiking, environmental education, paddling, bicycling, horseback riding and nature-based tourism. Also of great importance is the EEL wetlands network within the Indian River Lagoon watershed that protects more than 35 miles of pristine shoreline. The EEL Program enhances public understanding and awareness of Florida’s rich natural resources, conservation values and the benefits of maintaining functional and productive ecosystems. Come and join the EEL staff and volunteers for these outstanding activities offered during the birding festival.

An EEL Sanctuary is…
• A place of wonder, contemplation and discovery
• A resource for environmental education
• A preserve to protect biodiversity and natural resources
• An opportunity to experience Florida as the early inhabitants did
• A place to learn about Brevard County’s unique natural communities
• A source of community identity for Space Coast residents and visitors