Brevard County Environmentally Endangered Land Referendum

Saving Special Places • Building Better Communities

1000 Friends Endorses Brevard County’s Environmentally Endangered Land Referendum

September 15, 2022

Florida’s leading nonprofit advocate of sustainable communities, 1000 Friends of Florida, urges general election voters in Brevard County to VOTE YES on their November 8th ballot to extend the county’s highly successful Environmentally Endangered Lands program.

Since its launch in 1990, the EEL program has helped protect more than 28,000 acres of threatened habitat in Brevard County. It has established 32 sanctuaries to protect native plants and wildlife, and reduce polluted runoff into the Indian River Lagoon and St. Johns River. But the county’s rapid growth and continuing stress on its waterways means there is much more to be done to reduce the harmful environmental impacts of development and expand outdoor recreational opportunities.The measure on the November 8th ballot, if approved by voters, would levy a property tax of 14.65 cents per $1,000 of taxable value for 20 years, costing the owner of a house with a $200,000 taxable value $29.60 a year. This modest investment would maintain previously acquired conservation lands and finance up to $50 million in bonds to acquire new lands chosen to protect the Indian River Lagoon and St. Johns River.

In 1990, 61 percent of Brevard voters first authorized the EEL program, slightly increasing their taxes to finance $55 million in bonds to buy and maintain environmentally endangered lands, and develop environmental education and recreation centers. In 2004, 69 percent of county voters renewed EEL for 20 years, a resounding vote of confidence in the program that financed another $60 million in bonds. The tax rate now proposed to extend EEL for another 20 years is only about half the rate voters overwhelmingly approved in 2004.

EEL draws strength and credibility from citizen participation. Volunteers provide oversight for the program through panels advising county commissioners and staff on key policies. In addition, thousands of volunteers have contributed tens of thousands of hours worth millions of dollars to help operate education centers and maintain trails.

Studies confirm that investments in natural land preservation yield high returns for communities from improving the health of waterways, attracting tourists, drawing matching state and federal funds and expanding mitigation areas for development. A 2020 study of the EEL program pegged its value for the county at nearly half a billion dollars.

In recent years, the Florida Legislature and the U.S. Congress have made sizable investments in land conservation. However, competition is fierce among Florida communities for those dollars. Local governments that can raise their own funds for land conservation are in the best position to leverage matching state or federal funds. They also have the resources to continue protecting land regardless of politics in Tallahassee and Washington. Recognizing this reality, communities across Florida have created local land conservation programs, often through voter approval.

1000 Friends’ strong support for Brevard County’s ballot measure is based on our decades of promoting responsible growth and sound conservation throughout Florida. When critical natural lands are protected from development, more growth is directed toward already developed areas with the infrastructure to support it. This smarter approach not only reduces the impact of development on fragile land, water and wildlife; it also cushions the blow to taxpayers, who don’t get stuck with the bill for extending public services to remote areas.

We urge Brevard citizens to maintain their critical investment in the county’s environment, economy and quality of life by voting YES for the November 8th ballot measure to extend the EEL program.  

Find out more about the EEL program here.