Brevard County close to fencing off Malabar Sanctuary over tree cutting permit

The Malabar Scrub Sanctuary is where the Florida scrub jay thrives. This sanctuary is specifically for protecting the beautiful blue and gray bird that exclusively calls Florida home. 

The area has also become a popular place for bikers and hikers looking for shade-covered trails. Although, it’s those trees causing a problem for the scrub jay population. 

"It is the original Floridian," said the Executive Director of Audubon Florida, Julie Wraithmell. 

"You could lose scrub jays from that community altogether. That would just be tragic."

Scrub jays live off of the scrub found on the ground; however, bird experts say the Malabar Sanctuary has too many trees that have led to overgrowth and have introduced more predators into the environment. 

The Audubon Society says the restoration proposal for the land includes cutting down 10 to 20 trees as well as a controlled burn to restore the scrub jay habitat. 

"It sounds a little counterintuitive to cut down trees in order to save birds but scrub jays forge on the ground, and they are picked up by hawks perched in these high trees. They swoop down and eat the birds," said Brevard County District 3 Commissioner John Tobia. 

The Malabar Town Manager tells FOX 35 News that some are concerned the county wants to cut down too many trees. 

The Town of Malabar is concerned thousands of trees will be cut down especially near the trails. In plans shared with FOX 35 News, certain shaded areas of the sanctuary could be thinned down to just one or two trees per acre.

The town originally gave the county a permit to cut down trees but that permit expired. The county would need to reapply, but a recent change in town code would now charge the county $40 for every tree removed. 

The county wants the original permit to be honored. 

"The reality of the situation it’s not about me. It’s not about the town of Malabar or the eight or 10 bikers that lose the shade. This is about some endangered species that we need to do everything we can to protect," said Tobia. 

This week Brevard County voted unanimously to fence up the sanctuary if a deal isn’t struck by January 25th. They say they will charge Malabar roughly $6,000 to do so. 

Malabar will hold another town council meeting before that date to discuss actions moving forward. 

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