Monday, April 21, 2014

Titusville Project Could Destroy Florida Scrub Jay Habitat

Florida Scrub Jay. Credit: Wikimedia
TITUSVILLE, Florida -- Although Florida and Brevard County taxpayers have spent more than $48 million to preserve natural lands in Brevard County to protect threatened and endangered species, the North Brevard Economic Development Zone (NBEDZ) is proposing that taxpayer money be used for a project that could destroy the habitat of the threatened Florida Scrub Jay and gopher tortoise.

On the agenda for the Tuesday, April 22, 2014 Titusville City Council meeting at 6:30 p.m. is a request from NBEDZ for $50,000 for an engineering study to further develop Spaceport Commerce Park in an effort to attract more businesses to that site.

According to the January 2014 NBEDZ meeting minutes, an environmental consultant told the NBEDZ Board that the 178-acre Spaceport Commerce Park is comprised of 19 acres of occupied Scrub Jay habit.  Additionally, 43 gopher tortoises were identified on site in a recent survey.   

The environmental consultant estimated that it would cost $1,200 to permit and relocate a gopher tortoise plus $59,000 per acre to offset Scrub Jay habitat, and $85,000 per acre to offset wetland impacts.


At 5 minutes, 30 seconds into the above video, NBEDZ Executive Director Troy Post explained to the Council that NBEDZ had an environmental study done.

"We are all well aware of the Scrub Jay and also the Gopher Tortoise," Post said. "We were very encouraged by the report that we got back which determined that, because the area has grown up so much over the last 10 years, it has become a lot denser, a lot thicker with the underbrush, it has essentially erased the habitat for a lot of the Scrub Jays.  There are still Scrub Jays there, but it is a very small population."

"All the Gopher Tortoises are essentially along some of the roadways because they have to have open spaces where they can forage and find their food. So, we think the mitigation is not going to be as quite as bad as we feared," Post added. "There is one lot though, that is affected by a Scrub Jay family, and we will steer clear of that lot and try to develop around it."

Ultimately, the Council voted to direct City Staff to work with NBEDZ to create a more detailed proposal and draft contract that would later be brought back to the Council for consideration.