Nomination Statement for the Brevard IRL Coalition NGO, recipient of the Florida Chapter of The Wildlife Society’s 2017 NGO Special Recognition Award

The Brevard Indian River Lagoon Coalition was founded in early 2016 by leaders of lagoon and water advocacy groups to create a large-scale effort to save the Indian River Lagoon once and for all. The health of this 157-mile, biologically diverse asset had been declining for more than 40 years, due to pollution from septic tanks, storm water runoff, fertilizer and other elements. When a major fish kill occurred in the Lagoon in March 2016, the community rallied behind calls to action, uniting environmentalists, fisherman, boaters, residents and businesses.

When a proposal was made in July by County Government to create a Lagoon Trust Fund with a half-cent sales tax, the Coalition responded, calling for a data-based, scientific plan with a citizen oversight committee to demonstrate transparency and create trust among voters. The Coalition quickly mobilized its partner groups to educate voters throughout Brevard, working with the county Natural Resources Department that created the ten-year, exhaustive plan to restore the Lagoon. The Coalition and many of its NGO partners were prohibited from advocating for passage of the referendum and a separate independent Political Action Committee formed to take on that role. The Coalition had only a few months to achieve their goal; the vote would be in November.

The all-volunteer Coalition arranged speaking engagements and participation in local festivals and events targeting key audiences: fishermen, boaters, environmentalists, surfers, Chambers of Commerce and homeowner associations, to present the need for restoration and share information about the science-based plan the tax would fund. Partner organizations used their own communication channels (twitter, Facebook, website, email) to share information about the issue. The local newspaper, Florida Today, kept the issue top of mind with a series of in-depth articles about the causes of the decline of the Lagoon, the potential negative impacts of ignoring the problem, ending with an editorial endorsing passage. The Coalition created “Save Our Lagoon” t-shirts and used its web site and meetings to expand the reach of information about saving the lagoon.

The referendum passed with 62% of voters endorsing the plan. Every precinct in Brevard County voted “FOR” the Lagoon restoration. The Brevard Indian River Lagoon Coalition was essential to this environmental victory and we look forward to the restoration of our vital estuary!