Environmental Lands Management and Acquisition Committee (ELMAC)


ELMAC was established in 1993 to advise the Board of County Commissioners on environmental land acquisition, environmental land management, and recreational programming. The Committee has worked with staff to establish methods to identify, evaluate and prioritize land for conservation acquisition. The roles of the Committee have expanded over the years to include:

Natural Resource Value Criteria

  • Ecological Quality – quality of species or habitat, degree of alteration or degradation, level of restoration required
  • Rarity of Species or Habitat – uniqueness, number of threatened, endangered or species of special concern supported by the property
  • Importance to Water Resources – protection of or degradation to portable water supply or aquatic environment
  • Connectivity – proximity to existing conservation lands or planned corridor, size of connection

Conservation Easements for Agricultural Land

In addition to the natural resource value criteria, considerations for acquisition of easements for agricultural land include:

  • Land quality for agricultural use - prime, unique, local or state-wide importance
  • Economic viability - size, on-site farm infrastructure, proximity to off-site farm infrastructure
  • Compatibility of surrounding uses
  • Degree of development pressure - proximity to the urban service boundary, zoning, residential development
  • Proximity to other protected agricultural, environmental lands or wildlife corridors/greenways
  • Enhancement or preservation of wildlife habitat, air or water quality, hydrology, ground water recharge, scenic, historic, or other cultural features

Tree Advisory Board

The role of Tree Advisory Board was added to ELMAC's role in 2009:

  • Develop a tree management program for trees on county property
  • Promote awareness of the county's tree canopy through educational programs
  • Review grant requirements and prepare proposals to fund tree management programs
  • Coordinate the county's observance of Arbor Day each year
Tress planted in Manatee County

Manatee County has conducted ongoing conservation plantings since 1988 and has been a part of the Tree City/County USA Program since 2009. A thriving urban forest offers many advantages to communities. Here are just a few benefits identified by the Arbor Day Foundation:

  • Trees absorb the sounds of traffic in urban areas by 40%.
  • Neighborhoods with trees are 7 to 9 degrees cooler than those without.
  • Trees reduce energy costs up to 25% by shading buildings and protecting them from winter winds.
  • Homes with trees have higher property values.
  • Green space plays a major role in improving mental and physical health.
  • Trees absorbs carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, mitigating the effects of climate change.
1,169,446 Trees Planted by Manatee County Since 1988

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Trees Planted by Manatee County in Fiscal Year 2021

Implementation of Conservation and Parks Project Referendum

The referendum, approved by Manatee County voters in 2020, established a 0.15 mill ad valorem tax and issuance of up to $50,000,000 in bonds to finances the acquisition, improvement, and management of land to protect water resources, preserve fish and wildlife habitat, and provide parks.  More about the implementation of the referendum is provided on the Environmental Lands Program webpage.


1992, 1993 - Environmental Lands Management and Acquisition Ordinance Established

  • Purpose: identify and evaluate land for acquisition, passive recreation, and management (R 92-149, Section 2(A))
  • Establish County-wide inventory (R 92-149, Section 2(B)2.)
  • Devise method to rank environmental lands to facilitate decisions for acquisition and protection (R 92-149, Section 2(B)3.)
  • Create 11-member advisory committee (ELMAC) with specific backgrounds (R 93-55, Section 4(A))

2002 Important Natural Resource Lands (INRL) Project - GIS model identified lands with highest overall ranking.

     Phase I - Screened for highest natural resource value using ELMAC criteria:

  • Rarity of species or habitat
  • Connectiveness
  • Ecological quality
  • Importance to water resources

     Phase II - Further prioritized lands in consideration of additional benefits:

  • Parcel size
  • Improved and Overall Parcel Value
  • Imminence of Development
  • Conservation Interest (funding sources)

2003 – Update to Environmental Lands Management and Acquisition Ordinance

  • Added “At-large” members for total 15 members (Ord. 03-62, Sect. 5.D.1.a.-j.).
  • Established selection criteria for acquisition (rarity, quality, connectivity, water resources) (Ord. 03-62, Sect. 4.H.).
  • Established general purpose of ELMAC “to advise the board on matters related to environmental land acquisition and management, and passive recreational planning and programming for acquired lands. This article shall apply to lands previously acquired by the county that are explicitly designated as governed by this article by the board and to lands and property interests acquired after the adoption of this article whether from funds designated by the board or funds approved by voter referendum. This committee will provide a forum for multiple interests and user groups to express their wishes for management of county-owned lands and passive recreational facilities.” (Ord. 03-62, Sect. 5.B.1.)
  • Established procedures for acquisitions (Ord. 03-62, Sect. 7.A.1-9):

    Site Nominations - citizens, public organizations, private conservation organization, consultant.

    Eligibility - staff reviews and reports lands that meet criteria to ELMAC.

    Prioritization - ELMAC establishes Priority List of sites that meet criteria (by grouping, not # ranking).

    Willing seller - staff introduces program and determines if owner is willing participant, updates list.

    Work Plan - pre-acquisition activities for sites on Priority List developed by staff.

    Approval - Work Plans adopted by ELMAC go to BOCC for approval, modification, or rejection.

    Implementation - due diligence, contractual negotiation.

    Contract -approval by BOCC.

    Evaluation - update priority list annually.

2006 Conservation Easements for Agricultural Lands considerations added

  • Established Criteria (Ord. 06-26 Sect. 3(a)1-6):

Quality - prime, unique, locally important, or state-wide important, other

Economic viability – on site infrastructure, proximity to off-site infrastructure, adequate size

Compatibility – surrounding land use

Degree of development pressure – proximity to USB, zoning, residential development

Proximity – to other protected lands and corridors

Additional Benefits – wildlife habitat, air, water and scenic qualities, historic & cultural features

  • Provided for monitoring and maintenance of agricultural conservation easements (Ord. 06-26 Sect. 3(b)1)
  • Provides for annual reporting of agricultural conservation easements to BOCC (Ord. 06-26 Sect. 3(b)3)
  •  Report findings and recommendations at least annually to the BOCC (Ord. 03-62, Sect. 5.C.4.).2005 - 2009 BCC implemented an environmental millage to fund $4million/yr. for conservation acquisition.

2009 - Tree Advisory Committee added to ELMAC role

Purpose of tree management program on County-owned lands (Ord. 09-67 Sec. 2(b)(3)a-d)):

  • Promote awareness of tree canopy through education
  • Grants for tree management programs
  • Coordinate observance of Arbor Day
  • Keep Manatee Beautiful seat replaced one At-Large committee member seat (Ord. 09-67 Sec. 3(d)(1)j-k))

2020 – Conservation and Parks Projects Referendum won 71% voter approval

  • 0.15 millage and up to $50 million bonds maturing with 20 years (R 20-105 Sect. 3)
  • “To finance the acquisition, improvement, and management of land to protect drinking water sources and water quality, preserve fish and wildlife habitat, prevent stormwater runoff pollution, and provide parks” (R 20-105 Sect. 5)
  • Annual public audits (R 20-105 Sect. 5)

December 14, 2021 – Resolution 21-182 approved by BCC appointing ELMAC to implement the Referendum and establishing a BCC liaison to ELMAC.

January 25, 2022 – ELMAC Ordinance update

  • Establish willing seller prior to review by ELMAC.
  • Modify at-large seats so there is one ELMAC member for each County District, expanding membership to 17, not including BCC liaison.
Last updated January 25, 2022, the full details of the "Manatee County Environmental Land Management and Acquisition Ordinance" can be found in Municode.  The work of ELMAC carried out in the Environmental Lands Program.


*ELMAC applications for the at-large seat closed on 4/19/2024. Applications are not being accepted at this time.*

Please fill out an Advisory Board Application Form if interested in a position described above.  

The online Advisory Board Application must be submitted to be considered for appointment.  Advisory Board positions are advertised as openings become available.  Please review the Current Openings before applying to ensure ELMAC is accepting applications.  Advisory Board applications cannot be held for future openings.   

Membership Requirements

Seventeen (17) volunteer, year-round residents of Manatee County are appointed by the BCC from the following categories:

  • A member from the Florida Engineering Society (appointed by all Commissioners)
  • A member schooled in a natural science: ecology, biology, botany, etc. (appointed by all Commissioners)
  • A member with background or education in active outdoor sports (appointed by all Commissioners)
  • A member of a local environmental group (appointed by all Commissioners)
  • A member recommended by the Manatee Chamber of Commerce Natural Resources Committee
  • An employee of the Manatee County School Board (appointed by all Commissioners)
  • A member with background/education in banking, finance, or real estate (appointed by all Commissioners)
  • A member engaged in the agricultural business of farming, ranching or commercial horticulture (appointed by all Commissioners)
  • A representative of Keep Manatee Beautiful, Inc. (appointed by all Commissioners)
  • A resident of Manatee County (appointed by all Commissioners)
  • A resident of District One (appointed by District 1 Commissioner)
  • A resident of District Two (appointed by District 2 Commissioner)
  • A resident of District Three (appointed by District 3 Commissioner)
  • A resident of District Four (appointed by District 4 Commissioner)
  • A resident of District Five (appointed by District 5 Commissioner)
  • A resident of Manatee County (appointed by District 6, At large Commissioner)
  • A resident of Manatee County (appointed by District 7, At large Commissioner)


Bimonthly meetings are generally held on the first Monday of the odd numbered months at 6:00 p.m. However, the January and September meetings will be held the second Monday due to holidays.  The ELMAC meeting schedule is maintained in the online County WebCalendar.  On occasion, the meeting location, date, or time may change, so please check the County WebCalendar prior to attending.  Special meetings may be scheduled as needed.

2024 ELMAC meetings are scheduled for the dates below, in the Manatee Room, on the 5th floor of the Administration Building downtown (1112 Manatee Avenue West, Bradenton, FL 34205).

January 8
*February 5 (Cancelled)
March 4
*April 1 (Held)
May 6
July 1
September 9
*October 7
November 4

*Tentative Meeting Date: These meetings are tentative. If no items need ELMAC consideration, tentative meeting may be deemed unnecessary. Staff will notify ELMAC members and the public (via webpage and web calendar) if tentative meeting will be held or cancelled at least one week in advance of a tentative meeting date. 

Advisory Board Members

Name Term Expires Seat
Scott Childress 2/2026 Florida Engineering Society
Christopher Conley
Environmental group
Scott Tussing 2/2026 Education in active outdoor sports
Richard Larsen 6/2026 Keep Manatee Beautiful representative
Mike Burton 3/2025 Chamber of Commerce Environ. Committee
Barry Grooms 2/2025 Banking, Finance or Real Estate
Randal Cooper 3/2025 Agricultural Community
Keith McMahon
Manatee County School District
David Landers 3/2025 Schooled in Natural Sciences
Thomas Loeffler 3/2024 At large
Lorraine Prosser 3/2025 Resident of District 1
Mason Gravley, Chairperson 6/2026 Resident of District 2
Craig Copemen 3/2025 Resident of District 3
Brian Searcy 6/2026 Resident of District 4 
Terry McKamey, Vice Chairperson 3/2025 Resident of District 5
Jonathan Lynch 6/2026 Resident of District 6 (At large)
Carol Ann Felts 3/2025 Resident of District 7 (At large)
Commissioner Jason Bearden 1/2025 Board of County Commission Liaison


  • Debra Woithe, Environmental Lands Division Manager
  • (941) 748-4501 ext. 6052
  • Email Us