Defending the Georgia Coast

As part of our Georgia coastal conservation efforts, SELC works in close collaboration with local partners to provide a powerful counterweight to the destructive pressures bearing down on the region.


Photo © Robert Llewellyn

Preserving One of the Nation's Ecological Gems

Admired for its stunning beauty and rich biological diversity, the Georgia coast encompasses a lacework of barrier islands, mud flats, tidal creeks, blackwater rivers, freshwater wetlands, and 378,000 acres of salt marsh. More than 1,650 islands called "marsh hammocks" provide a secluded inland sanctuary for wildlife, and are sheltered by 14 barrier islands rimmed with more than 100 miles of white sandy beaches.

With 378,000 acres, Georgia harbors one-third of the salt marsh remaining on the East Coast, most of which is held by the state as a public resource with incredible value. These vast expanses of grasses and meandering tidal creeks serve as nurseries for marine life and as vital buffers against storms.

The ocean waters off the Georgia coast are prime calving grounds for the North Atlantic right whale—one of the rarest marine mammals on the planet and one of several endangered species that make their home in this region, along with manatees, wood storks, and sea turtles.

What’s at Stake

Though it remains one of the last stretches of undeveloped coastline in the Southeast, this special region faces a perfect storm of ongoing development pressures, under-enforcement of environmental protections, and the federal government’s proposal to open its waters to offshore drilling for the first time ever.

SELC is working to enact more stringent safeguards for Georgia’s coastal waterways, including buffer protections for marshlands, freshwater wetlands, and all other state waters not currently protected.

SELC will continue to build more awareness and celebration of our coastal resources, to embolden citizen participation in community conservation, and to encourage state leaders to take action to ensure that the coast is protected for present and future generations.

Threats to Georgia’s Coastal Treasures  

Alongside local partners, federal and state agencies, and private property owners, SELC advocates against poorly sited projects and loopholes favoring development interests in efforts to preserve the ecological and natural integrity of Georgia iconic barrier islands, Sea Island and Cumberland Island.

SELC continues to push back against proposals that pose serious risks to coastal resources, surrounding communities, tourism and other local economies—including a commercial spaceport in Camden County to launch rockets over residential areas and the Cumberland Island National Seashore.

As one of the latest emerging threats to the Georgia coast’s natural treasures, Alabama-based mining company Twin Pines is proposing a heavy mineral sand strip mine on the doorstep of the Okefenokee Swamp, one of the largest and most celebrated wetlands in the country and home to both a National Wildlife Refuge and a National Wilderness Area.

The proposed mine would be 50 feet deep on average and would destroy hundreds of acres of wetlands that are critical to the Okefenokee’s diverse ecosystem, threatening the hydrology of the swamp.

Along with government agencies, conservation groups, and members of the public who have filed tens of thousands of comments with the U.S. Army Corps, SELC is staunchly opposed to any mining activities at this site and will continue working to protect the integrity of the swamp.