Georgia Coastal Initiative

Saving Georgia's coast: As part of its conservation initiative, SELC has joined forces with other groups to provide a powerful counterweight to the destructive pressures bearing down on the region.

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Photo © Robert Llewellyn

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Defending One of the Nation's Ecological Gems

Admired worldwide 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 sanctuary for wildlife, and are sheltered by 14 barrier islands rimmed with more than 100 miles of white sandy beaches.

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, including manatees, wood storks, and sea turtles.

Though it has largely escaped the ravages of massive resort development, this special region faces a perfect storm of threats, including under-enforcement of environmental laws, the sell-off of timberlands to developers, and intense development pressures.

What’s at Stake

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, and one of incredible value. These vast expanses of grasses and meandering tidal creeks serve as nurseries for marine life and as vital buffers against storms.

Efforts to protect the Georgia coast’s salt marsh are more critical than ever. SELC and our partners continue to push for legislative and policy fixes in order to maintain and strengthen the marsh’s protective 25-foot buffer, essential to preserving these important ecosystems from pollutant-contaminated runoff from roofs, driveways, and roads that can adversely impact and even destroy large sections of marshlands.

SELC also continues to work toward securing buffer protections for marshlands, freshwater wetlands, and all other state waters not currently protected.

Conservation Groups Join Forces

Saving the Georgia coast is one of the toughest conservation challenges we face in the South today, and one of SELC’s highest priorities. SELC plays a vital role in serving as a law and policy advocate, and by helping to shape and implement conservation strategies to protect Georgia's coastal assets.

SELC’s 30 years of work on the Georgia coast has resulted in developing strategic partnerships with the environmental groups that have also been hard at work defending the region. In collaboration with these groups, SELC remains committed to providing the necessary legal support to ensure that the coast is protected for present and future generations.