We are lucky to have an incredibly vast amount of salt marsh along our coast with one million acres spanning from North Carolina to Northeast Florida—nearly the size of the Grand Canyon National Park. Our marsh protects our coastal communities from storms, erosion, and flooding while also filtering our waterways of pollutants and providing critical habitat for fish, birds, crabs, shellfish and many other coastal animals.
However, this same marsh faces threats from sea level rise, development, and polluted runoff. As our marshes become more frequently flooded with higher levels of salt water, it is important that they are able to expand and migrate landward in order to survive and not drown. Intermediate projections for the Charleston area have water levels rising 2-4 feet by 2100.
Recognizing the importance of this unique habitat and the threats it faces, we are partnering with the Pew Charitable Trusts on a South Atlantic Salt Marsh Conservation Initiative that will ensure our coastal marshes and the land corridors will continue to thrive and serve as a benefit to our coastal communities and ecosystem into the future.
The initiative has drawn broad support from organizations and individuals including those representing fishing, hunting, birding, boating, and conservation groups. It was officially endorsed by the Department of Defense’s Southeast Regional Partnership for Planning and Sustainability group which includes members from the Department of Defense, federal agencies, state natural resources agencies and military officials. The partnership promotes better collaboration in making resource use decisions and preventing encroachment around military installations.
We are going to model this conservation initiative after a successful landscape scale effort—America’s Longleaf Restoration Initiative. This initiative, which was led by SERPPAS, has a 15-year goal of protecting and restoring almost 5 million acres of longleaf pine habitat and provides a successful, established framework for a South Atlantic Salt Marsh Conservation Plan.
We are excited to work on this important, regional effort, and envision this collaborative conservation plan being used as a model throughout the country. Stay tuned as we continue to help with the development and implementation of this South Atlantic Salt Marsh Conservation Plan over the course of the next few years.
- Summer 2021: Steering committee/working groups meet
- Winter 2021: Host a workshop to lay the foundation for the conservation plan and finalize makeup of writing team
- Spring/Summer 2022: Release draft conservation plan for review
- Fall/Winter 2022: Revise draft plan
- Spring 2023: Release final conservation plan
- Summer 2023: Release concise Implementation Plan and Round Map
Salt Marsh in the News!
Military, government groups endorse NC salt-marsh protection plan (Public News Service, May 2021)
Million-acre southeast salt marsh conservation plan gets green light (Public News Service, May 2021)
Pentagon officials hope conserving salt marshes can protect SC military bases (Post and Courier, June 2021)
Military and environmentalists align to protect key coastal salt marsh (Scientific American, May 2021)
If you have questions about South Carolina’s salt marsh, we’re happy to answer them! Please feel free to reach out at 843.972.3484.