Salt Marsh

Update – May 2023

Marsh Forward: A Regional Plan for the Future of the South Atlantic Coast’s Million-Acre Salt Marsh Ecosystem” has officially launched! The South Atlantic Salt Marsh Initiative’s (SASMI) Conservation Plan outlines key strategies, objectives, and actions to achieve our goal to enhance the long-term abundance, health, and resilience of the approximately 1 million acres of salt marshes within the South Atlantic states to ensure no overall loss of the benefits these wetlands provide to fish, wildlife and people. It will guide our way as we Marsh Forward together and shift our focus from developing the plan to implementing it over the coming years.

The completion of the SASMI Conservation Plan was nearly three years of work by more than 300 coalition members spanning from North Carolina to Florida. The details of the initiative can be found on the official SASMI website, and if you missed the premiere of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s film highlighting this work, you can view it here.

We are excited, inspired, and looking forward to move into the implementation phase of this initiative. To join this worthwhile cause, receive the newsletter, and be part of the SASMI coalition, visit the SASMI Coalition webpage.  Follow along on SASMI website!


Located between the land and sea, the South Atlantic region harbors approximately one million acres of salt marsh habitat from North Carolina to Northeast Florida – nearly the size of the Grand Canyon National Park. It is our guardian providing coastal communities with natural protection from storm surge, flooding, erosion, and wave and wind energy. Beyond this, the salt marsh promotes healthy water quality, supports our boating, hunting, birding and eco-tourism activities, and provides habitat for more than 75% of commercially and recreationally important fish species. In the South Atlantic, recreational fishing alone generates more than $3.9 billion in sales and approximately 39,000 jobs. Many resident and migratory bird species feed and nest among the mud flats, pools and grasses, including imperiled species, such as the federally listed eastern black rail. Some birds, including ducks, arrive annually to overwinter in the tall vegetation. Dolphins and otters, snails and turtles all thrive in the brackish waters along marsh edges.

Unfortunately, our salt marsh faces many increasing threats – drowning due to sea level rise, poorly planned developments, altered freshwater flows, and more. Following the guiding principles of America’s Longleaf Restoration Initiative, SASMI brought together diverse partners, including those representing fishing, hunting, birding, boating, the military, and conservation groups, and developed a plan that contains adaptation measures to save the salt marshes through coordinated, forward-thinking transportation and development planning efforts; conservation of adjacent open lands; and targeted restoration projects.

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.

Estimated Timeline

  • Summer – Winter 2021: Steering committee/working groups meet
  • Spring 2021: Host a workshop to lay the foundation for the conservation plan and finalize makeup of writing team
  • Fall 2022: Release draft conservation plan for review
  • Winter 2022: Revise draft plan
  • Summer 2023: Release final conservation plan – Released! View it here.
  • Winter 2023: Release concise Implementation Plan and Round Map

Salt Marsh in the News!

New Plan Outlines Strategies for Conserving South Atlantic Salt Marsh Habitat (NOAA, May 24, 2023)

USGS Science Contributes to Plan to Conserve South Atlantic Salt Marshes (USGS, May 17, 2023)

New Plan Would Save Future of 1 Million Acres of Salt Marshes Along Southeast U.S. Coast (Pew Charitable Trusts, May 2023)

A million acres of ‘priceless’ marshes protect NC, SC, GA. Will they perish in rising tides? (The State, November 2021)

Writer Delia Owens Discusses the Need to Conserve Salt Marsh (Pew Charitable Trusts, October, 2021)

11 Ways You Can Enjoy Salt Marshes Also Show Why They Need Protection (Pew Charitable Trusts, August 2021)

African Descendants Have Stake in Saving U.S. Southeast Salt Marshes (Pew Charitable Trusts, July 2021)

Pentagon officials hope conserving salt marshes can protect SC military bases (Post and Courier, June 2021)

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)

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.

Staff Contact

Rachel Hawes · [email protected] · 843.972.3484

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