One Hundred Miles 100:Civic Leaders
Honoring elected and civic officials on all levels who, through their actions and voice, positively influence policies and conservation efforts for our Georgia coast
Senators Lester Jackson and William Ligon and Representatives Debbie Buckner and Jeff Jones make up a bipartisan team of elected officials in the state legislature dedicated to protecting our coast. Over the past few years, Senator Ligon has dedicated himself to protecting coastal Georgia’s drinking water supply, the Floridan aquifer. Senator Jackson has become a leader of a group of legislators across the southeast voicing opposition to proposals to drill offshore in the Atlantic Ocean. As members of the House Natural Resources Committee, Representatives Jones and Buckner have helped to support projects that will strengthen environmental protections in coastal Georgia, including improvements to the law that protect Georgia’s salt marsh. We applaud these dedicated legislators who work across the aisle to prove once and for all that caring for our coast is something we can all get behind.
Jimmy Carter, the only Georgian elected president of the United States, left his stamp on Georgia’s coast and beyond. Considered one of the most environmentally-conscious presidents in the history of the United States, he held first pre-inaugural Cabinet meeting at Musgrove, a 600-acre estate on the banks of historic Village Creek on St. Simons Island, and used the location as a vacation retreat. Before climate change became a household phrase, as a congressman in the 1970s and president in the 1980s, President Carter dedicated time and effort to reducing America’s dependence on foreign oil and promoting renewable energy, thereby reducing greenhouse gas emissions. And perhaps most importantly for those of us who love the wild lands of Cumberland Island, then-Governor Carter was instrumental in the negotiations that established the national seashore.
In 2014, the federal government proposed opening the Atlantic Ocean for the first time in 30 years to seismic testing and drilling for oil and gas development. Positioning themselves on the forefront of the opposition, six Georgia cities passed proclamations opposing seismic testing, as well as oil and gas development. Thank you to the courageous leadership of the Cities of Brunswick, Kingsland, Porterdale, Savannah, St Marys, Hinesville, and Tybee Island who listened to the voice of their constituents. More than 232,517 citizens were collectively represented by these local governments who said NO to offshore drilling. Together, these local leaders helped our coast take a stand on behalf of our most beloved wildlife and wild places.
Reid Harris (1930 – 2010) served in the Georgia House of Representatives from 1964-70. During his tenure, he was the principal author of several groundbreaking laws concerning conservation of the coastal lands, including the Georgia Surface Mining Act and the Coastal Marshlands Protection Act of 1970. He served as head of the Environmental Section of Governor Jimmy Carter’s Goals for Georgia Program and later as Chairman of the Governor’s State Environmental Council. He was an early adopter of the concept of ecology and environmentalism, and authored a book And The Coastlands Wait, a fascinating chronicle of the creation and adoption of the Coastal Marshlands and Protection Act. Reid’s legacy continues to reverberate across our coast, thanks to the vital protection he provided Georgia’s pristine coastal areas.
Few have contributed more to the revitalization of downtown Brunswick than City Commissioner Julie Martin. She is the cofounder of Signature Squares, a grassroots initiative dedicated to the renovation and preservation of Brunswick’s 14 historic squares. Improvement of these public spaces makes downtown Brunswick a more attractive community for homeowners and businesses and ensures our parks and greenspace are accessible to residents and visitors alike. Julie’s promotion of greenspace extends to the Gateways Initiative where she works with partners to find ways to revitalize Brunswick’s historic waterfront. Thanks to Julie’s dedication, downtown Brunswick has never been a more exciting place to live, work, and play.
Last March, when the Obama Administration announced its decision to protect the Atlantic coast from offshore drilling, it validated the thousands of citizens across Georgia’s coast who wrote letters, made phone calls, submitted comments, attended meetings, and supported local resolutions in opposition of the proposed plan. Through this historic decision, President Obama showed he understood that offshore drilling posed an unnecessary risk to our coast’s economy, wildlife, and quality of life – indeed, that our coast was more precious than oil. Further, the actions his administration has taken on climate and the permanent protection of more acres of public lands and waters than any other president in history, are all a testament to President Obama’s tremendous impact on the natural resources coastal Georgians hold dear.
Let’s hear it for the Regional Water Planning Team of Coastal Georgia! For more than ten years, citizens, business leaders, industries, and elected officials have worked with the Georgia Environmental Protection Division to plan for statewide and coastal water needs. The Georgia Statewide Water Management Planning Act set up the Coastal Georgia Regional Water Planning Council, made up of water users and citizens in the nine county coastal region, and charged the group to develop a plan to guide water supply and water quality permitting in the region. The first coastal plan was adopted in 2011, and the next iteration is currently being developed. Over the years, volunteer members of the Coastal Council, state agency staff and consultants have invested hundreds of hours and immeasurable energy into the effort. Such collaboration and community planning is critical as coastal Georgia continues to grow and regulatory agencies are required to make difficult decisions regarding the management of our public resources.
The City of Springfield is dedicated to establishing Georgia’s Ebenezer Creek Greenway. Over several years, city officials and volunteers have worked to connect the city to the tragically historic site of Ebenezer Crossing and the ecologically-valuable land along Ebenezer Creek, a Georgia Wild and Scenic River. Through important acquisitions and partnerships, Springfield now realizes its vision of a greenway that connects the community with the ancient bottomland forests and cypress and gum tupelo swamps of Ebenezer Creek. According to Springfield Mayor Barty Alderman, the acquisitions “mean that our children’s children can enjoy the Creek just as we enjoy it today.”
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (US F&WS) has been instrumental in preserving the signature landscapes of Georgia’s coast and its critical habitats for shorebirds, sea turtles, and other coastal wildlife. In particular, the creation of the Savannah Coastal Refuges Complex established three significant national wildlife refuges: Wassaw, Blackbeard Island, and Wolf Islands. Together, these refuges comprise over 20,000 acres of important habitat for many species of migratory birds, with more than 13,000 acres of salt marsh and 21 miles of beach/dune habitat managed by the federal agency. And every day, US F&WS protects our coast’s most threatened and endangered species by upholding the federal regulations designed to preserve them for generations to come.
Paul Wolff was as a member of the Tybee Island City council from 2004 until 2015 and currently serves on the Georgia Department of Natural Resources Coastal Advisory Council. As a member of the Tybee City Council, he worked to promote energy efficiency and renewable energy. He also promoted recycling and a plastic bag ban within the city limits. In 2015, Paul sponsored a resolution opposing both offshore drilling and seismic air guns (a technique that blasts sound waves into the ocean every 15 seconds to search for oil and gas deposits). Also in 2015, Paul worked with partners to initiate the Solarize Tybee program, which installed 62 projects in its first year alone. Over the years, Paul’s efforts have resulted in thousands of coastal Georgians making better choices about our energy supply and understanding how these decisions can improve our quality of life.
Banner photo courtesy of Erik Voss, Georgia Water Coalition