Challenging the Storage of Coal Ash In Wayne County Landfill

Coastal residents and conservation organizations are continuing to challenge plans for a Wayne County landfill to accept up to 10,000 tons of coal ash per day from neighboring states.  This represents a more than 500% increase of their current daily intake of 1,800 tons of municipal solid waste.

The Broadhurst Landfill is nestled within a complicated system of connected wetlands and sits squarely between the pristine Satilla and Altamaha Rivers, just south of Jesup. The proposed quantity of coal ash to be moved into this small landfill combined with the hydrology of the area presents a significant threat to the region’s drinking water, groundwater and wetlands.  In addition to the massive influx of coal ash, there is concern about how to protect the surrounding wetlands from coal ash being washed off of 100+ rail cars a day at a proposed washing station adjacent to the landfill.

Coal ash storage is a problem all across the South where coal fired power plants have produced hundreds of thousands of tons of toxin-laden waste.  Much of the region’s coal ash is stored in a wet form or “slurry” in large ponds or lagoons adjacent to major rivers.  These pools are often unlined allowing contaminants such as arsenic, mercury, thallium, and selenium to leach into the rivers and underlying groundwater.  Activists all over the country are fighting to have coal ash moved from storage ponds to lined landfills.  Although the Broadhurst Landfill is lined, it is surrounded by wetlands and has a relatively high water table.  Flooding of the landfill presents the greatest risk as it would likely result in toxic coal ash washing into the Altamaha and Satilla Rivers and impairing wildlife that are regularly harvested from these rivers for food. If Broadhurst’s lining were inadequate or compromised, coal ash toxins could also leach into underlying groundwater thereby compromising the area’s drinking supply.

The Board of the Department of Natural Resources passed new rules on October 26 that regulate the storage of coal ash in Georgia.  While regulations were needed, the new rules lack necessary protections for communities living around Muncipal Solid Waste Landfills such as Broadhurst.  One Hundred Miles and fellow members of the Georgia Water Coalition are working to build support for a state legislative amendment that addresses the loophole that allows coal ash to be stored en masse in Municipal Solid Waste landfills.  This will likely become an issue of concern for local communities throughout Georgia’s coastal region.  For more information on how you can help, please visit the One Hundred Miles website:


Coming to a Screen Near You: “Cultivating The Wild: William Bartram’s Travels”

More than two centuries have passed since the publication of botanist William Bartram’s Travels in 1791. Bartram’s descriptions of his journey through the American South between 1773 and 1777 continue to ignite the imagination of those who love nature and the thrill of discovery. In addition to Bartram’s catalogue of the region’s flora and fauna, Travels also contains some of the first written descriptions of early American society and the culture of both Cherokee and Creek Indians. A moral visionary, Bartram countered the notion of American Indians being “savage” and in need of civilization. His writings are still examined by scientists and historians seeking a better understanding of the Southeast.

A new documentary film, “Cultivating The Wild: William Bartram’s Travels,” is now in production.  Co-produced by Eric Breitenbach and Dorinda Dallmeyer, the film presents a scholarly examination of the scientist’s life and work as well as a meditation on what has come to pass in the more than two hundred and twenty years since Bartram traversed the pre-Colonial South.  The differences between the landscape Bartram experienced and described and what we know today are striking.  Sadly, the region’s natural resources have suffered mightily from neglect and exploitation. The film will make a committed stand for protecting our natural world by telling Bartram’s story and the stories of select modern day “Bartrams” – people who continue his work and philosophies today.

This independent film is being made possible by the dedication of its co-producers and the generosity of a host of donors who contributed over $30,000 by way of a “Kickstarter” campaign. With its focus on bringing creative projects to life, is one of several web-based crowdfunding platforms where entrepreneurs seek financial support for their projects and ventures from a large number of people.  It’s estimated that crowdfunding campaigns generated over $34 billion in 2015.

The Bartram Kickstarter campaign drew support from as far away as Iceland and India and included contributions from direct descendants of the Bartram family.  The project also has strong coastal ties.  William Bartram visited Wormsloe Plantation with his father, John Bartram, 251 years ago in 1765. William returned to Savannah in April of 1773 to spend a full year exploring the natural communities along the coast of Georgia. He left us with a rich legacy of our biological heritage. Reinforcing the durability of ties to William Bartram in coastal Georgia are substantial donations to this film from the Wormsloe Foundation and the Wormsloe Institute for Environmental History.

If you are interested in learning more about the project or making donations to defray post-production costs, please visit the film’s website:


The Mixson Family and St. Catherines Island

The Lamar Mixson Sea Turtle Internship is a celebration of love and a young man’s passion for wildlife and wild places.  Lamar spent the summer of 2011 on St. Catherines Island as an intern for the island’s sea turtle conservation program.  That summer of protecting nests, collecting DNA samples, and watching emerging sea turtles brave beach crossings to fearlessly dive into the Atlantic Ocean gave him a platform to learn from and contribute to Georgia’s coastal resources.

In his memory, the Mixson family worked with the St. Catherines Island Foundation to create the Lamar Mixson Sea Turtle Internship on St. Catherines.  Since 2013, the initial gift of $25,000 has grown substantially through continued contributions from the Mixson family, friends and associates.  As of 2014, five young people have benefited from the internship, adding an extraordinary experience to their college and life accomplishments while actively participating in sea turtle conservation.


Wassaw Island, The Caretta Research Project, and a 150+ Year Family Legacy of Philanthropy

George Parsons, born in 1826 and raised in Maine, worked with his brother to build successful business ventures in southern cities, including Savannah.  Parsons was known for his strong family ties, a concern for community needs, and generosity.  Parsons established a culture of giving in his family that would be handed down through the generations and it’s left an indelible mark on Wassaw Island and continues to impact sea turtle conservation work taking place there today.

Parsons purchased Wassaw Island in 1866 as a gift for his bride, Sarah Eddy Parsons.  He went on to build a housing compound for his family and friends at the center of the island.  As the Parsons, their children, and their children’s children spent time on Wassaw Island, they developed a deep love for it and an appreciation for the island’s special character.  In 1930, with an eye toward the future, family members and others formed the Wassaw Island Trust to preserve Wassaw in its natural state.

In the 1960’s, trustees became concerned that the state of Georgia might condemn the island and open it for development or public use (Georgia had purchased Jekyll Island under a condemnation order in 1947). In response, they made arrangements to convey Wassaw to the United States for permanent preservation as a National Wildlife Refuge.  To facilitate the transaction, the Nature Conservancy of Georgia bought Wassaw Island from the Trust for $1 million in 1969 and, in turn, sold it to the federal government for the same amount. The transaction carried three stipulations.  First, the island would remain in its natural state.  Second, no bridge could be built connecting the island to the mainland.  And, finally, the Wassaw Island Trust would retain 180 acres for on-going use, including the housing compound. Not surprisingly, Parsons family trustees would soon use their influence to make the island accessible and the property available for philanthropic and conservation purposes.

In the early 1970s, volunteer herpetologists and the Savannah Science Museum launched a conservation effort focused on loggerhead sea turtles (Caretta caretta) out of a concern for the declining population.  A Parsons family member provided crucial support to the initiative, including transporting researchers and volunteers to Wassaw and providing housing.  This led to the 1972 founding of the Caretta Research Project ( It was one of the first sea turtle conservation initiatives in the country and it continues today.  Caretta’s on-going mission includes monitoring and protecting loggerhead sea turtle nests on Wassaw and educating the public about sea turtle conservation.

More than 150 years after George Parsons first cultivated within his family both a culture of giving and a love of the Georgia coast, his descendants continue that tradition by supporting sea turtle conservation with their time, personal commitment, and financial support.


Crowdfunding an ATB: Shorebird Conservation On Cumberland Island ($6,500 In, $3,500 To Go!)

During the 2016 Conservation Donors Roundtable, The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) announced the award of a $75,000 grant to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources Non-Game Division (DNR) and several partners for monitoring, studying, and protecting shorebirds along the Georgia Coast.  Tim Keyes, coastal bird biologist with DNR, will administer the program on behalf of a partnership that includes St. Catherine’s Island, Little St. Simons Island, Cumberland Island, Jekyll Island, TNC-Georgia, VA Tech, UGA, and DNR.  Partners have committed both financial and in-kind support to the multi-year effort.

Cumberland Island will be an important venue for the project because it supports nesting habitat for shorebirds that are declining in many areas.  Up to now, only limited shorebird conservation work has been done on Cumberland Island due to limited resources.  The NFWF grant will allow DNR to place a conservation technician on Cumberland for regular monitoring of beach nesting shorebirds.  But one obstacle remains!  The technician will need an all-terrain vehicle for monitoring the nearly 18 miles of beach on Cumberland. Unfortunately, the project budget does not include funding for this equipment.

Here’s where we come in!  Conservation donors are working together to raise $10,000 to purchase the vehicle and associated equipment and, in turn, donate it to DNR for dedicated use for shorebird conservation work on Cumberland Island.  The vehicle will enable the new conservation technician to monitor critical nesting activity by American Oystercatchers, Wilson’s Plovers and Least Terns.  It is expected that the technician’s activities will include posting signs and rope barriers to keep people away from critical habitat, assisting with predator management, and helping with banding adult and hatchling Oystercatchers.  Without the ATV, it will be impossible to address these needs across the entire 18 mile stretch of beach.

Thus far, conservation donors associated with Stewards of the Georgia Coast have contributed $6,500 to the project.  In the spirit of crowdfunding, we’re calling on others within the Stewards network to contribute.  Any amount will make a difference!

The Communities of Coastal Georgia Foundation has offered its Conservation Fund as a vehicle for donations. Make an online donation at or send your check to Communities of Coastal Georgia Foundation, ATTN:  Coastal Conservation, 1626 Frederica Road, Suite 201, St. Simons Island, GA  31522.


$1 Million Challenge Grant Fuels Musgrove Campaign

An anonymous donor took major action this July with a $1 million challenge grant to the St. Simons Land Trust’s Campaign to Preserve Musgrove. “Now is the time to take care of this island,” he said, citing land conservation as a great way for folks to make a positive impact on St. Simons Island and retain the island’s natural and cultural character for the future. All additional gifts to the Campaign through January 31, 2017 will be matched by this pledge, up to $1 million. The anonymous donor is a St. Simons resident and longtime supporter of the Land Trust. This gift would be the donor’s largest to both the St. Simons Island community and to conservation.

The Land Trust campaign will preserve 260 acres of the Musgrove property.  The large, mid-island tract includes more than 200 acres of mature maritime forest, pond pine flatwoods, and rare plants.  The positive impact of preserving Musgrove benefits not only the immediate area of the St. Simons Island, but extends to the Altamaha River’s estuary and delta, five miles to the north, linking conservation lands on barrier islands to the south with the extensive Altamaha River corridor. This alone endows the land with the highest priority for protection.

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR) agreed in December to hold a conservation easement on the property. “The Musgrove property is a significant addition of habitat to the permanently protected lands in the Altamaha estuary and the entire coast,” said Jason Lee, program manager in DNR’s Wildlife Resources Division. “The state-held conservation easement guarantees proper management of these priority habitats,” he added. “Georgia DNR is excited to partner with the Land Trust in this conservation effort.”

Once acquired, the St. Simons Land Trust will open Musgrove to the public to provide a multi-faceted experience for learning about the island’s natural history and ecology with low-impact recreation through three miles of trails as well as waterfront access.

The Musgrove property will be a compelling neighbor to the Land Trust’s 600-acre Cannon’s Point Preserve. Between these two properties, there lies a unique opportunity on rapidly developing St. Simons Island to establish a three-mile wilderness corridor where shorelines are relatively undeveloped, maritime forest remains untouched, and varied wildlife thrive.

“I have been inspired by the Land Trust’s vision for a wilderness corridor on the north end of St. Simons, bookended by Cannon’s Point and Musgrove,” says Wendy Paulson, who has contributed significant time and resources to the preservation of Cannon’s Point.  “They offer residents and visitors the opportunity to experience what I call ‘Georgia Primeval,’ an opportunity increasingly unavailable in our highly developed, highly tech-centric society.”

The St. Simons Land Trust has raised $5.9 million towards its $11 million goal for Musgrove, with a lead gift of $2 million from the National Coastal Wetlands Competitive Grants Program of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. When new donors help the Land Trust claim the $1 million matching opportunity, the campaign will be within 30% of the goal with $7.9m raised.

To learn more and co-invest in the Campaign to Preserve Musgrove, please call the St. Simons Land Trust at 912-638-9109 or visit


Long Term Effort Pays Dividends: Record Year For Nesting Loggerhead Sea Turtles

Federally threatened loggerhead sea turtles have reached an important milestone this year on Georgia’s coast – over 3,000 nests were laid along 14 barrier island beaches.  This marks the highest number of nests recorded in the state in the 30+ years that our beaches have been monitored and a more than 40% increase from the previous record set last year.

Georgia is noted with having one of the oldest sea turtle conservation programs in the world, starting with the Little Cumberland Island project, in 1964.  Today the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR) coordinates the Georgia Sea Turtle Cooperative, a group of state, federal and private biologists and conservationists that monitor Georgia’s beaches for sea turtle nests.  Loggerhead sea turtle nesting season starts in May when the first females crawl onto Georgia’s beaches to lay their nests in the dunes, and the last nests typically hatch in October.  Female turtles typically lay their nests at night, and may lay 2-3 nests per season with around 70-140 eggs in each nest.

Cooperative members move quickly to protect newly laid nests from predators like raccoons, coyotes, and feral hogs by covering the nests with protective screens. When nests have been laid below the high tide line and face the risk of being washed over, they are moved to higher ground to increase the likelihood of hatching. Once the nests have hatched, 50-70 days after they are laid, nests are excavated to determine how many eggs were laid and how many hatched.  It is estimated that only 1 in 1,000 hatchlings will survive to adulthood.

In addition to trained biologists, several nesting programs on Georgia’s barrier islands engage volunteers, citizen scientists, student interns, and teachers as part of their seasonal monitoring.  Some of the programs, particularly those on more developed islands, take education a step further and offer guided walks and educational programs aimed at increasing awareness of the importance of sea turtle conservation among coastal residents and visitors.

While the Cooperative has placed a priority on protecting sea turtle nests over the last 30+ years, there has also been significant push to reduce the number of sea turtles stranded in shrimp trawl nets.  Shrimping season in Georgia coincides with sea turtle nesting season. Historically, shrimpers inadvertently captured and drowned turtles in their nets as they trawled for shrimp.  In the mid-1980s, Sinkey Boone, a Georgia shrimper from Darien, developed a “Turtle Excluder Device” (TED) that frees turtles from shrimp nets while shrimpers continue to trawl.  This device has significantly reduced the number of drowned sea turtles in areas where shrimping is prevalent.  The World Wildlife Fund later recognized Boone with a national conservation award for his invention.

2016 will be remembered as a significant milestone in the conservation of sea turtles in Georgia.  While it will take several more years of similar if not greater numbers of successful sea turtle nests to deem the population recovered, conservationists throughout the region are celebrating a very encouraging trend and the long term investment that made it possible.  30+ years of conservation work – with help from conservation philanthropy – is paying off!


Links to sea turtle conservation work in coastal GA, including opportunities to fund: