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:

Directory Of Coast-Serving Conservation Non-Profits Available For Download

Stewards of the Georgia Coast has produced a Directory of Conservation Non-Profits serving the Georgia Coast.  Meant to be a quick reference for donors, the Directory includes each organization’s mission and contact information.  As a bonus, the Directory is filled with beautiful coastal images by Christa Hayes. Download a copy here.

Living Shoreline on Ossabaw Island

Each issue of Shoreline will profile coastal conservation projects of major significance.  In most cases, projects will feature highly collaborative partnerships and, in all cases, success will depend on co-investment by private donors.  These profiles are meant to educate coastal donors about the leading edge of conservation throughout Georgia’s coastal region and signal opportunities for high impact co-investment.  A “Living Shoreline” planned for Ossabaw Island is an ideal project to open this series:  it represents collaborative, cutting edge conservation and its impact on Ossabaw Island and the Living Shoreline movement in Georgia will be significant. Read more

52 Paintings of Coastal Habitats on Display at Marietta/Cobb Museum of Art

The Wild Treasury of Nature, a body of work by Philip Juras that includes 52 paintings of Little St. Simons Island, will be on display this summer at the Marietta/Cobb Museum of Art in Marietta, Georgia from July 9 – September 11. The Wild Treasury of Nature continues Philip Juras’s exploration of the pre-settlement wilderness of the American South as the earliest naturalists would have encountered it.  His paintings illuminate the wild beauty and importance of Georgia’s coastal habitats through the lens of Little St. Simons Island, an undeveloped barrier island on the Georgia coast. Read more

Offshore Testing and Drilling

Offshore drilling has been taken off the table for Georgia and other Southeastern Atlantic States by the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management for at least five years.  It is a tremendous victory for marine wildlife and Georgia fisheries, especially bottle-nosed dolphins and right whales.  But it’s temporary and the threat of seismic testing remains. Read more

Altama Conserved

The Nature Conservancy (TNC), the United States Marine Corps (USMC) and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (GDNR) have partnered to protect a 3,986 acre tract along Georgia’s Altamaha River, in Glynn County. Read more

Donor Roundtable A Success! Plans Underway For Similar Event In 2017

Stewards of the Georgia Coast and Coastal Georgia Partners in Philanthropy (CGaPIP) joined forces to host a Conservation Donors Roundtable on March 10, 2016.  Held at Musgrove Plantation on St. Simons Island, the Roundtable attracted a capacity crowd of interested private and corporate donors.  Read more

Living Shorelines: A Better Approach to Fighting Erosion

The twice-daily tides in Georgia, often reaching upwards of 8 feet in amplitude, are an ecologically important and powerful driving force in and along the edges of our salt marshes.  For generations, coastal Georgians have attempted to slow the natural erosion of creek banks caused by tides and upland runoff with a variety of methods, including rock revetments or rip-rap and bulkheads made of wood and concrete.  This power struggle has become more challenging in the face of rising sea levels and increasingly intense storm events. Read more