Privatization at the Capitol

My last Insider’s Update was about a bill (HB370) that would have facilitated the privatization of Georgia’s salt marsh. Fortunately, because of the massive outcry of concern expressed by people across the state, the bill failed to pass the House before Crossover Day on February 29. If you were one of the many people who shared your concerns with your legislator: Thank you!

The privatization of our shared public resources has developed into concerning trend this session. It is one that must be addressed, bill by bill. Here are some of the most concerning other privatization bills that, if passed this legislative session, will undoubtedly haunt us into the future.

Bypassing Local Water and Land Use Planning

Private Groundwater to the Highest Bidder

HB1146 (R. Stephens (R)—Savannah) would allow private water providers on Georgia’s coastal plain (more than half the state) to supply water to new developments without coordinating with local governments or public water suppliers. These permits would fly in the face of responsible water conservation efforts and long-term planning work undertaken by local and state agencies charged with protecting Georgia’s fiscal and natural resources. More simply put, HB1146 would create an opportunity for an explosion of unplanned growth by developers who can afford to pay a private utility for water.  You can read a recent article about this bill here.

Status: HB1146 is sitting in Senate Rules, waiting to be voted onto the Senate floor for final passage. Click here to ask your Senator to VOTE NO on HB1146!

Private Cities

Senate Bill (SB)435 and its companion SR533 (both Ginn (R)—Danielsville) would put on the statewide ballot a measure that would establish a new type of local jurisdiction to be known as a “community development district.” The community development district would operate like a city or county, but with a major difference: the district’s elected officials would be selected by the owners within the district proportional to how much property they own. These two pieces of legislation would privatize government—including the right to tax and charge fees—and would provide major bypasses to compliance with local planning for growth and infrastructure expansion. Perhaps most concerning, however, is that the bill would assign more voting power to the wealthiest landowners—non-landowners would not have the right to vote in these new local jurisdictions and larger landowners would have the most voting rights.

Status: Although they did not crossover, SB435 and SR533 both had more than a half-dozen cosigners, including two coastal senators, Derek Mallow (D—Savannah) and Ben Watson (R—Savannah).

Stay Off My River!

Further inland, a battle over the privatization of freshwater fishing rights on and access to a stretch of the Flint River called Yellow Jacket Shoals is underway. (Read more here.) Although the Georgia Constitution specifically grants all Georgians the right to fish and hunt, and the Public Trust Doctrine (which ensures public ownership of navigable waters for the citizens of the US) is a foundation of American law, some private property owners don’t like sharing their fishing hole with others. In 2023, the legislature passed SB115 (McLaurin (D)—Sandy Springs), which affirms the state’s ownership of the bottoms of all navigable waters in GA and preserves the public’s right “to use and enjoy all navigable streams capable of use for fishing, hunting, passage, navigation, commerce, and transportation, pursuant to the common law public trust doctrine”—even when the state grants ownership of such bottoms to a private entity. This was a good and necessary bill.

But opponents won’t let it rest. This year, three bills are under consideration that could either affirm or further limit the scope of public access to Georgia’s navigable fresh waters and the fish therein. HB1172 and SB542 are attempts to roll back the protections SB115 has guaranteed Georgians. And HB1397 is a limited list of creeks, rivers, and other waterbodies that are presumed to be navigable and therefore available for the public to access. Any waterbody not included on the list is presumed to be private property and not able to be accessed by the public.

Status: HB1397 did not crossover, but HB1172 and SB542 did and are still alive. Click here to learn more about and take action to stop HB1397 and HB1172.


The last day of this year’s legislative session is March 29. Even if these bills do not pass, we can expect the theme of privatization of our limited public resources to carry into the future. The only way to combat those who would like to monetize our shared public resources is to participate in civic discourse—with letters to editors and online discourse, during dinner table conversations and in the rooms where these terrible ideas are being officially discussed.

All of these bills assign excessive privilege to a small group of people at the expense of our shared public resources, and we must stop them from passing—this year and in the future.

Learn more about the bills we’ve been following at the Capitol on Our Legislative Priorities page. You’ll notice that some of the bills mentioned here are not listed. We encourage you to use the links above and learn more/take action via our partners’ websites.

Salt Marsh Giveaway!

It’s that time of year again and our friends at the General Assembly are working hard. Since 2022, One Hundred Miles has been working to stop a bill (House Bill 370) that we feel poses a threat to the public ownership of coastal Georgia’s salt marsh.

Currently, all salt marsh is held in trust by the State of Georgia unless someone can prove that he has a valid grant issued by the King of England before 1776. Until the claim is proven, it is always presumed that the state maintains ownership. HB 370 would replace this legal standard for defeating the State of Georgia’s title to salt marshes with a new process that flips the presumption of ownership from the State to the private petitioner immediately upon submission of documentation.

It is relatively common to possess a Kings Grant—it is extremely uncommon to be able to prove clear title. The Georgia Supreme Court has clearly ruled that it is appropriate for claims of a Kings Grant to meet a high burden of proof that falls on the petitioner. This proof could include documents, titles, deeds, and other evidence that all the conditions of the Kings Grant have been met and maintained. These documents could go back as far as 300 years.

Instead of the comprehensive documentation, HB 370 states that a petitioner merely needs to show evidence of a grantmanmade manipulation of the marsh and adverse possession, and a good showing of record of title for 40 years in order to become the presumed owner.

This could result in thousands of acres of salt marsh being privatized without a valid Kings Grant…and there is an economic driver for this giveaway.

Developers, whose projects contain or are adjacent to salt marsh, are lobbying for the passage of HB370. If this bill passes, it will open the door for people to get paid for not developing already-undevelopable, protected salt marsh. The payments would come from developers in other locations who have received permission by the US Army Corps of Engineers to destroy salt marsh. The new process that would expedite the privatization of already-protected salt marsh for the purposes of “conservation” is unprecedented and opens the door to fraud at the expense of a precious Georgia resource.

Here is a recent AP piece about this bad bill.

We are working hard to stop HB 370 in its tracks, and we need your help. The bill is in House Rules, waiting to be voted onto the House Floor. Please communicate with any legislators you know that HB 370 is an avenue for a salt marsh giveaway and a money-making scheme at the expense of the public’s ownership of the marsh.

Click here if you would like to use our communication system to express your opposition to members of the Georgia General Assembly.

Thank you for all you do to protect Georgia’s coast!

Unbridled Growth

Georgia’s coast is home to vast salt marshes, undeveloped barrier islands, intact maritime forests, and a robust private and public land conservation effort that has protected hundreds of thousands of acres of wildlife habitat. We have only to look to our neighbors north or south to know how fortunate Georgians are to have access to such a special place.

Georgia’s wild places are rural places populated with people who need economic opportunities. Traditionally, economic development strategies rely on the destruction of special places to provide jobs. That’s what we’ve been witnessing unfold along our coast the past few decades.

You’ve likely noticed the proliferation of mega-warehouses along I-16 and I-95. This new, more than 200,000 square feet of coastal warehouse space is touted as a response to the Hyundai plant that is being constructed in Bryan County and to the proposed Savannah port expansion. Local governments are approving many of these warehouses in areas outside of previously designated industrial development zones, in or adjacent to residential neighborhoods. They are transforming communities—many impoverished or historic—overnight by causing massive amounts of truck traffic, stormwater and flooding nightmares, soaring property taxes or plummeting property values (depending on where you live), and other ill-effects—none of which have been properly planned for.

This growth is reckless and out of control. When the Hyundai plant opens, and as we move closer to the reality of a deeper Savannah Harbor, we can only expect more of the same.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

The Georgia Legislature requires every community to have official plans to accommodate growth, and every coastal county and municipality does. On paper, they are all responsible plans that could protect existing residents from the ill-effects of future growth. The plans do allow for growth—but in the right places. Places where people expect industry to be or where existing sewer lines and roads have extra capacity and where growth is consistent with what is already on the ground. After all, most people favor growth that benefits our communities, but also recognize that growth of any kind, any size, and anywhere is not responsible.

BUT, contrary to logic, those official growth plans do not dictate the future—the people who implement and enforce them do. In every community, there are between five and nine individuals who make decisions twice a month regarding growth that sometimes complies, and often diverges, from these plans. All it takes is a simple majority to protect our coast or to destroy it.

Ten years ago, we partnered with UGA to analyze growth trends along our coast. At that time, we found that between 1974 and 2008 the rate at which land was being consumed outpaced the rate of population growth by SEVEN times. Imagine sharing your office with one other person but increasing its size seven-fold to accommodate them. It’s absurdly inefficient and unnecessary, not to mention wasteful. Unbridled, inefficient growth impacts our people, fiscal and natural resources, and community infrastructure. The cumulative impact is the destruction of our unique coast and the whittling away of resources that add to our quality of life.

As we move into 2024, OHM is working to update this previous study by analyzing the patterns of growth along our coast over the last 50 years. There are a few triggers we are investigating—notably the most recent harbor deepening and the Hyundai plant. We believe we will prove our hypothesis that growth has mainly occurred in noncompliance with community plans and, as a result, has been more expensive and cumbersome for our communities and taxpayers.

OHM will not use this information to try to stop all growth. We aim to better understand and educate decision makers about the cumulative impacts past growth has had on our coast so that we can compare the choice between two very different futures: one where decision makers adhere to official growth plans and another where they continue to approve unchecked and uncoordinated growth. Future growth must protect of our people, communities, and natural resources. The struggle between economic development and community protection is only inevitable if we refuse to learn from our past.

I have a few quotes that I read every day. One of them is:

“In my dream, the angel shrugged and said, ‘If we fail this time, it will be a failure of imagination.’ Then she placed the world gently in the palm of my hand.”

This special place has, indeed, been placed in the palm of our hands. If we stand by, the coast as we know it will fail to exist. We will keep you posted as our strategy develops and you can read more on our website.

Thank you for thinking about this with us and for all you do. I hope you have a very happy holiday season!

OHM and Environmental Injustice

For the past three years, One Hundred Miles has been on a quest to build new partnerships with people and organizations fighting for the rights and well-being of people across our coast. To fulfill our mission, we recognize that OHM needs to be more inclusive as we work to achieve our mission-related goals through advocacy and education. In addition, we must seek to understand and address the history of environmental racism that has inequitably impacted communities where Black and Brown people live.

This new justice paradigm is guided by two overarching principles.

1. Pollution and other environmental problems disproportionately and discriminately impact people of color and people living in poverty.

Example: We’ve been working to influence the cleanup of our superfund sites in Brunswick since 2014. Our position has been that the EPA needs to force the polluters to completely remove the contamination from our “environment.” Unfortunately, we’ve learned through the years that if we only talk about our water, air, marshes, and fish, we only address part of the problem. People have been suffering from and living with contamination in their bodies for decades. Talking about cleaning up our “natural environment” just simply isn’t enough.

Earlier this year, we partnered with local community and health care groups to invite researchers from Emory University to Brunswick, Georgia: home of 25% of the Superfund sites in the state. They offered blood testing for 100 residents who have lived here for 40 or more years, looking for lead, mercury, arsenic, cadmium, PCBs, PFAS, and toxaphene. The aggregate study results revealed that many of these participants have significantly higher levels of the contaminants in their blood than the average American—especially the chemicals that were used here in Brunswick. You can learn more about the study and results here.

The results need to be peer reviewed. The group plans to apply for funding for a bigger sample size. Once we better understand the data, we can work to adequately address the historical environmental injustices that have significantly disproportionately impacted our communities of color.

2. The condition of generational poverty results in environmental degradation.

Example: Last month the McIntosh County Commission voted to allow larger and taller homes, double the allowable size of existing homes, to be built in the historic community of Hog(g) Hummock (also known as Hog Hammock) on Sapelo Island, the last Saltwater/Gullah Geechee community on a barrier island in the state of Georgia. Over the last few decades, the community has dwindled from hundreds of residents to a few dozen today. The lack of well-paying job opportunities on Sapelo Island is one reason. Another is an encroachment of wealthier landowners who have purchased property on the island to build second homes. This new construction drives up property values and makes property taxes unaffordable for many long-time legacy Saltwater/Gullah Geechee residents.

In 1996, when McIntosh County first passed zoning for historic Hogg Hummock, one of the stated intentions of the restrictive zoning was to address the “threat from land speculators and housing forms” and to prevent development in Hogg Hummock from “contribute(ing) to land value increases which could force removal of the” Saltwater/Gullah Geechee people. Now, officials in McIntosh County have abandoned the goal of keeping Georgia’s last barrier island Saltwater/Gullah Geechee community intact. The new zoning sacrifices the unique and intrinsically powerful Geechee culture, community, and natural ecological infrastructure and environment of Sapelo Island for a beach community that looks like the many other beach communities on the East Coast.

OHM and our partners on Sapelo, Sapelo Island Cultural & Revitalization Society (SICARS), Save Our Legacy Ourself (SOLO), and Hog Hammock Community Foundation, are fighting this zoning change. Supported by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and Bondurant Mixon & Elmore (BME), Hogg Hummock community members will be appealing the zoning decision today, exactly one month from this detrimental vote.

One Hundred Miles has also initiated a repeal petition. The first successful repeal effort in the state of Georgia occurred a few years ago, when OHM helped Camden County residents stop Spaceport Camden, and we believe we can do the same in McIntosh alongside our Sapelo partners. We are currently working to collect 2,200 signatures. You can learn more about the petition drive and how to further support our partners here.

These are complicated issues to tackle. They require a commitment to the well-being of both humans and nature as well as an acknowledgement of the broken decision-making processes that are currently being executed within our government. As we move into a new decade at OHM and begin work on our next strategic plan, we believe the only solution to these difficult issues is to build more partnerships, make more connections, find common ground with new allies, and address the issue of environmental injustice head on. Our work is about painted buntings and sea turtles, yes. But it is also about people who need to drink clean water, breathe clean air, and who have been connected to our landscapes for generations.

Thank you for all you do!


P.S. Check out our FY2023 Annual Report for more information about these and other examples of our work.

When We Litigate

At the end of June, we filed litigation against the City of Brunswick and Maritime Homes over a new development. Despite overwhelming opposition from neighbors and evidence presented by OHM, members of the community, and lawyers that the proposed apartment complex violated the city’s design and zoning ordinances on the marsh front along Highway 17, City Commissioners voted 3-2 to advance the project.

We speak out about projects nearly every day of the week in every local jurisdiction on our coast. Rarely does our opposition lead to litigation. But in very special and important instances like this one, it does.

I wanted to share more about how we make the difficult decision to litigate so that, as supporters of OHM, you better understand our thought process and have confidence that your investment in our work is a responsible one.

Litigation must always be carefully considered. We ask many questions before pursuing litigation, such as:

  • Is the case law clear regarding the perceived violation of the law?
  • Have we been involved throughout the duration of the decision-making process on this project, and has our position been consistent and clear?
  • What will the precedent be if we win or lose?
  • Is OHM’s involvement necessary or are their other groups willing to take the case?
  • Can OHM afford the legal fees?
  • What will happen regarding the proposed project if we don’t litigate?

This careful, strategic approach has led to some big wins over the past 10 years—wins that have protected important resources and communities that would be in much worse condition had we not acted. Here are a few examples:

The Commissioner of the GA DNR vs. Honeywell International, LLC (2020): 
After nearly seven decades of failure to clean up the Brunswick LCP superfund site, in 2019 the Georgia Department of Natural Resources announced a settlement with Honeywell (the responsible party) to compensate for the recreational fishing opportunities lost due to contamination. Despite having received cost estimates of the damage equal to $4 billion, the parties proposed a settlement of $4 million—an amount equal to less than 1/100 of the total estimated cost.

Recognizing that this settlement would have been the end of negotiations for compensation and that $4 million was completely inadequate, OHM hired an independent attorney to file a motion to intervene in the settlement. In response, the parties promptly withdrew the proposed settlement and went back to negotiating.

Since then, OHM has been advocating for a Natural Resources Damage Assessment, which would more accurately determine the true value of the loss; this could lead to a fairer settlement amount and a much larger benefit for the communities affected by the contamination.

OHM vs. US Army Corps of Engineers (2021)
: After more than 30 years adhering to winter dredging windows, in 2020, the US Army Corps of Engineers announced plans to dredge Brunswick and Savannah Harbors during sea turtle nesting season—without requiring any environmental review as required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). In making this abrupt and dangerous decision, the Corps ignored comments from hundreds of sea turtle experts, scientists, and members of the public urging them to stick to their safe and effective decades-old policy of winter dredging.

Represented by the Southern Environmental Law Firm (SELC), OHM filed a motion for a temporary injunction with a federal court in Savannah. Our case highlighted the harm summer dredging would pose to nesting sea turtles and other species. We pulled in scientific experts, as well as sea turtle volunteers who are members of OHM, who could speak to the impact the Corps’ action would have. Ultimately, after reviewing these stories and testimony in which the Corps admitted they had violated federal law, the judge ruled in our favor, preventing the Corps from moving forward with their plan and saving untold number of threatened and endangered sea turtles from being killed.

Despite the 2021 victory, the Corps immediately resurrected plans to dredge year-round and we had to file another challenge last December. Fortunately, after OHM took action, the Corps changed course and agreed to rigorously research the impacts of summer dredging. Had we not brought this case and remained vigilant after our initial win, the Army Corps would be well on its way to setting back nearly 60 years of sea turtle population recovery efforts along Georgia’s coast.

Camden County vs. Petitioners and OHM vs. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Camden County (2022): 
In our ongoing, years-long battle against Spaceport Camden, OHM assisted a citizens’ group in utilizing a rarely used provision of the Georgia State Constitution: registered voters have a right to petition for a referendum to repeal an action of a county government. The voters in Camden County sought to repeal the County Commission vote to purchase the proposed location for Spaceport Camden. During COVID, OHM stepped in to help. We collected the required number of signatures, and a referendum was held in April of 2022. In a 72%-27% victory, Camden voters overwhelmingly voted to repeal the resolution to purchase the spaceport location, which invalidated any contract Camden County had with the owner of the property. Camden filed challenges to the referendum and the petitions. OHM was not a party to the lawsuits, but we were able to use our resources and connections to fundraise for the legal fees and to hire independent attorneys to defend the petition and referendum. Our involvement resulted in setting an important legal precedent at the Supreme Court of Georgia and provided a back stop for residents to execute their right to protect their shared resources.

At the same time, Camden County’s Launch Site Operator’s License granted by the FAA is still in play for the project. OHM, with our partners at SELC, filed a challenge to the FAA’s issuance of the license. Our goal is to put a final nail in the Spaceport Camden coffin so that we, along with the Cumberland Island National Seashore, Jekyll Island, and private landowners who would have been put at risk from rocket launches, can breathe a sigh of relief. OHM was the only organization poised to both defend the spaceport referendum and challenge the FAA license.

Over the past 10 years, we have proven that OHM stands ready to act. Our action always begins by communicating our love for this place. But advocacy that’s only about love isn’t always the most effective tool in our toolbox. Sometimes more traditional forms of advocacy—like litigation—are needed. Ultimately, no matter how much we stand together to celebrate a place, the decision makers may still vote for projects that will destroy it. Litigation is always a drastic step. But under the right circumstance, it is one we are willing to take if it is what is necessary to protect our coast.

If you have questions about OHM’s strategy or would like more information about any of these cases, please let me know.

Thanks for all you do,


The Complexity of Our Coast

If you’ve been around One Hundred Miles for our first 10 years, you’ve probably noticed that we’ve built our organization by celebrating Georgia’s unique 100-mile coast. We say things like: “It starts with love” and “Georgia’s coast is a wonder of the world.” Carrying this thread of celebration forward, our mission is to “protect and preserve Georgia’s 100-mile coast through advocacy, education, and citizen engagement.” The positive image of our coast is one of the reasons people are drawn to OHM. It inspires our sense of pride, which hopefully compels us all to take action to protect it. 

We do have a wonderful resource. Georgia’s 100 miles of coastline contains 33% of the remaining salt marsh on the eastern seaboard. Our 14 barrier islands (only 4 of which are developed) are designated by the Western Hemispheric Shorebird Reserve Network as a landscape of hemispheric importance for migrating shorebirds like the red knot. Every year, North Atlantic right whales and loggerhead sea turtles migrate thousands of miles to give birth or lay their eggs on our coast. I could go on.

Over the past 10 years, we’ve worked hard to protect and preserve. We’ve defended laws like the Shore Protection Act and the Marsh Protection Act. We’ve litigated against developments and to protect our wildlife. We’ve fought proposals for projects like Spaceport Camden and offshore drilling. Most importantly, we built a network of more than 20,000 people who can jump into action the very minute we find out about a bad idea threatening our coast. All of this has been motivated by a desire to protect this extraordinary place. 

As we look forward to our next 10 years, we must continue to celebrate. But we recognize that celebrating, protecting, and preserving are only part of what’s necessary. As we begin the work for our next strategic plan, we will focus on more than our natural resources. Our charge will be to also incorporate the relationships—good and bad—people have with our coast.

Since January, we’ve been traveling up and down our coast interviewing and collecting stories from the people who live here, grew up here, are raising their children here. We are learning about their relationships with our coast. These stories reveal two things we all have in common—a love for this place and the struggle to build a life in the rural south. Conflicts between development and conservation, rising seas and flooding, and pollution and poverty are real issues that influence the choices people make in their everyday lives and when they vote.

Working with a professional creative agency and author George Dawes Green, founder of The Moth, we’re turning these stories into video portraits that will soon be available through our website and in media across Georgia. We hope that they will inspire you to look at our coast in a whole new way, to learn about our dedicated conservation partners leading the way for coastal Georgia’s landscapes, human communities, and wildlife, and ultimately, to find your own path forward to fight for the coast you want to see.

We will begin sharing these video portraits with you this summer (stay tuned for a sneak peek in mid-June!). Some of them focus on professionals doing work to conserve our coast. Others are from regular people who have had a lifetime of experiences—and challenges—in this place. Whether happy or sad, funny or serious, they all reveal a commitment to coastal Georgia, to this place and its people. And together, the people who are sharing their stories with us, show us that it is possible to love something and also acknowledge it needs work. 

Our work and these stories remind us that if we are to continue our success, we must work within communities to do more than protect and preserve, we must also seek to understand and improve.

And the first step is to listen.

Thank you for all you do,


Coastal Resilience

Re-sil-ience: the capacity to withstand or to recover quickly from difficulties.


For the past two decades, there’s been a lot of discussion about the concept of resiliency, specifically as it relates to preparedness for the impacts of climate change and sea level rise. There are all kinds of incentives for helping communities improve their climate resiliency—from federal grants for infrastructure improvements to educational opportunities and rebates on building materials.

We must prepare vulnerable coastal communities to be resilient. But resilience means so much more than infrastructure and engineering, and climate change is not the only threat our coast and its people are experiencing. From Chatham to Camden, industrial warehouse development is overrunning residential communitiesMega RV parks and travel centers with hundreds of gas tanks are rapidly being approved despite opposition from residents—or in some cases, they are essentially done deals before residents even have a chance to weigh in. Most of these projects are not in compliance with local planning ordinances, and the thousands of people raising their voices in opposition are being boxed out by elected officials who have a mentality of “grow anyhow, anywhere, anytime.”

This is the opposite of resilience.

A truly resilient community is full of residents and elected officials who understand what makes their place special, and they celebrate, protect, and enhance that unique identity. They ensure new proposed projects don’t make existing problems worse or usurp funding for solutions to those problems. People living in resilient communities set goals for achieving their community vision. Equally important, they stick to them, actively defending their goals and vision when a proposal comes into conflict with them.

The State of Georgia requires it. In the midst of these big community conversations about large projects and permanent changes to our landscape, many of our coastal counties and cities are updating their Comprehensive Plans and zoning ordinances. But they are going about it the wrong way. Last week, I was at a Comprehensive Planning meeting when a county staff person told me that they were just going through the motions to meet the requirements of the state. He said they were “checking a box.” In other words, they will spend time and money, ask for and record public input, draft, and approve a new plan—one that the planning department and County Commissioners will promptly ignore.

This keeps happening because we are not resilient.

It’s not for a lack of interest or engagement on the public’s part. Today, in every coastal county, regular commission meetings are packed with people who are raising their voices. Remember last year’s petition and referendum when thousands of Camden voters repealed the County Commissioners’ votes to purchase the spaceport property? And this year EPD, members of the Georgia Legislature, and the US Army Corps of Engineers received more than 160,000 comments on proposals to mine the Okefenokee swamp and pass legislation to protect it.

Yet our elected officials and planners continue to listen to the developers instead of the people they were elected to represent. This is frustrating, but if we all ramp up the effort to improve our communities’ resilience, there is hope. Here are a few suggestions.

  • Let’s start engaging City and County Commissioners in respectful conversations outside of the meeting rooms. Consider inviting them to your neighborhood association meeting or a community picnic. Introduce yourself when you run into them in the school parking lot, at the beach, or in the grocery store. Don’t be afraid to mention your hopes and concerns.
  • Regularly communicate about issues in public forums. Write a letter to the editor; tag a commissioner on social media; start a petition. Don’t wait until decisions have already been made to express your opinions. Encourage your friends and neighbors to do the same.
  • Become one of the decision makers. You can do this by submitting your application for appointment to serve on a local Planning Commission or Historic Preservation Board. Or you could take it one step further and run for office.

We know these solutions aren’t always simple, but we’re here to help. On October 21, we’ll once again be holding our in-person Choosing to Lead Conference on Jekyll Island. One of our focuses this year will be on resiliency—of all kinds. We hope you’ll save the date. In the meantime, reach out to any of us at OHM with questions or to find ways to get more involved.

We must prepare our communities to be resilient—to withstand and recover. This requires all of us. I’ll leave you with a quote we’ve all heard before. As we find ourselves at a turning point for our coast—with our landscapes, wildlife, and people at risk—it is now more important than ever to keep it in mind.


“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” ― Margaret Mead


Thanks for all you do.


Experiencing the Wonder of Georgia’s Coast

As we continue to celebrate OHM’s tenth anniversary throughout 2023, we’re committed to taking you behind the scenes of our work and staying in touch. I’m grateful to share these Insider Updates with you—look for them every other month or so, and as urgent issues arise. We’re also restarting our monthly newsletter, The Monthly Mile, this week! (Sign up here if you aren’t already on our mailing list). As always, please reach out to me or any member of our team if you have questions about our issues or ways to get involved. 



After a long battle with cancer and a related but short non-cancer illness, my mother passed away on December 11. She was my best friend and the reason I am a hard-working, loyal, and conscientious human being. Since her passing, I’ve found comfort by surrounding myself with the wilderness of our coast. Sitting in silence, listening to birds, watching the water, feeling the wind—these actions ground me and give me peace. In those moments of quiet, I am reminded that we are all part of something bigger. My mother’s loss looms large in my life, but she was just one being on a planet full of others who breathe the same air and drink the same water. She is gone, and life goes on.

On September 29, my parents’ community was devastated by Hurricane Ian. Around that time, here in Georgia, the National Park Service (NPS) released a draft Visitor Use Management Plan (VUMP) for Cumberland Island National Seashore. This plan establishes the rules for the use of the park by visitors and outlines the necessary steps the NPS will take to ensure visitation does not threaten the wilderness and wildlife in the park. In this draft, the NPS proposes increasing daily visitation to the park from 300 people to 700 by increasing the number of ferry trips and the docking locations on the island.

Throughout October and November, as I was trying to help my parents recover from the storm and figure out what was happening with my mom’s health, the VUMP was on my radar. Because we had until December 30 to submit comments, I put it on the back burner as I prioritized other work and my family situation. I didn’t get a chance to dive into the plan until after my mom’s passing.

As I reviewed the document, one notion stuck with me: the value of having regular access to wilderness. And not just any wilderness, but the crown jewel of our coast. An area so significant that 50 years ago, it was designated a national seashore and preserved as a public resource for all to enjoy. Access to sacred places in nature is essential for the purpose of education, understanding, health, science, spirituality, healing, and the myriad other reasons we need to be reminded every day that life is bigger than our individual selves. Yet we know that there are many barriers to accessing outdoor spaces that disproportionately impact economically challenged communities and many communities of color. In a time when we are increasingly asking Georgians to make important decisions about our natural resources, we need to be promoting—and not restricting—responsible and equitable access to these sacred spaces. 

One Hundred Miles supports the proposed visitor increase to Cumberland Island National Seashore (read our letter here). But we also know that increased access requires us to be even more intentional about the stewardship of this critical global resource. It is up to the NPS to partner with members of the scientific community to ensure that increasing visitation does not threaten the quality of Cumberland’s habitats and wilderness. If the impact of visitation is properly monitored and mitigated, the island’s more than 35,000 acres of land and 17.5 miles of beach should be able to withstand the increase.

Many people believe that the best way to protect a place is to keep people away from it. (We’ve all seen the bumper stickers: “Shhh…” or “Georgia has a coast?,” promoting the idea that our coast is Georgia’s best kept secret and should stay that way.) But being here on the coast for 10 years, I’ve learned that keeping people away has not solved our problems. To the contrary, keeping people away from our wild coast only perpetuates a disconnect—leading to a misunderstanding of its value that may lead to its destruction.  

Cumberland Island National Seashore provides essential opportunities to experience wonder and awe. These experiences help us better understand our planet, ourselves, and our responsibility.  

I feel fortunate that over the past few months I have allowed myself to be inspired by our coast. I know I’m not alone. As you consider OHM’s position and the proposals outlined in the VUMP, I encourage you to reflect on your own formative experiences on Cumberland Island and other barrier islands. How have these moments shaped your own relationship with our coast? And without them, would you still be willing to fight to protect it? 


Thanks for reading this note and for all you do. 


Our Moral Imperative

Georgians are deeply connected to the wildlife with which we share our coast. So much so that our experiences have become a regular part of our life stories. We share when we’ve seen the first painted buntings or roseate spoonbills of the year. Sea turtle walks and dolphin tours are regular outings on our calendars. And it is front page news when right whales arrive every winter and calves are spotted.

Of course, it is important to consider that just as the presence of a variety of unique, beautiful, and sometimes very rare wildlife defines our coast, so do the efforts that have been undertaken to keep them safe.

One of the most well-known examples is our coast’s work to protect loggerhead sea turtles. Little Cumberland Island is home to the oldest (50+ years) sea turtle monitoring program in the world. Today, every spring and summer, more than 200 staff and volunteers of the Georgia Sea Turtle Cooperative come together to monitor nesting on each of our barrier island beaches. As a result of the early nest protections of the 70s and 80s and the implementations of turtle excluder devices, loggerheads have been experiencing record nesting years over the past decade. But we know they’re not out of the woods yet—in fact, the population is expected to plateau or even decline for most of the next 20 years.

While right whales are more difficult to reach, the work to preserve our state marine mammal is another example of efforts undertaken by coastal Georgians to ensure species survival. Every winter, the dedicated scientists at DNR monitor the waters off our coast. They document births and respond to injured or entangled whales. Even for those of us who don’t have the opportunity to experience the whales, any information about their annual presence is welcome news. When the newspapers print stories about their births, struggles, and deaths, we celebrate, worry, and mourn accordingly. Our connection to these gentle giants is strong and deep.

Yet despite the gargantuan efforts to protect them, the unintended consequences that threaten these two iconic species are almost inconceivable.

For example, a few weeks ago, we learned that beginning this year, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plans to dredge and widen shipping channels in Savannah and Brunswick throughout the spring and summer months when nesting loggerheads are in local waters. According to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR), dredging during the spring and summer could potentially kill as many as 87% of the females nesting in the vicinity of the Brunswick shipping channel and 47% of those nesting near the Savannah shipping channel.

The threats to the right whale are just as overwhelming. This year we celebrated the birth of 17 North Atlantic right whale calves – the highest number of baby whales since 2015, and a cause for cautious optimism since the number of births dropped to zero in 2018. But it is a far cry from the approximately two dozen calves scientists say must be born annually in order to sustain the species. When compared with the fact that, since 2017, at least 47 (including 2 already this year) whales have been killed by ship strikes and fishing gear entanglements, simple math reveals that their reproduction rate is not keeping pace with mortality. With fewer than 375 remaining on the planet, experts predict that unless drastic action is taken, the North Atlantic right whale will become functionally extinct within the next 20 years.

It is time to ask ourselves a very important question: At what point do the “unintended consequences” of human behavior become “intended” because our society chooses to move forward despite information that reveals that our actions will have harmful impacts?

Our efforts to save these species without stopping the causes of their decline are not keeping pace. It’s time to do something different. It’s time to demand change.

When DNR announced earlier this month that they were seeking public comments regarding the Corps’ plan to dredge, we began working with our advocate network, the media, and partner organizations to spread the word. As a result, in just over one week, more than 400 (and counting!) people have already submitted comments. This is only the beginning of our effort to prevent the sabotaging of nearly six decades of loggerhead population recovery efforts because of a dangerous and unnecessary timing decision. We will continue our advocacy, which includes public involvement, policy change, and (potentially) even litigation, to ensure that the Corps does not needlessly kill hundreds of adult loggerhead sea turtles this spring and summer.

Unfortunately, it remains even more challenging for those of us in coastal Georgia to directly impact the survival of the North American right whale. It’s not possible to organize volunteers and, while there are opportunities to comment on regulations that will impact their survival, like fishing gear and ship speeds, most people feel disconnected from the faraway places where these regulations will be effective and enforced. Yet it’s clear that the species needs our help. If we don’t act now, there will be no future for those 17 calves we are celebrating this year.

That’s why we launched our Eat Local, Not Lobster campaign. We’ve tried to rely on NGO advocacy for silver bullets like litigation and regulatory changes, but those efforts are taking too long. It’s time for all of us who care deeply about right whales to demonstrate to regulators and industry leaders that saving the species is a moral imperative. The best way we can do that, right here in the southeast, is to reduce demand on lobster and snow crab—sending a strong message that developing whale-safe practices is important to us.

I hope you’ll learn more about both issues—and help us take immediate action.

Of course, we’ll keep you updated on both issues and how you can help in the months ahead. Thanks for supporting our work and for all you do!


Change on the Horizon

Earlier this summer, I decided that our family needed a change of scenery. So in July, we embarked on a month long, socially-distanced RV trip across the U.S. But by the third day of watching flat farmland pass by, we were bored. My kids began to wonder if this big adventure was really taking us somewhere interesting after all. Finally, we got to Kansas—one state away from Colorado. I told them that we just had to stick it out.

Everything I had heard about driving through Kansas was that it would feel never-ending. After a day of driving through the wide state, we decided to pull off I-70 to sleep in a state park about 2 hours east of Colorado. Honestly, all I wanted to do was get in, sleep, and get on our way early the next morning.

As we drove in, I had to double check that we were in the right place. The landscape of 100-foot limestone bluffs and the soft pastels of high plains prairie was remarkable and completely unexpected. I’d seen Philip Juras’ prairie paintings, but I don’t think I really believed they could be accurate representations. (Because I know Philip, I should have known better. Click here to see some of his prairie landscapes.)

We ended up staying two days in this place I thought would be a pit stop. We swam, mountain biked, hiked, and—for the first time since our isolation began in March—breathed breaths of contentment and felt excitement about the future. I daresay, hope.

We’d started our trip tired, angry, sad, maybe a little scared—like closed flowers, hunkered down to protect ourselves from the negativity all around us. But over the next few weeks, as we explored deep canyons, wide rivers, hot deserts, and dark skies, we gradually began to open up. Suddenly, we found ourselves racing to see sunrises, talking about nature’s color palettes, and savoring every minute we could spend together. We went from looking down and in to out and around.

And it all started in the most unexpected place—Kansas.

As a society, I feel as if we are all in Kansas right now. Our heads are down. We are angry, sad, tired, and scared. And we just want to get through it. But lately, a few events have compelled us to pick up our heads, look around, and realize that there may be hope on the horizon. Kids are back in school—some virtually and some physically. Leaders are talking about racism, inequality, and the importance of nature—subjects that many have failed to acknowledge for too long. Most notably, there is a major election in two months that will affect leaders on every level.

Although it may not feel like things are changing, they are…

At One Hundred Miles, we are using the lessons learned during this pandemic to become stronger and more sustainable, and to improve the experiences we can offer to our supporters. Over the past few years, we have prioritized the growth of our emergency fund and our membership and advocacy networks so that we can weather lean times. Now, with the onset of a global pandemic in COVID-19, those lean times have come, and we have made important adjustments to our budget—including relocating our offices and changing our fiscal year—that will ensure resources are available to make progress toward our mission.

As we move forward into fall and a new chapter, we hope you’ll join us for the following programs:

  1. Youth Environmental Leadership Program: Applications are now open for the second year of this exciting program! Students will meet throughout the year to launch a coastal action project, serve as ambassadors in their schools and communities, and work with elected representatives to bring about meaningful change for our coast—all while going on behind-the-scenes field trips and meeting scientists and other mentors. We hope you’ll encourage the high school students in your life to apply.
  2. This past summer, with the help of our supporters and partners, we stopped a bad bill that would have allowed DNR to privatize important natural and cultural heritage sites, like Butler Island Plantation in McIntosh County. This is just one example of the need for McIntosh leaders to embrace their heritage rather than hide it. That’s why this fall, we’re partnering with the Sapelo Foundation, the Gullah Geechee Heritage Corridor Commission, Friends of Butler Island, the East Coast Greenway Alliance, and others who want to help to help residents and leaders in McIntosh take steps to build a nature and culture-based economy. Please click here to receive more information.
  3. Our 4th annual Coastal Conservation in Action: Choosing to Lead Conference will be held virtually in 2021. We remain dedicated to the same level of programming and amazing speakers, with interactive workshops designed to connect coastal enthusiasts to action. We’re especially excited about the virtual platform because it should allow us to reach more participants and informative presenters than ever before. If you haven’t already, take our survey to help us plan the conference YOU want to see.
  4. Earlier this year, COVID-19 caused the Glynn County Commissioners to press pause on an important update to its 60-year old zoning ordinance. This document protects our water quality, wildlife, and landscapes in Glynn County by outlining what is and is not permitted to be built in various locations. A majority of Glynn County residents value our wild coast, vast landscapes, and abundant wildlife—and OHM is working to make sure that zoning changes improve protections for each of these assets, while enabling our community to grow responsibly. Glynn County is restarting this process in the upcoming weeks. Click here to receive more information about this effort and how you can make your voice heard.

We are grateful to you for remaining committed to our work through this difficult time. I look forward to seeing and hearing from you as we move into the next state (pun intended).

Gratefully yours,