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 grant, manmade 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.
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.
Thank you for all you do to protect Georgia’s coast!