Conserving Southeastern Coastal Communities

From the Atlantic coast of North Carolina, south to Florida, west across the Gulf of Mexico to Louisiana, and along the coastlines of Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, the coastal area in the Southeast covers more than 26,000 miles of tidal shoreline and nearshore habitats, and more than 86 million acres of diverse coastal habitat and natural resources. This area accounts for the largest, most diverse and most productive coastal area in the country.

However, our southeastern coasts need our attention. The U.S. Geological Survey estimated that Louisiana’s coastline has been losing wetlands at a rate of 16.6 square miles a year for the past 25 years, equal to the loss of a football field of wetlands every hour. In addition,the U.S. Global Change Research Program predicts sea level rise and the likely increase in hurricane intensity and associated storm surge will be among the most serious consequences of climate change in the Southeast, directly impacting our coasts.

A small white bird with gray back standing on a debris strewn beach.

The piping plover, a species listed as threatened, calls our southeastern coastlines home. Photo by USFWS.

Threats to the Health of our Coast

Habitat Loss Caused by Human Development

Human development of our coasts represents the largest threat to the continued health coastal resources in the Southeast Region. In 2010, over half of the human population in the southeastern United States lived within 50 miles of the coast, impacting coastal wetlands and beaches through development, disturbance, and degradation of habitat.

The Gulf of Mexico and southern Atlantic coasts continue to represent the fastest growing coastal region in the nation, with a 58% increase in population between 1980 and 2003. The Southeast has increasingly become a leading destination for retirees and job-seekers. Between 1995 and 2000, the Census Bureau reported that the highest levels of migration were to states in the Southeast and the Gulf of Mexico region, particularly Florida, Georgia, and North Carolina.

Southeastern coastal upland habitats are also largely in decline. A considerable number of federally threatened, endangered, and at-risk species are associated with these ecosystems, as well as state listed species. To-date the southeast has seen:

  • A 99% loss of longleaf pine habitat,
  • A 98% loss of pine rockland habitat,
  • A 60-80% loss of tropical hardwood hammocks, and
  • 70-84% loss of coastal scrub and sandhills.
A debris strewn beach with fallen trees along the coast.

Boneyard beach at Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge in South Carolina is the result of a creeping seas. Photo by Stacy Shelton, USFWS.

Sea Level Rise

The southeastern coastline is experiencing large impacts from documented sea level rise. Along the mid to south Atlantic and Gulf coasts, the sea level has risen five to six inches more than the global average over the past 100 years.

Coastal wetland ecosystems are especially vulnerable, and the effects are particularly apparent in North Carolina, Louisiana and the Florida Everglades. Since the 1970’s, the Southeast Region has experienced a loss of over 55% of coastal wetlands. Despite the national trend of no-net-loss of wetlands in the early 2000’s, this region continues to show wetland loss, although the rate of loss is decreasing.

Erosion

Some of the most economically important vulnerable areas are recreational resorts on the coastal barriers of the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, where many ocean shores are currently eroding at a rate of 1-4 feet per year.

This causes tremendous pressure to renourish beaches with sand or provide hard armoring structures to the beachfronts with direct consequences to natural systems and processes.

The Opportunity

Habitat conservation plays a key role in sustaining healthy ecosystems for people, as well as maintaining and increasing wildlife populations.

Enhancing or restoring lost habitat and protecting existing habitat from human disturbances, non-native species and predators are the high priorities for coastal conservation in the southeastern United States.

Our Services

The Southeast Region Coastal Program supports voluntary, proactive and cooperative projects in these areas, focusing efforts to restore and protect habitat for federal trust species.

We provide technical expertise and financial assistance to:

  • Private landowners and citizens;
  • Native American tribes;
  • Non-profit organizations;
  • Municipal and local governments;
  • Business and industry.
A Service employee in uniform on the beach carrying a backpack and bionoculars.

A Service employee at Pensacola Beach. Photo by Tom MacKenzie, USFWS.

Types of Projects

Our projects are as diverse as the habitats that we restore and protect. Some activities include:

  • Coastal wetland restoration;
  • Coastal upland restoration (maritime forest, longleaf pine, grasslands);
  • Dune restoration;
  • Invasive species control;
  • Blue carbon;
  • Living shoreline construction (such as oyster reefs);
  • Coastal river/aquatic instream;
  • Nearshore habitat restoration (coral reefs, seagrass);
  • Land protection;
  • Partnerships with public and private lands.

Work With Us

If you would like to help conserve coastal habitats for the benefit of people and wildlife, contact the Coastal Program coordinator for your state, or direct general questions to the Regional Coordinator.

Regional Coordinator

Cindy Bohn
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Southeast Regional Office
1875 Century Boulevard
Atlanta, GA 30345
(404) 679-7122
cynthia_bohn@fws.gov

Alabama

Patric Harper, Northern Gulf Program Coordinator
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Grand Bay Coastal Resources Center
Moss Point, MS 39563
(228) 475-0765, extension 105
Patric_Harper@fws.gov

Florida, Georgia

Panhandle: Melody Ray-Culp, Panhandle Program Coordinator
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Panama City Ecological Services Field Office
1601 Balboa Avenue
Panama City, FL 34205
(850) 769-0552 extension 232
Melody_Ray-Culp@fws.gov

Northeast Florida and Georgia: Gianfranco Basili, Northeast Florida Program
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, North Florida Ecological Services Field Office
7915 Baymeadows Way, Suite 200
Jacksonville, FL 32256-7517
(904) 731-3079
gianfranco_basili@fws.gov

Tampa Bay: Katie Conrad, Tampa Bay Program Coordinator
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, North Florida Ecological Services Field Office
7915 Baymeadows Way, Suite 200
Jacksonville, FL 32256-7517
(904) 731-3191
katie_conrad@fws.gov

South Florida: Kevin Kalasz, South Florida/Everglades Coordinator
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Key Deer National Wildlife Refuge
28950 Watson Boulevard
Big Pine Key, Florida 33043-0687 (772) 205-7410
kevin_kalasz@fws.gov

Louisiana

Ronnie Paille
Lafayette Ecological Services Office
646 Cajundome Blvd., Suite 400
Lafayette LA 70506
(337) 291-3117
ronald_paille@fws.gov

Mississippi

Paul Necaise
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Mississippi Ecological Services Office
6578 Dogwood View Parkway
Jackson MS 39213
(228) 493-6631
Paul_Necaise@fws.gov

North Carolina

Mike Wicker, North Carolina Coordinator
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Raleigh Ecological Services Field Office
551-F Pylon Drive
Raleigh, NC 27636
(919) 856 4520 extension 22
Mike_Wicker@fws.gov

Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands

Ivan Llerandi-Roman, Caribbean Program Coordinator
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Caribbean Ecological Services Field Office
P.O. Box 491
Boqueron, Puerto Rico 00622-0491
(787) 851-7297 extension 224
ivan_llerandi-roman@fws.gov

South Carolina

Jason Ayers, South Carolina Coordinator
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Charleston Ecological Services Field Office
176 Croghan Spur Road, Suite 200
Charleston, SC 29407
(843) 727-4707 extension 220
Jason_Ayers@fws.gov