With the historic and natural backdrop of Ebenezer Creek watershed, twelve organizations came together on Monday, May 8, 2017 to launch the Georgia Coast Collaborative (GCC) – a unique initiative to celebrate the unique resource that is coastal Georgia. The Georgia Coast Collaborative represents an unprecedented effort to unite residents around a common vision and goals for the future of Georgia’s 100-mile coast. Altamaha Riverkeeper, Center for a Sustainable Coast, Georgia/Alabama Land Trust, Greenlaw, Ogeechee Riverkeeper, One Hundred Miles, Satilla Riverkeeper, Savannah Riverkeeper, Southern Environmental Law Center, St. Simons Land Trust, The Georgia Conservancy, and The Nature Conservancy in Georgia have joined together to form the GCC.During the May 8th launch event, GCC members came together to share their goals and vision with the public and celebrate our coastal resources with a paddle through scenic Ebenezer Creek.Coastal Georgia’s unique combination of wildlife habitat, vast landscapes, and rich culture and community is unmatched. Together these elements have created an outstanding quality of life. That’s why, using the tools of land conservation, project advocacy, policy advocacy, and legal efforts, members of the GCC are a partnership of nonprofit organizations working to promote and protect the special places, rivers, communities, and significance of this special place. The groups work in different ways and on varying organizational goals, but share a vision of the future where the quality of life along Georgia’s coast is secure.By working collaboratively toward a set of shared goals, the groups in the GCC envision a future where awareness and celebration of our coastal resources as well as citizen participation in community conversation, encourages leaders to take actions that reflect the area’s conservation values and results in improved quality of life for coastal Georgia’s future generations.
“The GCC is a chance for those of us who work to protect our amazing coastal resources to share the story of what we are all about,” adds Jen Hilburn, Altamaha Riverkeeper and Executive Director. “We hope our positive vision will bring in more individuals to address the threats we face and preserve our economic security and quality of life in coastal Georgia.”
The roots of the GCC began in 2015, when several member organization gathered to discuss the challenges facing coastal Georgia. “Population growth and impacts from sea level rise are major threats that compromise the long-term health of our coastal communities and environment,” says Megan Desrosiers, CEO of One Hundred Miles. “Addressing such big issues can be overwhelming and difficult to convey in a way that resonates with the public. The GCC emerged as structure for telling the story of why we do what we do.”
While using different tactics, all twelve member groups embrace four primary goals that each are working to achieve:
- Protect, connect, and enhance environments for coastal plants and animals to adapt to changes in seal level and benefit the community;
- Maintain thriving, working landscapes and waterfronts that support the sustainable production of food and fiber for our communities;
- Cultivate opportunities to enjoy and recreate in the special places and historic communities along Georgia’s coast; and
- Promote economic development that respects natural environments and preserves the character of our coastal communities.
Many of the organizations involved in GCC work together on specific projects or land conservation initiatives that are important individually. David Pope, Executive Director of the St. Simons Land Trust, says, “The GCC provides a positive context for the diverse projects that may not always seem connected.”
The Georgia Coast Collaborative’s State of Coastal Conservation 2017 report will tell the story of the organizations’ collaboration and outlines their shared vision and goals. The GCC plans to evaluate collective progress toward the four major goals annually and share that information with the community. Transparency and clear communication about progress toward the shared vision will help to foster greater engagement by citizens, local and state government officials, and throughout the conservation community.