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New Bipartisan Laws Will Modernize a Essential Coastal Legislation


WASHINGTON (December 6, 2022) – Today Senators Tom Carper (D-DE) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) introduced bipartisan legislation that would expand one of the most important bedrock environmental laws to protect people and birds on our coasts. The Strengthening Coastal Communities Act of 2022 will update and modernize the Coastal Barrier Resources Act, a decades-old law that uses a market-based approach to protect undeveloped beaches, wetlands, and other coastal areas.

“For 40 years, this law has saved lives, saved tax dollars, and preserved the places that birds and people need on our coasts,” said Brian Moore, vice president of coastal policy at National Audubon Society. “It’s time now to expand those protections to more areas, to ensure that CBRA can keep delivering benefits in the face of climate change.”

Created in 1982, the Coastal Barrier Resources Act (CBRA) protects 3.5 million acres of undeveloped barrier islands, beaches, inlets, and wetlands along the Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico, Great Lakes, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. These areas provide safe, undisturbed habitat for coastal birds like American Oystercatchers and Piping Plovers to nest, feed, and rest during migration. They also act as nature’s speed bumps, buffering nearby communities from storms and floodwaters. By removing taxpayer-funded subsidies for development in hazardous coastal areas, CBRA promotes public safety and has saved federal taxpayers nearly $10 billion over 25 years.

Following years of study and public input, the Department of the Interior is recommending Congress add over 277,000 acres to the CBRA system in nine states hit hardest by Hurricane Sandy 10 years ago. With this new bill, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia all stand to gain significant new protections on their coasts.

“Coastal wetlands like those in the Chesapeake and Delaware Bays were critical in reducing property damage along the Atlantic Coast during Hurricane Sandy,” said Jim Brown, policy director for Audubon Mid-Atlantic. “This bill will extend these protections to even more areas in the region and beyond, protecting critical wildlife habitat, and human communities from the next big storm.”

Additionally, other coastal states vulnerable to sea-level rise and storm impacts like South Carolina, Florida, and Louisiana will gain new protections in this legislation. The bill also authorizes a pilot project to identify new upland areas adjacent to the CBRA system that could also be added to allow wetlands within the system to naturally move inland as sea levels rise.

“South Carolina’s coastal birds are in decline, and they depend on the undisturbed habitat of the CBRA system,” said Nolan Schillerstrom, coastal program manager for Audubon South Carolina. “These new protected areas will provide much-needed benefits to both people and birds in our state.”

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The National Audubon Society protects birds and the places they need, today and tomorrow. Audubon works throughout the Americas using science, advocacy, education, and on-the-ground conservation. State programs, nature centers, chapters, and partners give Audubon an unparalleled wingspan that reaches millions of people each year to inform, inspire, and unite diverse communities in conservation action. A nonprofit conservation organization since 1905, Audubon believes in a world in which people and wildlife thrive. 

Contact: Rachel Guillory, rachel.guillory@audubon.org

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