Press Room

Audubon Opposes Removal of Protections for Coastal Areas

Department of Interior Secretary David Bernhardt's decision will allow sand to be removed from important bird and wildlife habitats.

WASHINGTON (Nov. 8, 2019) – The following statement was issued by Dr. Karen Hyun, Vice President for Coastal Conservation at the National Audubon Society, in response to a letter from U.S. Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt to Rep. Jeff Van Drew (D-NJ) ruling that sand from places protected by the Coastal Barrier Resources Act can be mined for beach renourishment:

“The National Audubon Society is deeply concerned about the recent decision by Secretary Bernhardt to overturn protections for pristine coastal areas that have been in place for a quarter-century. Undeveloped coastal islands and beaches will now be opened up to sand mining that will imperil birds and other wildlife, destroy important habitat, and reduce the protections these places provide against impacts of storms and erosion for coastal communities.

Secretary Bernhardt’s decision erases long-held protections for birds and taxpayers. This decision was made with no opportunity for public review or comment. It will use federal tax dollars to pay for sand mining that will harm habitat and threaten wildlife in areas that were made off-limits to taxpayer-funded activities by President Reagan when he signed the Coastal Barrier Resources Act into law.  Secretary Bernhardt’s sudden erasure of decades of policy places our tax dollars and vital coastal areas at risk.”


Background information:

  • The Coastal Barrier Resources Act (CBRA) was signed into law by President Reagan and expanded several times by Congress, most recently in December 2018.
  • It is supported by conservative think tanks, sportsmen’s groups, environmental organizations, state officials and insurance industry organizations around the country, who recently urged the Department of the Interior to expand the law. 
  • The CBRA:
    • Saves federal tax dollars: It prohibits most federal expenditures on areas included in the Act’s System which covers 3.5 million acres along the Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico and Great Lakes. A March 2019 economic analysis concluded that the Act has saved the federal taxpayer more than $10 billion.
    • Promotes public safety: The Act explicitly discourages development in hurricane- and storm-prone coastal areas by withdrawing most federal funds that support development. By prohibiting taxpayer-funded development, the Act protects islands and beaches that help protect inland communities from storms and sea-level rise. 
    • Conserves the coastal environment: The Act protects coastal lands, wetlands, and waters that are essential habitat for wildlife and commercial and recreational fisheries. 

About Audubon
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. Learn more at and on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram at @audubonsociety.

Contact: Rachel Guillory,, 504.708.5873


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