Audubon Praises Senate for Protecting 290,000 Coastal Acres and Bird Habitat from Storms and Rising Sea Levels

The Coastal Barrier Resources Act would provide protections along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts.
American Oystercatcher. Photo: Bryan Putnam/Audubon Photography Awards

WASHINGTON (April 19, 2024)—The National Audubon Society today praised the Senate for passing bipartisan legislation strengthening the Coastal Barrier Resources Act (CBRA), which has buffered people and birds from flooding and storm surges for more than 40 years, and saved taxpayers billions of dollars, by protecting undeveloped beaches, wetlands, and other coastal areas.

“This is a great step for exposed coastal communities, vulnerable bird habitat, and endangered wetlands that need more protection from coastal storms and flooding,” said Portia Mastin, coastal conservation policy manager at National Audubon Society. “We are grateful for Senator Carper’s and Senator Graham’s commitment to protecting our coastal communities and vulnerable bird populations, and we look forward to speedy adoption in the House of Representatives so that President Biden can sign this historic legislation soon.”

The Strengthening Coastal Communities Act was introduced last year by Sens. Tom Carper (D-DE) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC). The Senate passed it Thursday night, April 18, on a unanimous consent vote.

“Audubon South Carolina thanks Senator Graham for his critical work and leadership on the Strengthening Coastal Communities Act of 2023,” said Julia Dietz, policy director of Audubon South Carolina, “This legislation is vitally important to protecting South Carolina coastal communities and species, such as the Black Skimmer.”

Since 1982 the bipartisan CBRA has protected an estimated 3.5 million acres of pristine, undeveloped beaches, barrier islands, inlets, and wetlands along the Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico, Great Lakes, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. It has been remarkably effective.  

  • By removing eligibility for federal funding and financial assistance (like flood insurance) in sensitive coastal areas, CBRA has saved taxpayers nearly $10 billion to date, provided safe habitat for birds and other wildlife, and buffered nearby communities against storms and sea-level rise.

  • A recent study found that CBRA is highly effective at achieving its intended goals—reducing development by 85% in flood-prone areas, reducing flood damage in nearby communities by 25%, and adding ecologically important layers of protection. 

  • These protections ensure that coastal birds like American Oystercatchers and Piping Plovers that rely on these areas can nest, feed, and rest safely. 

  • These healthy, protected habitats also act as nature’s speed bumps, buffering nearby communities from storms and floodwaters. 

In 2022 the Department of the Interior recommended that Congress add over 277,000 acres to the CBRA system in nine states from New Hampshire to Virginia that were hit hardest by Hurricane Sandy in order to save federal tax dollars and better protect the Atlantic Coast against future storms. The Department of Interior also recommended adding over 15,000 acres along South Carolina, Florida, and Louisiana.

The new Strengthening Coastal Communities Act will implement the Interior Department’s recommendations, and add new protected areas to the system that are vulnerable to storms and sea-level rise. This will be the largest expansion of the Coastal Barrier Resources System (CBRS) since 1990.

“This significant expansion of the CBRS is crucial to protecting vulnerable habitats along the Delaware coast, and all Mid-Atlantic coasts that are vital stop-overs for migrating birds, like Red Knots and Common Terns,”said Jim Brown, policy director of Audubon Mid-Atlantic. “We commend Senator Carper for his leadership on this expansion.” 

The new act will also authorize a pilot project to identify new upland areas where beaches and marshes can naturally migrate as sea levels rise, and expand the definition of coastal landforms included in the system, all of which will enhance climate resiliency for the future.

Media contact: Robyn Shepherd, 

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