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Georgia Barrier Islands Dedicated as 100th WHSRN Site

Updated: Jun 18, 2018

May 24, 2018

Townsend, Georgia – With a backdrop of flags representing seventeen countries from across North and South America, 150 people gathered at Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge in Townsend to celebrate the designation of Georgia’s coast as a landscape of hemispheric importance for shorebirds. Each flag showcased a country recognized by the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network (WHSRN – as a critical site for the survival of threatened shorebirds.

The designation of Georgia’s barrier islands marked WHSRN’s 100th site, a prestigious award that brought in visitors from as far north as Alaska and as far south as Paraguay. The event also welcomed residents from the Harris Neck and Shellman Bluff communities, as well as bird enthusiasts from Atlanta, Tybee Island, Brunswick, and other areas across the state. Members of the Georgia Shorebird Alliance shared information and showcase coastal Georgia’s conservation efforts for attendees.

Kimberly Hayes, manager of the Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge, welcomed all guests to begin the hour-long program. Speakers included Megan Desrosiers, CEO of One Hundred Miles; Dr. Rob Clay, Director of the WHSRN Executive Office; and Brad Winn, Director of Shorebird Habitat Management at Manomet and former program manager for the Coastal Nongame Conservation Section of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.

Brad Winn discusses the importance of the WHSRN designation. Photo Credit: Maina Handmaker

On the program to address the international connectivity of WHSRN sites were Kerry Lee Morris-Cormier with Nature Conservancy Canada working in the Bay of Fundy and César Guerrero Ávila, Executive Director, Terra Peninsular working to protect the Baja California peninsula.

Mr. Peter Stangel, Chief Operating Officer with the U.S. Endowment for Forests and Communities inspired guests with a keynote address on the importance of partnerships and individual action for the protection of threatened species. “The need for expanding and strengthening WHSRN is greater than ever. Many shorebird species continue to decline, our coasts and wetlands face challenges as never before from extreme weather and sea-level rise, and human use of coastlines grows constantly,” Stangel observed. He urged the crowd, “We need the next 100 WHSRN sites in a fraction of the 30 years it took to get the first 100. To do this, we need to mobilize our base—birders—but we also have to make sure these shorebird reserves have a broader connection in our society.”

The new WHSRN landscape holds a variety of habitats of importance to shorebirds, including island beaches and dunes, offshore sand bars, and extensive sand and mud flats exposed at low tides. One of the more remarkable attributes of the landscape is the number of natural inlets with no engineered channels. All of the inland sides of the barrier islands include extensive salt marsh, which provides critical foraging habitat for shorebirds throughout the year.

Catherine Hickey, Chair of the WHSRN Hemispheric Council, presented each Georgia site partner with a certificate. Site partners included National Parks Service (Cumberland Island National Seashore and Fort Pulaski National Monument), U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (Savannah Coastal Refuges Complex), and the privately-owned Little Cumberland Island, St. Catherines Island, and Little St. Simons Island. The St. Simons Land Trust and The Nature Conservancy of Georgia accepted certificates for managing their properties for the preservation of shorebirds—Cannon’s Point Preserve and Musgrove Preserve on St. Simons Island and Driftwood Plantation, respectively. The City of Tybee Island was recognized as the most recent site partner to commit to managing their municipal parks and beach crossovers to benefit shorebirds. Together, Georgia-designated landscape totals nearly 80,000 acres, expanding the vast international WHSRN network to 15 million hectares, an area roughly the size of the State of Georgia.

Site partners span the entire Georgia coast. Photo credit: Maina Handmaker

The Georgia Barrier Islands WHSRN Landscape was designated due to its supporting more than 30% of the population of both rufa Red Knot and the Great Lakes breeding population of Piping Plover. Other notable birds that are currently visiting our Georgia coast include the

American Oystercatcher, Black-bellied Plover, and Whimbrel. “For Shorebirds dependent on the US Atlantic Coast, Georgia supports a complex mosaic of important habitat that provides food and resting places twelve months of each year,” said Manomet’s Brad Winn. “Free-flowing rivers and inlets allowed to move with the seasons are rare in any state, and Georgians should work hard to protect the quality and quantity of its water and natural beach landscapes.”

Following the dedication ceremony, the WHSRN delegation joined One Hundred Miles and local guides from Coastal Outdoor Adventures and Southeast Adventure Outfitters for a rainy boat trip into the Altamaha River Delta to witness a shorebird feeding frenzy on eggs spawned by horseshoe crabs. Such robust annual spawning events are a major reason why shorebirds, such as Red Knots, Dunlin, Ruddy Turnstones and Dowitcher, depend on Georgia’s barrier islands as a refueling stop for their continued migration to the Arctic for nesting.

“The connections between humans and nature are clear,” said Megan Desrosiers of One Hundred Miles. “What’s good for the shorebird is good for us, too. It is time that we celebrate and embrace the connections that tie us to each other and our surroundings. Only then will we work to preserve them.”


Contact: Alice Keyes, One Hundred Miles VP of Coastal Conservation,,

(912) 230-6494 and Danielle Sarmir, Manomet Marketing and Communications Manager,, 207-721-9040

About One Hundred Miles:

One Hundred Miles is a 501(c)3 coastal advocacy organization with a mission of protecting, preserving, and enhancing the 100-mile Georgia coast. Led by a dedicated staff of eight and a committed, seven-member Board of Directors, OHM has staff in Brunswick and Savannah and conducts advocacy, coalition building, and public education and celebration throughout the state. One Hundred Miles focuses on core issues of water and wetlands, land use, changing climate, and wildlife. For more information on Georgia’s shorebirds and the WHSRN designation, please visit

About Manomet:

Manomet is a nonprofit organization that believes people can live and work today in ways that will enable our world to thrive and prosper tomorrow. Manomet’s mission: applying science and engaging people to sustain our world. Through science, site conservation, and habitat management, Manomet’s Shorebird Recovery Program is working with partners across the hemisphere to conserve critical sites and improve the quality and availability of habitat for imperiled shorebirds. Visit for more information.

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