by Michele S. Byers, Executive Director, New Jersey Conservation Foundation
People are drawn to where the water meets the land: sun-drenched beaches, gentle bay shores, riverbanks and wooded lakesides. The intersection of land and water is referred to as the “littoral” zone. The American Littoral Society (ALS) was formed in Sandy Hook 50 years ago to preserve these precious places.
“As one of the country’s oldest coastal conservation groups, we’ve spent 50 years promoting the study and conservation of marine life and its habitat, defending the coast from harm, and empowering others to do the same,” said Tim Dillingham, executive director of ALS.
Today the Society’s three chapters have more than 5,000 members in 49 states. Founded by divers and naturalists, the group is now headquartered in Highlands, N.J., and maintains satellite offices in Trenton, Millville and Broad Channel, N.Y.
Over the past 50 years, the American Littoral Society has used education, advocacy and conservation to protect marine life and coastal environments. It has been a leading voice for restoring Barnegat Bay, protecting the Delaware Bay shore, and for the public’s right to access and enjoy beaches and waters. It has been one of the leaders in efforts to protect horseshoe crabs and the migratory shorebirds that depend on them for sustenance.
“Our work ended ocean dumping of pollution, increased understanding of estuaries and fish, and won landmark lawsuits for clean water and public access to the shore,” said Dillingham.
ALS also works to restore damaged habitats like oyster reefs, dunes and salt marshes; and it runs the oldest volunteer tag-and-release fisheries research program in the country, working with almost 2,000 recreational fishermen and scientists.
Ensuring public access to beaches has been a number one priority, as was evident in the way ALS chose to celebrate its 50th anniversary. ALS’s “Share the Shore” event on Saturday, Aug. 20, encouraged people to get out with family and friends to enjoy their favorite “shore thing” – whether building sandcastles, kite boarding, fishing, kayaking, shell collecting, swimming, surfing or even painting pictures of the beach!
From Montauk, Long Island, to the Delaware Bay, participants were also asked to share their shore activity through photos and videos. The Society will use them to create a virtual tour – a fun way to educate people about the importance of protecting our coastal environments.
Despite the popularity of the Jersey Shore – the beach, not the TV show! – people still need reminding about the very real threats to our coast. As the Society enters its sixth decade, it’s preparing to fight new limits to public beach access, clean up Barnegat and Jamaica Bays and safeguard coastal waters from damaging industrial uses.
Conservation in this state we’re in takes many forms. Thanks to the tireless advocacy of the American Littoral Society, millions of us can share the shore every year … and preserve it for future generations!
As summer winds down, make sure you take the time to enjoy our spectacular coastline. To learn more about ALS, visit their website at www.littoralsociety.org. You can find out more about “Share the Shore” at www.sharetheshore.net.
And if you’d like more information about conserving New Jersey’s land and natural resources, please visit the New Jersey Conservation Foundation’s website at www.njconservation.org or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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