Coastal dunes, one of the threatened California ecosystems, found at Moss Landing, California, north of Monterey.
Moss Landing Coastal dunes, one of the threatened California ecosystems, found at Moss Landing, California, north of Monterey. © Kiliii Yuyan

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The Nature Conservancy’s Hope for the Coast Blueprint Adopted by Major California Coastal Leaders

Vision outlines key on-the-ground strategies to protect coast in face of climate change

SAN FRANCISCO— The Nature Conservancy announced today at the Global Climate Action Summit that a coalition of California state, federal, and local coastal managers have adopted its Hope for the Coast vision committing to protect and increase natural landscape along the California coast to face down the threats of sea level rise.

Hope for the Coast 3/4 of California’s beaches are at risk from sea level rise.

The coalition, which will be led by California Secretary of Natural Resources John Laird, includes the California Ocean Protection Council, the California Coastal Conservancy, the California Coastal Commission, the State Lands Commission, the three National Estuarine Research Reserves of California, the Central Coast Climate Collaborative, San Diego Regional Climate Collaborative, as well as local decision makers including the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors, Oxnard Mayor Pro Tem Carmen Ramirez, Los Angeles County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, and Imperial Beach Mayor Serge Dedina.

The Nature Conservancy created the Hope for the Coast initiative this summer after assessing the entire undeveloped coastline. The study, completed this spring in collaboration with the California State Coastal Conservancy, showed that over half of the state’s coastal habitats are highly vulnerable to sea level rise. The assessment also quantifies and maps five strategies to maintain California’s iconic coastline in the face of sea level rise. Hope for the Coast serves as a blueprint for state, local, and federal agencies, and private conservation planners so that all can take coordinated, sustained action to protect the entire Californian coast, wild and developed, from sea level rise.

“If we do nothing, the news is dire. But, if we heed the alarm, there’s hope. By acting now and uniting across five key science-based strategies, we can ensure that – even with sea level rise - we have as much or more natural coast statewide,” said Sarah Newkirk, Senior Coastal Project Director for The Nature Conservancy.

The Hope for the Coast campaign reflects the longstanding environmental values of Californians who have consistently voted to protect and invest in California’s iconic coastline. Following the Global Climate Action Summit, The Nature Conservancy will continue its effort to galvanize a majority of entities with a stake in the coast around the vision.

“As our dynamic coastline changes, our approach to the coast and our beaches must also change,” Newkirk said. “Our agency partners are already doing outstanding conservation work across the state, but we are challenged by static policies and a lack of coordination. Rising ocean levels require a dynamic response now that change is happening much more quickly. It will be possible for future generations to enjoy beaches and healthy coastal habitats like we do today, but only if we act now, together.”

The Hope for Coast vision promotes five bold science-based strategies for climate leaders and coastal managers to adopt to protect the plants, animals, and natural landscape that define the California coastline:

  1. Maintain existing protected coastal areas and manage them to maintain resilience to sea level rise.
  2. Conserve natural areas that can withstand sea level rise
  3. Restore coastal areas that can’t move inland but can be made more resilient with intervention.
  4. Avoid further development of lightly developed coastal lands like coastal farms that, with sea level rise, could transform into natural shoreline.
  5. Adapt developed lands using natural infrastructure like wetlands and dunes for defenses against sea level rise.

Key Findings from the The Nature Conservancy and State Coastal Conservancy Coastal Assessment:

  • 59% of current coastal habitat area across the state is highly vulnerable to five feet of sea level rise, including 76% of California’s iconic beaches, 58% of rocky intertidal habitat, 58% of marshes, and 55% of tidal flats.
  • Sea level rise will further stress populations of 39 rare, threatened, or endangered species, and drown 41,000 acres of public conservation lands with subtidal waters.

These strategies are designed to protect areas like the Lost Coast of Mendocino and Humboldt counties and the San Francisco Bay Delta. The Lost Coast is the largest piece of undeveloped oceanfront land in the U.S. outside of Alaska, and the San Francisco Bay Delta supports the largest coastal marshes in the state. These strategies will also protect and enhance long stretches of the coast throughout the state. 

The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world's toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at an unprecedented scale, providing food and water sustainably and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in 72 countries, we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit www.nature.org or follow @nature_press on Twitter.