National Extension Tourism (NET): 2021 Conf. Proceedings

Coastal Awareness and Responsible Ecotourism: Building Community to Support Shorebird Conservation Katie Higgins , Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant, Abby Sterling , Manomet, Inc.,


In addition to important habitat for shorebirds and other wildlife, the Georgia coast is a major draw for both tourists and residents. Nature based tourism is a thriving component of the coastal economy, providing an important opportunity to connect residents and tourists to their environment (Loerzel et al., 2018; Dusenberry, 2020). One of the special attractions of the 100-mile Georgia coastline is remote areas inaccessible without a boat or local knowledge of the waterways, which has prompted a focus on public access to waterways and a subsequent increase in watercraft and boater activity in recent years (Loerzel et al., 2018; GADNR, 2022). The Georgia coast provides critical habitat to at least 300,000 shorebirds throughout the year and has been recognized as a landscape of hemispheric importance for resident and long-range migrators (WHSRN 2018). From March through August, island beaches and shell rakes are important nesting sites for species such as American Oystercatchers (state threatened) and Wilson’s Plovers (state rare). Sandbars, barrier beaches, and marsh edges are important feeding and roosting sites during spring and fall migration, when the Georgia coast supports populations of Arctic-nesting shorebirds such as the federally threatened rufa Red Knot, and significant portions of populations of other declining species including Semipalmated Sandpipers and Black-bellied Plovers. During the winter, our coast hosts significant numbers of the federally endangered Great Lakes nesting population of Piping Plovers. These species depend on low disturbance areas to feed and roost. The creation of the Coastal Awareness and Responsible Ecotourism (CARE) certification initiative is an ongoing collaborative project among UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant, Manomet, and Georgia Department of Natural Resources (GA DNR). The objectives of the program are to increase buy-in for businesses by providing a marketable credential, increasing communication between businesses and the agencies trying to reduce

2021 NET Conference Proceedings


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