Wetlands Watch Home
|Contact Information||Phone: (757) 623-4835|
|Founder||Jay Taylor, John Blandin, Mason Andrews|
|No. of Employees||3|
Wetlands Watch started in 1999 as a backyard group of Norfolk citizens concerned about dredging and wetlands destruction. Today, we are the only statewide organization in the Eastern United States working at the grassroots level with singular focus on saving wetlands.
Wetlands Watch is small, smart, and growing, having evolved in a measured and careful way since its start in 1999: from local activism, to regional volunteer group, to statewide organization, to a regional resource.
Wetlands Watch began in 1999, when a group of concerned and talented residents of Norfolk, Virginia, met to oppose a dredging permit on Crab Creek. From this effort grew a realization that wetlands-disturbing activities were routinely occurring across the city, the region, and the State. Founding board members included a former Mayor of Norfolk, numerous doctors and professionals, Garden Club members, and citizens of every kind who wanted to protect wetlands.
Wetlands Watch was incorporated in 2001 as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, launching on Earth Day of that year to continue our work on wetlands protection.
We received our first grant in 2004 from the Virginia “license plate fund” to educate waterfront homeowners about wetlands conservation. Our visibility increased and we were asked to sit on statewide panels and environmental agency committees. One such assignment with the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality resulted in their directing a significant wetlands penalty payment to Wetlands Watch in 2005.
This funding triggered our decision to move to a paid staff operation and seek our first major foundation grant in 2006.
Our early regulatory and policy work focused on local, state, and federal wetlands permit decisions, but we soon learned that this did not get us far – in a strong property rights state, land use decisions often trump the regulatory process. Today, we spend much of our time helping individuals, organizations, and local governments to make better land use decisions to protect the coastal and wetlands environments.
Our most recent turn came with a realization that sea level rise threatened Virginia’s tidal wetlands and shorelines. We estimated that with the region’s rate of relative sea level rise we stood to lose between 50 and 80 percent of our vegetated tidal wetlands. Starting in 2007, Wetlands Watch began a campaign to help local governments in eastern Virginia adapt to sea level rise.
Today we continue our work as educators, advocates, and activists on behalf of Virginia’s wetlands. We balance our work between addressing today’s challenges and those posed by sea level rise in coming decades.
I became an environmentalist in the wetlands of Back Bay in Virginia and the New River in North Carolina. As a child, hunting and fishing with my father, I saw many sunrises and sunsets over mid-Atlantic marshes. I had many quiet conversations with my dad learning about the habits and habitats of marsh wildlife and the wonders of our wetlands.
Today I can’t take a breath of the rich, salty air around a tidal wetland without being transported back to those wonderful days. That is what drives me to keep these lands protected and open, so my children and grandchildren can have the same experiences.
I have always loved being on and in the water. As a kid, we lived near the beach in Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo, California. Many of my early memories are associated with exploring the tidal pools, collecting shells and rocks, and walking through the native, sun-crisped meadows. Twenty years ago, my husband and I bought a “rivah” cottage in Virginia on the Chesapeake Bay at the mouth of the Potomac River. My kids have grown up swimming, crabbing, fishing, and boating in the Bay. After all these years of enjoying this beautiful treasure, I feel obligated and motivated to promote the changes in our water and land-use practices to protect this valuable resource and it’s habitats.
Wetlands Watch has provided me with an opportunity to blend my passion for environmental conservation and preservation with my professional expertise gained as an environmental consultant, landscape designer, and planning commissioner. As an environmental consultant, I gained experience with flood insurance studies, hydrogeology, groundwater modeling, environmental litigation, and permitting. As a landscape designer and small business owner, I encouraged my clients to use native plants and minimize lawns and pesticides. As a former James City County planning commissioner, I developed public policy, became knowledgeable about the land-use decision-making process and environmentally-friendly development techniques such as low impact stormwater management and green infrastructure.
My philosophy matches the Wetland Watch philosophy that “citizens properly informed and motivated, will be the source of the energy and vision needed to guide Virginia through the difficult times ahead”. I look forward to working for Wetlands Watch as we continue to inform and motivate our localities and region to plan for adaptation to sea level rise and wetlands preservation and restoration.
I grew up on the coast of Maine spending summer days sailing and at the beach. I have always had a love and appreciation for the natural environment, especially the ocean. After spending two college summers interning with a marine stewardship organization in Portland, Maine, I found that my passion was in helping citizens, local governments, and other interested parties work together to use our oceans and coasts in a sustainable and smart manner.
In order to pursue this passion, I earned a master’s degree in Marine Affairs from the University of Rhode Island. With a particular interest in how climate change affects the coast, I narrowed my focus in graduate school to coastal hazards management; specifically, how to deal with rising sea levels and destructive storms along developed coastlines. This background led me to the work that Wetlands Watch has begun, working at the local level to raise awareness and seek solutions for sea level rise and flooding in Virginia.
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Philosophy & Culture
Education leads to informed and engaged citizens who appreciate and value wetlands, providing the motivation and knowledge to protect and conserve them. Environmental regulators and local government need the support of these informed and engaged citizens to effectively enforce laws and regulations. Wetlands protection and conservation cannot be achieved without consensus, commitment, and partnership. Working at the state and local government levels, Wetlands Watch and its partners look at land use and regulatory practices, identify the factors that undermine wetlands protection, and advocate for changes needed for effective stewardship of our wetlands resources.
Through better land-use decisions and practices wetlands impacts from activities like dredging, hardened shoreline protection like bulkheads, sprawl and shoreline development can be minimized or avoided. At the local level, Wetlands Watch works with homeowners, developers, planners and regulators to encourage better land-use decisions and practices.
Sea Level Rise combined with land subsidence threatens tidal wetlands, wildlife and fish habitats, and the economy in coastal Virginia. In order to prepare for these impacts and ensure a vibrant economy and environment, Virginia must develop and implement an adaptation plan. Wetlands Watch works to raise awareness, engage and educate all stakeholders and decision-makers about existing and potential sea level rise impacts, incorporate this threat into regional and local land-use plans and decisions, and develop and implement sea level rise adaptation plans.
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