Bald Head Island Conservancy

Coastal Sustainability

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Working Strategy for BHI Conservancy

Johnston Center for Coastal Sustainability

The Bald Head Island Conservancy has established a Center for Coastal Sustainability to serve as a research partnership and education hub for sustainability-related initiatives on Bald Head Island (BHI), North Carolina. We intend for the Center to eventually serve as a beacon for coastal sustainability initiatives throughout the southeastern United States in pursuit of enhanced environmentally sustainable living and development. By incorporating experts from across disciplines including coastal science, engineering, management, economics, land use planning, and human social dynamics, the Center will promote strategies that allow Bald Head Island and coastal communities to adapt to and/or mitigate threats at the land-sea interface including flooding, land-use change, and coastal pollution. Bald Head Island is a planned community that has had “living in harmony with nature” at the heart of its development perspective since the 1960s when the Save Bald Head movement challenged developers who had disregarded the ecological integrity of the environment.

The legacy of environmental awareness was amplified by the Mitchell family (Bald Head Island Limited) who purchased the island in 1983 and helped found the Conservancy in this same year. Because of BHI’s sense of community pride, synergistic relationships among the municipal government, businesses, and nonprofit organizations (Conservancy and Old Baldy Foundation), Bald Head Island is an ideal location for establishing a Center for Coastal Sustainability.

In 2022, seed funding for the Center was provided by Dick and Pat Johnston, long-time Bald Head Island residents and Conservancy supporters. An important first step in the creation of the Center was defining the term ‘sustainability’ as it relates to coastal environments. Coastal systems in their natural steady state are dynamic across a wide range of time and spatial scales, yet remain stable in that they are resilient to both episodic and chronic stressors. Most modern human interventions that drastically alter natural dynamics on populated coastlines have caused a disruption to the previously stable, steady state long-term behavior of the coastal system. For the purpose of the Center, coastal sustainability will be defined as a characteristic whereby the actions of humans promote stable long-term behavior of the entire coastal system as storms, sea level rise, and other climatic factors change. It is expected that the Center will principally serve Bald Head Island, but will eventually expand to assist other southeastern United States coastal communities.