EVENT: David Pope of non-profit environmental advocacy organization, Southern Environmental Law Center, to speak at Skidaway Rotary

3 02 2009

David Pope of the Southern Environmental Law Center will speak to the Skidaway Rotary Feb. 18 about “Protecting Coastal Treasures.” Pope will discuss the unique and important resources on the Georgia coast, the threats they face, and what SELC is doing to protect those resources. The Southern Environmental Law Center is a non-profit, donor-supported environmental advocacy organization using the power of the law to protect the environment and special places in the South. Working to defend the public’s interest and never for private gain, SELC provides its legal services without charge to other environmental organizations and partner groups.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

(SAVANNAH, GA) David Pope of the non-profit environmental advocacy organization, the Southern Environmental Law Center, will speak to the Skidaway Rotary February 18 about “Protecting Coastal Treasures.” Pope will discuss the unique and important resources on the Georgia coast, the threats they face, and what SELC is doing to protect those resources. The Southern Environmental Law Center uses the power of the law to protect the environment and special places in the South. Working to defend the public’s interest and never for private gain, SELC provides its legal services without charge to other environmental organizations and partner groups. SELC has a special initiative focused on protecting the Georgia coast with three lawyers working on this effort.

The Director of the Georgia/Alabama office of the Southern Environmental Law Center, Pope oversees the nonprofit environmental advocacy organization’s special initiative focused on protecting the Georgia coast. He also supervises all of SELC’s other work in Georgia and Alabama, including work to protect the public’s interest in our air, water and forests and work to improve our transportation issues and energy efficiency. In addition, he serves on the management committee for the organization and helps sets the priorities for work throughout the South.

He is a former partner at Carr, Tabb & Pope in Atlanta, with 29 years of environmental law practice. He graduated from University of Florida, Phi Beta Kappa, and University of North Carolina Law School.
About the Southern Environmental Law Center SELC is a nonprofit donor supported, environmental advocacy organization using the power of the law to protect the environment and health in the Southeast. Since 1986, SELC has informed, implemented and enforced environmental law and policy concerning clean air and water, mountain forests, the coast and wetlands, and rural lands and livable communities. Working to defend the public’s interest and never for private gain, SELC provides its legal services without charge to other environmental organizations and partner groups. SELC has 63 staff members and offices in Charlottesville and Richmond, Virginia; Chapel Hill and Asheville, North Carolina; Charleston, South Carolina, Washington, DC,; and Atlanta. Visit SELC online at www.southernenvironment.org





DOT action could kill Beltline, angry mayor says

27 01 2009

 

ARIEL HART | The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

City of Atlanta officials are fuming over a move by the state Department of Transportation and Amtrak that they say could kill the Beltline, a planned 22-mile loop of transit, parks and trails around the city’s core.

The dispute centers on part of the land the Beltline would need.

Georgia DOT and Amtrak have united against the city and the Norfolk Southern rail company to oppose abandonment of a key northeast part of the corridor, according to a letter Mayor Shirley Franklin wrote to Rep. John Lewis. The abandonment would enable redevelopment.

“GDOT has acted to thwart the Beltline and with it jeopardized Atlanta’s ability to plan and accommodate the growth we know is coming in the next several decades,” Franklin wrote.

She said DOT’s actions would put noisy heavy rail, such as Amtrak trains, in inappropriate environments like neighborhoods near Piedmont Park, “at the expense of the Beltline.”

She called DOT’s behavior “boorish” and said that “the future of the city of Atlanta is at stake.”

DOT officials said the state’s actions are no threat to the Beltline.

DOT spokesman David Spear said that DOT remained “completely, totally supportive” of the Beltline and that it was possible to follow both DOT’s plans and the city’s plans for the Beltline.

Atlanta officials have hoped the Beltline will seed a rebirth in close-in Atlanta areas by attracting dense, pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods of homes, businesses and entertainment within walking distance from mass transit stops.





Retail veteran gave new life to Chattahoochee Nature Center

30 11 2008

Ann Bergstrom, an Atlanta native, practically grew up in the woods of the Southeast, she says. Her father was in the U.S. Forest Service and taught her to love the outdoors.

That passion for the natural world continued through her adult life, though she kept it separate from her career for decades. Monday through Friday, she worked in retail marketing, including 25 years at Rich’s and Federated department stores. She and her husband spent their weekends canoeing and camping.

Then, in December 1999, she took on what she considers the hardest challenge of her life. She became director of the Chattahoochee Nature Center, which was struggling and in danger of shutting down, she said.

She has been able to stabilize the financial health of the nonprofit and raise nearly $10 million for a new facility that is under construction. The 10,000-square-foot Discovery Center, scheduled to open in June, will focus on education about the Chattahoochee River. It will house interactive exhibits, a high-definition theater and a rooftop garden terrace for community activities.

 

Q: Why did you take this job when you knew the center was struggling?

 

A: It was a call to the heart. I gave it a lot of thought. I came down here and walked the trails. I went in and out of the place a number of times anonymously without anyone knowing who I was. I could see visibly that the center was needy in a lot of ways. I thought about it, prayed about it. … I am the only director who has stayed more than five years in the center’s 32 years of existence. It is a very difficult challenge and has been since the initial launching of the center.

 

Q: Why is it such a difficult challenge?

 

A: It is an environmental nonprofit. Put that at the top of the list. There are almost no environmental nonprofits in the state of Georgia. There is no critical mass for the work we do. There is no official structure in state or local government to work with and support nonprofits that work in the environmental field, or, for that matter, in the science field.

Education is sort of the overlooked part of the environmental continuum. I think the general public thinks environmental education is taught in schools and it is something we should all just sort of understand and know, that the real issues that deserve support in the environmental arena are the crises — saving a piece of land that is going to be lost to development or saving a habitat in which animals are in danger. Those are compelling causes that attract people. Education is not sexy.

A little bit of that is changing now, however, with the awareness that we are going to have to face the issue of global warming and climate change. … At the same time, the pressure of the community on the Chattahoochee Nature Center to deliver environmental education was enormous. The people kept coming, they kept coming, they kept coming. More than 100,000 people a year come to the center.

Read on here.





State parks won’t close; some lodges may privatize

25 11 2008

Georgia’s state parks are safe from the budget ax — for now.

Gov. Sonny Perdue discussed the revised budget cuts for the Department of Natural Resources on Tuesday morning with Commissioner Noel Holcomb and his likely successor, current Georgia Environmental Facilities Authority Executive Director Chris Clark. Instead of closing up to six of the state’s 48 state parks, they decided to cut deeper elsewhere, further slashing funds for routine maintenance and equipment replacements.  Still on the table is closing up to five historic sites, two fewer than originally proposed earlier this fall. The exact locations have not yet been determined, and the sites could remain open with reduced hours.

The state is also considering privatizing all its golf courses and several lodges, at George T. Bagby State Park, Georgia Veterans State Park and Smithgall Woods Conservation Area.

DNR spokeswoman Beth Brown said public feedback made a difference, motivating the change to the proposed cuts that could take effect starting early next year.

But, she said, it’s a tradeoff. “There are repairs and maintenance that need to be done that will be delayed,” Brown said. “We have trucks with 250,00 to 300,000 miles that we can’t replace, and that are critical for us to do the job that we do.”

With state revenues faltering, Perdue and top legislators are trying make up a revenue shortfall of $1.6 billion to $1.8 billion.





Nature walk puts spotlight on challenges facing Jekyll Island

28 10 2008

CAROLE HAWKINS, Florida Times-Union

JEKYLL ISLAND – Dorinda Dallmeyer ran her hands along the twisted skeleton of a live oak tree at Jekyll Island’s north beach.  “Here is one of the great love/hate relationships we have on Jekyll Island,” Dallmeyer said. “We hate to think of losing a live oak. But photographers love to take pictures of driftwood, and this is probably one of the biggest pieces you’ll ever see.”

As if agreeing, cameras clicked from among the dozen people who had followed Dallmeyer to the spot.

Nature walks on Jekyll aren’t uncommon, but one led by an ecologist from the University of Georgia certainly is, bringing details into focus that might otherwise pass unnoticed.

Dallmeyer is UGa’s Environmental Ethics Certificate Program director and her field trip was part of a weeklong ecology series on the past, present and future of the Jekyll Island region’s ecosystem. The program was sponsored by the University of Georgia’s Odum School of Ecology, the world’s first standalone ecology school, and held in conjunction with The Georgia Review’s Pulitzer Legacy in Georgia conference.

“It’s an exciting time for us to be here,” said Elisabeth Butler, the school’s director of development. “Jekyll’s revitalization plans give us a chance to talk about how to develop the coastline in the most ecological way possible.”

At the nature walk Wednesday Dallmeyer discussed Jekyll’s salt marshes and beaches as both ecological and commercial resources, but was nonjudgmental over which purpose held greater merit.

Read on here.





Residents’ concerns noted in state park plan

1 10 2008

AJC

I have the privilege to serve Georgia as chairman of the Jekyll Island Authority. I accepted this appointment from Gov. Sonny Perdue, and I serve at his pleasure to help achieve the state’s vision for Jekyll Island: that Jekyll shall become a model for a self-sustaining conservation community accessible to all Georgians and once again contribute to the economic prosperity and quality of life for Georgia. This vision is clear and simple, but getting there is often complex. The authority board and staff are keenly aware that we serve the citizens of Georgia, many of whom are passionate about protecting Jekyll as a unique destination. So are we.

I’m afraid some have let their emotions become unbridled and this may be the case with the recent tirade of accusations made by former authority board member, Ed Boshears. Boshears’ accusations are not true, and the people of Georgia need to understand several critical issues.

First, Boshears was not “fired.” Boshears served a complete term, which expired in June, and he continued to serve as the law provides until the governor appointed his replacement. The governor’s reasons are his own, but we are pleased with the appointment of state Rep. Richard Royal. Royal has an outstanding reputation and is a successful businessman in addition to a public servant.

Second, the accusation that the authority engaged in unethical or illegal actions as it works to encourage investment on Jekyll is absolutely false. Last year, Boshears alleged that one of our private-sector partners received a $10 million “giveaway.” This is completely untrue, and was reinforced by a positive ruling from Georgia Attorney General Thurbert Baker. The selection of Linger Longer Communities, which Boshears voted for, was upheld in court after several challenges by a losing team. The authority board works in full compliance with all of Georgia’s sunshine laws with open public participation.

But the most important point for Georgians to understand is that although Jekyll is a state park it is also required by law to be economically self-sustaining and affordable. It is incumbent upon the board to set policy carefully, yet address a number of challenges, including declining visitation (down nearly 600,000 visitors per year since 1989) and deteriorating facilities (we have more than $30 million in necessary maintenance in our acclaimed historic district alone). This must be accomplished without massive support from the taxpayers — visitation must provide the self-sustaining revenue.

The board must work together to address these challenges.

Solutions include responsible revitalization that will allow us to slowly increase visitation and revenue with a low-density mix of redeveloped retail, lodging and convention offerings on just a small portion of the island. Indeed, a recent visitation analysis revealed that total development needed to generate necessary visitation and income over the next 15 years represents a net addition of roughly 1,000 lodging units, 400 dwelling units and 25,000 commercial square feet over levels that existed 20 years ago.

Other key initiatives include strict design guidelines and lighting ordinances that will protect endangered sea turtles. Having financially strong and talented private partners is a critical part of the equation.





Savannah Riverfront plan remains stalled

15 09 2008

 

By Johnny Edwards| Augusta Chronicle

The developer of a highly anticipated Savannah riverfront office-condominium-hotel-retail project has said he has yet to buy the six acres of riverfront property from the city — a $1.85 million transaction — because he’s waiting for the Georgia Environmental Protection Division to sign off.

The EPD says, however, the holdup isn’t on its end.

Nikki Haborak, a geologist with the Brownfield Redevelopment Unit, said she asked American Environmental and Construction Services, a consulting company for Bluffton, S.C.-based The Foxfield Co., to add more information to its compliance status report on June 20. She has been waiting for an answer ever since, she said.

Once the process is finished, EPD will issue a limitation of liability letter protecting the property’s new owner from being sued over past contamination, Ms. Haborack said.

Cleanup of the site, a former train yard, has long been finished.

The city’s October 2006 purchase agreement with Foxfield says closing can be delayed until environmental issues are cleared up.

After the sale, if the company doesn’t break ground within two years the city can buy back the land.

Foxfield president Harry Kitchen declined interview requests, and Downtown Development Authority Executive Director Margaret Woodard said she wouldn’t discuss The Watermark either because Mr. Kitchen asked that all information come through him.

Read on here.