10 Threatened U.S. Coastlines

America’s 95,000 miles of coastlines are among the most scenic on the planet, from sandy white beaches to lush marshes to rocky cliffs. And yet, our coasts remain threatened. Coastal habitats can be destroyed by development, overfishing, pollution and even the dredging of sea canals. A proposal from the Trump administration would open up almost all of the country's water territories to offshore drilling. Luckily, marine advocacy and conservation alliances abound to preserve these coastlines, not to mention politicians not keen on the Trump administration's plans. We've rounded up 10 compelling examples of American shores in jeopardy with information on some of the organizations that are trying to help.

1
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Cape Spencer

Photo: Mandy Lindeberg/NOAA/NMFS/AKFSC [CC by 2.0]/flickr

Pictured here is Alaska's Cape Spencer, a glacial-carved fjord system located in Glacier Bay National Parks System. According to the National Parks Conservation Association, the area that is now Glacier Bay National Park was once a glacier that was 4,000 feet thick and stretching for more than 100 miles. Icebergs continue to break off into the park's bays.

This story has been updated with new information since it was originally published in July 2012.

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Oregon's green coast

Photo: Loren Kerns/flickr

The Pacific Northwest is rich in habitat and landscape, with its rainy winters and temperate summers. Oregon has nearly 363 miles of coastline, containing "rugged cliffs to evergreen forests to Sahara-like dunes to sandy beaches," as described by the Oregon Tour and Travel Alliance. Several conservation agencies work to maintain the coastline, famous for its rocky cliffs and ubiquitous lighthouses. One such agency is the North Coast Land Conservancy (NCLC), formed in 1986 to preserve the landscape of the North Oregon Coast.

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Central California

Photo: Deborah Kolb/Shutterstock

The central coast of California is generally considered to be the area below Monterey Bay extending south toward Santa Barbara County. With white sandy beaches and rugged, rocky landscapes, it is rich in marine resources. California's ocean protection laws are among some of the strongest in the nation.

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Lake Huron

Photo: NarparMI/Wikimedia Commons

The Great Lakes comprise the world's largest freshwater ecosystem by area. Lake Michigan, Lake Huron, Lake Superior, Lake Erie and Lake Ontario provide water for for more than 35 million people. However, they are under constant threat by pollution, human encroachment and invasive alien species. The 2017 State of the Great Lakes report estimates that over 180 non-native species of fish have entered the Great Lakes since 1800, creating a serious strain on native fish. This, thankfully, is slowing down, with fewer species being introduced. The Nature Conservancy offers several ways to help preserve the Great Lakes through contributions and volunteer opportunities.

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Gulf Coast

Photo: Philip Lange/Shutterstock

The Gulf Coast includes the coastal areas of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. These waters are known for their lush inlets, bays and lagoons. The United States' worst environmental disaster to date occurred on the Gulf Coast when British Petroleum's Deepwater Horizon oil rig spilled as much as 1.7 million gallons a day for several months into the Gulf of Mexico. While the Gulf is making some progress on the surface, it may be 30 or 40 years before we know the full extent of the impact caused by the spill. Organizations such as the National Wildlife Federation are still taking donations to help rehabilitate the area.

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Channel Islands, California

Photo: daveynin/flickr

The Channel Islands National Park is located off southern California. It is made of five islands, including Santa Cruz, Anacapa, Santa Rosa, Santa Barbara and San Miguel. The area's geographic isolation brought an independent evolution, much as the Galapagos Islands evolved in the equatorial Pacific. As the National Parks Service notes, "The Channel Islands and their encircling waters are home to over 2,000 plants and animals, of which 145 are found nowhere else in the world." Groups such as the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary work to preserve this area.

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Chesapeake Bay

Photo: Ryan McGurl/Shutterstock

The Chesapeake Bay is the largest and most productive estuary in the United States, containing diverse ecosystems including rivers, forests and wetlands. It is 200 miles long, stretching from Virginia to Maryland. At its widest point, it is 35 miles wide. At its deepest point, it is 174 feet deep. It holds more than 15 trillion gallons of water, much of which is threatened. Runoff from streets, farms and sewage treatment plants is a major issue for these waters. An estimated 30 million pounds of phosphorus entered the Bay from its nine major tributaries from 1990 through 1992, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The Chesapeake Bay Program offers several ways people can help the bay, from small changes at home to various volunteer opportunities.

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Southeast coast

Photo: SFpAerial/Shutterstock

From North Carolina to Florida, the Southeast coastline covers four states and 42 million people. The area includes more than 2,799 miles of coastline, 29,900 miles of tidal shoreline and 300 estuarine systems, according to the NOAA Fisheries Service. The Southeast Coastal Ocean Observing Regional Association (SECOORA) works to integrate coastal and ocean data to support area ecosystems. Other groups such as the Coastal Conversation Association of North Carolina focus specifically on certain regions.

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Cape Cod

Photo: William DeSousa-Mauk/flickr

Located on the easternmost portion of Massachusetts, it is one of the biggest barrier islands in the world. Cape Cod consists of roughly 43,000 acres of woods, beaches, dunes, salt marshes and waterways.

Since 2010, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service is working to restore much of the area, including 1,500 acres of degraded salt marsh. The goal is also to "improve fish access to 4,200 acres of spawning habitat, and improve water quality for 7,300 acres of shellfish beds over 10 years." The Association to Preserve Cape Cod offers opportunities to help improve the waters.

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Cape May and the Jersey Shore

Photo: Jorge Moro/Shutterstock

New Jersey is known as the Garden State for a reason. Lush farmlands dot the state before spilling into nature preserves that runs along the 127 miles of coastline and 83 miles of shoreline. The coastline is made of up barrier islands and bays that protect the mainland from the Atlantic Ocean. The Nature Conservancy offers several volunteer opportunities to help monitor, maintain and preserve many of the pristine spots along the coast.