collageHistorical Highlights

"As we go forth, may we not forget our humble beginnings or lose sight of our grassroots mission. When we begin to allow the feel of success to lead us astray, may we not forget that each person has something of merit to contribute, whether it be money or time, a voice to speak up or a quiet willingness to work behind the scenes."

— 1989 Coastal Federation President Lena Ritter

For more than 30 years, the N.C. Coastal Federation has worked with people to safeguard the coastal rivers, creeks, sounds and beaches of North Carolina.

Eight grassroots groups concerned with coastal issues formed the nonprofit organization in 1982 under the leadership of the federation’s current executive director, Todd Miller. Although the Coastal Area Management Act had been in effect since 1974, the groups identified the need for a clearer vision for long-term coastal management.

Soon after it formed in 1982, the federation rallied fishermen, environmentalists and scientists to oppose a proposal to strip-mine 120,000 acres of peat bogs between the Albemarle and Pamlico sounds. The project gained national attention, including coverage on the CBS Evening News and PBS's MacNeil-Lehrer Report. The proposal was defeated in 1984, and the Coastal Federation then worked for the passage of state rules that have effectively prohibit large-scale peat mining. Most of the areas that were formerly targeted for peat mining are now permanently preserved in national wildlife refuges.


Since it first cut its teeth on the peat mining issue, the Coastal Federation has been an extremely active participant in coastal management issues throughout the entire North Carolina coast and elsewhere in the nation. Some highlights of our achievements include:

  • Establishment of new wetland water quality standards
  • Tighter regulation of waste water discharges from phosphate mining
  • New standards for siting marinas
  • Designation of 10 percent of all coastal waters as Outstanding Resource Waters
  • Designation of 1994 as North Carolina’s Year of the Coast, which translated into a specific environmental agenda by Governor Jim Hunt
  • A new federal law that earmarks approximately $250 million for restoration of the nation’s estuaries
  • Preservation of more than 10,000 acres of threatened coastal land

2000 - Present

1982 - 1999