Beach Access, Coastal Preservation, Ocean Protection, Plastic Pollution, Water Quality
January 03 2017

Let’s Do This! Surfrider’s Priorities for 2017

by Pete Stauffer

This year promises to be one of the most important in the Surfrider Foundation’s 32-year history. More than ever, our coasts are under threat from impacts such as pollution, development, energy projects, and climate change. Meanwhile, changes in our nation’s political leadership – including an incoming President who has pledged to roll back environmental protections – present direct challenges to both the health and access of our ocean, waves, and beaches.

In these daunting times, the work of grassroots organizations like the Surfrider Foundation is more critical than ever. Our local activism and stewardship provides an integral front line of defense from threats, while our network’s vast coverage across the U.S. allows us to scale our impact by passing proactive policies at the state and national levels.

We’re pleased to share the Surfrider Foundation’s top priorities for 2017 (to see our full list of campaigns click here). We invite you to join us in our efforts to protect our ocean, waves and beaches by volunteering with your local chapter and renewing your membership.

1) Stop new offshore oil drilling off U.S. coastlines

For decades, the Surfrider Foundation has successfully protected the Atlantic, Pacific, and Eastern Gulf of Mexico from oil and gas development. Now, with the incoming administration likely to propose new offshore drilling, we are doubling down on our efforts to ensure that new oil rigs will never be approved in U.S. waters. We will continue to pass local government resolutions that demand our federal government protect our coastlines from offshore drilling and seismic testing. We will lead Hands Across the Sand and other events and rallies to educate communities about the dangers of offshore drilling. Finally, we will take our message to Washington D.C. this May and meet with over 50 congressional offices this spring to ensure that our voice is heard at the highest levels of government. 

2) Defend our nation's environmental laws that protect the coast

As federal leaders move forward with efforts to weaken our environmental laws, Surfrider's grassroots network will stand up to defend our coasts and ocean from these attacks. Surfrider will continue to fight for the BEACH Act - a law we helped pass in 2000 - to protect the public health of beachgoers. We will work with a diverse coalition to defend EPA's Clean Water Rule that protects the water quality of streams, lakes, and our ocean. We will work to advance the National Ocean Policy at the regional and local level even if it is rolled back by the next administration. We will fight to protect coastal preservation and climate change policies. Finally, our network will participate in project permitting from coast to coast to ensure that existing environmental protections are fully exercised in the review of proposed development. 

3) Keep plastic pollution out of the marine environment

Plastic pollution is one of the greatest threats to the health of our ocean ecosystems. Last year, Surfrider won a record 22 victories to reduce and prevent the harms of plastic pollution on our coastal environment. In the coming year, we will build upon this success by continuing to pass local and state policies that keep plastic bags, cigarette butts, styrofoam, and other forms of plastic trash out of the environment. We will also defend existing policies from attacks, including the New York City bag ban that Surfrider help pass last year. Through our Ocean Friendly Restaurants program, we will certify hundreds of restuarants and help to ensure millions of plastics-free meals. Finally, our grassroots network will lead over 1,000 local cleanups at beaches and parks to remove more than 100,000 pounds of trash and educate communities about the impacts of plastic pollution.          

4) Help our coasts adapt to the impacts of climate change

Climate change is already causing major impacts to our coasts and ocean. Sea level rise, beach erosion, and ocean acidification are among the threats that we must plan for to protect our natural shorelines and communities. Through our coastal preservation initiative, we will work to influence policy at the local, state, and national levels to improve how coastal areas are managed and developed. Surfrider advocates for beaches to remain naturally intact without excessive shoreline development that leads to armoring (seawalls etc.). We also support the global movement to reduce carbon and other greenhouse gas-causing emissions that are root causes of these impacts. While climate change is a daunting issue, we can advance adaptation measures that will make an enormous difference down the road. To learn more about the issue and what you can do, please visit our Climate Change page.

5) Promote beach access for all people

Surfrider is dedicated to the idea that our beaches should be open and accessible to all people. In the coming year, Surfrider will wage over 15 campaigns in ten different states to protect and enhance public access to our nation's shorelines. These efforts will leverage local outreach and advocacy along with legal strategies supported by our headquarters in San Clemente, CA. Meanwhile, our chapters and youth clubs will work to promote beach access to underserved communities through programs, events, and partnerships. Our goal is to enable over 5,000 beach visits in 2017 from participants who may not otherwise have the opportunity to visit the coast. 

6) Grow the coastal advocacy movement to meet the challenges of a new era

Surfrider knows how to defend our coastlines. We won 61 victories last year - a record in Surfrider’s storied history - but the threats on the horizon demand that we expand upon Surfrider's network of more than 80 chapters, 60 youth clubs, and 500,000 supporters, activists and members. In the coming year, we will grow our coalition of thousands of recreational businesses and groups that are engaged in Surfrider advocacy from coast to coast. Our chapters, meanwhile, will continue to define a new path to coastal stewardship through partnership building and outreach in their communities. Surfrider believes that the issues we fight for – clean water, ocean health, coastal access – are not partisan issues but priorities that should be embraced by all community interests.

In a time of political division, Surfrider’s grassroots approach is exactly what’s needed to protect our coasts for now and the future!

Join us and take action to protect our ocean, waves & beaches at surfrider.org/support-surfrider.