And the Coastlands Wait

How the Grassroots Battle to Save Georgia's Marshlands Was Fought—and Won

Reid W. Harris

Foreword by Jimmy Carter

Afterword by Charles H. McMillan

And the Coastlands Wait

How the Grassroots Battle to Save Georgia's Marshlands Was Fought—and Won

Reid W. Harris

Foreword by Jimmy Carter

Afterword by Charles H. McMillan

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A broad-based coalition of conservative southern politicians, countercultural activists, environmental scientists, sportsmen, devout Christians, garden clubs in Atlanta, and others came together to push the Coastal Marshlands Protection Act of 1970 through the Georgia state legislature. The law was a first-in-the-nation bill to save the marshes of a state from mining and aggressive development and was a political watershed that reflected the changing nature of the state. It set a foundation that would lead to the thoughtful use of the state's coastal resources still relevant today.

And the Coastlands Wait is the history of this legislative act, as told by St. Simons lawyer and leader of the coalition, Reid Harris. Harris served as head of the environmental section of Governor Jimmy Carter's Goals for Georgia program and later as chairman of the governor's State Environmental Council. The coastlands coalition he led backed a groundbreaking act that, when instated, set up a permitting process to control development and to protect five hundred thousand acres of precious Georgia marshland. That coalition did not survive for long and is now seen as an unusual moment in the history of conservation, when allies as deeply diverse as conservative governor Lester Maddox and Atlanta liberals stood together.

And the Coastlands Wait is an inspirational guidepost for generations to come providing a logical, realistic step-by-step guide to the legislative process. Perhaps as important is the overall tone of the book which engenders a palpable sense of hope.

—Sarah V. Ross, executive director, University of Georgia Center for Research + Education at Wormsloe (CREW)

I want to point with pride and gratitude and love to two citizens of the Golden Isles without whom our marshes would not have been saved. . . . In my opinion, no group of American citizens ever had a more responsible, more intelligent, more caring and trustworthy elected official than those of us who have been represented by Reid W. Harris of St. Simons Island. I did not know him except by name until he introduced his bill to regulate the use of our marshlands several months ago. I do know Reid Harris now and this ex-cynic about politicians has had to change her tune-at least where this man is concerned. I watched him stand tall and poised under some rather exotic political battering during the last year. But he stood and his bill became law and the marshes are safe. I am writing my own point of view, but know I am joined by thousands of persons in this heartfelt tribute to a uniquely courageous and balanced public official.

—Eugenia Price

About the Author/Editor

REID W. HARRIS was elected to the Georgia House of Representatives in 1964 and served for six years. During this time he was the principal author of several laws concerning conservation of the coastlands, including the Georgia Surface Mining Act and the Coastal Marshlands Protection Act.