Salt Marsh

Our Goal: Protect and Restore Salt Marshes to Foster Thriving Human and Natural Coastal Communities

Marsh Program Goals

North Carolina Salt Marsh Action Plan

Like most coastal ecosystems, our marshes are threatened. To ensure a healthy future for these critical marsh systems, the Coastal Federation is leading a partnership to develop the North Carolina Salt Marsh Action Plan that details a five-year strategy to protect, restore, and allow for the migration of salt marshes in coastal North Carolina so that their existing ecological, economic, and cultural functions are not degraded or lost. 

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The North Carolina Plan is part of a larger South Atlantic Salt Marsh Initiative (SASMI) that was formed in 2021 under the leadership and guidance of The Pew Charitable Trusts and the Southeast Regional Partnership for Planning and Sustainability (SERPPAS). This regional plan prioritizes actions for protecting and restoring nearly 1 million acres of salt marshes along the South Atlantic coast from North Carolina to the Atlantic coast of northern Florida. 

The North Carolina Salt Marsh Plan focuses on our state’s marsh resources and will serve as the foundation of the Coastal Federation’s New Marsh Program Goal to Protect and Restore Salt Marshes to Foster Thriving Human and Natural Coastal Communities. This newly formed Program Goal is kicking off this year and will include our dedicated work to protect and create living shorelines, a focus of the Federation since 1997. 

Living Shorelines

North Carolina’s 12,000 miles of estuarine shoreline provide some of the most productive habitats in the world for fish and shellfish.

Unfortunately, the erosion of these shorelines is increasing because of rising sea levels, concentrated waves from boats, more extreme storms, and poorly planned development practices. Erosion control structures like bulkheads are not as effective as living shorelines in protecting shorelines. By installing buffers using salt marshes, oyster reefs, and other natural materials, living shorelines control erosion while protecting the natural beauty and productivity of our estuaries.

The Coastal Federation remains committed to making living shorelines the go-to approach for managing shoreline erosion. We have secured public and private funding that will help us provide increased financial incentives to landowners for living shorelines.

Blue Carbon Initiative

While many are familiar with the term “blue carbon”, referring to carbon stored in saltwater ecosystems, the Federation advocates for an inclusive “coastal carbon” strategy that recognizes the interconnectedness of North Carolina’s coastal and forested ecosystems. Beyond traditional blue carbon environments like salt marshes and seagrasses, our commitment extends to preserving and restoring carbon in pocosins, peatlands, and terrestrial working lands (farms and forests) for a comprehensive management approach.

We’ve partnered with Pew Charitable Trusts to establish the North Carolina Coastal Carbon Collaborative, a group of public and private stakeholders working to mitigate climate change in North Carolina, with a particular focus on preserving and increasing coastal carbon.

Drawing inspiration from the successful NC Oyster Blueprint, we are developing a Coastal Carbon Blueprint with the support of the Collaborative. The Blueprint aims to make coastal carbon relevant in NC policy and decision-making, raise awareness of the importance of coastal carbon and the co-benefits of protecting and increasing its stocks, and support coastal projects with such co-benefits.


Wanchese Marine Industrial Park Living Shoreline Demonstration
The Federation partnered with the Wanchese Marine Industrial Park to protect 500 feet of shoreline through their living shoreline restoration projects.
living shoreline | photo © Vance Miller
The Living Shorelines Academy provides targeted outreach and training to homeowners, contractors, design professionals and regulators, to advance the appropriate use of living shorelines and enhance collaboration among all shoreline stakeholders.
Morris Landing Living Shoreline
Living Shorelines are innovative techniques that protect soundside shorelines from erosion, while simultaneously preserving natural ecosystems. During the Virtual Open House, local professionals and contractors were on hand to share information and answer questions on how you can build a living shoreline on your property.
The Federation's Living Shoreline Cost-Share Program for Public and Private Property Owners
The North Carolina Coastal Federation has acquired grant funding to help homeowners build living shorelines.
coastal nc
While wetlands can’t protect us from the devastating flooding of a storm like Hurricane Florence, healthy habitats – and good planning – can shield us from some of the worst impacts and can help our communities recover more quickly. The North Carolina Coastal Federation’s Coastal Resilience Initiative strengthens our natural defenses by restoring habitats and protecting our coastal communities.
Living Shoreline
For a quick review of accomplishments, lessons learned, and living shoreline permit categories, check out this presentation on Living Shoreline Permitting in NC.
Phragmites australis © Mark Hibbs
View presentations from the July 17, 2017 working meeting about the invasive species, Phragmites
Coastal Restoration and Community Economic Development in North Carolina (2015 Study)
To better document how coastal restoration in North Carolina also affects community and economic development, the North Carolina Coastal Federation contracted with RTI International to assess the link between coastal restoration and economic development, perform an economic impact analysis of related projects, review how other states benefit from coastal restoration, and identify how coastal restoration fits within the state’s larger economic development strategies.
This image shows the NC Coastal Federation's living shoreline, an erosion control project, at Jockey's Ridge State Park. The image looks onto the oyster bag sill that makes up the living shoreline from behind a bed of marsh grass. Beyond the living shoreline the sound and sand dunes can be seen.
If your property is experiencing erosion, use this guide as a tool to learn about the choices you have in controlling your shoreline erosion and help you decide which approach is right for you situation.
Carteret Community College Fact Sheet
| Fact Sheets
This fact sheet details the importance of the Carteret County Community College Living Shoreline as well as the Bogue Sound area in general. It provides information on how the Federation and the community college are working together to protect and create habitat, prevent erosion, and improve water quality.
living shoreline | photo © Vance Miller

Resilient Shorelines

You can help make a difference for our coast—one living shoreline at a time!