Looking Back on 2021

By Daniel Hayden

You probably have a story about why you care about estuaries and bays that form a part of who you are. For me, there is nothing that replicates the experience of kayaking at sunset, watching the seasonal migration of birds, or sitting on a park bench watching the ships pull into port. Estuaries and bays are places of contemplation, celebration, and recreation. 

With year-end fast approaching, we at Restore America’s Estuaries (RAE) are both proud of the accomplishments that we have been able to achieve in 2021 and deeply thankful for the support that helped make these accomplishments possible. This past year was one to remember at RAE, with major successes as well as significant progress and we could not have done it without your support.

Improving Coastal Resiliency: Our coasts are in jeopardy from many threats. To help protect coastal communities from rising sea levels, more frequent and powerful storms, and other impacts of climate change, RAE invests in coastal resiliency nationwide. In 2021, through various public and private funding mechanisms, we facilitated more than $3.2 million in grants to support restoration projects from coast to coast that clean water, mitigate floods, and restore vital habitat for fish and wildlife.  

  • Expanding the Use of Living Shorelines: In October we hosted a workshop for 300 practitioners from around the world to learn about the benefits of Living Shorelines and how they can implement nature-based solutions. The science and data show us that nature-based solutions are often the most cost effective and resilient ways to protect and restore shorelines. Through convenings such as this, RAE supports coastal communities’ ability to increase resiliency and adapt to our changing climate. 
  • Combatting Climate Change Via Blue Carbon: Wetlands and seagrasses sequester greenhouse gases more effectively on a per-acre basis than even forests, through a process known as Blue Carbon. RAE is a national leader in promoting the science and practice of Blue Carbon, advancing a powerful tool to finance efforts to limit impacts of climate change. RAE has advised Congress on two important pieces of Blue Carbon legislation. In 2021, RAE hosted the Blue Carbon National Working Group, a cohort of scientists, practitioners, and policy makers, to address gaps in the science, policy and economics of Blue Carbon, and draft recommendations for the Administration and federal agencies to implement Blue Carbon protections and restoration in national coastal conservation efforts.  
    • Launching the Inclusive Coasts Initiative: The Inclusive Coasts Initiative aims to address unequal access to funding within the coastal community that perpetuates environmental injustice. Building upon RAE’s diversity, equity, and inclusion work over the past decade, the Initiative will plan and host workshops to help grant makers and project implementers nationwide examine and refine processes to increase inclusivity and better serve the needs of traditionally underrepresented communities who all too often have not had access to funding, but bear the costs of environmental degradation and pollution. 
    • Putting Value to Our Estuaries: We all know estuaries and bays are valuable, but sometimes it is hard to put a number on just how great that value is. This year RAE published The Economic Value of America’s Estuaries: 2021 Report, an update of our 2008 economics report. We took a case-study approach to quantify the nature-based benefits of healthy estuaries and their value to infrastructure, local economies and carbon sequestration. This data-driven approach will be key to our ongoing advocacy for coastal restoration and demonstrating the financial benefit of protecting and restoring our nation’s coasts through supporting the marine economy, protecting communities, and efficiently sequestering carbon.

    As a friend of Restore America’s Estuaries, we hope that you will consider supporting our continued efforts to protect and restore our coasts in 2022 before the year closes. To make a tax-deductible donation to RAE, visit www.estuaries.org/donate/. Best wishes for a happy and healthy holiday season and new year.  


    Daniel Hayden
    President & CEO, Restore America’s Estuaries