Dana Beach
Executive Director, South Carolina Coastal Conservation League
Charleston, South Carolina

Dana Beach, an award winner in the nonprofit category, is the founder and executive director of the South Carolina Coastal Conservation League (SCCCL). In spite of the rapid population growth and associated environmental problems of the South Carolina Coast, there was no staffed organization working full-time on coastal environmental problems until 1989, when Beach started SCCCL. SCCCL currently has a staff of six and more than 2,500 members. The organization’s goals include protecting water quality, reforming destructive development patterns, and promoting forestry practices that maintain and restore native coastal forests.

A native of Columbia, SC, Beach attended Davidson College where he graduated magna cum laude with a degree in mathematics in 1977. In 1979, he received his MBA from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. Beach returned to South Carolina in 1983, and began fighting to protect coastal resources. Before starting SCCCL he gained valuable experience with other organizations. He assumed leadership positions in the Sierra Club, including local group chair and state political action committee chair. He spearheaded the effort to obtain Outstanding Resource Waters (ORW) status for the waters surrounding Edisto Island. He was instrumental in promoting the 1988 Beachfront Management Act and amendments in 1990.

In 1986, he accepted a position as special assistant for the environment to Congressman Arthur Ravenel. As a member of the congressional staff, he was involved in resolving the SC coast’s first major wetland battle, the proposed filling of 140 acres of swamp forest in North Charleston. Beach met with both the regulatory agencies and the developer to fashion a development plan that greatly reduced the area of impacted wetlands. He left the congressman’s office to form the SCCCL, starting with a mailing list he pulled together using the local phone book. “I underlined every person I knew, or knew of, in Charleston,” he says. Now, Beach spends his work day addressing local, state and national issues. He is on the Board of Directors of the Coast Alliance and a member of the Project Coordinating Committee of the National Growth Management Leadership Project. He served on the South Carolina General Assembly’s Energy Committee, was a member of the Ashepoo/Combahee/Edisto (ACE) Basin National Estuarine Research Reserve Task Force, and serves on the Charleston County Planning Board. He holds seats on a dozen or more committees and boards.

One of the greatest threats to SC coastal wetlands is the proposed widening of a highway through the ACE Basin. The ACE has been named one of The Nature Conservancy’s “Last Great Places” and is a target for conservation by The Nature Conservancy and Ducks Unlimited. SCCCL, with legal assistance from the Southern Environmental Law Center, has opposed this destructive project by advocating another, less sensitive route which skirts the edge of the basin.

Beach was the 1989 Conservationist of the Year for the SC Sierra Club. He won the South Carolina Wildlife Federation’s Outdoor Ethics Award and has authored various articles and given presentations on hazardous waste, beachfront management, wetlands, tropical forests, and landuse planning. He is now the driving force behind a growing movement pushing for landuse planning in South Carolina. After years of fighting thousands of small environmental battles, the League is focusing on the real culprit behind so much of the mayhem — poor development patterns that are as detrimental to the coastal economy as they are to its natural and cultural landscape.

— Marjan Farzaad, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; Region 4