Saving Bird Island

In 1992, the owner of Bird Island announced plans to build a mile long system of bridges and causeways from Sunset Beach to Bird Island across Mad Inlet to support access for a planned 15-lot subdivision on Bird Island. The Bird Island Preservation Society (BIPS) was formed with help from the Audubon Society, North Carolina Coastal Land Trust and North Carolina Coastal Federation (NCCF) to work for preservation of the island.

(Five of the founders of BIPS are shown to the right in 2013. Bill Ducker, Camilla Herlevich, Sue Weddle, Lauren Kolodij, and Frank Nesmith.)

After 3 ½ years of presenting legal pleas to state and federal officials, BIPS succeeded in having state permits for the bridge and causeway denied in the fall of 1995 in a declaratory ruling by the NC Coastal Resources Commission. NCCF and the Southern Environmental Law Center worked diligently with BIPS toward this major step in preserving the island.

Finally in 2000 the owners agreed to sell Bird Island to the state and the property was purchased for $4.2 million. The North Carolina Clean Water Management Trust Fund ($2.75 million), the North Carolina Natural Heritage Trust Fund ($750,000), and the Department of Transportation ($720,320) provided the funding to purchase the property. In February of 2002, the Bird Island Preservation Society received the Governor’s Conservation Achievement Award for Conservation Organization of the Year in honor of their 10-year effort to save Bird Island.

In October 2002, Bird Island was formally dedicated as the state’s 10th Coastal Reserve. A management plan for the island has been prepared by the state and includes provisions for education, research and stewardship.

In the spring of 2003, BIPS hired a part-time naturalist to help the state monitor the island, work with volunteers and educate the public during the busy summer season. In the summer of 2003, over 750 people participated in scheduled island walks with the Bird Island naturalist to learn about the island. In June of 2003, Bird Island and BIPS were featured in the June 2003 edition of Wildlife in North Carolina magazine article “Sandy Sanctuary”.

Since then, volunteer Stewards give many hours of their time to monitor and patrol the island, and lead free, open-to-the-public “Bird Island Walks” weekly during the summer tourist season.