Blog Archives

More Wilderness Mismanagement

More Wilderness Mismanagement

November 8, 2016  |  Ear to the Sand, Uncategorized

Hurricane Matthew pruned and removed weakened tree from the island forest, leaving the Main Road impassable by a vehicle. The Park Service imported fire crews from all over the country to help clear the debris and open the road. In 2004, Greyfield solicited a corrupted congressman to remove the Main Road, north end, and beach from Wilderness designation. Chainsaws could then legally be used in those areas. The Park Service also used chainsaws on hiking trails within the Wilderness. This is in direct violation of the Wilderness Act.

Use of motorized equipment in the Wilderness is a recurring example of mis-management of the island Wilderness by the National Park Service, since the Wilderness was established in 1982. WildCumberland has made numerous requests regarding island Wilderness management, but to no avail.   Please help WildCumberland effect proper Wilderness management by sending your comments and concerns to: Gary Ingram, Superintendent, Cumberland Island National Seashore (, with a copy to the NPS Southeast Regional Office (



The Hard Truth About Horses

The Hard Truth About Horses

August 10, 2016  |  Ear to the Sand

The Hard Truth about Horses

The beloved horses of Cumberland Island are starving and suffering. Using contraception to humanely reduce their numbers is the best long-term solution.

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A Sticky Situation for Feral Horses

A Sticky Situation for Feral Horses

July 1, 2016  |  Ear to the Sand

This photo from Brickhill Marsh on the north end of Cumberland shows a feral horse stuck in the marsh.

Horses on Cumberland Island often get stuck in the marsh mud and starve or drown. They wander out during low tide to graze on marsh grasses, and they often sink in mud and cannot escape.

For the health of the island and especially the horses, the National Park Service needs to address the feral horse issue immediately.

Another dead foal

Another dead foal

June 16, 2016  |  Ear to the Sand

This dead foal carcass was found recently near Stafford on Cumberland Island.  Many of the island’s feral horses are starving, disease-infested, and suffering. Contraception is the best solution for the long-term health of the horses and the island.




May 27, 2016  |  Ear to the Sand

These horses were observed at Stafford Field on Cumberland Island last week.

The beloved horses of Cumberland Island are starving and suffering. Using contraception to humanely reduce their numbers is the best long-term solution.

Horses are domestic animals deeply entwined with human history, and they have earned a prominent spot in human hearts. One aspect of this human-horse relationship is our tendency to project onto these beloved creatures our love for freedom, picturing them living an idyllic life “running free.” This image comes with an assumption that horses “set free” will adapt to their new conditions, thrive, and be happy. We assume they will have a better life. But few of us see the actual hardships in the life of a feral horse in unfamiliar terrain.

Modern horses are grassland animals. They’re not built to thrive on islands. As a result, their carcasses are piling up in greater numbers on Cumberland Island, a national seashore along the Georgia coast.

Visitors imagine that the animals are enjoying happier lives living free on a forested island, but most island visitors see only a glimpse of the life of island horses. They do not observe the struggles of equine life in this hostile island environment, nor the outcomes, since the National Park Service quickly removes dead or injured animals from sight. Turning loose the horses on Cumberland is similar to turning one’s pet dog loose in a forest and expecting it to fare well.

On Cumberland, feral mares are often impregnated at age one, long before they are fully mature. Their health quickly deteriorates, especially when food supplies are sparse, which they frequently are on barrier islands.

In addition, foal mortality is high, and environmental hazards are many. Flowing manes and long-haired tails are potentially deadly in vine-tangled forests, where the horses are often snared and held until death. The open, level expanses of salt marsh are inviting to equines, but the weight of a horse is distributed on four small points, which offer little support in soft mud. Once a horse sinks belly-deep in mud, escape is unlikely, but the tide is inevitable. Many have drowned, held fast by the mud.

And there are predators. Island horses are killed by alligators, as well as venomous snakes, and encephalitis-bearing mosquitoes. In reality, life is hard and survival is a challenge for the horses living on Cumberland Island.

Not only are the horses living a hard life, but many animals native to Cumberland suffer from the presence of feral livestock, as do the natural island ecosystems. Much of the island horse’s diet is composed of Spanish moss, which would otherwise hang to the ground, providing food and habitat for native animals. One look at the amount of horse manure on the island gives an idea of the enormity of their impact on the vegetation and water quality, and thus the ecosystems.

Preferring open areas to hazardous forest habitat, and always in search of food, horses frequent the beach and dunes to forage and escape biting flies. There they graze and trample grasses necessary to stabilize the dunes, such as sea oats. Sea oats help hold the sand dunes in place, with their deep network of roots and ability to continue growing if buried. Grazing compromises this natural protection of the shoreline and also violates state law.

It is time for us to thoughtfully address the presence of feral horses on Cumberland Island, taking into account their welfare and that of the island ecosystems. Local businesses see the horses as attracting tourist dollars. Others still have an emotional attachment to having horses on the island, without understanding the situation. Are we guilty of simply projecting our romantic notions onto suffering animals?

Recently, the National Park Service expressed an interest in non-lethally eliminating feral horses on the island. Using contraception, it is both possible and feasible through non-lethal methods, to allow the present horses to live out their lives on the island, without reproduction, thereby preventing future suffering and ecosystem degradation. In the long-term, using contraception to reduce the number of horses on Cumberland is what’s best for the horses and the island.



Spaceport launch path

Spaceport launch path

March 15, 2016  |  Ear to the Sand

What will happen if Spaceport Camden is approved? Steve Weinkle created this powerful visual to show the impact and dangers it would pose to Cumberland and the surrounding area.


Spaceport will require Cumberland closures

Spaceport will require Cumberland closures

March 4, 2016  |  Ear to the Sand

The proposed Camden Spaceport — which would be located directly across from Cumberland Island National Seashore — released maps of its launch trajectories. Launches from the Spaceport will require closing Cumberland Island to the public as often as once a month for up to a week at a time. Why should a private facility be allowed to close a publicly owned national park unit at its discretion? The launches will also have significant health impacts on the air and water quality on Cumberland Island.

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Toxic waters lurk beneath Port of St. Marys proposal

February 9, 2016  |  Ear to the Sand, Uncategorized

A developer is planning to build a barge port at the former Gilman Paper Mill site along the St. Marys River across from Cumberland Island. The plans call for a barge dock and ship berths along with railroad facilities. Regular dredging would likely be required for the St. Marys River, which would have a significant and lasting impact on aquatic life.

The 700-acre site is contaminated with a toxic legacy of carcinogens and heavy metals, including chromium, barium, vanadium, polychlorinated biphenyl, and mercury. If the port is constructed, these toxic chemicals would be released downstream into the waters surrounding Cumberland Island.

Developer Chris Ragucci has not offered any information about clean-up plans. His company Port of St. Marys LLC has applied for a zoning change that would help move the port proposal forward.

Please encourage the City of St. Marys to require that a comprehensive clean-up proposal be submitted by developers and vetted by experts before the site can be considered for rezoning.  The Georgia Department of Natural Resources and the Army Corps of Engineers will also be involved in approving or denying the proposed port, which would be Georgia’s third deepwater port.



Spaceport Across from Cumberland?

Spaceport Across from Cumberland?

December 29, 2015  |  Ear to the Sand

Camden County, Georgia has proposed to develop and operate a commercial space launch site at Floyd’s neck, just opposite the north end of Cumberland Island on the mainland. There would be up to 12 vertical launches and landings of associated vehicles per year. They also plan to recover spent stages at sea and do monthly fire engine tests and wet dress rehearsals. The Federal Aviation Administration Office of Commercial Space Transportation is preparing an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to analyze the environmental consequences of “Spaceport Camden,” as it is to be called.

A public scoping meeting was held on 7 December 2015 in Kingsland to help define significant issues and the scope of the analyses. Comments may be provided through 4 January 2016.


U.S. Post Office: Ms S. M. Zee, Spaceport Camden County EIS, c/o Leidos, 20201 Century Blvd., Suite 105, Germantown, MD 20874

Closing Cumberland Island National Seashore every month during a launch, which may delayed because of weather, poses no environmental hazard, but sound, light, and water pollution, along with the threat to endangered right whales, among other things are.