For the first time since it was founded in 1989, the S.C. Coastal Conservation League will have new leadership.
Laura Cantral, a lawyer who has worked extensively on U.S. ocean policy, will succeed Dana Beach as director of the S.C. Coastal Conservation League, beginning in January.
Beach decided earlier this year to step down. He will continue in an advisory role as director emeritus of the organization he started.
The S.C. Coastal Conservation League, which has more than two dozen staff members, is considered by many to be the state’s most influential environmental group. It has a team of lobbyists in Columbia, as well as staff members in Charleston, Beaufort and Georgetown. The organization boasts a multi-million-dollar endowment and has drawn attention nationally for its efforts to protect South Carolina’s Lowcountry.
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League board chair Margot Rose said Cantral “will continue Dana Beach’s legacy of effective advocacy for a better Lowcountry.”
Cantral, 55, is a northwest Mississippi native and University of Mississippi graduate. She comes to the league from the Meridian Institute in Washington, D.C. At the institute, Cantral oversaw a range of projects, many looking at ocean policy. She also worked with the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy, the Biscayne Bay Partnership in Miami and on the Florida governor’s ocean committee, according to the Conservation League.
“The Coastal Conservation League has transformed conservation in South Carolina and serves as a model across the region for pragmatic conservation advocacy,” Cantral said in a statement. “I am ... excited to continue building on a legacy of conservation victories to protect coastal South Carolina’s natural resources and quality of life.”
In an interview with The State, she said she’ll have her own style, but she doesn’t plan to be “some radical change agent. I have a lot of respect for the work the league has done and for Dana’s leadership and I want to learn from that.’’
Beach, a Columbia native who founded the league 28 years ago on a shoestring budget, said South Carolina’s environment faces many threats from growth.
Under Beach, the league fought the rise of mega-hog farms, pushed to protect beaches from over development, opposed a coal-fired power plant in the Florence area, and pushed for energy policies that include solar and wind power. The league also launched Grow Food Carolina to promote local agriculture.