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Profile: American Littoral Society’s Director Leads Efforts to Save Shore, Bays

Veteran conservationist's life near the coast has translated into his passion for protecting the seaside environment

tim dillingham american littoral society
Tim Dillingham of the American Littoral Society

Name: Tim Dillingham

Age: 54

Personal: Lives in Hopewell, with his wife and identical twin boys and daughter

Education: St. Mary’s College in Maryland; master’s degree from University of Rhode Island

Why he matters: Dillingham has worn a lot of hats in his time in New Jersey. He was director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, before heading the New Jersey Highlands Coalition. Now director of the American Littoral Society, a coastal organization that is one of the biggest advocates for protecting the state’s ample natural resources along the Jersey Shore and Delaware Bay. Before that, he was a senior policy advisor at the Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council.

What he does: Much of his time these days is spent trying to convince state policymakers to adopt programs that will make the coast less vulnerable to extreme storms like Hurricane Sandy. His organization also is doing a lot of restoration work along the Delaware Bay. Efforts include restoring the habitat of the red knot, an endangered species of migratory shorebird that feeds on horseshoe crab eggs in the bay on its long trek from South America to nesting grounds in the Arctic.

Why he loves his job: Dillingham who calls himself a “coastal guy’’ never lived more than five miles from the coast for much of his life. “This is a great job. The work is about protecting wildlife and resources that I love -- horseshoe crabs, red knots, and (other) migratory shorebirds. This society is all about conservation of marine life and habitats.’’

His organization’s top priorities: Beyond the Delaware Bay, the Littoral Society also is involved in efforts to restore Barnegat Bay, which some say may be dying because of overdevelopment and other pollution issues. He still believes it is a “winnable fight’’ but concedes much more needs to be done. Dillingham, who spent part of his youth on the Chesapeake Bay, cites the work that has gone on there to restore the estuary. “We definitely need better leadership; more dedicated to restoring the bay to what needs to be done.’’

How the state is doing in responding to Sandy: The storm demonstrated how bad coastal development policy has been, he said. “The policies (the state has) adopted since the storm have increased that vulnerability,’’ Dillingham said, citing relaxed restrictions for building in certain hazardous areas and streamlined permits to allow rebuilding.

What you might not have known about him: The son of a U.S. Navy father, Dillingham was born in Cyprus and spent a bunch of time growing up in other foreign locations, including Japan and Spain, where his love for the ocean grew.

How he relaxes: Getting out on his sailboat or hiking in the Sourland Mountains near his home. He also likes to travel.

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