Dr Chad Nelsen

Dr Chad Nelsen

Chief Executive
Surfrider International

The world-renowned Trestles surf breaks are threatened by a six-lane toll road that would gut the natural watershed that feeds the break with sand, cobble and clean water. The Transportation Corridor Agency (TCA), a semi-private road-building agency, is proposing an extension of a toll road that would also cut through the middle of San Onofre State Park. The controversial project is opposed by surfers, environmental activists, Native Americans and many decision makers because it would impair the waves at Trestles and reduce assets to surrounding surf breaks; damage archeological sites; send polluted runoff into one of the last unspoiled watersheds in the region; devastate wildlife habitat of several threatened species; set a dangerous precedent for the State Park system and create more urban sprawl and poorly planned development.

This case study will describe the efforts of a coalition of environmental and state parks advocacy groups to organise a well-structured campaign in opposition to the project that attracted thousands of activists and took on an extremely well funded project proponent. The coalition stopped the project when the California Coast Commission, the regulatory agency that oversees development on the coast, denied their permit request. That denial was upheld by the Department of Commerce on appeal. Despite this devastating defeat the TCA continues their efforts to build the destructive road.

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About the speaker

Dr. Chad Nelsen is the Chief Executive Officer of the Surfrider Foundation where he leads the world’s largest grassroots network dedicated to the project and enjoyment of the world’s ocean, waves and beaches, through approaches that integrate coastal recreation with conservation. At Surfrider he leads a dynamic and committed team that defends the coast against damaging projects, promotes ongoing coastal stewardship programs, advances protective ocean and coastal policies at all levels of government, while cultivating and developing community activists and leaders.

Chad Nelsen surfing Prior to taking the helm at Surfrider, Nelsen spent 16 years leading the organizations environmental science and policy team where he developed impacting hands-on programs and led hundreds of successful environmental campaigns.

He earned a Doctorate from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), a Master’s of Environmental Management from Duke University’s Nicholas School for the Environment, and Bachelor’s of Science from Brown University.

Chad helped establish the field of “Surfonomics,” which applies resource economics to value surfing. He is currently on the Board of Director’s of Save the Waves, an organization establishing World Surfing Reserves around the globe.

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