This week Governor Haley signed a bill to reauthorize the South Carolina Conservation Bank through 2018 (5 years) and continue funding protection of wetlands, forests, family farms, wildlife habitats and historic lands. The South Carolina General Assembly passed the bill last week.
“The Conservation Bank has protected 152,000 acres of forests, wetlands, farms, wildlife habitats and historical sites since 2004 - places like Stumphouse Mountain, Kings Mountain Battlefield, Morris Island Lighthouse, and the ACE Basin. These are state treasures that have benefitted from the Conservation Bank, as well as thousands of acres of private farms and forests that will be productive forever. It is an excellent investment, worth more than five times the $81 million of state funds that have been granted, because landowners and conservation groups such as The Nature Conservancy have provided matching dollars. This translates to the state paying only $534 per acre,” said Mark Robertson. “We extend our gratitude to the General Assembly for passing this critical legislation, especially leaders such as Senator Chip Campsen and Representative Mike Pitts. The leadership of House Speaker Bobby Harrell, Representative Brian White, and Senators Courson and Leatherman was also key. We would also thank our partners in this effort, including Conservation Voters of SC, Coastal Conservation League, SC Farm Bureau, SC Wildlife Federation, SC Camo Coalition, Rural Resource Coalition SC, The Conservation Fund, Naturaland Trust, Pee Dee Land Trust, Upstate Forever and numerous other organizations in the SC Land Trust Network and the conservation community’s Common Agenda.”
“According to Article XII, Section 1 of the South Carolina Constitution, conservation of natural resources is a core function of government. The Conservation Bank accomplishes this constitutional mandate – not by regulation – but through negotiation and compensation of property owners. By incorporating a pricing mechanism into conservation, the Conservation Bank respects property rights while accomplishing meaningful conservation at minimal costs. I am pleased the General Assembly has reauthorized this model that other states seek to emulate,” said South Carolina Senator Chip Campsen.
“The good work that the Conservation Bank has done in the past will now be able to continue for at least another six years without interruption,” said SC Representative Mike Pitts.
The rapid conversion of farmland, forests and wildlife habitats to development, threatening South Carolinians’ quality of life, prompted the creation of the Bank in 2002, and the legislature started funding in 2004. The funds are allocated by competitive grants to protect working farms, forestlands, wildlife areas, parks, trails, wetlands and historic sites. The Bank is funded by a portion of the real estate deed recording fee, and the state’s funding has been matched by state, county and federal funds, private funds contributed by non-profit conservation groups such as The Nature Conservancy, and reduced selling prices by private landowners.
Farming, forestry, outdoor recreation and tourism tied to natural resources contribute about $54 billion to the state’s economy and provide roughly 463,000 jobs, according to recent studies. Thus, the Conservation Bank is critical to supporting South Carolina’s natural resource-based economy and quality of life.
“The Conservation Bank has created 57,753 acres of hunting and fishing land with 100 percent public access that the people of our state will enjoy forever,” said Marvin Davant, Executive Director of the SC Conservation Bank. “The Bank is also saving our history, preserving both Revolutionary and Civil War battlegrounds visited by millions of tourists.”
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.
Executive Director, The Nature Conservancy in South Carolina
(803) 254-9049 ext. 27