The South Carolina General Assembly meets each year from January to May. One month into the session, here’s what’s on the front burner for our state’s birds:
The South Carolina Conservation Bank is our state’s most important tool for land protection. Yet this program will sunset in June if the legislature doesn’t reauthorize it.
So we’re thrilled to report that a reauthorization bill, H.4727, just passed the House by an overwhelming margin. Equally exciting, Audubon and its conservation partners convinced legislators to make a critical change in the bill. Funds for purchasing easements will not be capped, as they were in an early draft — so it’ll remain relatively simple to use the Conservation Bank to protect large blocks of natural land.
This is an extraordinary victory, reflecting many conversations over the last year between Audubon and its partners and key legislators. Now, onto the Senate!
Audubon South Carolina is also promoting legislation that encourages solar developers to plant native vegetation and manage habitat in a way that welcomes gamebirds, songbirds, and wild pollinators.
In addition to feeding wildlife, native plants sharply reduce maintenance costs; they reduce the risk of floods by creating healthy, absorbent soil; and the pollinators they attract benefit surrounding farmlands. For birds, solar developers, and their neighbors, it’s a win-win-win.
H.4875 has been introduced in the House and a companion bill will soon follow in the Senate. Meanwhile, the solar companies we’ve talked with are already getting started — including one developer that's ready to plant 1,000 acres of bird-friendly, pollinator-friendly habitat.
Speaking of solar, Audubon South Carolina will be backing H.4421, an effort to eliminate outmoded barriers to renewable energy in our state. This bill promises to level the landscape in South Carolina so that renewables can grow here as they’ve grown in other states.
With climate change a leading threat to birds in South Carolina and beyond, it’s time to bring our state’s energy policy into the 21st century.
The House, unfortunately, just passed a bill, H.3529, which clamps down on the ability of local governments to limit the use of plastic bags and other disposable containers. Remember, birds and other wildlife choke on this stuff … and look what litter is doing to our oceans!
This bill is a violation of South Carolina's longstanding tradition of "home rule." In 2017, Audubon members and other wildlife lovers managed to keep it from passing the House. This year, we’ll need to count on wiser heads prevailing in the Senate.
Last year, Audubon South Carolina successfully urged the House and Senate to declare the week of October 16, 2017 “South Carolina Native Plant Week.” Now we’re urging legislators to designate the third week of October every year. The House has approved our bill and we expect the Senate to follow suit.
The permanent designation of these annual festivities will boost Audubon’s efforts to spread the good news about native plants and help create communities that are friendlier to both birds and people.
All in all, there’s a lot to be excited about this early in the legislative session. Many thanks to our friends and members for all that you do to protect the birds we love!