At the end of the SC General Assembly’s two-year legislative session ending, I want to take a moment to celebrate some major policy wins we achieved for our birds at the Statehouse...
South Carolina Conservation Bank
H.4727, the bill to reauthorize the South Carolina Conservation Bank in perpetuity passed unanimously in both chambers of the legislature.
This is a happy conclusion to our campaign to save the Bank, which since 2002, has protected nearly 300,000 acres of South Carolina’s most critical conservation lands and iconic landscapes in our state, including Audubon’s Beidler Forest Sanctuary in Harleyville, and soon, our Silver Bluff sanctuary near Aiken.
As part of this effort, Audubon members sent thousands of emails and postcards to members of the legislature, wrote supportive letters to their local papers, attended advocacy training and even traveled to the Statehouse to lobby lawmakers in person. I couldn’t be more proud or grateful for this tremendous support, so on behalf of the team here at Audubon South Carolina and the broader conservation community, thank you!
For now, funding for the Bank for FY 2018-19 is still up in the air, as House and Senate budget conferees begin work this week to iron out their differences in the state budget. We will remain vigilant and press negotiators for an adequate level of funding for the Conservation Bank in the upcoming fiscal year.
Solar Habitat Act
I’m also pleased to share that the Audubon-driven Solar Habitat Act passed Thursday with unanimous support in the state Senate. This legislation creates voluntary standards by which commercial solar developers can market their solar facilities as “pollinator and bird friendly,”—helping set commercial the state’s growing solar industry on a bird and pollinator-friendly path.
Moving forward, Audubon South Carolina will work closely with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources along with other state agencies and non-profits to develop a native plant and pollinator management plan to be used as technical guidance by the solar industry.
South Carolina Native Plant Week
As many of you know, earlier in the session we also passed a bill that declares the third week of every October “South Carolina Native Plant Week.” As our state experiences a boom in population growth and development, we will work hard to encourage the planting of sustainable, low-maintenance native species to help protect soil integrity and provide increasingly critical habitat for South Carolina birds and other pollinators.
Governor Henry McMaster and First Lady Peggy McMaster were so enthusiastic about the importance of native plants that they invited Audubon South Carolina staff, volunteers, and partners to install 500 native plants and more than a dozen birdhouses on the grounds of the Mansion Complex.
In April, staff and volunteers joined Governor and First Lady McMaster at the Mansion once again to dedicate the native-plant installation and celebrate the passage of the SC Native Plant Week legislation with a bill signing ceremony. We look forward to working with partners and volunteers to mark this annual occasion, raising awareness of the importance of indigenous plants to our state’s wildlife, economy, and ecosystem.
Protecting vulnerable bird populations requires an all-hands-on-deck approach, and these heartening accomplishments are a testament to the strength and efforts of Audubon South Carolina’s members, chapter and club leaders, and policy and program staff.
I thank you for your continued support and look forward to even more successes in the next legislative session.