South Carolina’s First-Ever Statewide Resilience Plan

This new plan prioritizes conservation to benefit birds and front-line communities.

This week, Governor McMaster and the South Carolina Office of Resilience (SCOR) announced the release of the state’s first ever statewide resilience plan. The plan represents two years of data gathering, analysis and stakeholder input from government, industry and nonprofits, including Audubon SC. Read Audubon SC’s statement on the plan’s release here. 

The plan is grounded in the best available climate science, vulnerability assessments and input from stakeholders, resulting in meaningful recommendations that when implemented will make South Carolina – and the birds and people within – more resilient in the face of increasing threats associated with intense storms and flooding.   

Before highlighting some of the best recommendations included for birds, it is important to recognize the foundation of the report.  There is an entire chapter summarizing the best available data on the climate trends and impacts we have seen in South Carolina, the first time climate science has been elevated by a state agency in South Carolina. Additionally, there is a comprehensive vulnerability assessment, which includes an entire section on the challenges our natural resources face in light of storms and flooding. The plan recognizes impacts to specific birds across coastal and maritime forest habitats, including Least Tern, Wilson’s Plovers, Red Knot, Black Skimmers and Painted Buntings. It also recognizes the role land conservation and even native plants play in mitigating flooding alongside the plentiful co-benefits these resources provide to birds and people alike. 

The plan includes recommendations that designate land conservation as a critical tool for flood mitigation. Land conservation has long been a tenant of Audubon SC’s conservation and policy priorities as we work to protect the places birds need and our communities in South Carolina. Notable recommendations include: 

  • Creating a grant program to protect lands that provide high flood mitigation value; 

  • Using SCOR’s priority flood mitigation conservation map in all state agency planning; and 

  • Establishing protections for isolated wetlands that may no longer be protected under federal law after the Supreme Court’s recent ruling in Sackett v. EPA. 

The plan also includes several recommendations to ensure resilience and nature-based solutions are utilized in land use and development planning. Often times, nature is the best defense against storms and flooding. If governments plan with resilience and nature in mind, not only will communities be better protected from natural disasters and minimize costly recoveries, but the same natural areas or infrastructure will also provide important habitat for birds.  Some of the recommendations include: 

  • Creating best management practices for communities to incorporate resilience into their comprehensive plans; 

  • Promoting resilient development through zoning and land use regulations, including incorporating nature-based solutions and conservation; 

  • Evaluating energy efficiency standards to ensure resilience of the electric grid; 

  • Reviewing stormwater infrastructure design regulations including removing barriers to permitting nature-based solutions.  The plan acknowledges that the long-term cost of natural infrastructure can be lower than traditional infrastructure, in addition to the co-benefits to wildlife and people;  

  • Employing watershed-based resilience planning, which means planning for the future of local communities in the context of the entire watershed.  This is important because flooding impacts that each community experiences may be caused by conditions outside their own community boundaries. 

Implementing these recommendations will result in benefits for birds and communities across South Carolina. There is still much to be done, however, we should take a moment to reflect on the significance of this moment in South Carolina. We now have a science-based and stakeholder-vetted statewide resilience plan that emphasizes the importance of natural systems. 

The statewide resilience plan will guide state investment in flood mitigation and resilience projects across South Carolina. It was mandated by S. 259, the same legislation that Audubon SC championed in 2020 to create SCOR. Audubon SC contributed directly to this plan’s development, serving on the Environmental Systems Subcommittee, several ad hoc committees, and the Conservation Working Group. We look forward to working with SCOR and partners to make the recommendations included in this plan come to fruition in the years ahead both through our policy and advocacy work and our coastal program with projects like this one in Cape Romain. 


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