COLUMBIA, South Carolina (March 4, 2022) - A few weeks ago, South Carolina’s top elected leaders made it clear that conservation and land preservation is a priority, and it should be the stated policy in South Carolina. We have seen Governor McMaster and numerous Senators, Representatives, and state agencies recommend unprecedented levels of funding for public land conservation and propose legislation that, if enacted, will help double the amount of land that is currently protected in our state.
On February 16th, we joined legislators, state agencies, and other conservation partners at a press conference hosted by Governor McMaster to highlight the South Carolina Conservation Enhancement Act, which was recently introduced in the State Senate and House and is one of Audubon South Carolina’s legislative priorities this session. Governor McMaster said, “this is historic, but this is also a beginning. There’s going to be more,” a sentiment and commitment echoed by bill sponsors Representative Murrell Smith and Senator Chip Campsen, as well as Finance Committee Chairman Senator Nikki Setzler, SC Floodwater Commission Chair Tom Mullikin, York Glover of St. Helena, and Kershaw County Chairman Julian Burns. Representative Smith said, “we need to preserve rural South Carolina, not only for us but for our children and their children. We have an obligation to let the future generations of South Carolinians enjoy what we took for granted throughout all these years.” Senator Chip Campsen, who helped to establish the Conservation Bank nearly two decades ago, stated that the Bank has “been a great program and I’m glad that we’re putting it to use to help battle climate change,” a use that was not originally considered when the Bank was first created.
Already over 700 Audubon members have reached out to their legislators to express support for this legislation, and it will be a focus at the 2022 SC Conservation Coalition Lobby Day next month. The SC Conservation Enhancement Act is an important step toward doubling the protected land in South Carolina, which is essential to protecting the places birds need, mitigating climate impacts like flooding and storm surge, and promoting carbon sequestration in our state. We are also thrilled to see the SC General Assembly allocate significant funding for land conservation and related initiatives as they proceed through the annual legislative budget process. Last month, state agencies like the Conservation Bank, Department of Natural Resources, and Office of Resilience made their budget requests for the upcoming fiscal year, and in doing so, they focused on how important land conservation is to their agency and to the South Carolinians they serve.
Last week when the House Ways and Means Committee finished their work on the state budget for the 2021 to 2022 fiscal year, it was clear that appropriators felt the same way. The proposed budget allocates significant funds for the acquisition of lands open to the public and the protection of special places. Legislative leaders at the Statehouse, notably House Ways & Means Committee Chairman Murrell Smith, are promoting conservation as a priority issue and they’re putting the money in the budget to fund conservation initiatives. We commend Chairman Smith and his colleagues for their leadership to make South Carolina the best place for both birds and people.
The time to act is now. Audubon is working to protect the places both birds and communities need and to ensure that as SC grows, it does so sustainably. We depend on the voices of our members to elevate these issues at the Statehouse and in their communities and we are seeing the results of years of hard work by the conservation community. On March 22nd, Audubon members will join Conservation Coalition partners for the 2022 Lobby Day to advocate for the Conservation Enhancement Act and other important legislation being considered this year.
Join Audubon on Lobby Day by signing up for our advocacy training and lobby day activities, and make sure you sign up as an organization member with Audubon South Carolina