Conservation is defined in the dictionary as preservation from loss, waste, or harm. South Carolinians love our state because there is much to love. Although it is small in size, it is rich in history and natural diversity. Our mountains, the Piedmont, and lowcountry beaches make South Carolina a very unique and special place. This high quality of life and distinct natural beauty attracts millions of visitors and new residents alike every year. So it’s no wonder that the face of our state is rapidly changing.
The ongoing urban land boom has brought us many benefits, including an economy, which employs more people and is more diversified than it has ever been. However, these benefits have been obtained at some cost, notably the significant impacts to our habitat base, agricultural productivity, and inventory of open lands. Quality of life ranks high among the reasons people choose to invest in a move to South Carolina, yet the land on which this quality of life depends is a limited commodity.
South Carolina is one of the fastest growing states in the United States and in the Southeast. A report by Rutgers University indicated that South Carolina was tenth in growth nationally and fifth regionally. SC is now fourth in number of acres being developed. From 1992 to 1997 over 100,000 acres per year were converted to urban use. The same report shows that the growth rate from 1982 to 1992 was only 40,000 acres per year. Consider just a few of the following facts:
- South Carolina is among the nation's 10 fastest growing states. SC’s population will grow by another 25% in another 15 years. To support that growth we will need 525,000 new houses; 40 million feet of new office space; 13,000 hotel rooms; 50% more paved roads.
- SC is growing by 165 people per day.
- South Carolina loses about 35 acres of farmland per day.
- SC ranks 11th nationally in trip destinations.
- 29 million visitors come to SC annually.
- Tourists spend $1.9 billion annually in SC.
- Tourism supports one in ten South Carolina jobs.
- Hunters, fishermen, and wildlife enthusiasts spend $1.7 billion a year.
- SC currently has 4.6 million acres of wetlands.
- 30% of the potential shell fishing waters is closed due to violations of state water quality standards.
- Since 1978, the amount of corporate WMA land has decreased by over 50%.
Economic Benefits of Conservation
Agri-business provides 460,000 jobs in South Carolina and forestry provides 50,000 jobs; over 30 millions visitors come to the State each year. The Conservation Bank conserves land for traditional uses that provide jobs in all of these areas.
One half of all South Carolinians get their drinking water from groundwater and the other half get their drinking water from surface waters. The Conservation Bank Conserves lands that protect water quality on both of these sources.
What Other States are Doing
SC is not alone on this issue. Our sister states have recognized that we all share in this matter and they have taken steps to try to get back some of their heritage by land acquisition of significant properties.
- The Florida Forever program was authorized through 2020 at $300 million a year on land.
- North Carolina is spending $100 million per year on land.
- Georgia is spending $32 million per year on land.
- Virginia is spending $36.5 million per year on land.
Strategies for Conservation in South Carolina
Every day almost 200 acres of farmland and forest lands are being converted to urban development. South Carolina, with 40th in size, ranks 10th in rate of loss of rural lands. The Conservation Bank is not just about conserving property. We are trying to pursue a bigger vision of keeping South Carolina a special place that we all appreciate.
The Conservation Bank is committed to the development of long-term business and operational strategies to sustain and enhance the natural and cultural resources of the state for its citizens through:
- Public Access to Conservation Lands
- Sponsored Activities & Public Outreach
- Developing a Long-term Conservation Vision for South Carolina
Conservation of our natural and historical resources is no longer an option if we are to continue to be a special place. In the face of dramatic changes in our landscape, we must decide which rich natural and cultural heritage we will leave to future generations. To meet this complex challenge, we must have a shared vision and clear objectives. To enhance quality of life and to maintain our South Carolina heritage, we must sustain a land base consisting of areas that are publicly owned and managed, as well as private farms and forests where strategies allow natural resources to be managed and conserved while maintaining the cultural and economic values that are important to us all.