The South Carolina Conservation Bank (Bank) is the state’s most important land protection tool and funding source for land conservation. We continue to advocate for full funding of the agency as well as educate elected officials and the public on the importance of a dedicated conservation funding source.
Since its inception in 2002, the Bank protected nearly 250,000 acres in 42 counties, demonstrating the ability to protect land resources at an efficiency rate of approximately $515 per acre. The Bank is funded by a portion of the state real estate transfer fee. Twenty-five cents ($.25) out of every one dollar and thirty cents ($1.30) generated by this fee is placed in a special trust fund solely for the use by the Conservation Bank. The Bank Board uses a competitive grant application process that includes consideration of natural resource values, other financial sources and opportunities for public access. The Bank provides grants for woodlands/wetlands, farmlands, urban parks, and historical and archaeological sites; 76% of the lands protected by the Conservation Bank offer either general or limited public access. Roughly 100,000 (48%) have full public use, including hunting and fishing and 60,000 acres (28%) can be used with landowner permission. Every acres provides a public benefit: keeping working farms and forests in production, maintaining water quality and quantity, reducing flooding, enriching wildlife habitat, providing outdoor recreation, protecting historic sites and attracting tourism, however, the availability of those dollars depends on the annual funding of the Bank.
Despite the Bank’s position as the most influential statewide land protection tool in SC, threats exist to its effectiveness and even its existence. The enabling legislation for the Bank includes language that requires that the Bank’s budget be zeroed out in years in which state agencies experience across-the-board cuts. The enabling legislation also included a sunset provision which would have forced the Bank to close its doors in 2013, but due to our lobbying efforts, legislation passed in 2012 to allow the Bank to remain open for another five years until 2018.
Securing permanent reauthorized funding
When the 2018 session started, time was running out for the South Carolina Conservation Bank. Funding for this critical agency, which permanently protects public and private lands across the state, was set to expire this summer. With support from you and our partners, we helped secure permanent reauthorized funding for the Conservation Bank. The bank will continue to operate as an independent agency with a competitive grants process and protect special places in South Carolina, forever.