Land Conservation in the Port Royal Sound Watershed
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On November 8th 2023, Beaufort County voters elected to approve a ballot referendum for the brand new Greenspace program, securing up to $100 million in conservation funding in Beaufort County.
This monumental victory sets into motion the first ever land protection program funded by a penny sales tax in South Carolina that is not tied to transportation and infrastructure projects.
Critically, the land along the Port Royal Sound watershed is threatened by development and benefits greatly from the regional conservation goals of the Greenspace Program. Plus, the other advantages of this new land protection program, including clean air and water quality, will have a lasting positive impact that spans across generations.
The new Greenspace program is just the tool we need to address the rapid growth and the environmental challenges facing our community.
The South Coast region is home to some of the most beautiful land on the coast. It is our priority to protect the unique natural and cultural character of our region, including the historic sea island of St. Helena and the valuable habitat and rural landscapes between the ACE Basin to the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge.
The Conservation League remains committed to rural land protection. Why? Rural land provides critical habitat for wildlife, provides important ecosystem services like clean water and fresh air and provides the backbone to the rural farming and forestry economy. With great wild places, we can improve water quality, absorb storm surge and natural flooding events, and provide essential habitat corridors.
We will work with our conservation partners, including the Beaufort County Open Land Trust, Nature Conservancy, Ducks Unlimited, Lowcountry Land Trust and others to support land conservation region wide. The Beaufort county partner, the Rural and Critical Lands program, has strategically protected over 23,000 acres in Beaufort County. Recently protected properties with which the League has a long history include Binden Plantation (2012) and the Mobley Tract (2016). Strategic areas for land protection include the rich agricultural land on St. Helena, the military airspace in Burton, wildlife habitat corridors in Jasper County and along the Broad River which feeds the Port Royal Sound.
Beaufort County voters heartily agree land protection has public benefit: 74% supported the 2014 bond referendum to levy public funds for land protection. We will work to continue to promote this land ethic in local policy and ensure the efficiency of funds used for land conservation from this program, while expanding other opportunities made possible by local agricultural initiatives, the State Conservation Bank and other policy opportunities.
Land conservation is an essential counterbalance to the incoming growth in the South Coast region. Overwhelmingly, residents cite their quality of life and the natural beauty of our coast as reason they move to and live in the Beaufort-Jasper region. Land protection continues to assure these natural resources are protected and quality of life is enhanced for all future residents and generations to come.
In the News:
Beaufort County voters approve Green Space sales tax. It will take effect starting in May (The Island Packet, November 16, 2023)
Beaufort County becomes first in state to pass Greenspace Tax (Fox 28, November 10th, 2022)