Whether or not you see yourself as a “conservationist,” the South Carolina Conservation Bank benefits ALL South Carolinians. If you like to hike, hunt, fish, bird watch or just enjoy the natural beauty of our state, you benefit from the lands, waterways and wildlife it protects. If you don’t do any of those things, but you value safe drinking water, a good economy and a high quality of life in South Carolina, you still benefit.

Conservation Bank funds are distributed evenly throughout the State through various land trusts to use to fund projects that:

Help ensure clean drinking water

One half of all South Carolinians get their drinking water from groundwater, and the other half get their drinking water from rivers, lakes and streams. The Conservation Bank protects many of the watersheds that are the sources of this water, leveraging federal and private funding. This also helps ensure that our rivers, streams and lakes are safe for public use and recreation, such as fishing, swimming and boating.

“If we don’t make an investment to make sure that water is clean and protected to as much of a degree as is feasible or possible, taxpayers at the end of the line end up paying for water treatment plants,” she said. “If you preserve the forests around the water sources, you avoid the need to a large degree of having to build brick-and-mortar water treatment facilities because there is a natural treatment process.”

~ April Donnelly, SC Government Relations for The Nature Conservancy

Improve our high quality of life, now and for future generations

Recent Public Opinion polls contracted by various groups indicate that 95% of South Carolinians believe that land and water conservation funding is very important to their quality of life. Among the responses:

  • 95% either agree or strongly agree that conserving the places we hunt, fish, and enjoy our outdoor traditions helps maintain our quality of life and makes South Carolina a special place to live
  • 92% think that state resources should continue to be used to support the Conservation Bank
  • 89% agree that conserving our land and water is an economic positive

The state’s high quality of life and abundant natural resources have been mentioned by companies such as Michelin, BMW, Boeing and others as a big part of what attracted them to the state.

Improve the economy of a region and the state as a whole
  • A 2009 study found that South Carolina’s natural resources provide $29 billion in annual economic benefits to our state.
  • Agriculture provides 460,000 jobs in South Carolina
  • Forestry provides 50,000 jobs in South Carolina
  • Outdoor recreation drives the South Carolina economy to the tune of $18B in direct consumer spending, $1B in direct tax revenue, and 201,000 jobs

Tourists pour into South Carolina every year to see and enjoy our extraordinary natural and historic resources, making tourism our State’s number one industry.

  • Tourism supports one in ten South Carolina jobs
  • Over 30 million people visit South Carolina each year
  • South Carolina ranks 11th nationally in trip destinations
  • Tourists spend $1.9 billion annually in our state
  • Hunters, fishermen, and wildlife enthusiasts spend $1.7 billion a year in South Carolina

The Conservation Bank is the only source of public funds available in the state for agricultural or farmland easements. The USDA sets aside substantial funds for this type of protection but match is almost always required.

When family farms are protected with funding from the CONSERVATION BANK, this helps the local economy and often makes continued operation of the farms financially feasible. Often, the funds are spent locally on machinery, fuel, surveys, labor, seeds, animals and construction as a property is returned to a functioning farm.

So, at the end of the day the family farm is preserved in perpetuity producing food and fiber; the recurring jobs associated with the farm will still be there; and the farmer has funds that can provide for retirement.

Create leverage to get additional funds

Federal programs often require applicants to demonstrate “skin in the game” by bringing matching funds to the table, and many times that match is required to come from a public source at the state or local level. Funding from the Conservation Bank has been used to satisfy this matching requirement, allowing many important conservation projects to be accomplished.

In general, grants awarded by the Bank to organizations like a land trust, historic society or a soil and water conservation district often result in partnerships and are leveraged though federal awards and other resources.

Provide greater public access to conservation lands

We recognize the importance of being able to provide the public with new recreational opportunities as well as expand the quality of life issues these properties provide. To this end:

  • 81.7% of the properties funded by the Conservation Bank have some public access
  • 49.4% have unlimited general access
  • 32.3% have regulated public access, which means you simply have to contact the landowner to arrange access

Without the Conservation Bank, many of these properties would be privately developed and forever lost to any kind of public access. Even in the few cases where no public access is allowed, the public still benefits from the protection of water, fish and wildlife habitat and scenic beauty.

Strike a good balance between growth and conservation

There are now more than 4 million people living in South Carolina, and our population continues to grow at the rate of 104 people every day.  By 2030, the state’s population will exceed 5.5 million. Along the coast, the three urban areas of Myrtle Beach, Charleston and Beaufort/Hilton Head all rank in the top 20 fastest growing areas in the entire country. Accommodating this population growth has caused, and will continue to cause, rapid development across the State. This puts great pressure on our drinking water supplies, wildlife habitats, and outdoor recreational areas.

The Conservation Bank helps us “have it both ways”—to continue to grow but at the same time to protect many of the forests, farmlands, green spaces and historic sites that make South Carolina so special and unique.

The Bank is focused on improving the quality of life in SC, and seeks to accomplish that through balancing these things: the need for a prosperous State with a sturdy economic engine and a viable job market available to its citizens, AND beautiful places for our citizens and tourists to see, use and enjoy.

Prevent urban encroachment

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 among the nation’s 10 fastest growing states. Our 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.

The ongoing urban land boom has brought us many benefits, including an economy that employs more people and is more diversified ever. However, these benefits have come at some cost, notably the significant impacts to our wildlife habitats, drinking water supplies, agricultural productivity, and inventory of open lands.

The Conservation Bank is not just about conserving property. We are trying to pursue a bigger vision of keeping South Carolina a truly special place.

We urgently need your support in our efforts to make sure reauthorization happens.

The first step is simply providing us with your contact information, so we can keep you updated on our efforts. Once you are on our communications list, we will provide the ideas and methods for you to let your elected representative in Columbia know how important the conservation bank is to you personally. Remember, they are there to represent you, and not play politics.