Improving the Quality of Life
The birth of the South Carolina Conservation Bank Act began in the year 2002 and was passed by the General Assembly and signed by the Governor. The beauty of this program is that it simultaneously protects natural resources and supports individual property rights. Landowners that wish to participate can sell property outright or sell conservation easements and retain traditional use of the land. Only willing landowners will participate in this program. No one can be forced to sell their land or easements. With an increasingly mobile society, South Carolina has an exceptionally high quality of life, but in order to attract the next generation of growth, quality of life must be protected by securing our landscapes.
South Carolina is experiencing rapid land development and economic growth which has benefited the state’s people and economy, but has led to the loss of farmlands, forestlands, wildlife habitats, outstanding natural areas, beaches and public areas for outdoor recreation; and has impacted the health of the state’s streams, rivers, wetlands, estuaries and bays. All of which, impact the quality of life of the state’s current and future citizens, and may jeopardize the well being of South Carolina’s environment and economy if not addressed appropriately.
This same rapid land development has also led to the loss of historical and archaeological sites that embody the heritage of human habitation in the state. Additionally, as urban areas expand and the separation of urban residents from open land increases, there is a need to preserve greenways, open space, and parks in urban areas in order to promote balanced growth.
It is critical to encourage cooperation and innovative partnerships among landowners, State Agencies Municipalities and Non-profit Organizations, which must work together in order to meet these objectives.
Through the support of these organizations and the leadership of hundreds of individuals this Act endured a difficult struggle, but finally culminated in the Act being ratified in April of 2002. The Act is funded by placing twenty five cents out of each one dollar and thirty five cents of the Documentary Deed Stamp Recording Fee into a trust for the Conservation Bank to carry out the Act. One of the amendments to the act was to delay funding the Act until July 2004.
The Conservation Bank is important because South Carolina’s population will grow by an additional one million people between 2000 and 2015 representing a twenty five percent increase in just fifteen years. As a result, South Carolina will need 525,000 new housing units, 40 million square feet of office space, 45 million feet of retail space, 30 million feet of warehouse space, 13,000 hotel rooms and 50 % more paved roads. South Carolina ranks fourth among other states in conversion of agricultural/farm lands being converted to development. Also, hunters, fishermen and wildlife enthusiasts spent 1.4 billion dollars in South Carolina in 1996. Tourists spend about two billion dollars annually impacting 122,000 jobs. South Carolina has 182 miles of beaches and 200,000 acres of saltwater marshes. Of the potential shellfishing waters, about 30 percent are closed due to violations of state water quality standards. No current statewide legislation protects riparian areas. Hence, the importance in having the Conservation Bank is to improve the quality of life in South Carolina through the conservation of significant natural resource lands, wetlands, historical properties and archeological sites. It is estimated that the amount of state funding from the documentary stamp will be between 6 and 10 million dollars annually to work toward these goals so that future generations can enjoy the cool clean summer streams and white winter woods as we have.