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Land Protection

South Carolina’s treasured landscapes tell the story of our state and her people. Protecting these unique and special places ensure that these lands and waters, the stories they tell, and the environmental benefits they provide all endure for generations. The people and environment of South Carolina rely on the land of South Carolina, which is why CVSC fights every day to ensure the tools for land protection are available to all communities throughout our state.

CVSC’s Land Protection efforts protect the land and water that makes South Carolina unique, that drive our tourism economy, and that provide a high quality of life for residents and tourists alike. Through legislative advocacy, agency and community partnerships, support of state and local conservation funding efforts, we draw attention to the need for conservation tools and resources and bring them to fruition.  

Connect with Zach for more information on CVSC’s land protection initiatives.

South Carolina Conservation Enhancement Act (S.280, H.3786) When the South Carolina Conservation Bank was established it enjoyed dedicated funding from a portion of the Deed Stamp Recording Fee. This connected funding for land protection with development in the state, balancing the two. When the bank was permanently reauthorized this funding mechanism was stripped, leaving the Bank to rely on funding allocated through the budget process each year. This funding is unreliable and could potentially leave one of our state’s most powerful conservation tools limited in its capacity in lean budget years. To remedy this, CVSC is working with lawmakers and partners in the South Carolina Conservation Coalition to pass the South Carolina Conservation Enhancement Act and permanently re-establish the Deed Stamp funding mechanism.

South Carolina Public Lands Enhancement Act (S.281) This bill was created with the recognition that more land protection by the state requires more land management. By reallocating a portion of sales tax revenue generated from the sale of outdoor recreational equipment, we can ensure that South Carolina’s public lands are well maintained for maximum enjoyment. CVSC is working with the South Carolina Conservation Coalition and a broad array of outdoor recreation stakeholders in support of passing the South Carolina Public Lands Enhancement Act, a necessary complement to the SC Conservation Enhancement Act. 

Trail Tax Credits (H.3121) Many of the public trails in South Carolina access private property and this bill will provide an incentive for more landowners to open their land to public trails with a tax credit. CVSC is supportive of this bill.

Rosenwald Day Resolution (H.3968) Rosenwald Schools were perhaps the most impactful philanthropic effort for African-American education in the first half of the 20th century. These schools were built across the Southeast, nearly 500 in South Carolina, to provide state-of-the-art education facilities for African- American students at a time when they were being denied access to quality education. CVSC is working with community groups and lawmakers to raise awareness of these schools and develop a protection network for the remaining schools and school sites in South Carolina. With the help of Rep. Henegan and Sen. Stephens CVSC was successful in establishing February 28th, 2023 as South Carolina Rosenwald School Day. CVSC will continue to work with the legislature and a wide array of partners to advance the protection, restoration, and interpretation of these important cultural landmarks. 

Read more about our legislative priorities and the status of these bills here.

CVSC’s land protection efforts in the 2021-2022 legislative session were framed around doubling the amount of protected land in South Carolina from 3m to 6m acres. The concept of adding 3m additional acres of protected land and water was initially discussed in a 2021 press conference by Governor McMaster, Tom Mullikin, and Sen. Chip Campsen.

With this goal stated publicly, CVSC looked for opportunities to ensure that South Carolina outlined this goal through legislation but also created funding streams necessary to reach this goal. Funding opportunities emerged as part of two critical bills:

  • The County Green Space Sales Tax (S.152): This legislation allows voters to approve additional funding for green spaces in their counties. The high degree of accountability at the county level ensures that the land that matters most to community members is protected. This bill passed the Senate and House and was signed by the Governor.
  • The South Carolina Conservation Enhancement Act (S.1039 & H.4956): This legislation restores a funding stream for the South Carolina Conservation Bank by  dedicating a portion of the Deed Stamp Recording Fee to the Conservation Bank Trust Fund. By linking funding for land protection to the rate of real estate growth, South Carolina can restore a market-mechanism for conservation and generate nearly $25 million a Year for these efforts. Unfortunately, this bill stalled in the House Ways & Means Committee, but is anticipated to come back in 2023 for swift passage.

Read more about our legislative priorities and the status of these bills here.

Approximately 3 million acres of land and water are protected throughout South Carolina covering about 15% of the state. These protected properties include private and publicly owned property and include working farms and forests, picturesque mountains and marshes, and unique cultural and historic sites. 

Since 2020, CVSC held conversations with our land protection allies and state leaders seeking to answer “what is next for land protection” in South Carolina. These efforts led for multiple stakeholders and leaders, including Governor McMaster, calling for a bold goal for land protection in the Palmetto State – doubling the amount of protected land and water by protecting an additional 3m acres.
CVSC fully supports this bold vision for South Carolina and actively works to identify and advocates for the policies, tools, and funding streams that would empower nonprofit partners and state and local government to reach this target. We support the acquisition and enhancement of protected lands through public and private funding streams and creative policies with the understanding that more land protection is good for the quality of life in the Palmetto State.

A critical tool for reaching this goal is the South Carolina Conservation Bank. Since 2004, CVSC has advocated for the creation, reauthorization, and funding for the Bank, a state agency that leverages state funds to provide grants for the protection of private and public lands. It is one of the most powerful tools for land protection in the state. As we look towards how to protect an additional 3m acres of land and water, CVSC will continues to support this and other innovative funding sources.

As South Carolina pursues a bold goal of doubling the amount of protected land and water, we must recognize that traditional land protection efforts have been dominated by protection of large tracts of land, typically owned by higher-wealth individuals. These efforts have been immensely successful and have protected millions of unique properties across our state. 

These traditional efforts can and should be a part of the land protection toolbox, but, if South Carolina seeks to rapidly protect an additional 3 million acres of the Palmetto State,  the conservation movement must broaden our efforts. We must expand the traditional definition of ‘protected lands’ to make room for new options and tools that preserve working lands, historic and cultural sites, and other community-centered approaches for protecting land and water resources. We must add new tools to the toolbox that make conservation accessible to individuals who rely on the land and water for wealth generation, that expand land protection beyond the small subset of the population that willing to place perpetual restrictions on their property, and that recognize that both individuals and communities have deep, personal connections to the land that must be respected and valued.  

In addition, we must recognize that protecting millions of acres of land and water is only one part of the puzzle. We must ensure that the public is provided access to some of these protected sites. Green spaces provide affordable recreational opportunities and support the mental well-being of people who use them. Community access to these spaces is as much a conservation issue as it is a public health issue. 

Rosenwald Schools are a living symbol of the movement to educate African American communities after Reconstruction. Now, we have an opportunity to weave the story of land protection into their cultural legacy. Protecting these buildings, their stories, and the lands they rest on represents a new way of looking at conservation and those it impacts.

CVSC, the WeGOJA Foundation, the African American Heritage Commission, Rosenwald community groups, and other state and local partners have formed a working group to initiate the protection of Rosenwald School sites across the state. To raise awareness surrounding this project, the SC House passed H.3968, recognizing February 28, 2023, as Rosenwald School Day. Recognizing this day, however, is only the beginning of what we need to do to protect these schools and lands.

Click here to learn more about SC Rosenwald Schools.

Our Impact

CVSC 2020-2024 strategic plan prioritizes passage of clean energy, land protection, and water quality policies, conservation; building a conservation majority in the General Assembly; strengthening the conservation movement in South Carolina; and ensuring all of our efforts are rooted in racial justice and equity.