SCWF works closely with the National Wildlife Federation to engage our supporters on issues of national significance. Executive Director, Ben Gregg, monitors these issues and partners with other state affiliates of the NWF to be sure our voices are heard.
Our national public lands are one of the defining features of America. They include our national parks, forests, wildlife refuges, monuments, wilderness areas and lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management. They’re America’s “big backyard,” where people of all social, economic, political, racial and ethnic backgrounds are welcome.
The National Wildlife Federation, its 50 state and territorial affiliates and 6 million supporters and members, are a diverse group of hunters, anglers, hikers, wildlife watchers, paddlers and other outdoor enthusiasts united in our passion for protecting public lands. These lands provide amazing outdoor experiences and habitat for fish and wildlife populations and are sources of clean air and water.
Learn more about our public lands initiative HERE.
The South Carolina Wildlife Federation (SCWF) works with legislators to protect precious wildlife habitat and ensure that sound scientific data is used to make decisions which affect wildlife. Our Government Relations Manager, Trip King, represents the SCWF, as well as our conservation partner, Audubon South Carolina (ASC) at the State House.
Below is a summary of issues we are currently watching at the South Carolina State House:
Re-authorization of the South Carolina Conservation Bank
On May 10, the last day of the 2018 regular Legislative Session, the South Carolina House of Representatives and State Senate gave final approval to the conference committee report on H.4727, a bill re-authorizing the South Carolina Conservation Bank before its statutory authority expired on June 30. Governor McMaster subsequently signed the re-authorization bill on May 18 making the SC Conservation Bank a permanent fixture within our state government for the first time since its inception in 2004. The Bank will never need to be re-authorized again.
Over the past several years, South Carolina Wildlife Federation, along with our advocacy partner Audubon South Carolina, has played a significant role in advancing Conservation Bank re-authorization legislation and working to secure its final passage by the General Assembly. Numerous reforms and operational improvements suggested by SCWF/ASC were incorporated into the final version of the bill and we remain committed to insure that the Bank is adequately funded by the General Assembly in the coming years now that dedicated funding from the deed recording fee has been removed from the equation.
We ask you to show your support by clicking on the above link to sign up for updates to keep informed about the latest developments on the re-authorization effort. That way, you can share with your friends and become directly involved in urging your representatives in the General Assembly to vote in favor of re-authorization.
Plastic Bags, Auxiliary Containers and Home Rule
H.3529 was a bill that would have prohibited local governments from enacting ordinances that would ban or restrict the use of plastic bags and other single-use auxiliary containers within their jurisdictions. Several coastal communities such as the Town of Folly Beach, the Isle of Palms and Beaufort County had enacted ordinances of this nature in recent years. SCWF joined with other conservation organizations in opposing this legislation and in 2017 we were successful in halting further consideration of this bill in the House. In 2018, supporters of H.3529 mounted an all-out effort to pass the bill and were successful in getting it through the House and approved by a Senate sub-committee and full committee and on to the Senate calendar. SCWF, Audubon, the Coastal Conservation League and others were able to keep the bill from receiving a vote in the Senate by having three Senators contest (object) the legislation. Senate supporters of H.3529 considered the use of the special order rule in the Senate to get the bill to the floor. However, the Senate simply ran out of time for employment of this extraordinary procedure and the bill did not receive a vote in the Senate before adjournment. While H.3929 is dead and gone for this legislative session, we fully anticipate that supporters of this ill-conceived legislation will be promoting similar legislation in 2019 and the conservation community must remain extremely vigilant in their continued opposition.
Solar Habitat Act
The South Carolina Solar Habitat Act is an initiative that was authored and championed by SCWF and Audubon South Carolina and represents a huge step forward in mitigating the loss of wildlife habitat, particularly habitat that is beneficial to birds and wild pollinators. Sponsored in the House by Representatives Russell Ott and Cary Clary, the Act directs the SC Department of Natural Resources, working with partners such as SCWF, ASC and others, to establish native vegetative planting and best management practices guidelines that solar developers must use to claim that their electrical generation site in beneficial to game birds, song birds, wild pollinators and other wildlife. The Act was overwhelming approved by both the House and the Senate and was signed by the Governor on June 1, 2018.
Native Plant Week
Legislation designating the third week in October as South Carolina Native Plant Week received final passage by the General Assembly in March and was officially signed by the Governor on March 12, 2018. This Act, which was drafted and championed by SCWF and Audubon South Carolina, was sponsored by Representative James Smith (D-Richland). It recognizes the value and importance of the rich diversity of South Carolina’s native plants and the significant role native plants have played in our state’s history, economic development and environmental landscape.
Offshore Oil and Gas Exploration and Drilling
While primarily a federal issue, an Ad Hoc Committee was established under the purview of the House Agriculture, Natural Resources and Environmental Affairs Committee to explore the benefits and/or downside of oil and gas exploration and drilling in our state’s coastal waters. The Committee heard testimony from experts on both sides of the issue and from public supporters and opponents of offshore oil and gas exploration and drilling. After conducting three public hearings, the Ad Hoc Committee ultimately did not weigh in one way or the other. Additionally, numerous House resolutions were introduced in support of and in opposition to offshore oil and gas exploration and drilling. In the end, none of these resolutions received a final vote in the House of Representatives. SCWF is on record as strongly opposing offshore oil and gas exploration, particularly the use of seismic testing, as well as offshore drilling in South Carolina coastal waters.
Solar and Renewable Energy Legislation
Numerous bills promoting the use of solar energy and other renewable forms of energy were introduced during the 2017-18 legislation session. Regrettably, none of these measures crossed the finish line. Most notably was H.4421, the SC Electric Consumer Bill of Rights Act, which would have removed the 2 percent cap on net metering for solar generation established under Act 236 in 2014, given some property tax exemptions to utility scale solar developments as well as to residential and commercial users, and offered other incentives to encourage the deployment of additional solar generating capacity in South Carolina.
South Carolina Conservation Coalition
SCWF is an active member of the South Carolina Conservation Coalition, a membership driven group of some 40 conservation-minded groups. SCWF has agreed to support and/or oppose numerous Coalition identified legislative initiatives in the 2018 legislative session. Some of those initiatives include; (1) support for dam safety reform; (2) support solar and renewable energy market growth; (3) support energy regulatory reform; (4) oppose attempts by the General Assembly to roll back environmental regulations or weaken protections afforded under the Pollution Control Act.