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
The SC Conservation Bank is due to sunset on June 30, 2018, if it is not re-authorized by the General Assembly. Since its inception in 2002, the Conservation Bank has played a critical role in the preservation, conservation and protection of nearly 300,000 acres of some of our state’s most precious and threatened natural resources. Re-authorization of the Bank has long been a top priority of SCWF but legislation that would grant the Bank continued operating authority has struggled to make headway in recent years. However, there is now reason to be hopeful. H.4727, a re-authorization bill introduced by Rep. Brian White, is moving quickly through the legislative process in the House. Having passed through a House Ways and Means subcommittee and the full committee unanimously, White’s bill will soon be up for consideration by the entire House and we expect it to receive overwhelming support when it reaches the floor for debate and a vote. Once approved by the House, the bill will then move to the Senate where the prospects are excellent for approval by that chamber.
Rep. White’s bill restructures the Conservation Bank’s advisory board as well as requires some operational changes and budgeting oversight. SCWF, along with our conservation partners, supports Rep. White’s bill and we are delighted to finally see some positive movement toward the goal of re-authorization of the Bank in this legislative session. A lot of conversations by a lot of folks from various conservation organizations including SCWF took place in the off session with key legislative leaders to get us to this point.
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
A bill that would prohibit local governments from imposing restrictions on the use of plastic bags and auxiliary single-use containers in their communities was approved by the SC House of Representatives on February 7 by a vote of 73-41. SCWF opposed this anti-Home Rule legislation and supported the rights of local cities and counties to find local solutions to local problems. H.3529 would severely limit the ability of municipal and county governments the ability to enact ordinances to deal with the proliferation of a number of disposable containers – including plastic bags – that are littering their landscapes and causing great harm to wildlife in their communities. This legislation was hotly contested but, unfortunately, the proponents prevailed in the House. The bill has now been sent to the Senate for their consideration and we are hopeful that the Senate will reject this unwise legislation and preserve the Home Rule rights of locally elected councils to act in the best interest and welfare of the citizens they represent.
Solar Habitat Act
SCWF and our legislative advocacy partner, Audubon South Carolina, proposed legislation that would establish voluntary siting and best management practices guidelines for commercial solar developers that would encourage the use of native plants in and around large scale solar farms. Native plants provide excellent foraging habitats for game birds and song birds and attract wild pollinators that are critical for proper crop development. Native plants are also resilient to climate spikes and are deep-rooted thereby absorbing more storm water during downpours than the gravel or turf grasses currently being deployed at solar sites. Rep. Russell Ott has introduced our legislation, H.4875, and we will be seeking the introduction of a companion bill in the Senate soon. SCWF, Audubon SC and others are working with the SC Department of Natural Resources to develop the planting and maintenance guidelines that will accompany the legislation. The solar industry has a keen interest in our suggested approach to using native plants at their sites which continue to flourish in our state.
Native Plant Week
In 2017, SCWF and Audubon SC asked Rep. James Smith to introduce legislation that would declare the third week on October as South Carolina Native Plant Week. Rep. Smith introduced two bills on our behalf. The first, H.3994, was a concurrent resolution that passed last year designating October 16-20, 2017 as SC Native Plant Week. The second, H.4005, would designate the full third week of every subsequent October as SC Native Plant Week. This bill passed the House over whelming last year and is currently pending in the Senate where a vote is expected in the near future. The observance of Native Plant Week is expected to draw significant attention to our native plants which have played such an important role in our state’s history, culture and economy. The inaugural celebration of Native Plant Week in 2017 resulted in numerous events and activities being held around the state.
Offshore Oil and Gas Exploration and Drilling
As you know, the Trump administration has reversed course on the Obama administration’s decision to withdraw the South Atlantic Region from being opened up to oil and gas exploration and drilling. The current administration is actively considering plans to open the waters off South Carolina’s coast to such exploration and drilling. SCWF vehemently opposes any plan to allow for seismic testing, which is extremely detrimental to marine life, and actual drilling, which could result in a manmade disaster for our coastline and inland estuaries. While the ultimate decision-making authority rests with the federal government, the state has some influence with regulators. SCWF met in June with Governor McMaster who reiterated his opposition to the Trump administration plans. The Governor has since publicly voiced his opposition to offshore oil and gas exploration and drilling of South Carolina’s coast and has also written to the administration to ask that South Carolina’s coastal waters be withdrawn from any future plan. Additionally, there are several resolutions floating around the General Assembly that offer support for offshore oil drilling as well as those that voice opposition to any attempt to open up our coastline to such activity.
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.