We are an economic force: now, we need to show our muscle
By: Ben Gregg
As a member of the South Carolina Wildlife Federation, you are part of the biggest and best economic engine in South Carolina. Our state’s extraordinary natural resources are the foundation of the economy in both good times and bad. While tourism and agriculture each can make a case for being the number one economic sector in the state, one thing is very clear: add together tourism, farming, forestry and outdoor pursuits, and you have the economic engine that drives South Carolina. Yet, when decision makers talk about growing the economy, they often can’t see the forest for the trees.
Our incredible economic strength does not translate into respect at the State House, and that has to change. For example, the S C Department of Natural Resources is losing a larger per cent of its budget than almost any agency – and its ENTIRE budget constitutes less than ½ of one percent of the total state budget! DNR biologists and conservation officers are on the front lines of protecting thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in tax base. Yet, the agency is treated like a red-headed stepchild by some lawmakers and budget writers.
Fortunately, being taken more seriously by our elected officials is in our hands – we just have to mobilize into an army of thousands ready to stand up for our rights. I am excited to let you know the SC Camo Coalition is up and running. We now have almost 3,000 sportsmen in our email alert system, and we hope to double that number by the end of this year. We have 23 organizations around the state now participating.
Our first alert was sent recently asking Camo members to contact the House Ways and Means Committee members and ask for funding for the Conservation Bank. Last year, a few powerful legislators engineered a successful last minute assault on Conservation Bank funds, and most of the funding was lost. Camo gives us a new tool to prevent these types of attacks from occurring again. This first alert generated almost 2,500 emails to the Ways and Means Committee members – not a bad start for an organization just getting its feet on the ground.
We have the potential numbers to be a driving force on issues like clean water, more lands and waters for recreation, protection of critical habitat for threatened birds, sufficient funding for the critical missions of DNR and the Forestry Commission – we just have to speak up. And, it can’t be done without YOU.
If you have not, please sign up NOW for the Camo Coalition by going to SCCAMO.org and registering. It only takes a minute or two, and we will only send out a few alerts a year. But, when you hear from us, just know that telling your legislators what you think is critical.
So, the next time you see your senator or state representative, give him or her a reminder: You are part of a 30 billion dollar industry. Your passion contributes to a workforce of several thousand South Carolinians making up about 1/3 of our total economy. Our states quality of life – and our economic future – are directly dependent on tourism, forestry, farming, wildlife and fisheries.
Meanwhile, we at SCWF will continue to advocate for you and the other hundreds of thousands of South Carolinians who are a part of the largest economic force in the Palmetto State.