A new initiative aims to increase land protections in the years to come

State leaders and land preservation advocates will gather Tuesday to announce a wide-ranging initiative to dramatically increase protection and preservation of natural areas across South Carolina.

Gov. Henry McMaster, state Sen. Chip Campsen and conservationists are set to announce “support for ​​accelerating the pace and land conservation and improving funding for public lands management,” said Raleigh West, executive director of the South Carolina Conservation Bank.

McMaster will travel to Andrews for the announcement, in an area near the Black River where work is already underway to ramp up land preservation.

The move comes after the pandemic year when state and local parks saw record numbers of visitors while newly remote workers fled major cities, settling in South Carolina.

“There’s just this tremendous demand for more public outdoor recreation and at the same time, growth is happening,” West said.

Campsen | File photo

Campsen, a Republican from Charleston, said he is planning complementary legislation for when the General Assembly returns in January. Campsen’s proposal would reinstate direct funding from deed registrations to the Conservation Bank, which buys property directly from landowners or pays them for a conservation easement that restricts further development. Another provision would direct sales tax revenue from sporting goods toward land protection efforts.

“We’re seeing a lot of pressure and a lot of in-migration. And it’s important that we preserve our quality of life, and our natural resources that contribute to that quality of life in the face of that massive population migration we’re experiencing,” Campsen told the City Paper. “Otherwise, we’re gonna lose what makes South Carolina distinct and attractive in the first place.”

The measure to accelerate land preservation comes in parallel with Biden-administration efforts to protect 30% of U.S. lands by 2030 as climate change affects natural areas from coast to coast. West views the two proposals as “distinct and separate,” with much of the federal proposal dealing with public lands that dominate the American West.