New conservation fund to protect undeveloped barrier island – Statehouse Report

Waites Island. Photo by Steve Walker on Flickr.com

Staff reports | Efforts to protect the last undeveloped barrier island in Horry County on the eastern tip of South Carolina have taken a huge leap forward with two $500,000 donations to a new fund to protect land.

Google donated $500,000 to the new Land and Water Action Fund in Maintain SC, a corporate-backed conservation initiative to leverage private sector dollars with county, state and federal dollars to accelerate the protection of critical state resources. Google’s donation, which was announced Thursday, has leveraged a $500,000 matching grant from the Waccamaw Community Foundation, according to a press release.

“This is a significant inflection point in conservation funding in South Carolina,” SC Sen said. Chip Campsen, a Charleston Republican considered by many to be the father of the state-funded SC Conservation Bank, which has protected nearly 250,000 acres of land over the past two decades.

“Sustain SC’s private sector dollars will become an important source of recurring matching funds to continue the South Carolina Conservation Bank’s mission to protect South Carolina’s beautiful places,” he said today.

Funding from the Google grant will be used to permanently protect a portion of Waites Island, a barrier of over 1,000 acres near the North Carolina border. It is one of the last undeveloped and unprotected barrier islands in the southeast, according to the statement.

The Open Space Institute, a leading conservation organization, is the first recipient of money from Sustain SC’s new fund. Earlier this year, he purchased 260 acres of the island just northeast of North Myrtle Beach. Much of the rest of the island is owned by a foundation, but some remains in private hands, according to a published report.

SC Department of Natural Resources Director Robert H. Boyles Jr. stressed the importance of protecting the island: “191 species of birds have been documented on Waites Island, which accounts for almost half of every species of bird found in our state,” he said. “The conservation of Waites Island will provide an oasis in a sea of ​​development for migratory birds, sea turtles and shorebirds, as well as the potential for restoration of the federally threatened beach pigweed.”

Governor Henry McMaster said he was pleased with the conservation announcement, “We have an incredible responsibility to preserve South Carolina’s natural beauty and foster sustainable growth as people around the world experience all that our state has to offer and settle here.

State gets big grant for electric school buses

In other conservation news, South Carolina received a $58 million grant to replace old diesel buses with new electric school buses in 16 school districts. Funded by federal infrastructure dollars, the state will replace 148 diesel buses with electric buses and install infrastructure to charge them.

“The transportation industry is the single largest source of pollution in the United States, and our children deserve a clean, healthy ride to school,” said John Tynan, executive director of Conservation Voters of South Carolina (CVSC). “The transition from a fossil fuel school bus fleet is an important step in improving our children’s health, the climate and the economy, and CVSC is thrilled that South Carolina is helping to open the way to a clean energy future.”

The initiative received bipartisan support, according to a CVSC press release.

“As an educator, I appreciate how these new electric school buses will contribute to cleaner air for our students, bus drivers, teachers and staff who work near bus loading areas” , said Sen. Mike Fanning, D-Fairfield.

SC Rep. Bill Herbkersman, R-Beaufort, added, “This funding is a win for South Carolinians of all ages. This will allow the Jasper School District to phase out four of its oldest, dirtiest diesel buses and replace them with all-new, zero-emission electric school buses that will mean cleaner air, healthier kids. health and provide clean energy jobs for people here. in South Carolina.

Among the school districts that will receive the new buses under the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean School Bus program are Dorchester District Four and Georgetown County School District.

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