Lowcountry lands and waterways sustain us all — residents and visitors alike — as testaments to why we live, visit, work and thrive in this beautiful region. Locals know the secret is to slow down, move past what man has done and let nature provide, teach, and inspire. We can take to the flats off Crab Bank, net menhaden in the morning and hook a redfish by afternoon. At Kiawah's Ocean Course, a foursome is pleasantly interrupted by two ospreys fighting mid-air over a plump mullet. And at the confluence of the Ashepoo, Combahee and Edisto rivers, hundreds of nesting wood storks cackle a welcome call to spring. Known as the ACE Basin, this 217,000-acre wilderness was made possible only through the action of landowners. Yes, landowners, who donated conservation easements, an agreement by them and binding to their descendants, to never develop the land. They were motivated by the idea that land and water are more valuable to nature's grand plan than to man's. Today, the ACE Basin is the largest undeveloped connected estuary on the east coast of the United States. Without question, clean water and open land drive our affection to this place. Conservation then, is not only a necessity, it must always be our priority.
True conservation is often a difficult balance to attain. But it is a pursuit worthy of our very best effort. We are faced with a conundrum of interrelated issues. How do we accommodate an additional 40-percent boom in population over the next dozen years without sacrificing quality of life? How do we maintain a strong economy, provide sustainable communities, and safeguard our natural resources, local farms and landscapes?
Many solutions are already in place. We are blessed with the work of more than one dozen regional open land trusts working to preserve open space in both urban and rural areas. These organizations procure private and public funding to purchase development rights or land titles when available. Landowners also benefit from land trust guidance on conservation easements, which retains ownership but lessens tax burdens. The Charleston County Parklands Foundation has a huge regional impact, controlling thousands of acres of land and water access for public enjoyment. Additionally, new development planning includes open space, tree, wetland and other requirements to meet quality of life needs. We believe these strategies provide the best fair approach to landowners and the public alike. Open space and land preservation offers great public benefits and because of that, the public should pay for it. It is inherently unfair to landowners to use restrictive density zoning that would decimate property values. Whenever possible, landowners should be compensated for their key role in land preservation that benefits us all.
Clean energy is shaping the way we think about our region...and the way the world thinks about us.