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 to net menhaden in the morning and hook a redfish by afternoon. On 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 strike—and maintain. But it is a pursuit worthy of our very best effort. We are faced with a conundrum of interrelated issues. How do we accommodate rapid population growth without sacrificing quality of life? (“Rapid” being a key term, given that the anticipated population growth by 2030—to a total of 800,000 residents—arrived more than a decade earlier, in 2019.) 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 retain ownership but lessen 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, most fair approach to landowners and the public alike. Open space and land preservation offer great public benefits and, for that reason, 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.