Protecting Species Of Concern

Federal bucks could help SCDNR

South Carolina Radio Network
July 05, 2018 - 9:30 am
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JULY 5, 2018 BY RENEE SEXTON

A bill proposed on Capitol Hill could help South Carolina protect more than 800 plants and animals considered wildlife of conservation concern.

The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act would provide an additional $1.3 billion to states to help them conserve species that could become endangered. Currently, funding for these programs comes from an excise tax on equipment used for hunting and fishing.

“The purpose of the subaccount is to fund conservation, management and restoration for species that are of greatest conservation concern within a state,” said Anna Huckabee Smith, Forestry Legacy Coordinator, State Wildlife Grants and State Wildlife Action Plan Coordinator for the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources. “Each state has a wildlife action plan that lists those species of concern.”

South Carolina has 494 animals and 332 plant species that are considered species of concern.

The state gets $650,000 a year for its program but its allocation is not consistent from year to year, based on the federal budget. The bill would make the funding permanent from revenues generated from energy and mineral development on federal lands.

“It’s not taking from anybody else,” Huckabee Smith said. “It’s just going into the general fund.”

“The current funding, it’s not enough to adequately address all species and habitats in peril,” she said. “So with this new bill, the portion that South Carolina would receive annually would equal over $15 million. That’s annually.”

“We cringe every year wondering if it’s going to get cut completely or we’re not going to get enough funding to do what we already do.”

South Carolina would be required to match 25 percent of the funding, roughly $5 million, but Huckabee Smith said the matching money could come from federal sources.

“That’s completely doable because the bill allows for some federal funds to be used as match as long as they don’t come from the Department of the Interior or the Department of Agriculture,” she said.

“The goal is proactive conservation. It costs taxpayers and businesses hundreds of millions of dollars each year to restore threatened and endangered species,” Huckabee Smith said. “These could be avoided or greatly reduced of proactive, voluntary conservation actions were implemented first.”

Money would be used to research and survey of species of concern in South Carolina, and possible “habitat manipulation to help restore species across the landscape.”

Among the species of concern are wood storks, red cockaded woodpeckers, striped bass, loggerhead sea turtles, gopher frogs, oyster reefs and rare crayfish species.

“South Carolina is situated in a biologically rich area of the country,” Huckabee Smith said. “A hotspot.”

The state has preserved wildlife in the ACE basin, heritage preserves, state parks and wildlife management areas. Efforts include protecting water quality.

Huckabee Smith said the plan also includes cooperative efforts with private landowners that have not been done before.

“Landowners are our partners in conservation,” she said.

“Our wildlife is important to our culture,” she said. “Our sense of place.”

“We can’t afford for it not to pass — literally. All the work that needs to be done for these species of greatest conservation need cannot possibly get done if we don’t have more funding for management and conservation,” Huckabee Smith said.

A study by Clemson University determined natural resources create an economic impact of more than $33 billion in South Carolina.

“This makes sense from a business standpoint,” she said.

Click here for more information on the bill.

Click here for information from the Alliance for America’s Fish and Wildlife.

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