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Daniel Island group wants SPA-owned land protected
By Elizabeth Bush
Oct 3, 2012 - 9:16:51 AM


Should at least a portion of the land owned by the State Ports Authority on Daniel Island be preserved and protected in perpetuity under a conservation easement? A group of Daniel Island residents thinks the concept is worth exploring.
Close to 40 people packed into the community room at the Daniel Island Library on Monday, September 17, for a presentation by Barry Jurs, executive director of the Lord Berkeley Conservation Trust (LBCT). A private, non-profit organization founded in 1992, LBCT has preserved over 16,000 acres of forest, farmland, wetlands and historic sites in the region for the benefit of future generations. According to Jurs, about 41 percent of Berkeley County is currently under some sort of protective status.
“It’s amazing what we do have in this county, and it’s going to remain that way, in its natural condition,” Jurs told the crowd gathered.  “…And it’s going to be there for you and your grandchildren to enjoy.”
Daniel Island resident Susan Gaddy, chair of the Daniel Island Neighborhood Association Land Use and Zoning Committee, invited Jurs to speak on the topic of conservation easements with regards to the SPA property.   Presently, the SPA owns about 1300 acres of land on Daniel Island, but they have been directed to sell, per legislative order, approximately 427 acres by the end of 2013. Jurs told the group that portions of the tract would be ideal for preservation.   
“This is a very important piece of conservation property,” he said. “…It provides quality of life, recreation, scenic vistas. You look at what we have here and we have just a wonderful open space…(it impacts) wildlife, water quality, air quality, and it certainly protects wetlands….That is why we got to try to help you find a way to do this.”
As Jurs explained, a conservation easement , if any, would allow the land to be protected in perpetuity. Even if the property were to change hands, development would be limited to the terms of the original easement contract.
“It’s very important…this is like estate planning in terms of its importance and its scope,” said Jurs. “…There are great tools to do this, it can be rewarding for the landowner and something that contributes to the public good in Berkeley County.”  
Before the port’s land on Daniel Island could be protected under any type of conservation easement, the SPA would of course have to agree to enter into such an agreement. An easement of this nature could have tax benefits for the port, Jurs said, and could also help the SPA fulfill its environmental mitigation commitments.
“The purpose of our easement…is to be that blanket laid across it so you don’t have to face this again,” said Jurs. “…No matter what happens, the terms of the easement will hold.”
The LBCT is not a “radical” conservation group,” added Jurs, but rather an organization that works with landowners to create an overall management plan that focuses on both growth and good environmental stewardship, he said.
“We look to try and find connectivity of how it fits into the large piece of the puzzle…There are some places where infrastructure exists, where growth needs to go, and we don’t want to stand in the way of that…We look at economic development and we look at conservation and we see them as not opposing forces. Basically we see them as two different sides of the very same coin…When we work together in partnership, it really works very, very well.”
When a resident in the audience asked those gathered who would like to see a conservation easement placed on the SPA land, the majority of attendees raised their hands in support. The group then formed a steering committee of residents who will lead efforts to look into the concept further.
"We were really pleased to offer an educational forum for the community on conservation easements and land trusts as a potential option for Daniel Island,” said Gaddy. “We were gratified with the turnout and the interest the participants expressed in learning more information. Barry Jurs gave an outstanding program on the Lord Berkeley Conservation Trust."
To join the SPA/Land Trust Committee, or for additional information, please contact Bill Hart at billhart45@homesc.com.

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