A Review of the S.C. Conservation Bank
Members of the General Assembly asked the Legislative Audit Council to conduct an audit of the S.C. Conservation Bank (Bank) to review:
• The grant application process.
• If the Bank is overpaying for properties.
• If the Bank is overcommitting its authorized budget.
• If sufficient public access on conservation property is being allowed.
• To whom the grants are being awarded.
The Bank, established in 2002, has a mandated purpose of conserving and ensuring public access to South Carolina’s natural resources. This is accomplished through Bank grants for conservation easements or fee simple deed transfers with the properties being placed in conservation, and encumbered with land use restrictions, in perpetuity.
The Bank is funded by 25¢ of the $1.30 state deed recording fee. The Bank may offer loans but generally grants funds to eligible recipients such as SCDNR, SCPRT, S.C. Forestry Commission, municipalities, and non-profits and land trusts — entities experienced in owning and managing conservation properties.