ST. GEORGE, SC – August 20, 2012 – The Dorchester County Conservation Commission, the citizen board appointed to make land conservation recommendations to County Council, is seeking Dorchester County land owners interested in preserving their lands either through the negotiation of a conservation easement or through the outright purchase of the properties.
There is an application process that allows the Commission to score and rank potential projects based on their conservation or historic value with extra value placed on properties that support the goals of the County’s Comprehensive Plan. The Commission has received its first designation of funds from the $5 million bond referendum that was passed in 2010.
The Comprehensive Plan designates land along the major waterways within the County (Edisto River, Cypress Swamp/ Ashley River, Four Holes Swamp), as priorities. The scoring process looks at such things as the uniqueness of the ecosystem, proximity to priority waterways, historic aspects, connection to already protected lands, scenic view protection, amount of public support, value for the dollar, and potential for matching with other funding sources. High scoring projects will ultimately be recommended to County Council for final approval.
Conservation easements offer income and estate tax advantages to the landowner and can ensure that the land is protected for future generations. Each easement is individualized to meet the needs of the landowner while incorporating conservation goals. For example, a landowner along the Edisto River may agree not to log his land or build within a 400’ buffer from the water’s edge, thus protecting the view of paddlers and fishermen enjoying the river. The landowner still owns the land and maintains his right to hunt or fish the property, or to enjoy the land in other ways. The benefit to the public lies in more than just the visual protection of a scenic area for the recreational enjoyment of boaters. Protection of water quality benefits fish and wildlife populations as well.
Of added value to the county, the land remains on the tax rolls and there are no management, maintenance or infrastructure development costs. Conservation easements last forever, and a third party Land Trust holds the easement and makes sure the agreement is not broken. Easements are a way to accomplish extensive conservation without the expenses to the County of total purchase of the property.
Fee Simple Purchase of properties involves the County actually buying the land from willing landowners at or below appraised values. Given the limits on the bond funds, projects in this category will have to have exceptional conservation or historic value to be considered.
Conservation Commission Chairman, Michael Dawson says “The Commission members are thrilled to be able to begin the process that will allow us to offer to Council land conservation options of both impressive quantity and quality.”
Interested landowners can find more information or download an application from the County website at www.dorchestercounty.net.