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February 25th, 2020
By Andrea Cooper
The 2020 ForeverGreen Luncheon was a great success — our largest luncheon yet! Nearly 500 people gathered to honor this year's award recipients as well as Brad Wyche, founder of Upstate Forever.
In my closing remarks, which you'll find below, I spoke about the critical need for increased funding for conservation in the Upstate. Our organization and conservation partners have made tremendous strides to protect our region's critical lands, waters, and unique character. But to continue this important work, we need significant financial support. Fortunately, a new funding initiative is underway. Read on and please visit upstateforever.org/protect-more-land to learn more. — Andrea
Good afternoon. I’m Andrea Cooper, the Executive Director of Upstate Forever.
Thank you, Raleigh, for your and the South Carolina Conservation Bank’s dedication to protecting the beauty and integrity of our state’s natural places.
We also have Doug Harper here today who is the immediate past chair of the Conservation Bank. Thank you, Doug, for all of your efforts.
I’d also like to thank the legislators and everyone else who was involved in re-authorizing the SC Conservation Bank last year. I can’t emphasize enough what a WIN that was for the citizens of our state.
The Bank has invested $43 million dollars in the Upstate alone to preserve our most treasured places. What a tremendous resource for our region and all of SC!
Upstate Forever and our conservation partners rely heavily on funding from the Bank to preserve the special places we all love and resources we depend on, such as clean drinking water; our farmlands, green space, and forests; our beautiful views, native wildlife, and outdoor recreation.
These assets are what forge the Upstate’s strong natural character — a character that helps attract tourism, businesses, and high-quality jobs to our area.
But more importantly, nature is where we go for solace from this busy world and where we connect with family and friends, children and grandchildren hiking on a trail, sitting in a deer stand, or fishing in a stream. These are the places that allow us to unplug and connect with ourselves and others. Our future will depend on how we steward these assets today.
As you know, our region is growing quickly. And because time is not our friend, we need to increase the rate at which we are preserving our remaining iconic places. To do that, funding is critical. As you heard from Raleigh, local match dollars are an essential element to attract funds from the Conservation Bank and we must develop more local sources to remain competitive. Fortunately, that funding effort is underway!
Working with our conservation partners, we’re launching a new initiative — the Upstate Land Conservation Fund — to raise private, corporate and foundation dollars for direct land protection. This effort is a top priority in 2020 and beyond. You will be hearing more about how you can support the Fund soon.
Before I close, I want to make sure to say a special thanks to ALL of you who faithfully support Upstate Forever and its mission to protect the critical lands, waters and unique character of the Upstate. Our members are the reason we exist — the reason we can do the work we do.
Because of you, our Land Trust team now protects close to 24,000 acres of natural places across the Upstate. Lands that otherwise could be lost to development forever. Recent successes include land protection in iconic places like Persimmon Ridge, the Chauga River, increasing Jones Gap and Paris Mountain State Parks, and farmland preservation that supports our local food economy and preserves our rural landscapes. And in Spartanburg, we have some great opportunities in the works, including protecting lands along the Tyger River and working with DNR to expand a local treasure which is Croft State Park.
Because of you, we can work to reduce sprawl in our communities and advocate for more responsible use of our land resources.
You're the reason we can work at the Statehouse to represent the Upstate on policies that affect OUR land and water in the Upstate.
And you are the champions we turn to when action is needed to protect what we love about this place.
With the rate of growth we are experiencing, we depend on your support now more than ever. Information about membership is at your table.
Thank you all for being here today, and for being part of the solution to smart, balanced growth in our beautiful Upstate.
Now if you will please turn your attention to the screens for a special video presentation. Thank you.