Happy New Year!
No, the quarantine and working from home haven’t destroyed my brain completely. July 1st is the start of a new fiscal year at Lowcountry Land Trust. I’m always happy to close out one year financially and begin another and I’m pretty sure we are all ready to be rid of 2020, at least on paper. It has been an unrelenting year, but I am thankful for and humbled by the familial comfort and security the Land Trust has provided. Despite the challenges of fiscal year 2020, we are still protecting land, adapting to the current environment, and finding creative ways to continue our work.
For many, the words “finance” and “budget” always seem to induce stress. And, admittedly, a pandemic adds variables for which we don’t have immediate answers, including the previously unheard of challenges of budgeting for scarce toilet paper and face masks. However, for me, the words “finance” and “budget” actually provide comfort, as they represent order, numerical answers, and somewhat predictable cycles.
In the last six months of fiscal year 2020, COVID-19 has wreaked havoc around the world and right here in the Lowcountry. Never has it been more important, as individuals and organizations, to have an established and actionable budget. It’s okay to have more questions than answers right now. But, when it comes to budgeting, we must focus on priorities and essentials by using the information we have, while leaving room for the questions that will inevitably pop up. At the Land Trust, we have had an iterative process: evaluate cash on hand, cut out nonessential spending and lower fixed expenses, get creative with revenue sources and new ways to save, and enjoy the land! Repeat.
The key is being able to manage stress along with finances. However, if we stick to budgeting basics, we can preserve our mental health for an extended quarantine, working from home, homeschooling our children, and whatever else 2020 throws our way. We may be in this for the long haul but we are on this journey together.
One of the essentials we have been able to count on in our budgeting process is you. Our May Giving Challenge was highly successful thanks to all of you. Lowcountry Land Trust has closed the books on a successful but challenging 2020 and we are charting our course to overcome the unknown obstacles of fiscal year 2021. Like the Angel Oak, we are resilient and our roots run just as deep. I’m happy to report that, with your help, the 2021 budget ensures that we will continue to protect the places that define our way of life, ready to pivot as needed.
Chief Financial Officer
Lowcountry Land Trust
Monday, June 22nd: At our weekly staff meeting, LLT staff took the hour to openly discuss the protests and aftermath in the wake of George Floyd’s death. It was a sincere discussion amongst the staff about the intersection of our work and social justice.
Tuesday, June 23rd: Stewardship staff attended the Charleston County Historic Preservation Commission meeting, where a request for Historic Appropriateness was approved for a farm sales and shelter at Boone Hall. The building is a permitted activity based on the recently closed conservation easement. LLT was brought on early in the process to ensure compliance with the easement.
Wednesday, June 24th: Conservation staff participated in the Charleston County Greenbelt Advisory Board meeting, where the Board reviewed and voted on a number of urban and rural conservation projects. The Board approved our request to transfer 3 acres at the Angel Oak Preserve to the City of Charleston for its proposed parking area, which would be located to the NE side of the tree, about 250 feet away from the edge of the canopy and separated by forest. The transfer will not occur until after the City has completed construction drawings. More to come on this project.
David Ray, Acting CEO and Chief Conservation Officer, and Josh Bell, South Coast Project Manager, participated in the quarterly ACE Basin Task Force meeting along the banks of the Edisto River, reporting on a Land Trust conservation easement that will be closing in the coming weeks. LLT and a wide range of nonprofit, state, and federal agencies share information at these meetings about their continuing efforts to protect this nationally-significant landscape that has recently been referred to as the 7th Wonder of South Carolina, one of the “SC-7.”
The ACE Basin comprises the Ashepoo, Combahee, and Edisto River Basins and is one of the largest undeveloped estuaries along the Atlantic Coast of the United States. Located primarily in Colleton, Charleston, and Beaufort counties, the three rivers combine into the larger St. Helena Sound, which eventually flows into the Atlantic Ocean. The 350,000-acre ACE Basin is known for its natural environment and the preservation of more than 300,000 acres of its marshes, wetlands, hardwood forests, riverine systems, and the flora and fauna that occupy the area.
In December 2019, the Land Trust, along with many other partner organizations, celebrated 30 years of protecting what The Nature Conservancy called “one of the last great places” on Earth. Read more on last year’s celebration in the Charleston City Paper.
Thursday, June 25th: Alison Cercy, Conservation Coordinator, monitored multiple properties on Edisto Island and found some chanterelles along the way. These were her first monitoring visits since March.
A healthy bounty of chanterelles.
Friday, June 26th: Maggie Gardner, Stewardship Coordinator, and Carl Taylor, GIS & Conservation Planning Manager, visited a property on Wadmalaw Island to complete the fieldwork associated with adding acreage to an existing conservation easement. They collected photos and GPS points of the features and ecosystem types on the property to update the existing conservation portfolio.
Hyde Park Plantation: Hyde Park Plantation, an LLT owned property in Berkeley County, and the growing conservation movement on the East Branch of the Cooper River were recently highlighted in a Charleston Mercury article. Read the full story here.
Blackbaud Inks Deal to Buy HQ: One of the Charleston region’s biggest technology employers is set to take ownership of a sizable commercial real estate deal. Business Leadership Council member Blackbaud Inc. disclosed to shareholders that it signed a binding agreement this week to buy the corporate headquarters it moved into about two years ago from its landlord for $76.3 million. Real the full story at The Post and Courier.
Where does South Carolina stand?: How threatened is South Carolina’s agricultural land? What is the state doing to protect it? What can South Carolina learn from other states? A new study from American Farmland Trust (AFT) – “Farms Under Threat: The State of the States” – provides groundbreaking new data that answer these questions. Register for this free webinar on July 8th for a look at the findings and an overview of the tools now available to help planners, land protection practitioners, policymakers and advocates strengthen and expand agricultural land retention and protection efforts in South Carolina.
[As we enter the long, hot days of summer, the President’s Log will feature a series of rotating guest writers, including LLT staff and board, as well as friends of Lowcountry Land Trust]