Conservation teamwork wins again

The State Ports Authority and Lowcountry environmental groups held a press conference on Monday at Silk Hope Plantation to discuss a new conservation effort. (File)

Everyone wins when state officials and environmental groups work together to protect the Lowcountry's natural resources. This week's big victory shows how.

The State Ports Authority Board announced at a press conference on Monday plans to donate $5 million for land conservation efforts in the Cooper River basin. The funds, which must still be approved by the state Joint Bond Review Committee later this month, would help offset the environmental impact of deepening Charleston Harbor.

The Coastal Conservation League, Lowcountry Open Land Trust and Southern Environmental Law Center will oversee use of the money to protect the river's upper portions. Nearly 50,000 acres of watershed land along the Cooper River between Lake Moultrie and Charleston Harbor are already under public or private conservation easement.

"The health of the harbor and the Cooper River - the levels of dissolved oxygen and the diversity of aquatic life - make it possible and acceptable to perform the deepening," said Coastal Conservation League director Dana Beach during the Monday announcement. "That health is the direct result of protecting the watershed of the river."

Indeed, the Lowcountry's natural resources are vital to ensuring that the area remains an attractive, prosperous and livable community well into the future.

Protecting those resources will require continued support from both the public and private sectors. That includes the port, which depends on a clean, healthy environment to thrive. Boeing also donated more than 1,600 acres of land in the Cooper River basin for conservation in 2014.

That kind of collaboration is worth celebrating, as Gov. Nikki Haley pointed out in her remarks Monday.

"Today is the day we say 'yes' to conservation and business," she said.

The expanding port will undoubtedly present environmental challenges, particularly as the harbor deepening stands to increase ground traffic in and out of the Charleston area.

Fortunately, protecting nature will be a priority rather than an afterthought.

That's a victory for the Lowcountry today and in the future.