Let’s hear it for donors big and small who have helped the campaign to restore the Crab Bank seabird sanctuary get closer to its goal. These contributions should be an encouragement for further giving, because without more help in the coming weeks the effort to save the critical habitat will fail.
Before Christmas, the coalition formed to save Crab Bank will need to hand over about $1.5 million to the State Department of Natural Resources, which will then have to provide more than $3 million to the Army Corps of Engineers. Carolina Coastal Bird Conservation, led by groups like Audubon South Carolina and the Coastal Conservation League, is still about $360,000 shy of its goal.
Hence the sense of urgency.
The renourishment of Crab Bank — a seabird paradise at the mouth of Shem Creek — is timed to the dredging of Charleston Harbor. The money needs to change hands before the final dredging contract is signed and the rigs now near Fort Sumter work their way up the shipping channel toward the Wando Welch Terminal.
We can thank the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation for a recent $700,000 donation. Without that major boost from the Congress-created grant-maker, the local fundraising challenge would have been even more formidable. Boeing contributed $100,000, and the State Ports Authority contributed another $100,000 — $10,000 this year and for each of the next nine years to support all five of South Carolina’s state-protected seabird rookeries. Some elementary school students recently scraped together $221, and sixth-graders at Moultrie Middle School came up with $675.
The campaign needs more help now. The thriving maritime industry, including container ship companies, has many potential large donors that could play a role in this vital community conservation effort. What about Carnival Cruise Lines whose thousands of passengers enjoy the beautiful Charleston landscape shipboard? Donations to such a worthy cause would demonstrate a commitment to the community and provide a public relations boost.
The SPA, which drives over $50 billion in economic activity and is Charleston Harbor’s biggest tenant, also could increase its financial commitment.
Crab Bank, named a globally important bird area by the National Audubon Society, is a special place. It’s a favorite nesting spot for pelicans and more than a dozen other species of sea- and shorebirds, including skimmers, terns and oystercatchers. It’s the only state-protected rookery enclosed in a harbor and just out of reach from raccoons and other predators, which means greater protections for nesting birds. And because it is cocooned within a population center, it makes for a perfect wildlife classroom.
Helping rebuild Crab Bank will truly be an investment. Not long ago, it hosted up to 4,000 nesting birds in single season. But this past year was the first time in at least 50 years that not a single bird nested on what is now just a sandbar, washed over at high tide. Wildlife biologists are confident the birds will return once there is sufficient high ground.
Any money raised that exceeds the initial goal will help establish a perpetual fund that will benefit all five state-protected rookeries, some of which also need periodic renourishment.
Corporations and individuals should help with this worthy cause. Donations can be made online via sccoastalbirds.org. Checks can be mailed to the S.C. Department of Natural Resources, Coastal Bird Conservation Program, Attn: WFF Business Manager, P.O. Box 167 Columbia, SC 29202.