On October 28, 1931, a group of 150 sportsmen gathered to establish the South Carolina Game and Fish Association. This meeting was the result of several conversations between two men. Local writer Harry Hampton with The State newspaper in Columbia and Zan Hayward of the Game Conservation Dept. of E.I. duPont de Nemours in Columbia.
Hampton wrote a weekly column for his newspaper called “Woods and Water.” From June to October in 1931 he focused primarily on encouraging sportsmen in the state to demand amended laws that would fundamentally change natural resources and game management policies.
After these two dedicated sportsmen travelled the state preaching the gospel of game and fish conservation, the organization’s membership swelled to 2,000. Laws to protect the state’s abundant wildlife and natural spaces were soon moving through the state governing body.
The purpose of the statewide organization was defined as protection and propagation of the game, fish, and forests of the state. The goal adopted at the meeting was to ensure decisions regarding game management in South Carolina were based on science and to remove corruption from the process. In 1946, after World War II, the South Carolina Fish and Game Association reorganized as the South Carolina Wildlife Federation (SCWF). While SCWF is affiliated with the National Wildlife Federation, it is a separate organization, focusing on efforts to exclusively benefit South Carolina wildlife.
Those efforts featured a fight to develop the South Carolina Resources Coalition to establish and enforce game laws in the state, which were finally deemed successful when that coalition was established in 1952. This was the forerunner to today’s S.C. Department of Natural Resources.
The current version of the South Carolina Wildlife Federation has worked for land conservation and habitat protection since becoming an organization. Early hero Harry Hampton’s lasting legacy was the preservation of the Congaree Swamp and getting 15,000 acres designated as a National Monument. That fight was controversial at the time but now, with the Congaree a National Park, controversy seems unbelievable.
Protecting the Colleton River and associated salt marshes, stopping installation of the Russell Dam on the Savannah River, saving the Wando River from ports development, preventing the dredging of Savannah Harbor, and stopping floodplain building are all accomplishments of the SCWF.
In addition to advocating for wildlife throughout the state, the federation has also worked tirelessly to educate South Carolinians about the state’s wildlife and its habitat, outdoor recreation, and conservation practices.
Executive director Sara Green explains, “During the pandemic, we experienced significant demand for information about wildlife in backyards and communities. We began offering webinars on a variety of wildlife topics from backyard birds and butterflies to oysters and sea turtles. All these webinars are now available on our YouTube channel, and more webinars are still being offered on new topics. Upcoming webinars can be found on our website, scwf.org/events.”
One of the best things everyone can do to protect and support wildlife is enhance the habitat in their own backyards and communities. Through SCWF’s Gardening for Wildlife program, even a small yard can be certified by the National Wildlife Federation. Providing food, water, cover, and places to raise offspring makes a big difference for wildlife and gives residents the opportunity to educate neighbors and spread the word about conservation. Habitat gardens also can be created at parks, libraries, churches, schools, and private businesses.
Sara Green adds, “A new initiative we started this year is called “Plishing” which is a combination of the Swedish phrase “plocka upp”, meaning litter pick up, and fishing. Individuals and families across the state joined our summer challenge and logged fish caught as well as litter picked up and disposed of properly. Each fish caught, fish released, and bag of litter collected counts for points toward some great prizes (in addition to enjoying the outdoors and practicing conservation). Stay tuned for the 2023 Plishing Challenge!”
South Carolina Wildlife Federation is a member of the South Carolina Conservation Coalition (SCCC), a collection of 40 conservation minded groups working together to make sure the state legislative body is aware and concerned about conservation issues. Among the issues SCCC has focused on:
•The S.C. Conservation Bank Funding, which provides funding to protect threatened wildlife locations. Since 2002, when the group was established, over 300,000 acres of threatened land have been preserved.
•The Green Space Sales Tax act provides tax dollars for conservation issues. Spearheaded by Sen. Tom Davis, South Carolina adopted the “County Green Space Sales Tax Act” in May of 2022, designed to empower counties to undertake land preservation efforts.
•The SCCC has also been active in protecting sea turtles and regulating Tegu Lizards and other invasive species, and the group is monitoring such issues as offshore drilling, plastic bag regulation, and floodwater impact.
For more information, visit the www.scwf.org.