The Avian Conservation Center, renowned Charleston based education and conservation center, receives grant from Dominion Energy

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Funding will transform students’ learning and study bald eagle populations in S.C.

The Avian Conservation Center, a renowned educational, conservation, and scientific organization in Charleston, has received a $10,000 Environmental Education and Stewardship Grant from the Dominion Energy Charitable Foundation, the non-profit arm of Dominion Energy.

The grant will fund the Lowcountry Environmental Access Program, which combines the Center’s medical, educational, research, and conservation objectives to foster awareness, concern, and protection for South Carolina’s treasured natural resources in the face of increasing and dramatic growth trends and landscape scale alterations to crucial habitat areas.

The Lowcountry Environmental Access Program will utilize the critical insight gained from the professional medical treatment of injured birds in crafting a multi-disciplinary, STEAM-based education curriculum aligned with SC standards for students, teachers, and individuals across the state. The power and beauty of raptors cast them as unparalleled ambassadors in public education, dramatically improving retention of program information among participants. A special focus will be placed on outreach in Jasper and Beaufort Counties. Jasper County also is home to Dominion Energy’s recently completed solar farm.

Additionally, this program will support a Midwinter Bald Eagle Survey to be conducted in January 2019. The annual count is coordinated nationally by the US Army Corps of Engineers as an important tool in monitoring the recovery of bald eagle populations. The Center manages the South Carolina component of the survey which covers more than 1,500 miles of survey routes and coordinates over 135 volunteers.

Collectively this program will impact the lives of an estimated 2,000 students in the Beaufort region and more than 40,000 across the state, give more than 800 injured birds of prey and shorebirds a second chance at freedom, and contribute vital data on the health of bald eagle populations to a national survey. As human activity continues to impose rapid and dramatic changes on the natural landscape, these efforts will encourage environmental stewardship and improve natural spaces across South Carolina for future generations.

“Dominion Energy is truly honored to partner with the Aviation Conservation Center in educating K-12 students and the public about the importance of environmental stewardship,” said Kristen Beckham, external affairs representative for Dominion Energy. “By working with the Center for Birds of Prey, we can play an important role in educating the next generation, preserving natural resources and protecting critical wildlife habitats across South Carolina.”

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About the Avian Conservation Center

Founded in 1991 in response to the crucial need of an avian conservation center in South Carolina, the Center utilizes the unique role of wild birds as unsurpassed indicators of the overall health of our ecosystem to preserve the future of the natural world, upon which we all depend. The Center’s mission is to identify and address vital environmental issues by providing medical care to injured birds of prey and shorebirds, and through educational, research and conservation initiatives. The Center for Birds of Prey is the principle operating division of the Avian Conservation Center and is open to the public every Thursday, Friday and Saturday. For more information, visit www.thecenterforbirdsofprey.org or call 843.971.7474.

About Dominion Energy

Nearly 6 million customers in 19 states heat and cool their homes and power their businesses with electricity or natural gas from Dominion Energy (NYSE: D). The company’s record of reliable, safe and clean energy regularly places it among American’s most-admired utilities. One of the nation’s leading operators of solar energy, Dominion Energy is one of just three companies to have reduced carbon intensity by more than 40 percent since 2000.

Dominion Energy’s Environmental Education and Stewardship grants support a variety of initiatives that benefit schools, organizations and communities across the country. In 2018, Dominion Energy is awarding $1 million in grants to 129 organizations in 12 states working to improve natural spaces or encourage environmental stewardship. Since 2003, Dominion has donated nearly $32 million to a wide variety of environmental projects across its footprint. To learn more, please visit www.dominionenergy.com, Facebook or Twitter.

Talking Wetlands Conservation with Environmental Lawyer Heather Murray

By David McNamara
By David McNamara

As an environmental lawyer in Charleston, Heather Murray’s upstate charm and easy-going nature belies her commitment and focus to environmental conservation and animal protection. Hailing from New York, Heather studied political science at Clemson before going to law school at Georgetown in Washington DC.

“I focused primarily on environmental law because I knew that’s what I wanted to do. I took internships at environmental non-profits. After I graduated I worked for two years at Defenders of Wildlife in DC, which focuses on endangered species work before moving here,” she explained.

As part of a regional non-profit organisation Heather works in a small Charleston office, concentrating on coastal issues mainly related to wetlands protection and water pollution.

“It is the predominant environment here and an extremely sensitive one, and many projects or developments here are going to impact wetlands.”

It’s clear what makes Heather’s work so rewarding is giving a voice to the wildlife areas around Charleston. So it’s not surprising to hear that Heather sees herself primarily as an environmentalist, and views her education, experience and expertise as a lawyer as the tools she’s been given to make a difference.

“I’m an environmentalist who has this education and training and is able to affect change. But I think a lot of other public interest lawyers would say the same thing.”

The challenge facing Heather and other environmentalists is advocating ways to be smarter when developing in a region that is already densely urbanized.

This is why environmental and conservation groups spend a lot of time with state and federal agencies, trying to give them the right information they need to make an informed decision when issuing permits for proposed planning and development.

The wetlands not only provide the supernal backdrop to Charleston’s iconic charm, they are also a major source of recreation and enjoyment to so much of local community. However, in residential and industrial debates championing progress, the environment is often marginalized by invested parties. Some business groups may even view environmental protection grounds as anti-development.

Heather says an important part of the decision-making process for projects affecting the environment is to provide alternatives and to understand the invaluable role natural resources play in maintaining balance in the larger ecosystem.

“Impacting natural resources may have severe and unintended consequences that must be considered before projects move forward.”

Assessing the environmental cost and consequences related to revenue based expansion is a complex issue. In Charleston this is especially the case regarding the controversial redevelopment of the old cruise terminal on East Bay Street and Market Street, as well as the extension of I- 526 to James Island based on original design plans made over 40 years ago when construction of the interstate began.

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Heather says it is never difficult to find people and agencies in our local communities interested in protecting fragile habits. The added challenge to non-profit groups is using limited resources to get the right information to decision-makers and the public who have time to listen to complicated issues, which are difficult to package in catchphrases and memorable quotes.

Heather appreciates there’s always going to be different perspectives when discussing commerce and environmental sustainability because they are so entwined with each other. Hopefully, this progressive approach will continue to nurture healthy debate with the array of interested groups concerned about the city’s future and committed to keeping Charleston beautiful.