The Lowcountry Conservation Loan Fund was started in 2002 by the Merck Family Fund and the Donnelly Foundation with an initial $1 million investment. It was established as a revolving loan fund for organizations to tap into when they need bridge financing to close land deals for conservation, which is critical in the Lowcountry, where there is such a competitive real estate market.

For example, when the Angel Oak property was at risk of being developed on Johns Island, the groups working to conserve it were able to close on the purchase and place it in an easement using funds from the Conservation Loan Fund.

Since its inception, nearly $6.5 million has been loaned to 18 conservation projects and organizations such as the Open Space Institute, South Carolina Coastal Conservation League and The Nature Conservancy. Nearly 20,000 acres of Lowcountry lands have been conserved — which otherwise would have a market value of nearly $40 million.

If you’d like to learn more about conservation loan funding, contact Tess Martin at

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