Externship Profile: Lowcountry Open Land Trust

It all started after Bruce Binney, a rising 3L, read the book “My Side of the Mountain” as a child and declared to his father that he wanted to go live in a tree. With an undergraduate degree in Forestry, Binney was immediately drawn to environmental, land use and property courses at The Charleston School of Law. The Lowcountry Open Land Trust has provided the perfect opportunity to continue developing his professional skills and gain more experience in the environmental field.

“I realized that as an arborist my influence would be somewhat limited, so I returned to school with hopes of increasing my voice,” said Binney. “I don’t want to simply enjoy what I do for a living; I want to have an actual impact on the local community and the world around me. Working with the Land Trust has helped me see tangible ways to help fulfill my goals.”

Binney says examining deeds and plats as well as visiting the Charleston County RMC office to gather information has been beneficial to see the fundamental workings of Property Law outside the classroom. He reviews the documentation behind the conservation easements granted to better understand the rights which they convey and also the restrictions they place on a piece of land.

He and the team have taken several site visits, one of which was by boat to Cole Island off the southern tip of Folly Beach.  “Getting eyes on the property and spending time with the landowners is important to be able to most effectively draft the terms of the easement in the best interest of the property, the landowner, as well as the general public,” said Binney.

Environmental stewardship requires accurate appraisals of present conditions in conjunction with the foresight and the ability to take steps today that will have an effect on tomorrow. “As an avid fisherman and backpacker, I carry the conviction that it’s our responsibility to preserve the lands and waters that provide recreational activities for generations to come,” said Binney. “The Land Trust is certainly an organization that acts with that kind of maturity and vision.”

Binney’s experience with the Lowcountry Open Land Trust has solidified his understanding that protecting lands and managing them properly can maintain their vital ecological value as well as prevent difficult and expensive restoration efforts in the future. Quoting Dr. Seuss’ book “The Lorax,” Binney further describes his passion to make an impact on the environment. “I speak for the trees for the trees have no tongues… It’s not about what it is, but what it can become… Unless someone like you cares an awful lot, things aren’t going to get better. They’re not.”

Through his experience with the Lowcountry Open Land Trust this summer as well as previous experience with SCDHEC-OCRM, Binney hopes for a future in Environmental Law. “I have already begun to consider what skills I can work on during the rest of my time at Charleston Law that would make me more of a potential asset to the Land Trust or another similar organization,” he said. “There’s nothing like showing up each morning to a team of smiling people who genuinely enjoy what they do—the office is a great positive work environment, the field is always calling and each team member carries a wealth of knowledge and is ready to advance your ecological understanding.”

Binney grew up in Charlottesville, Va. and received his bachelor’s degree in Forestry from Virginia Tech. At Charleston Law, he is a member of the Environmental Law Society and a student ambassador.  In addition to the externship with LOLT, he is working as a research assistant for Professor Jon Marcantel. In his spare time he enjoys picking his guitar, playing volleyball at the beach, and spending time with his James Island Christian Church family.

Charleston School of Law’s externship program allows students to gain practical work experience while earning course credit. Students complement their classroom studies by working under the direct supervision of members of the judiciary or attorneys in the public sector. This summer, Charleston School of Law students are at 22 exciting externships sites helping the community. Since fall 2006, Charleston School of Law students have completed approximately 97,420 externship hours. The externship course is offered during the fall, spring and summer terms. For more information please contact Professor James Klein or Autumn Jones.

By: Kat Drerup