With all the cp sites I've seen destroyed in the 1 1/2 years I've been back in NC, it's good to see some saved.
Originally Posted by [bQuote[/b] ]CAROLINAS CONSERVATION PROJECTS
Preservation in plans
IP land sales to safeguard flora, fauna in the Carolinas
Originally Posted by [bQuote[/b] ]A praying mantis hangs on the lip of a pitcher plant waiting to captialize on insects drawn to the plant located in the Tram Road savanna, a part of the Juniper Creek Conservation Project in Brunswick County, N.C.
Originally Posted by [bQuote[/b] ]
ASH, N.C. - A clothes-soaking sweat seems the proper homage for one's first trek to Juniper Creek in northwestern Brunswick County.
The scene is a creation of wet: a blackwater creek crawling silently through a tunnel of branches, the filtered sunlight catching on cypress knees that were mostly underwater the last time Dan Bell walked this land.
The creek is the thread that stitches together 18,341 Brunswick and Columbus county acres that the N.C. chapter of The Nature Conservancy, Bell's employer, is in the process of buying from International Paper.
The property - along with 98,000 other acres in North and South Carolina - is part of a deal made with the company that will preserve large tracts of former forestland throughout the Southeast.
The site in Brunswick County and a larger one that is just across the Little Pee Dee River from Horry County are home to unique plants and animals that could disappear if the land were open to the intense development both counties are experiencing.
Both states will buy the property from their respective conservancy, with the 39,000 acres in South Carolina becoming the largest purchase of conservation land in the state's history. The Juniper Creek Tract in Brunswick County connects to 15,000 acres already owned by the conservancy along N.C. 211.
Juniper Creek drains a large area that's now primarily forestland and cleans stormwater pollutants before it empties into the Waccamaw River, the drinking water source for much of Horry County.
The transfer of the land to the states will ensure continued public access for hunting, fishing, kayaking or just a short, wet trek through the woods on a hot August morning.
"We've had our eye on this property for years," said Bell, the conservancy's project manager in its Wilmington office.
'Home of the moccasin'
The area Bell is standing in is known to some locals as "the home of the moccasin." Indeed, one wouldn't be surprised to see a cottonmouth trolling the lazy creek or coiled on the branch that holds the hunter's blind overhead.
The land is also home to bears, bobcats and coyotes. One arm of the Juniper Creek Tract is where area wildlife officers release alligators they've caught too close to people's homes.
The Carolina pygmy sunfish, a federal species of concern, makes its home only in the upper Waccamaw River drainage area.
While much of the Juniper Creek Tract is wet and heavily forested, other parts are what are known as upland savannahs, areas where Venus flytraps and pitcher plants thrive.
The small Myrtle Head Savannah, already owned by the conservancy, nearly connects with the western end of the Juniper Creek Tract.
Bell said some of the timber International Paper planted in the Juniper Creek Tract will still be harvested and areas returned to a completely-natural state. The savannahs could well be burned to stimulate the growth of plants - flytraps and longleaf pines, among others - that rely on periodic fire to germinate or to clear a sun-blocking canopy.
Bell said about 200 hunting leases individuals had with International Paper will remain in effect until the state buys the land and opens it to all.
S.C. poised to finalize
While Bell said he's not sure when the state's purchase will be finalized, the S.C. Department of Natural Resources could get ownership of its part of the deal in a couple of months, said Mark Robertson, executive director of the S.C. chapter of The Nature Conservancy.
South Carolina got a jump on its purchase of the property last spring when the legislature appropriated $39 million of the $50.8 million purchase price for two tracts. The N.C. General Assembly has not yet approved any money for the land in its borders.
The Woodbury Tract, which lies just across the Horry County border in Marion County, is a more than 25,000-acre neck of land that separates the muddy Great Pee Dee River from the clear, black-colored Little Pee Dee before they converge near Georgetown County.
It's especially valuable as a stopover point for migratory birds, Robertson said, and is home to species such as Swainson's warbler, the rusty blackbird and the swallow-tailed kite, which catches insects with its talons.
The tract has more than 25 miles of waterfront on the two rivers.
Bell becomes animated when he talks about the possibilities for the Juniper Creek Tract. He points to a nearby dark green spot on the map, the site of state gameland in Columbus County, and notes how nice it would be to connect the two.
He studies pitcher and other plants in the forest and talks about gathering seed in the spring to sew in other parts of the new Conservancy land.
Robertson says the S.C. Conservancy hopes to buy more IP land in Charleston and Berkeley counties.
"We don't have many opportunities," he said, "to protect property at this scale."