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The Nature Conservancy Acquires 678-Acre Tract for National Forest
Purchase Benefits Regional Conservation, Rare Plant Communities and Species
COLUMBIA, S.C. — July 28, 2004 — The Nature Conservancy has purchased 678 acres near Honey Hill in Berkeley County from International Paper Realty Corporation. The protected property, bordered on all sides by the Francis Marion National Forest, will be resold to the U.S. Forest Service for inclusion in the National Forest.
Located within the Conservancy’s Sewee to Santee project area, the newly acquired tract adds to the 39,891 acres previously protected by the Conservancy, through public and private partnerships, in this national priority landscape site. A 796,223-acre project area, the Sewee to Santee site encompasses the Francis Marion National Forest, Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge and the Santee River and Delta.
“This is a biologically important tract that represents critical upland and wetland habitat,” said Michael Prevost, Sewee to Santee Project Director for The Nature Conservancy in South Carolina. “We are grateful to the cooperation of International Paper Realty for helping to protect this property and for the support of Senator Hollings who helped secure federal funding to expand the National Forest.”
The property’s strategic location and ecological features have made it a long-term priority for both the U.S. Forest Service and the Conservancy. Management of the property will focus on two distinct areas – the sandy uplands and the interior wetlands.
The interior of the protected property contains limestone sink wetlands, supporting pond cypress-swamp gum ponds. Pondberry, a federally endangered species, and pondspice, a rare species, is often found in habitat associated with these wetlands. Other shrubs found in this wetland type include titi, button-bush, cassena and myrtle-leaved holly. This community type is also valuable to wetland dependent birds such as egrets, herons and ibis.
“As part of our management plan, we will work towards enhancing the wetland habitat on the property to encourage and maintain rare and endangered plant species,” said Orlando Sutton, U.S. Forest Service District Ranger.
The upland portions of the property are characterized by deep sands supporting young loblolly pine, which the Forest Service plans to restore to longleaf pine as part of its conservation management plan for the site. Once dominating the Southern landscape, longleaf pine is now reduced to only 3 percent of its original range.
“The acquisition of this land will also enhance the Forest Service’s ability to conduct prescribed burns necessary to maintain the ecological health of the longleaf pine ecosystem on surrounding areas of the National Forest,” added Sutton.
Brian Rose, of International Paper Realty, stated, “International Paper Realty is pleased to participate with The Nature Conservancy in making this addition to the Francis Marion National Forest.”
“The region surrounding the Francis Marion National Forest and Cape Romain Wildlife Refuge is unquestionably one of America’s most outstanding ecological treasures,” said U.S. Sen. Ernest Hollings. “I have been a long-term advocate for large-scale conservation of this area and congratulate The Nature Conservancy for working efficiently with the Forest Service to ensure its protection.”
This acquisition represents an on-going partnership between the Conservancy and the Forest Service to protect ecologically significant lands in and around the Francis Marion National Forest.
“The Nature Conservancy has played a valuable role in ensuring the conservation of lands both within and adjacent to the National Forest,” said Sutton. “Their on-going work is vital to protecting key lands within the Forest and creating buffers and habitat corridors bordering the adjacent Cape Romain Refuge. We sincerely appreciate the efforts of The Nature Conservancy in partnering with the Forest Service to protect the vast amount of biological diversity in the National Forest.”
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The Nature Conservancy is a leading international, nonprofit organization that preserves plants, animals and natural communities representing the diversity of life on Earth by protecting the lands and waters they need to survive. To date, the Conservancy and its more than one million members have been responsible for the protection of more than 14 million acres in the United States and have helped preserve more than 83 million acres in Latin America, the Caribbean, Asia and the Pacific. Visit us on the Web at nature.org/southcarolina.