Nov/Dec 2013Earth and Water, Wind and Sun
Protecting Habitats Large and Smallby David Lucas
South Carolina is growing, with many new residents drawn here because of our state's natural beauty and outdoor recreational opportunities. As the population increases, land development for housing and industrial use is inevitable. The challenge lies in finding ways to protect enough of the places that our diverse array of plants and animals call home to ensure they will be here for future generations, and the DNR's Habitat Protection Section employs a multi-faceted strategy to accomplish that goal. The section coordinates the DNR's acquisition and management of Heritage Trust properties (nearly 100,000 acres protected on 73 different properties to date) and Wildlife Management Areas. See them all and get information about visiting at https://www2.dnr.sc.gov/ManagedLands/ManagedLand/Preserve.
On tiny Buzzard Island Heritage Preserve in Charleston County, an ancient and historically significant "shell ring" left behind by the Native American tribes who lived there thousands of years before European colonization provides archaeologists with clues about the lives of those earliest Palmetto State inhabitants. The state's Heritage Trust program, established in 1976, protects properties with unique or rare natural or cultural resources. Up the coast a ways, Santee Coastal Reserve Wildlife Management Area, the site of a popular lottery-drawn waterfowl hunt in winter, is an outdoor enthusiast's paradise, with miles of coastal trails open to hikers and birdwatchers, as well as upland areas suitable for hunting deer, wild turkeys and small game. In the ACE Basin and other focus areas, voluntary conservation easements protect large tracts of private property from future development. On major river corridors across the state, stewardship programs engage local communities in conserving critical riparian habitats. All of these activities are coordinated by the Habitat Protection Section, which works across agency lines to coordinate land acquisition, partnerships and other opportunities to protect valuable habitat for wildlife and outdoor recreation in South Carolina.
An intra-agency Habitat Protection Committee, which reviews and approves all land acquisitions undertaken by the DNR, takes a systematic approach to land purchases. This approach is blended with the need to respond promptly to opportunities for habitat protection, while taking into account agency-wide goals, available funding and chances to partner with other organizations or landowners. The Heritage Land Trust Fund and the State Conservation Bank provide dedicated sources of funding for these initiatives, and other funds are leveraged whenever possible to provide the most bang for our conservation buck.