USDA representatives visit Lowcountry

  • Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Sarah Dawsey, Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge manager, Rick Lint, forest supervisor on the Francis Marion and Sumter National Forests, Robert Bonnie, U.S. Dept. of Agriculture under secretary for Natural Resources and Environment and Mark Robertson, executive director of The Nature Conservancy in South Carolina, discuss the recent acquisition of more than 2,000 of the Fairlawn Plantation. PROVIDED

U.S. Department of Agriculture Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment Robert Bonnie wrapped up a two-day visit to the Lowcountry to see successful longleaf pine restoration efforts made possible through public/private partnerships. Bonnie spoke at the Bishop Wm. H.S. Jerden Conference Center with representatives from the Lowcountry Open Land Trust, Open Space Institute and The Nature Conservancy.

During his remarks, Bonnie commended the recent purchase of more than 2,000 acres of the Fairlawn Plantation in the heart of the Francis Marion National Forest (Francis Marion) by Open Space Institute (OSI) and The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and funded by Boeing. Fairlawn has been the No. 1 protection priority of the Francis Marion for more than a decade. OSI and TNC will own, manage and restore the land for up to five years, and then transfer it to the U.S. Forest Service for long-term ownership and management as part of the Francis Marion.

Bonnie then heard from the Center for Heirs' Property about plans to move forward with longleaf pine restoration, upland wildlife management and wetland wildlife habitat management on the property.

Later, Bonnie visited the Tibwin 2 tract adjacent to the Francis Marion National Forest. The Nature Conservancy (TNC) purchased the 900-acre Tibwin 2 tract from International Paper in 2007. In 2008, the Charleston County Greenbelt Board approved a $4,000,000 grant to TNC to support the purchase and future transfer to the Forest Service. Another $500,000 was awarded to the acquisition from the South Carolina Conservation Bank.

Tibwin 2 is a vital corridor for longleaf connectivity. It fronts Hwy. 17, the main transportation route that separates the 260,000-acre Francis Marion National Forest and the 66,000-acre Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge (NWR).

Tibwin 2 adjoins Forest Service lands that lead into the heart of the national forest, providing connectivity from the Little Wambaw Swamp Wilderness to the coast. Across Hwy. 17, the Forest Service owns Tibwin Plantation that connects to the Intracoastal Waterway.

This connection is significant for the forested watershed that feeds the Outstanding Water Resource designation in Cape Romain.

The resulting forest structure will meet the habitat requirements set in the recovery plan for the federally endangered red-cockaded woodpecker. Nemours also hopes to place 265 acres under the NRCS Healthy Forest Reserve Program to enhance and protect forest resources.

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