Black River Swamp Preserve expands
Mon, Jan 03 2011 at 10:41 PM
By The Nature Conservancy
COLUMBIA, S.C. (Nov. 18, 2010) — Paying a visit to the scenic narrows of the Black River is a must for any outdoor enthusiast. It’s where the floodplain forest widens and the river narrows between the towering cypress trees. Although the pull of the tide still can be felt, the water moves slowly here as it pushes through the wetland forest. Fishermen tuck themselves into the sloughs and creeks, while kayakers thread through the watery maze trying to follow the main channel.
This stretch of river feels like a forgotten place, and the remnant 1,000-year-old bald cypress are a reminder that being forgotten is sometimes the best thing that can happen to a place. The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and conservation partners are working diligently to make sure the narrows of the Black River remain secluded and intact. This week, the conservation community, along with the residents of Georgetown and Williamsburg counties, will celebrate a new addition to the growing corridor of protected lands along this magnificent stretch of the Black River.
On Monday, Nov. 15, TNC completed the purchase of 440 acres of mature bottomland hardwood forest with nearly a mile of frontage along the river. The parcel will expand the Conservancy’s existing 1,296-acre Black River Swamp Preserve, which already protects more than five miles of river frontage between Pine Tree and Pump House landings in Georgetown County.
“Traveling through the swamp, one is likely to encounter wild turkeys, wood ducks, yellow-bellied sliders, and the occasional American alligator, while bird enthusiasts seek this destination as a place to see prothonotary warblers, pileated woodpeckers, and the state-endangered swallow-tailed kite,” said Maria Whitehead, director of TNC’s Winyah Bay and Pee Dee River Basin Project. “The corridor is considered one of the most important breeding areas in South Carolina for swallow-tailed kites, a striking black-and-white raptor that depends on bottomland forest habitats to survive.”
This purchase, the second in Winyah Bay, was made possible by a grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife’s North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA) program. The acquisition is part of a phased project to connect more than 11,000 acres of privately and federally protected land within the ecologically diverse Black River and Mingo Creek corridor of the greater Winyah Bay watershed.
Most of this protection is the result of donated or bargain-sale conservation easements held by national and local land trusts.
“I think the great ecologist Aldo Leopold would approve of the incredible ethic of the landowners we work with in this area,” Whitehead said. “Their respect and admiration for the land has led to the decision to set it aside as a natural area for future generations.”
The Conservancy submitted the third phase of its Winyah Bay Protection Project to NAWCA in March 2010 and recently learned that the proposal scored among the top five in the country. Funds to purchase additional bottomland forest on the Black River have been granted, and TNC plans to pursue a second addition to the preserve in 2011.
“Land protection within this watershed will help recharge groundwater, control flooding, and filter nutrient and sediment run-off,” said Eric Krueger, director of science and stewardship for TNC. “This will improve water quality and habitat for people, wildlife, and even for our oyster restoration project 20 miles downstream in Winyah Bay.”
The project is part of a larger collaborative effort to protect the river corridors that comprise the Winyah Bay drainage basin, the third largest on the Atlantic coast. Partners joining the Conservancy in providing match to generate grant funding include Ducks Unlimited, the Pee Dee Land Trust, the South Carolina Conservation Bank, the USFW Waccamaw National Wildlife Refuge, the Bunelle Foundation, Lowcountry Open Land Trust, and the Thorne Foundation.
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