The Migratory Bird Commission awarded a $1,000,000 grant to The Nature Conservancy for acquisition of 580 acres along the Waccamaw River. The grant, submitted in August 2008 through the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA) Grant program, supports the protection of important wetlands for the benefit of migratory waterfowl and other priority species.
The grant funds will be used to acquire two tracts along the Waccamaw River which will subsequently be transferred to US Fish and Wildlife Service to be included in the Waccamaw National Wildlife Refuge. The tracts link other jewels within the Refuge, including TNC’s Sandy Island Preserve and Brookgreen Gardens.
“The greater community will benefit from this protection effort which lends to the natural beauty of the Waccamaw, creates habitat for game and non-game species, and provides opportunities for recreational activities like hunting, fishing, boating, and kayaking,” said Maria Whitehead, The Nature Conservancy’s Project Director for the Winyah Bay and Pee Dee River Basin Project Area. “These acquisition tracts will add 3.6 miles of protection along the scenic Waccamaw River.”
“The Nature Conservancy appreciates the support of our federal delegation for protecting our natural resources, particularly Senator Lindsey Graham, Congressman Henry Brown, and Congressman James Clyburn. In such a competitive environment for limited financial resources, it speaks volumes to make these investments to help improve our water, forests, and quality of life in South Carolina,” said Mark Robertson, State Director for The Nature Conservancy.
The grant scored second highest in the country prior to being awarded. Scoring is based on the proposal’s benefit to migratory waterfowl and other wetland species, demonstrated protection of declining wetlands, and match provided by conservation partners.
The Winyah Bay river system, the third largest on the Atlantic coast, supports the most extensive intact wetland complexes in the southeastern United States and offers important habitat for migratory birds, fish, and resident wildlife. The properties that will be acquired consist primarily of bottomland hardwood forests (a declining wetland type), including bald cypress, cypress tupelo, red maple and a diversity of oak species.
This grant was made possible through the broad conservation partnership represented in the Winyah Bay Task Force. Conservation partners offering match for the grant, in the form of donated and bargain-purchased conservation easements, include Ducks Unlimited, Pee Dee Land Trust, SC Conservation Bank, and the Lowcountry Open Land Trust.In total, the project protects 7 parcels in the Winyah River Basin, totaling 3,436 acres, including 2,264 wetland acres and 1,228 acres of associated uplands to benefit breeding, migrating, and wintering birds. Other supporting Winyah Bay Task Force members and partners include: the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, and US Fish and Wildlife Service.
This acquisition will expand the protected land under the Refuge’s ownership/management from 22,289 acres to 22,931 and will serve to consolidate ownership and management within the Refuge. The Refuge was established to protect a biologically diverse system of wetland and upland habitats for the benefit of numerous plants and animals that form an integral part of the ecological functions and productivity of Winyah Bay. Waccamaw NWR is also managed to provide public access to traditional, wildlife-dependent outdoor recreational activities. This acquisition represents an ongoing partnership between the Conservancy and the Waccamaw National Wildlife Refuge to protect ecologically significant lands in and around the Refuge. “The Nature Conservancy has played a valuable role in ensuring the conservation of lands both within and adjacent to the Refuge,” said Craig Sasser, Refuge Manager. “This year has been especially rewarding because we have added several key tracts that offer a diversity of public use opportunities while also protecting buffers and habitat corridors within the protected landscape. We sincerely appreciate the efforts of The Nature Conservancy.”
The NAWCA project coincides with a big year for the Waccamaw National Wildlife Refuge, which is opening its doors to the public this spring in the form of a new visitors center on Highway 701 near Yauhannah, SC.
Located within the Conservancy’s Winyah Bay and Pee Dee River Basin project area, the newly protected tracts complement the 50,700 acres previously protected by the Conservancy through public and private partnerships. A 525,000-acre project area, the boundary includes Sandy Island Preserve, Waccamaw National Wildlife Refuge and DNR’s Woodbury Tract.
Read the article covered in the Georgetown Times 3/22/09 Article.
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.
Winyah Bay & Pee Dee River
Basin Project Director