More Than Half of Carver’s Bay Protected In a Landmark Project for Conservation
The Nature Conservancy, U.S. Dept. of Agriculture and Private Landowners Protect 2,100 acres of one of state’s largest Carolina bays.
April 13, 2012
COLUMBIA, S.C. – A large portion of a unique four-mile long bay, one of the largest Carolina bays in the state, was protected today by The Nature Conservancy and the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture’s Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS). The partners acquired 2,100 acres of the 4,000-acre Carver’s Bay, a unique isolated wetland and a long-time conservation target of the state.
Carver Bay was once owned by the Department of Defense during World War II and was used as an Air Force bombing range. The current owners, the Young family, donated through a bargain sale a large percentage of the value of the property to The Nature Conservancy to help make the protection possible. The Conservancy purchased the land through a North American Wetlands Conservation Act grant and an easement was placed over it through the NRCS Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP).
“This gift is made to honor the memory of our parents, H.L."Doc" and Hazel Young,” said Joe Young, one of their eight children. “Both of our parents were born and raised in the Yauhannah community, Georgetown County, and instilled in all of us to be caretakers of the land and to be thankful for the beautiful part of the world God allowed us to be born and grow up in.”
“In addition to the Conservancy, NRCS, and the landowners, this complex project was realized with the help of many partners,” said Mark Robertson, executive director of the Conservancy’s South Carolina Chapter. “We would like to thank our Congressional delegates Senator Graham, Congressmen Scott and Clyburn and our partners Duke Energy, Pee Dee Land Trust, and Waccamaw National Wildlife Refuge for providing support and match funding for this landmark protection project.”
The mysterious Carolina bays were once abundant in coastal South Carolina, but over 97 percent have been lost to coastal development or converted for farming and timber production. Carolina bays are wetland elliptical depressions concentrated along the Atlantic seaboard with a particular abundance along the northern coast of South Carolina.
“Scientists are still confounded by their origin,” said University of South Carolina Botanist John Nelson. “What we know is that Carolina bays, like Carver’s Bay, host some of coastal South Carolina’s most unique plants and animals - carnivorous plants, Atlantic white cedar, wood storks, and black bears, to name a few.”
Deanna Ruth, biologist with the Department of Natural Resources, is well acquainted with the Carver’s Bay black bears that take advantage of the impenetrable jungle of bay vegetation to den and raise their young.
“These bears need a network of large intact tracts to rear their young, meet their own energetic needs, and stay genetically connected with other populations” said Ruth. “Carver’s Bay provides our coastal bears with excellent habitat that fits into a larger corridor of undeveloped and protected land along the Pee Dee and Little Pee Dee Rivers.”
Through the WRP program, NRCS will work to restore the hydrology of the wetlands and will monitor the tract annually. The Conservancy plans to steward the property as a preserve and support further restoration, research and monitoring on the tract. The project meets other conservation objectives for the Conservancy by building on the network of protected freshwater wetlands in the area.
“This tract will be added to more than 126,000 acres of protected lands along the rivers that feed the Winyah Bay,” said Maria Whitehead, project director for the Winyah Bay and Pee Dee River Basin. “Forested wetlands build resilience for our coastal communities by improving water quality, buffering freshwater flow, and holding vast amounts of water during storm events. They also enrich our lives by providing places to fish, hunt, bird and boat.”
To learn more about Carolina bays, view the Savannah River Ecology Laboratory’s Fact sheet or take an afternoon to visit S.C. Department of Natural Resources Lewis Ocean Bay Heritage Preserve in Horry County. The preserve has a well-maintained road system that allows visitors to experience the rare flora and fauna that depend upon these unique wetlands. Carolina bays, with their origin still unresolved, are an important and intriguing part of the natural history of South Carolina.
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.