Carolina Heelsplitter mussels in hand

Open Space Institute and Partners to Expand Forty Acre Rock Heritage Preserve

Image Credit: South Carolina Department of Natural Resources

Lancaster County, SC (March 12, 2024) The Open Space Institute (OSI), together with partners at the Lynches River Conservation Fund (LRCF) and the South Carolina Conservation Bank (SCCB), has permanently protected nearly 100 acres of land in Lancaster County. OSI intends to ultimately transfer the property to the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) to expand SCDNR’s Forty Acre Rock Heritage Preserve – Wildlife Management Area.

The Forty Acre Rock Farm Tract drains to Flat Creek, a major tributary of the Lynches River that shelters one of the largest and most promising colonies of the globally endangered Carolina Heelsplitter mussel.

“Bringing people closer to nature is a pillar of OSI’s work,” said Patrick Moore, OSI’s Associate Director of Land for the Southeast. “Expanding access and protecting the aquatic species of Flat Creek will enhance Forty Acre Rock Heritage Preserve, to which OSI has added more than 200 acres since 2018. We congratulate our partners at Lynches River Conservation Fund, South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, and the South Carolina Conservation Bank for conserving land that not only safeguards habitat, but also makes the Heritage Preserve more welcoming and accessible.”

The Southeast is home to the richest, and most imperiled, aquatic diversity in North America. Habitat degradation and loss have left species like the Carolina Heelsplitter increasingly threatened, with highly fragmented distributions. Thought extinct until they were rediscovered in 1987, Heelsplitters are the sustained focus of state and federal restoration efforts. The Carolina Heelsplitter relies on silt-free stream bottoms like those found in Flat Creek for their feeding and breeding cycles, making riparian land protection a critical component in their survival and recovery.

“SCDNR appreciates the partnership of the Open Space Institute, South Carolina Conservation Bank, and the Lynches River Conservation Fund to add this great property to the Forty Acre Rock Heritage Preserve – Wildlife Management Area,” said Robert H. Boyles, Jr., Director, SCDNR.

“The Lynches River Conservation Fund is dedicated to preserving the ecological integrity of the Lynches River watershed,” said Erin Johnson, Vice President of Community Investment at Central Carolina Community Foundation. “Protecting the lands around Flat Creek will play a vital role in ensuring the water quality of the Lynches River. We are grateful to our partners at the Open Space Institute, and the South Carolina Conservation Bank for helping keep the Lynches River clean for generations to come.”

“The iconic rock at Forty Acre Rock Heritage Preserve is just the beginning of the story,” commented Raleigh West, executive director, SCCB. “This addition brings considerable conservation value by increasing the footprint of this public land and building connectivity for a critical species, the Heelsplitter mussel.”

About the Open Space Institute

Founded in 1974, the Open Space Institute (OSI) has been a partner in the protection of more than 2.5 million acres along the eastern seaboard from Quebec to Florida. OSI’s Southeast office, established in Charleston in 2014, has been a partner in the protection of more than 50,000 acres in South Carolina, the vast majority of which will be open to the public. Visit OSI online at

About Central Carolina Community Foundation

Central Carolina Community Foundation, the Midlands' leader in collaborative philanthropy, is a nonprofit organization serving 11 counties in the Midlands of South Carolina by distributing grants and scholarships and linking the resources of donors, nonprofits, and area leaders to communities in need. Major initiatives include Midlands Gives, Lynches River Conservation Fund, Connected Communities Grants, the One SC Fund and annual scholarships. For more information about the Community Foundation, visit or call (803) 254-5601.

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