LAURENS COUNTY, SC (Sep. 8, 2021) — The Open Space Institute (OSI) and the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) today announced the addition of five properties, totaling 1,841 acres, to South Carolina’s Belfast Wildlife Management Area (WMA). Transfer of the lands will increase the size of the WMA by more than a third, while protecting important streams and wetlands and creating new recreational hunting opportunities in the South Carolina Piedmont.
The five properties, together called the “Belfast Extension” properties, are contiguous to each other and feature eight ponds and lakes, upland forests and wetlands, prairie fields, wetlands, and pristine streams. Teeming with native wildlife, the properties’ addition to the 4,664-acre Belfast WMA increases publicly available hunting land in the Saluda River Basin.
Together, the Belfast properties are easily accessible from the Columbia, Greenville, and Spartanburg metro areas.
“This important conservation project will greatly enhance hunting and recreation opportunities for residents of Laurens and Newberry counties, the greater Piedmont, and beyond,” said Nate Berry, OSI’s senior vice president in South Carolina. “We thank the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, the South Carolina Department of Transportation, and the South Carolina Conservation Bank for their tireless efforts to protect our state's unparalleled natural resources for future generations.”
“The addition of these properties will provide for permanent, public recreational hunting opportunities in the near future,” said SCDNR Director Robert Boyles. “As an agency, we strive to build a conservation ethic in the citizens of South Carolina and there is no better way to do that than by providing them public lands to hike, hunt, fish and enjoy wildlife watching.”
SCDNR will publicly announce when the Belfast Extension properties are open to the public, after the completion of a planning and management period. Visitors should reference SCDNR’s State Regulations Guide for specific activities.
“Belfast WMA is one of South Carolina’s most popular and important public preserves,” said Raleigh West of the South Carolina Conservation Bank, which also provided funding for the project. “This expansion will not only increase the footprint of the protected landscape in that area, it will provide more opportunities for the public to access our state’s phenomenal natural lands.”
Four of the Belfast properties, totaling 1,720 were acquired by OSI in 2018 and 2019 through wetlands mitigation funds associated with a SCDOT highway project. The final 121-acre tract was acquired using South Carolina Conservation Bank and SCDNR funds.
“Together with SCDNR and SCDOT, we have achieved a positive, permanent, landscape-scale conservation outcome for the public to enjoy,” said OSI’s Berry.
Founded in 1974, OSI has grown to become a partner in the protection of more than 2.3 million acres along the eastern seaboard from Quebec to Florida — including over 100,000 acres in the Southeastern U.S.