CHARLESTON, SC (Nov. 21, 2017)—The Open Space Institute today announced the conservation of the remaining 2,000 acres of Fairlawn Plantation. The property, which adjoins the Francis Marion National Forest, will protect invaluable longleaf pine habitat while protecting sensitive wetlands and headwaters of the Wando River.
The newly conserved property totals almost 2,000 acres and OSI expects to transfer the land to the National Forest. The project continues OSI’s ongoing effort to protect and expand the Francis Marion National Forest, having protected 5,593 acres there over the past four years.
The newly conserved land is in the heart of the 290,000-acre Francis Marion National Forest and was included as one of the U.S. Forest Service’s highest conservation priorities east of the Mississippi before OSI stepped in to protect it.
“OSI is proud to protect this land that will benefit generations to come, as well as the species that depend upon this ecologically critical portion of South Carolina,” said Kim Elliman, OSI’s president and CEO. “Strategic land conservation plays a driving role in protecting some of the best lands in the East Coast, and we look forward to continuing to work with our talented conservation partners in and around the South Carolina Lowcountry.”
Fairlawn Plantation was the most significant unprotected property in the Francis Marion National Forest, offering a unique geological formation known as Cainhoy Ridge that holds habitat or potential habitat for sensitive, threatened and endangered plants and animals including the red-cockaded woodpecker and the frosted flatwoods salamander.
In June of 2014, OSI, in partnership with The Nature Conservancy, acquired 2,223 acres in the National Forest. In April of 2016, OSI followed up by protecting another 1,151 acres in the same region. Both properties contained invaluable longleaf pine restoration lands and added significant acreage to the National Forest.
The Francis Marion National Forest, along with the adjacent Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge and other state and private conservation lands, form a large swath of protected land that is 30 miles wide and reaches 40 miles inland from the ocean.
The National Forest contains some of the largest and healthiest stands of longleaf pine in the Southeast. Covering only three percent of its historic extent of 90 million acres, the longleaf pine ecosystem, which is fire adapted and dependent, is one of the most diverse and threatened systems on the planet. Protection and restoration of the longleaf pine ecosystem in the Southeast is a priority of many conservation organizations.