JASPER COUNTY, SC (July 19, 2021) — The Open Space Institute (OSI) announced today the protection of a critical inholding within the Tillman Sand Ridge Heritage Preserve (HP) and Wildlife Management Area (WMA). The acquisition secures more land for recreation and further expands high-quality longleaf pine habitat for the gopher tortoise.
The 116-acre “Tillman Addition” property contains a mix of pine and hardwood forests, and cypress and hardwood swamp forests. It is the largest unprotected property between two units of the Tillman Sand Ridge HP and WMA and is adjacent to a 2,722-acre tract and a 287-acre tract protected with conservation easements held by the Lowcountry Land Trust. Tillman Sand Ridge HP and WMA is also home to the state’s highest density gopher tortoise population, and protection of the Tillman Addition will provide more quality habitat for this state endangered species.
OSI intends to transfer the property to the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) next year, at which point it will be open to the public for hiking, hunting, and wildlife viewing.
“The Tillman Sand Ridge Heritage Preserve and Wildlife Management Area is an essential part of South Carolina’s rich biological inventory. Its proximity to some of the fastest growing parts of the state makes it a true conservation priority,” said Nate Berry, OSI Senior Vice President and Southeast Office Director. “For generations to come, South Carolinians can enjoy the beauty and wonder of the Savannah River.”
Gopher tortoises are considered a keystone species because they dig burrows that provide shelter for approximately 350 other species, including the state endangered gopher frog and many important State Wildlife Action Plan conservation priority species: the eastern diamondback rattlesnake, Southern hognose snake, pine snake, coral snake, pine woods snake, and two species of glass lizard.