OSI and Partners Expand Access for Paddling, Educational Opportunities along the Black River

Image Credit: Ducks Unlimited

CHARLESTON, S.C. – July 26, 2018 – South Carolinians will have expanded outdoor education and recreation opportunities in Williamsburg County thanks to a partnership by the Open Space Institute (OSI), Ducks Unlimited and the Butler Conservation Fund.

The partners collaborated on the acquisition of a 170-acre property along the Black River. The property, formerly known as the Morris Tract, will host an outdoor education initiative for public schools in the region and provide public access along the scenic corridor.  

“Protection of this critical parcel will enhance recreation and teach young people about the need to safeguard fragile habitats and waterways, while helping them develop a greater appreciation for outdoor exploration,” said Kim Elliman, OSI’s president and CEO. “This achievement demonstrates the success of conservation partnerships in protecting lands that matter.”

Image Credit: Justin Park

“Wetlands provide many functions and values necessary for sustaining wildlife and fishery resources, local communities and ecosystems,” said Ducks Unlimited Conservation Lands Coordinator Justin Park. “The Black River is vital to the outdoor-related economy of South Carolina, which contributed $33.4 billion to the state’s economy, according to a study done by Clemson University in 2016. This project will provide a hiking trail along the river, enhance public access for a paddling trail and promote wildlife habitat, floodwater retention and watershed health.”

The Butler Conservation Fund (BCF) will own and manage the property. BCF is a private foundation dedicated to the conservation and protection of the natural environment and to environmental education and recreation. They are committed to conservation along the Black River to encourage public access and create a paddling trail. The Morris Tract is important due to its proximity to the BCF’s Black River Cypress Preserve and its extensive bends, sloughs and cypress ponds, which provide habitat for myriad species.

Designated by South Carolina as a State Scenic River, the Black River features tide-driven forested wetlands that are one of the most popular canoe and kayak destinations in the entire state. Bird enthusiasts travel to this destination to see prothonotary warblers, pileated woodpeckers, wood storks, red-cockaded woodpeckers and the state-endangered swallow-tailed kite.

The acquisition was made possible by grants from the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA), the Butler Conservation Fund, and the Duke Energy Water Resources Fund.

NAWCA grants strive to increase bird populations and wetland habitat, while supporting local economies and American traditions such as hunting, fishing, birdwatching, family farming and cattle ranching. Forested wetlands such as those found on the Morris Tract provide valuable benefits including flood control, improving water and air quality and recharging groundwater.

The Morris Tract acquisition was also supported through a grant to the Open Space Institute through the Duke Energy Water Resources Fund, made possible with funding from the Duke Energy Foundation. The Duke Energy Foundation is investing $10 million to fund programs benefiting waterways in the Carolinas or immediately downstream of operational facilities in Virginia, Tennessee and Georgia. The fund supports science-based, research supported projects and programs that provide direct benefits in water quality, fish and wildlife habitats, public use and access to waterways and public awareness about individuals’ roles in protecting water resources.

“Duke Energy is dedicated to protecting and restoring the rivers and waterways that power our regional economies,” said Kodwo Ghartey-Tagoe, president of Duke Energy in South Carolina. “We look forward to our partnership with Open Space Institute and Ducks Unlimited and the impact this project will have in the region.”

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