FRANKLIN COUNTY, TN (Aug. 25, 2023)—In early August, the Open Space Institute (OSI) joined the South Carolina Forestry Commission, The Nature Conservancy South Carolina (TNC), the South Carolina Conservation Bank, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and others joined in the celebration of a monumental conservation achievement: the addition of 3,800 acres of protected land to South Carolina’s Wee Tee State Forest.
Conservation of this stunning and ecologically vital property was made possible through the efforts of OSI and TNC, who partnered to purchase the land in 2021. The South Carolina Conservation Bank provided funding for the state’s acquisition of the land from OSI and TNC.
The addition joins a regional assemblage of permanently protected properties known as the “Santee River Wilderness Corridor.” The region is one of the greatest coastal wildernesses in North America, spanning almost 400,000 acres of protected land, including Francis Marion National Forest and Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge.
Wee Tee State Forest comprises a mix of freshwater marsh, tidal forested wetlands, and upland mature pine-hardwoods. The densely forested lands shelter more than 100 priority wildlife species of conservation concern. The Santee River is home to endangered fish including the Atlantic and short-nosed sturgeon.
The expansion of Wee Tee State Forest’s river frontage by several miles is a boon to the anglers and boaters who flock to the property for its 200-acre lake, numerous ponds, oxbow streams, and superior fish and wildlife habitat.
"Protection of this vital land deserves to be celebrated,” said Maria Whitehead, OSI’s Vice President of Land, Southeast. “This momentous conservation win protects water quality in the Santee River; secures habitat for threatened species; helps mitigate climate change by storing hundreds of tons of carbon; and preserves recreational access to this stunning property. OSI is so proud and grateful to mark this occasion with our partners.”