GEORGETOWN COUNTY, SC (Dec. 6, 2021)—The Open Space Institute (OSI) and The Nature Conservancy (TNC) today announced the purchase of three properties along the Santee River in South Carolina, adding key acreage within the second largest river basin on the East Coast. Conservation of the properties also expands the largest contiguous block of protected coastal lands in the state, while safeguarding forests and wetlands that will be essential to providing habitat and storing carbon in the face of climate change.
The properties, together totaling more than 5,700 acres (see map and photos here), are located along the northern bank of the mighty Santee River in Georgetown County, the epicenter of rice production in the early 19th century where land had been converted for agricultural by enslaved Africans.
With their protection, the lands are now part of a regional patchwork of permanently protected properties called the “Santee River Wilderness Corridor” — one of the greatest and least well-known coastal wildernesses in North America — which spans almost 400,000 acres, and includes state, federal, and land trust conservation easement areas such as the Francis Marion National Forest, Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge, and Wee Tee State Forest.
The properties contain critical habitat — including a mix of freshwater marsh, tidal forested wetlands, and upland mature pine-hardwoods — to shelter 116 priority wildlife species of conservation concern, while the river itself is home to endangered fish including the Atlantic and short-nosed sturgeon. The region itself is also one of the last possible refuges for the ivory-billed woodpecker, the legendary bird and icon of southeastern floodplain forests.
"Now protected, these spell-bindingly beautiful properties will be added to the Santee River basin — South Carolina’s largest core wilderness,” said OSI Senior Director of Land, Maria Whitehead. “This momentous conservation win will protect water quality in the Santee River; secure habitat for rare and threatened species; and will mitigate climate change by storing hundreds of tons of carbon.”