Charleston, S.C. — April 22, 2014 — After protecting more than 120,000 acres in New York State and assisting in the protection of 2.2 million additional acres from Canada to Georgia in its four decades of conservation, the Open Space Institute has completed its first-ever land acquisition outside of New York.
OSI announced today that, in partnership with The Nature Conservancy, it has acquired two tracts consisting of more than 2,200 acres in the heart of the Francis Marion National Forest outside of Charleston, S.C. The transaction was funded by Boeing, one of the world’s largest aircraft manufacturers, in conjunction with its planned expansion in North Charleston.
The two tracts are surrounded by the 258,864-acre Francis Marion National Forest, and have been a top protection priority of the U.S. Forest Service for over a decade. OSI and TNC will co-own and manage the properties for up to five years, and then transfer them to the Forest Service for long-term management.
“The Francis Marion and the neighboring publicly and privately protected lands are a national treasure,” said OSI President and CEO Kim Elliman. “The diversity found in the matrix of habitats is extraordinary. The importance of these mitigation properties is evident just by looking at a map of protected land in the area, but it becomes even more so when you understand how these properties relate to the integrity of the surrounding protected land and the management of urban sprawl from Charleston and Mount Pleasant. It has been wonderful working with Boeing, The Nature Conservancy, the landowners and many others to conserve these extraordinary properties.”
The parcels make up a portion of Fairlawn Plantation property and, along with the 1,677-acre Keystone Tract, are being protected as part of the permitting process for Boeing’s planned expansion in North Charleston. The Lowcountry Open Land Trust (LOLT) purchased the Keystone Tract in February, also with funding from Boeing, and will transfer the property to the S.C. Department of Natural Resources for long term ownership and management. Together, these three tracts conserve 3,899 acres.
Boeing’s investment significantly advances a national effort to protect and restore the fire dependent native longleaf pine ecosystem.
These ecologically important private properties are contiguous to lands already part of the National Forest, and they provide important connectors for wildlife. Protecting these lands and avoiding inappropriate development helps ensure that the Forest Service and other conservation-minded landowners can continue to use controlled burning – the single most important management tool for wildlife and natural diversity in this region.
“I congratulate the great collaboration of Boeing, The Nature Conservancy, Open Space Institute and the landowners on this achievement. Francis Marion National Forest is one of the most important landscapes for longleaf pine habitat, as designated in the Range-wide Plan for Longleaf Pine. Protecting these portions of Fairlawn will greatly enhance our ability to manage adjacent national forest lands, and continue to use prescribed fire within this core burn area,” said Rick Lint, forest supervisor for the Francis Marion and Sumter National Forests.
Together, these acquisitions represent one of the largest private conservation investments in the Francis Marion National Forest and surrounding region. The acquisitions made by the partnership accomplish conservation goals of regional and national significance and substantially increase public lands, as well as the protection of land, water quality and several rare, threatened and endangered wildlife species.
“The Nature Conservancy is excited to partner with Boeing, Open Space Institute and other conservation groups to protect these important lands and waters,” said Mark Robertson, South Carolina state director for The Nature Conservancy. “The Francis Marion National Forest is a national priority for conserving and restoring our native longleaf pine forests, which rival tropical rain forests in their natural diversity but have been imperiled by centuries of cutting and development. These properties also protect an enormous variety of valuable wetlands and rare wildlife and plants.”