Field Notes from the Lowcountry

Our November board meeting was different in two ways: It is the first time we had our November meeting in the Lowcountry, and it’s the first time we’ve traveled north of Charleston for a weekend of site visits.

As with the area south of Charleston, the coast to the north is rich with extensive natural areas. It’s a landscape of barrier islands, salt marshes, rivers, freshwater wetlands, and large forest tracts including scores of former rice plantations. The mosaic extends between suburban Mt. Pleasant and the wall-to-wall resort hotels of Myrtle Beach.

Our Friday visits included the Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge, Francis Marion National Forest and Rochelle Plantation, from which we could get a sense of the vast scale of other privately protected lands, including Santee Coastal Reserve, Yawkey Wildlife Center, and many other private properties under easement.

On Saturday, we took a boat up the Pee Dee and Waccamaw Rivers. Here and throughout the Winyah Bay region, 57 miles of river corridor have been protected so far, including numerous former rice plantations and the Sandy Island preserve. Our business meetings were held at the historic Hobcaw Barony, a 16,000 acre research center housing Clemson University’s Belle W. Baruch Institute of Coastal Ecology and Forest Science, and the University of South Carolina’s Baruch Marine Field Laboratory.

Underscoring the impressive array of conservation results in the north Lowcountry are the many grantees and partners we work with throughout the region. This includes other philanthropic partners such as the Manigault family and the Post and Courier Foundation, which hosted a wonderful oyster roast for our board and staff on the shores of Minum Creek. Our other partners include the land trusts working with the conservation-minded landowners in the area, as well as the advocacy groups that help safeguard the environmental integrity of the region.  It was great to share up close and personal these collective efforts to achieve our ambitious landscape-scale vision for the entire coast.

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