Today the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) and The Conservation Fund announced the permanent protection of 1,628 acres and more than six miles of Lake Wateree shoreline in Lancaster County. SCDNR will manage the property as part of its Wildlife Management Area program for habitat and water quality preservation and plans to make it available to the public for hiking, hunting, bird watching and fishing.
The newly protected land is part of a 3,452-acre tract along more than 14 miles of frontage on Lake Wateree, formerly known as Liberty Hill Farms that also contains acreage in Kershaw County. Located across the lake from Lake Wateree State Park, a majority of the property was to be developed for residential purposes. When the lakeside land was put up for sale, The Conservation Fund purchased the entire property, safeguarding the natural viewshed from the State Park and providing SCDNR the necessary time to secure funding for its permanent conservation.
SCDNR Director Alvin Taylor stated: “The tract is another example of DNR’s longstanding commitment to habitat protection and enhancing public access for our constituents. Not only does this acquisition protect water quality and the scenic viewshed, but it also provides the public with additional lands to enjoy outdoor recreational activities. We are thankful for our partners who assisted in this project and especially for The Conservation Fund’s efforts in negotiating and purchasing the property.”
The property contains hardwood coves, mixed pine-hardwood slopes, loblolly pine ridgetops and open meadows that provide habitat for numerous wildlife species, including white-tailed deer, turkey, quail and several furbearers. Also found on the tract are hundred-year-old longleaf pines, as well as unique granite boulders that dot the landscape, giving the region the nickname, “the Devil’s Backbone.” Other notable species found on the site include bald eagles, wading birds, crayfish, and numerous species identified in South Carolina’s State Wildlife Action Plan as priority species for conservation action.
“As a resident of Lancaster County, I’m excited to help preserve the wonderful natural characteristics of the lakefront Liberty Hill property,” said Jason Johnson, South Carolina Director of The Conservation Fund. “The most successful conservation projects are those that result in multiple benefits. SCDNR will provide a natural shoreline view for the boaters on Lake Wateree while managing this sizable and beautiful landscape for improved water quality and enhanced public hunting and fishing access for generations to come.”
Under active timber management since 1959 and wildlife management since 1982, the tract will continue to be a working forest. Future timber management activities will entail selective thinning and prescribed fire to enhance plant and animal habitat, and the reintroduction of longleaf and shortleaf pine.
SCDNR’s purchase was made possible thanks to funding from the South Carolina Conservation Bank, South Carolina Heritage Trust Fund, Lancaster County Water Recreation Fund, Lancaster County Game and Fish Fund and the Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration Program, the nation’s oldest and most successful wildlife restoration program. The second phase of this project – the SCDNR’s purchase of the remaining acreage – was included in the President’s Budget for Fiscal Year 2014. The partners are hoping to secure a grant from the U.S. Forest Service’s Forest Legacy Program, funded through the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF).
Marvin N. Davant, Executive Director of the S.C. Conservation Bank said: “We are delighted that the Conservation Bank can partner in such an historic protection of an amazing property. Liberty Hill will remain a wild and scenic place of beauty that all South Carolinians and visitors can enjoy for generations to come. Liberty Hill is an outstanding location near the center of the state and will provide recreational as well as economic benefits for our future. We are always pleased to work with The Conservation Fund and SCDNR in such outstanding projects.”
Together, SDNR and The Conservation Fund have protected approximately 80,000 acres across the state, including the creation of Belfast Wildlife Management Area and Woodbury Wildlife Management Area.
Logo courtesy The Conservation Fund