COLUMBIA, S.C. - July 28, 2015 — The Nature Conservancy has closed on a 12,418-acre conservation easement on The Westervelt Company’s timber lands in South Carolina. The easement is the fourth largest in state history and the largest since 2008.
The easement creates a 12-mile protected wildlife corridor between the Savannah and Coosawhatchie rivers and includes more than seven miles of combined stream frontage on two of the rivers’ tributaries. A conservation easement is a voluntary, legally binding agreement limiting certain types of development, while protecting the property’s value for wildlife, forestry, hunting and other activities.
“More than 550,000 people get their drinking water from the lower Savannah River, and forests like this have a real benefit to water quality,” said David Bishop, The Nature Conservancy’s ACE Basin/South Lowcountry project director. “We also need wildlife corridors so deer, turkey, songbirds and other species have room to roam. This is a vital forested landscape that now will always be that way.”
The Westervelt Company, a 131-year-old organization headquartered in Tuscaloosa, Ala., donated more than 60 percent of the value of the easement. The remaining $2.4 million purchase is being funded by a grant paid over two years from the South Carolina Conservation Bank. A loan from the Lowcountry Conservation Loan Fund allowed the purchase to be completed before the Conservation Bank funds have fully accrued.
“These are the types of projects we love to support,” said Marvin Davant, executive director of the South Carolina Conservation Bank. “The donation of more than half the easement price made it an extremely good value for public dollars, and there’s a big public benefit to keeping our drinking water pure and both game and non-game wildlife plentiful. This grant will provide forest products and local jobs for years to come. We are proud to partner with the Conservancy and Westervelt to make this happen.”
The easement also helps support the future of South Carolina’s forest industry, which generates approximately $17 billion annually. The agreement specifies the land will not be fragmented into more than 10 parcels in case of sale and limits how much can be cleared or covered by an impervious surface, such as pavement. The provisions ensure the land, certified to both Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI®) and Forest Stewardship Council (FSC®) standards, will remain forested for perpetuity and encourage its use for sustainable timber harvest.
“The Westervelt Company is committed to protecting our forests through sustainable timber management and preserving land for future generations,” said Jim King, vice president of natural resources for The Westervelt Company. “This easement is an opportunity to achieve both. It’s a legacy we can all feel good about for South Carolina.”