The Waccamaw National Wildlife Refuge will be able to add more than 1,300 acres to its property outside Georgetown after receiving a new federal grant last week.
The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service announced the grant would help it purchase the more than $2 million tract of land along the Great Pee Dee River. The Migratory Bird Conservation Commission voted to approve the use of duck stamps revenue in the deal. The stamps, which duck and geese hunters must purchase each year, are used to help fund Fish & Wildlife Services efforts to improve and preserve habitat for migratory waterfowl.
The purchase was also partially funded with another $600,000 grant through the North American Wetland Conservation Act.
Refuge Manager Craig Sasser says the 1,362 acres of land is currently held by the Conservation Fund. “It’s old-growth bottomland hardwoods with really good access to the property,” he told South Carolina Radio Network. “It’s got upland fields that can be managed for various opportunities for public use, like turkey and dove hunts.”
The new acquisition would cover property located halfway between the refuge’s central Bull Island site and the state-owned Woodbury Tract.
Sasser said the new tract, which is scheduled to open this fall, is significant for hunters. Most of the Waccamaw refuge is located in land that is only accessible by boat— leaving it practically off-limits to any visitors unfamiliar with the network of rivers and swamps. He said the tract’s close proximity to the refuge’s visitors’ center also allows it to be useful for environmental education.
“We’ve had a really successful acquisition program and we’re getting down to some of the very few last tracts in our boundary,” Sasser said. He added that the newly-acquired land had been logged at one point decades ago, but was now preserved. “With the logging roads that are already in place, it’s a miracle all that stuff was protected.”
Once officials reach a deal with the business partnership that owned the land, the Conservation Fund purchased the tract in 2008 to help hold it while the Fish & Wildlife went through the necessary bureaucratic channels.
The Waccamaw National Wildlife Refuge consists of more than 22,000 acres along the Georgetown, Horry, and Marion County border. It was established in 1997.