A coastal wildlife refuge says it has purchased a small marsh island located roughly 40 miles northeast of Charleston, helping to preserve one of the last undeveloped barrier islands inside its borders.
19-acre Dupre Island will become part of the Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge later this year, according to a release from The Nature Conservancy. The conservation group had purchased the small island near McClellanville last year from a private landowner, with the intention of eventually reselling it at a lower price to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.
Cape Romain’s manager Sarah Dawsey said the island’s maritime forest is a critical habitat for the barrier islands.
“Maritime forest is a globally imperiled forest type,” she told South Carolina Radio Network. “And the refuge itself is very important not only to the wildlife, but also to the local community.”
The island has had a conservation easement for the past decade, meaning its previous owner had agreed to no more than limited development. The Fish and Wildlife Service purchased the island from The Nature Conservancy in July for $45,000, of which $15,000 was provided by a grant from the Charleston County Greenbelt Program.
“We were extremely pleased to provide the funding to protect this important outparcel,” chairman of the Charleston County Green Belt Board Hugh C. Lane, Jr., said in a statement.
Dawsey said the purchase was critical, because the old easement would have allowed the owner to do some limited building. She said that could have impacted the refuge’s strong sea turtle population and runoff from any construction could hurt water quality along Muddy Bay and Cape Romain Bay.
“Any property that we can fill out the refuge and prevent any type of development or activity that might impair the refuge habitat is always a win,” she said. “Because of this estuary, the locals can have recreation and also commercial activity such as shellfish harvesting. All of that type of activity requires high water quality.”
Cape Romain is a 66,000-acre preserve composed mostly of salt marsh, tidal creeks and the open water of ocean bays. It also contains 8,000 acres of maritime forest and beach.