A new 900-acre tract of land in Charleston County will be protected from future development as part of an effort to restore South Carolina’s disappearing longleaf pine forests.
The South Carolina Nature Conservancy announced last week has sold the Tibwin Plantation property near McClellanville to the US Forest Service. The $2.4 million sale was far lower than the price the Conservancy acquired the land from International Paper in 2007, just before the real estate market collapsed. The site will now become part of the 259,000-acre Francis Marion National Forest.
Director of Science and Stewardship Eric Krueger said the Conservancy has spent the past decade working to gradually bring longleaf pines to the tract. The Forest Service has made restoring the forests one of its priorities, estimating that only about three percent of the longleaf forest remains from its historical range. Krueger said his teams worked to replace the loblolly trees planted by loggers with the native longleaf.
“We’re actively reconverting them from row-planted forests for (International Paper’s) pulp production back into the native longleaf pine,” he told South Carolina Radio Network.
The Nature Conservancy purchased the property for $8 million in 2007 to advance the USFS’s goal of consolidating the Francis Marion along Highway 17. The Conservancy received a grant of $4 million from the Charleston County Greenbelt Bank and $500,000 from the South Carolina Conservation Bank to help fund the purchase. The remaining $3.5 million was fundraised by the organization.
The property is mainly meant to bridge gaps in the existing national forest, but Krueger said it will also eventually provide additional public access opportunities within Francis Marion, including hunting and traveling along the nearby East Coast Greenway—a regional effort from Maine to Florida to create off-road access for bike and walking trails—and offshoots of the cross-state Palmetto Trail.
The new site is located just off US Highway 17 about five miles southwest of McClellanville.