Saturday was about as beautiful a June evening as I can imagine in Charleston–sunny, breezy, and cool, with everything in bloom. My wife, daughter, and I decided at the last minute to cross the bridge and embark on a two-mile hike around the lower end of the Peninsula. Just as I experienced during a long run that morning passing through marsh and mudflats on the rural half of the West Ashley Greenway, people from so many different walks of life were there, soaking in the Lowcountry beauty surrounding them.
The live oak-shaded White Point Gardens at the Battery literally serves as an urban wildlife management area this time of year. Dozens of Black-crowned night herons breed there. We craned our necks and pointed out the regal birds to each other as they roosted in the branches. A fellow mother and father with their toddler daughter noticed our efforts. “I’m a nature-lover too,” the man told me, as they quickly joined in on the spotting. Here were two dads, one black and one white, meeting and finding common ground in nature.
Nature may not be the basis for solving every problem in society, but without a doubt it can play an important role. We treasure the Angel Oak in part out of a belief that it has the effect of bringing out the better angels of our nature. Research shows that people who spend at least 120 minutes in nature a week are significantly more likely to report good health and higher psychological wellbeing than those who don’t visit nature at all during an average week. And you know the research is onto something when you can feel it in yourself, and see hints of it in a fellow dad’s face.
Lowcountry Land Trust is in the business of honoring the relationship between people and land. We make that statement sometimes without realizing how much is tangled up in it. As in people’s relationships with each other, there is both joy and pain in people’s relationship with land. Much of the pain comes from what happened in our long history, and from what to this very day happens—or threatens to happen—as people seek to encounter the land and experience its many benefits.
Two weeks ago, Ashley Demosthenes told you that Lowcountry Land Trust is committed to listening, learning, and responding so that we can be a better community partner, and part of solutions that heal our region and our nation. I suspect that in listening, we will hear some ideas and questions that are quite challenging. We will genuinely engage, and we will stick with it.
That reminds me of some wonderful words that a Lowcountry conservation easement landowner once said in the context of group efforts to make cane syrup in an old-fashioned cast iron kettle: “It doesn’t always come easy with so many perspectives. But that’s actually what makes it work.” And I’m motivated by the recent remarks of Darrin Goss, Coastal Community Foundation’s President & CEO, when he posited that “Equity unleashes the brilliance in all of us.”
We will use these words as guideposts, with determination and a love for this land and its people. We invite each one of you to join us, support us, challenge us. The product of our listening, learning, and labor will be like a well-tended cane syrup—one that never tasted better.
David K. Ray
Chief Conservation Officer
Lowcountry Land Trust
PS: In case you missed it last week, here’s a word from all LLT staff members.
Monday, June 8th: The Stewardship team headed back out into the field for stewardship visits. If you have an easement that has not yet been monitored in 2020, anticipate a *socially distanced* visit from our stewardship staff in the next couple of months.
Tuesday, June 9th: Conservation Team staff met on a prospective rural property on Johns Island. This was their first meeting in person since March. Being outside made it easy to stay socially distant and was a great way to kick off the restart of the field season.
A socially-distanced Conservation Team meeting.
I participated in a virtual “mini-retreat” of Lowcountry conservation leaders hosted by the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation, in which we discussed how to collaborate more effectively to achieve mutual priorities with respect to the region’s conservation challenges and opportunities.
Wednesday, June 10th: I participated in a nonprofit leaders call on “Facing Race Together,” co-hosted by Darrin Goss of the Coastal Community Foundation and Madeleine McGee of Together SC. More than 75 participants from across the state joined the meeting.
Screenshot from the Zoom Meeting with Darrin Goss of the Coastal Community Foundation.
I also co-hosted, with Kelly Presley of the Land Trust Alliance, a virtual happy hour with the theme of “What Community Conservation Means to Your Land Trust.” This was the virtual version of a gathering that was scheduled originally to take place during the Land Trust Alliance’s Southeast Conference in Chattanooga this past March. Staff from 9 land trusts and the Land Trust Alliance convened to discuss a wide variety of approaches, experiences, and stories of meaningful community engagement in conservation.
Thursday, June 11th: Conservation Team staff participated in a Sewee Longleaf Conservation Cooperative remote meeting where they discussed various outreach opportunities and grants to restore and protect longleaf in the greater Santee River region.
Friday, June 12th: South Coast Manager Josh Bell finalized documentation required to close on a nearly 1,400 acre property on the Edisto River in Bamberg County. This is a project to be funded by the SC Conservation Bank. More news to come soon!
2019 Project Spotlight: The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. While there is an avid online debate about which ancient philosopher coined this phrase, one thing is for sure: it’s a great way to think about land conservation, especially when it comes to protecting multiple properties located within the ACE Basin, one of the largest intact ecosystems on the East Coast. Read on to learn more about Black Creek Plantation, a property on the Combahee River LLT protected last year.
Aerial image by Green Eyes Aero.
DIG SOUTH Goes Virtual: One of Charleston’s premier conferences, DIG SOUTH, is going virtual on July 23-24. Learn more here.
“Bringing the Outside In” with SCDNR: Over the past few months, SCDNR has offered an educational webinar presentation every Thursday afternoon on a variety of topics, including “Composting 101,” “Native Gardening: Beauty and Benefits,” and “The ACE Basin: A Conservation Success Story.” To view recorded versions of past presentations, visit their site here. To join this Thursday’s webinar on horseshoe crabs, register here.
[As we enter the long, hot days of summer, the President’s Log will feature a series of rotating guest writers, including LLT staff and board, as well as friends of Lowcountry Land Trust]