The Ebb & Flow BLOG

President’s Log: May 22, 2020

Dear Friends,

As summer is starting soon, and I am beginning to see the light at the end of the proverbial tunnel, I started reading a book today. Not a book about how to survive COVID-19. Not a book about how to survive homeschooling when you are a full-time working parent with no idea how to help a 9th grader with Common Core math. I started reading The Nature Fix by Florence Williams. I am still in the early pages, and am already hanging on every word, but right off the bat I saw a paragraph that struck me:

“We don’t experience natural environments enough to realize how restored they can make us feel, nor are we aware that studies also show they make us healthier, more creative, more empathetic and more apt to engage with the world and with each other. Nature, it turns out, is good for civilization.”

I have reflected on this sentiment myself over the years. Experiencing natural environments as a child is what inspired me to pursue a career in land conservation. I consider myself one of the lucky ones. There is no doubt we, as a society, have experienced decades, and generations, of disconnect from the natural world, which in turn seems to disconnect us from each other. I grieve for those who have not had those visceral moments in nature.

Today, though, I am reading this paragraph through a new lens. In these last months, we desperately have been seeking restoration through the natural environment. As all other options for relief and solace were cut off, we sought nature and green spaces. I would posit that, not only is nature good for civilization, as Florence Williams states, but that it is imperative for survival.

And, as I sit here reflecting on my own personal encounters with nature and what those encounters have taught me, I celebrate those who, whilst quarantining, have made palpable new discoveries and have awakened their curiosity and awareness of what nature exists around them, only a block or two away from their homes.

Folks, what we are doing here—protecting land and waterways—is not a luxury. It is fundamental to our human existence. It is the mission of Lowcountry Land Trust to safeguard those resources so that you can experience them now and into the future. Because there is no substitute for the smell of salt marsh, the taste of blue crab and sea island tomato, and the view of a maritime forest—or the well-being that comes from those experiences.

We are overwhelmed by your support this month. We have exceeded goals that we were not sure we’d be able to reach. It is clear that our community cares deeply about conservation and for that, we thank you. We are only $13,000 away from reaching our new goal of $100,000 for Lowcountry lands and waters this May. Anything you can contribute is greatly appreciated and valued, by our current team at LLT, and by those that succeed us.

With gratitude,

Ashley Demosthenes
President & CEO
Lowcountry Land Trust

** With next week being a holiday week, many of our staff, including me, will be out of the office on vacation. Please expect our next President’s Log on Monday, June 1.

Monday, May 18th: LLT staff prepared for this week’s Board committee meetings and the Thursday Board meeting. Helen Rogers, Director of Operations, and I worked on a return-to-work plan. Beginning June 1st, our staff will slowly begin returning to the office. Following the guidance of the CDC and SCDHEC, we have been drafting a return-to-work plan with enhanced safety measures for our staff and visitors. The plan will accommodate staggered start dates and shifts for staff, intensive cleaning protocols for workspaces, and, of course, social distancing protocols while working in the office and in the field.    

Tuesday, May 19th: I attended this week’s Charleston Forum virtual discussion, which was moderated by John Simpkins. John is a member of the 2009 class of Liberty Fellows, former Vice President of the Aspen Global Leadership Network, and recently hired President & CEO of MDC, Inc., an organization that has been deeply involved in promoting equity and economic mobility in the American South for more than 50 years. The Forum hosted Senator Tim Scott, who commented on the current state of COVID-19 response, the national psyche, and associated disparities. Watch the full presentation here.  

Wednesday, May 20th: Ashton Lamb, North Coast Project Manager, participated in the “Farms Under Threat: The State of the States” South Carolina webinar, hosted by the National Agricultural Land Network. There are new tools available via the American Farmland Trust that can help strengthen and expand agricultural land retention and protection efforts by displaying lands in each state that are critical to America’s agricultural system. He is looking forward to learning more about these tools and implementing them in his work. If you’re interested in attending the next free South Carolina webinar on July 8, you can register here.

Thursday, May 21st: At our last LLT Board of Trustees meeting of the fiscal year, we honored immediate past Chair, David Maybank III, for his service. David served as an LLT Board member for fifteen years, two of them as Board Chair (2017-2019). During his tenure, David encouraged LLT staff and Board to find a way to protect Boone Hall Plantation. As fate would have it, during his leadership as Board Chair, the stars aligned and the Land Trust entered into the beginning stages of what is now a permanent conservation agreement with Boone Hall. We sincerely thank David for his many years of service to the Land Trust and look forward to more years of conservation projects to come.

Mike McShane, former LLT Board Chair and LLT easement donor, thanking David Maybank, III for his service as Board Chair of LLT and his many years of service as a Board member and officer.  

The Board also gave final approval for two wetlands mitigation projects (Berkeley and Dorchester Counties) totaling 922 acres that are due to close in the next few months.

Friday, May 22nd: I had a grants review call with the Lowcountry Program Director for the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation. The Foundation is an extraordinary supporter of arts, culture, and land conservation in the Lowcountry and in their home state of Illinois. LLT has applied for two grants, including a request for funds to support the SC Land Trust Network. I currently serve as Board President for the Network, and have been working with my fellow Board members (leaders from partner land trusts around the state) for a few years to build the Network as a staffed and fully functioning statewide association of land trusts. Want to learn more about the Network?  Visit our recently launched website at Stories of land conservation around the state are also frequently posted on the Network’s Facebook page


2019 Project Spotlight: Last year, we were honored to partner with Drayton Hall Preservation Trust, which owns Drayton Hall, and the National Trust for Historic Preservation to permanently protect and restore the 104-acres of the Drayton Hall Marsh Tracts. Drayton Hall’s marsh tracts marked Lowcountry Land Trust’s 18th conservation easement on the Ashley River. Together, they protect 446 acres along this scenic waterway. Read more on this landmark project here.

Photo by Green Eyes Aero

Board Member Spotlight: Board member, Mac Baughman, was recently recognized as lead forest manager for the Nexton community in Summerville, SC. In this role, Mac will manage thousands of acres of Nexton’s woodlands with the goal of preserving the environmental integrity of the community’s diverse and mature ecosystem. Congratulations, Mac!

Rising Waters: If Wednesday’s rainfall and subsequent flooding reminds us of anything, it’s that SC coastal communities are no stranger to rising waters and their effects. Here are two must-read pieces from The Post & Courier this week. 1.) Rising Waters, a new special report page that will “document severe flooding events with a mix of breaking news and deep investigative reporting that captures the human and economic toll in broad relief.” 2.) Bo Peterson reports that sea level rise will come to affect coastal estuaries and the biomes that call them home, sooner rather than later.

Dwindling Farmlands: A new study from the American Farmland Trust claims South Carolina’s farmlands are the eighth most at risk in the country of being paved over for development. In the past two decades, more than 280,000 acres of agricultural property has either been developed or hurt by nearby construction in the state. Learn more from an article published by The State, Are farms doomed by development? Sprawling growth devours SC farmland.” 

Great American Outdoors Act: Late last night, Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, announced that the Senate will take up the Great American Outdoors Act soon, calling it “a milestone achievement to secure public lands and ensure their upkeep well into the future.” SC Representative Joe Cunningham is one of the co-leads on the bipartisan House Dear Colleague letter asking Congress to support outdoor recreation recovery and job creation by fully funding the Land and Water Conservation Fund in an upcoming stimulus package.

Choose to protect. Donate today.

Join us this month for a virtual event: Picnic in Your Backyard!