Savannah River Tract Permanently Protected
First project to receive funding through innovative water fund program
The Lowcountry Land Trust, City of Savannah, Savannah River Clean Water Fund, South Carolina Conservation Bank, and The Longleaf Alliance today announced the permanent protection of nearly 300 acres along the Savannah River in South Carolina. The property known as “Big Snooks” is the first conservation easement funded through the Savannah River Clean Water Fund, a collaborative supporting water quality through land management and protection. The Savannah River Basin is a 2.8 million-acre watershed that provides drinking water to more than 1.5 million people in 2 states.
Big Snooks consists of mature bottomland swamp, a natural oxbow lake, and sandy uplands with native Longleaf pines, habitat ideal for the state-endangered gopher tortoise. Additionally, the property is positioned directly adjacent to a South Carolina Department of Natural Resources Heritage Preserve.
“The diversity of habitats on this site created an opportunity for many partners to work together for its permanent protection,” commented Ashley Demosthenes, president and CEO, Lowcountry Land Trust. “We are pleased that the City of Savannah recognized the tremendous contributions of bottomland hardwood forests to clean drinking water.”
The City of Savannah, one of five water utilities participating in the Savannah River Clean Water Fund, received unanimous approval from City Council to provide funding to the project. “The Savannah River Clean Water Fund was established for protection efforts just like this one,” commented Laura Walker, environmental administrator, City of Savannah. “Our community understands that paying forward and preserving forests now means protection of precious drinking water resources for the future.”
“We commend the City of Savannah for their commitment to the protection and sound management of the watershed that is so important to the economy, ecology, and culture of this region,” commented Peter Stangel, board member, Savannah River Clean Water Fund. “Protecting the Big Snooks property is a first step to help ensure clean water for generations to come.”
The contribution from the Savannah River Clean Water Fund was matched by the South Carolina Conservation Bank. “The adjacency of Big Snooks to other protected properties, its diverse habitats, and the financial commitments of the Savannah River Clean Water Fund, The Longleaf Alliance, and the property owners, made this project a logical candidate for support from the South Carolina Conservation Bank,” commented Raleigh West, director, South Carolina Conservation Bank. “Protecting Big Snooks will benefit water quality for neighboring and downstream communities.”
Additional funding for the project was provided by The Longleaf Alliance through a grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. “Through research and field studies, we’ve learned that the forests adjoining bottomlands contribute significantly to good water quality and quantity,” commented Lisa Lord, Savannah River Watershed project director, The Longleaf Alliance. “By protecting the upland longleaf pine ecosystem, we are not only supporting the valuable functions of the bottomland, but also contributing to a diverse upland habitat and the key species that live there.”