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Coastal South Carolina’s Largest Carolina Bay Now Part Of Growing Refuge System

CRBJ Biz Wire //July 12, 2023//

Coastal South Carolina’s Largest Carolina Bay Now Part Of Growing Refuge System

CRBJ Biz Wire //July 12, 2023//

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Photo courtesy of USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service

The Nature Conservancy (TNC) in South Carolina announced today the transfer of a significant portion of the largest intact Carolina Bay in Coastal South Carolina, to the Waccamaw National Wildlife Refuge. The 2,110-acre property, known as Carvers Bay, holds one of the only known Atlantic white cedar forests, a core black bear population, and a diverse rare plant community.

“Carolina Bays are one of the few land formations that still hold a bit of mystery, even for scientists,” commented Dale Threatt-Taylor, executive director, The Nature Conservancy in South Carolina. “We may not know exactly how they are formed or what gives them their unique shape and orientation, but we do know they’re unique, vitally important for plants and wildlife and in need of protection.”

A unique land formation found only along the coasts of North and South Carolina, the bays share common characteristics – an oblong shape, orientation from northwest to southeast, and a sandy rim along the southeast and northeast edges. Their rich peat soils made them a target for forestry and agriculture operations to drain and plant in the early to mid-twentieth century. Their proximity to the coast caused others to be lost to development. As a result, only an estimated three percent of Carolina Bays remain.

“To conserve a Carolina Bay of such impressive size and integrity is a real win for conservation,” commented Eric Krueger, director, science and stewardship, The Nature Conservancy in South Carolina. “A large majority of our bays have been significantly altered, so it was very fortunate to get the chance to save Carver’s Bay for future generations.”

Carvers Bay was purchased in 2012 by TNC from a Georgetown County family who harvested the hardwood timber for decades but never disturbed the integrity of the bay. The family desired that the property be part of the refuge permanently. TNC worked with the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service to place a Wetland Reserve Easement (WRP) on the tract and restore hydrology in the wetlands and managed the property for 10 years until the refuge assumed ownership.

“This acquisition wouldn’t have been possible without the close working relationships between the Young Family, the Natural Resource Conservation Service, The Nature Conservancy, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,” said M. Craig Sasser, refuge manager, Waccamaw NWR. “We’re grateful to become the stewards of an iconic property that is valued by the local community and serves as a migratory link for bears and other wildlife. We are honored to preserve the integrity of these wetland systems.”

In addition to WRP funding, The Nature Conservancy received a North American Wetland Conservation Act Grant to complete the acquisition of Carvers Bay.