SCDNR Purchased 848 Acres In Saluda River Basin, Tall Pines Wildlife Management Area Expands
The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) has purchased 848 acres of highly productive Appalachian forest in the Saluda River Basin from Naturaland Trust.
Through the acquisition of this tract, for the first time, the Middle and South Saluda rivers are linked through protected land. This link will benefit wildlife corridors, aquatic resources, viewsheds and those who recreate in the South Carolina mountains.
The site includes more than 2 miles of Middle Saluda River frontage, and more than 4 miles of tributaries traverse the property, known as the Pacolet-Milliken Tract. This portion of the river is one of the most popular hatchery-supported trout fishery segments in the Upstate.
The property and its sensitive species were under development pressure from growing populations in three nearby urban centers. Naturaland Trust, a nonprofit conservation organization in Greenville, took on a loan to purchase the property in 2018. The S.C. Conservation Bank helped to fund part of the acquisition, along with a donation from Fred and Alice Stanback. Naturaland Trust carried the debt until SCDNR was able to secure funding from the U.S. Forest Service’s Forest Legacy Program and matching funds from the state. SCDNR took over ownership this year and it has been incorporated into the Tall Pines Wildlife Management Area (WMA).
The valuable addition to Tall Pines WMA will function as prime wildlife habitat, a sustainable forest resource, a protector of water quality and as a year-round recreational outlet for outdoor enthusiasts for such activities as hunting, fishing, wildlife watching and photography.
Nearly 150 species designated as priorities on South Carolina’s State Wildlife Action Plan (SWAP) are within the property footprint -- 14 mammals, 62 birds, 22 reptiles and amphibians, 17 freshwater fish, one crayfish, nine mussels, three invertebrates, and 13 plants. Game species like white-tailed deer, black bear and Eastern wild turkey also abound. The tract has also been managed for loblolly pine and hardwood timber for decades.
Protection of the property will preserve the viewshed of the Cherokee Foothills National Scenic Highway 11, as well as conserve valuable acres in the viewshed of the Palmetto Trail. Portions of the Middle Saluda River are protected under South Carolina’s Scenic Rivers Program.
“This property connects two of our beloved mountain rivers and protects forests, a wildflower prairie, and a heron rookery,” Naturaland Trust President Frank Holleman said. “Naturaland Trust stepped up to secure these important lands for the public, and we are thankful that SCDNR has now added them to South Carolina’s public natural heritage.”
Raleigh West, executive director of the S.C. Conservation Bank said: “This project demonstrates the continued importance of conservation partners. It takes a team effort to protect and improve access to important lands like this growing corridor around Tall Pines WMA, and I applaud all the stakeholders who helped make it happen.”
“South Carolina is fortunate to have so many team players in natural resource conservation,” said SCDNR Director Robert Boyles. “We are grateful to have partners like Naturaland Trust and the S.C. Conservation Bank who make protecting beautiful places for natural resources that provide excellent outdoor recreational opportunities for the public possible.”
Naturaland Trust has worked since 1973 to protect South Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains and special places in the Piedmont. To see its work, visit www.naturalandtrust.org