COLUMBIA, SC — The SC Conservation Land Bank, which in the past has spent most of its money on properties in the coastal plains or in the mountains, agreed this week to fund easements on three large Midlands properties.
The three tracts in Richland and Sumter counties protect 8,442 acres in the Cowasee Basin, where the Congaree, Wateree and Santee rivers come together. The Conservation Bank also approved funding for one project each in Colleton (625 acres), Jasper (2,059 acres) and Lancaster (228 acres) counties.
The bank, funded by a portion of the documentary tax paid on property purchases, buys outright or purchases conservation easements on properties to protect important natural resources. A conservation easement is a legal agreement in which the landowner gives up the right to develop property. The owner retains ownership and the right to use the property for purposes such as farming, timber harvesting and hunting.
Among the six projects approved this week was the bank’s first large project in Richland County. The bank approved $78,400 for an easement on the 392-acre Murray Tract, which is between U.S. 601 and the Wateree River near Cooks Mountain. Because the property is mostly on uplands, it would be among the best for development in the area, said Jason Johnson, state director for The Conservation Fund. The Conservation Fund will administer the easement with the private landowner.
The property also is near Fort Jackson’s eastern boundary. The Conservation Banks funds will be matched by money from the Midlands Area Joint Installation Consortium, which was formed to protect buffer land around local military bases.
On the other side of the river, the Conservation Bank approved funds for easements on two large tracts in Sumter County — the 4,301-acre FB SC tract for $1,075,250 and the 3,749-acre Sumter Wateree Club tract for $937,250. Those easements will be handled by the Congaree Land Bank, and they bring the total of Conservation Bank projects in Sumter County to more than 10,600 acres.
Both of the Sumter tracts are near 28,675-acre Manchester State Forest and 1,000-acre Poinsett State Park, expanding the protected land on the east bank of the river. The Sumter Wateree Club tract is across from the newest section of Congaree National Park. The properties also provide more protected buffer near Shaw Air Force Base.