FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

December 19, 1997

Diana M. Hawkins or

Vicki M. Boatwright

NEW NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE ESTABLISHED

IN SOUTH CAROLINA'S LOWCOUNTRY

To establish the new Waccamaw National Wildlife Refuge, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has acquired 134 acres of South Carolina's historic rice fields from Coastal Educational Foundation, Inc. According to the Service's Southeast Regional Director, Sam Hamilton, this initial land acquisition of a tidal rice field provides valuable habitat for waterfowl, fisheries and other wildlife as well as a diversity of plant life. The refuge will eventually encompass approximately 49,800 acres along the Great Pee Dee and Waccamaw Rivers in Georgetown, Horry and Marion Counties, South Carolina.

Hamilton noted that the organizations that partnered with the Service to make this acquisition possible, included the Historic Rice Fields Association, a nonprofit organization working to protect historically significant rice fields and plantations of the South Carolina Lowcountry, and the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control Office, Office of Coastal Zone Management, who provided mitigation funds for the acquisition of these rice fields. He added that the Association's vice president, Joe Carter, was instrumental in negotiating the mitigation package for this transaction and that Carter and the Association worked diligently with the Coastal Educational Foundation to ensure the successful completion of this transaction.

The Service formally approved the establishment of the refuge on June 25, 1997, to provide diverse habitat within this important coastal river ecosystem for endangered and threatened species, freshwater and anadromous fish, migratory birds, and forest wildlife, including a wide array of plants and animals, Hamilton said.

Through the efforts of Sen. Ernest "Fritz" Hollings (D-SC), Congress earmarked $2 million from the Land and Water Conservation Fund that will enable the Service to begin to purchase lands within the refuge boundary from willing sellers. The Service has begun contacting landowners to determine their interest in selling.

From the 1700s to the early part of this century, rice cultivation formed the foundation of the Carolina Lowcountry economy. This property was part of that early rice culture in South Carolina. Records indicate that in 1792, the land was part of the Sandy Knowe plantation, one of ten historic rice plantations operating in the area. By the early 1900's, many of the old plantations had fallen into disrepair, and were bought by individuals primarily for waterfowl hunting and other sporting purposes.

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Release #: R97-119


1997 News Releases

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