|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 19, 1997
|Diana M. Hawkins or
Vicki M. Boatwright
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