South Carolina Lowcountry Refuges
Southeast Region


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Lowcountry Refuges News and Publications


Sewee Visitor and Environmental Education Center New Hours of Operation

The Sewee Center will be operating under new reduced hours effective February 1, 2014. Hours of operation will change from Tuesday through Saturday to Wednesday through Saturday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and closed on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. The closure of the Center, managed jointly by the Cape Romain NWR and the Francis Marion National Forest, is due to staffing reductions in Visitor Services personnel. The new hours of operation are expected to continue for the foreseeable future.


Cape Romain Receives High Marks In National Wildlife Refuge Survey


An overwhelming percentage of visitors to Cape Romain in 2010 and 2011 were highly impressed with the recreational opportunities, information and educational programming, service provided by employees or volunteers and, the refuge's job of conserving fish, wildlife and their habitats. Some 92 percent of respondents gave consistent high marks to all facets of their refuge experiences. The survey, designed, conducted and analyzed by researchers with the U.S. Geological Survey, evaluated responses from more than 200 adults who visited the refuge between July 2010 and November 2011. Cape Romain was one of 53 national wildlife refuges surveyed. The survey found that 70 percent of visitors to Cape Romain are from South Carolina. Vistors enjoyed a wide variety of activities with wildlife observation (60%), photography (44%), hiking (41%) and bird watching (40%) receiving the highest participation rates.

There were several enthusiastic comments made by survey participants such as this one: "Cape Romain is in and of itself one of the most pristine and beautiful places on earth. The maze of marshland and abundance of habitat coupled with the remnants of history make it truly unique. Add to that, unparalleled fishing of anywhere else in SC and you have a precious gem that is worth preserving at any cost."

Read more about survey findings for both Cape Romain and the National Refuges.


Life in the Wild  
Life in the Wild Volume 6  
Life in the Wild Volume 5  
Life in the Wild Volume 4  
Life in the Wild Volume 3  
Life in the Wild Volume 2  
Life in the Wild Volume 1  

Refuge News

With over 115,240 acres, Lowcountry Refuges are unique public lands encompassing pristine barrier island beaches, rich salt marsh estuary and riverine ecosystems, and forested freshwater wetlands.Read our Life in the Wild newsletters to learn more about how we manage these special areas for wildlife and people. Get Outside! Our latest edition, Volume 6, highlights recreational activities to be enjoyed on the Lowcountry refuges. Whether it be hunting, fishing, birding and other wildlife watching, or just being "out there", there's many opportunities for you to connect with nature. View the newsletter and earlier editions by clicking on the links below. Want to read the newsletter like a magazine online? If so, visit Enjoy!


Citizen-Science for Swallow-tailed Kites

Help the SC Working Group for Swallow-tailed kites by reporting your sightings and contributing to the Citizen-Science for Swallow-tailed kite database! You can raise awareness, educate others and help protect this stunning Species of Special
Concern. Read about the ways the Working Group is using the reported data in conservation and research projects. To report
your Swallow-tailed kite sightings, go to The Center for Birds of Prey site and link to the report form or call 1.866.971.7474.


Climate Change

Climate change is, undeniably, the greatest conservation challenge facing our Lowcountry Refuges. With the effects that accelerating climate change pose to our wildlife, plants, and habitats, each refuge will face unique managment challenges in its efforts to seek solutions that will sustain the resources. Read the climate change fact sheets to understand how climate change will impact individual refuges:

Cape Romain NWR (pdf)

Ernest F. Hollings ACE Basin NWR (pdf)

Santee NWR (pdf)

Waccamaw NWR (pdf)


Refuge Research Projects

Significant research projects are underway on our refuges in support of ongoing efforts to protect wildlife and wildlands. With the challenges posed by climate change, data obtained from these projects has the potential to mitigate and provide workable solutions to climate change threats.

Cape Romain NWR

American Oystercatcher - Research looks at reproductive success and implements "head start" actions to combat loss of nests due to overwash and predation. Specifically, eggs are taken out of low productivity nests and replaced with wooden eggs (adults incubate wooden eggs). Eggs are then incubated and, once hatching occurs, are returned to original nest. Adults then care for hatched birds. (Clemson University)

Seabirds - Research investigates the reproductive success of seabird colonies. This is the second year of the study to determine factors attributing to low reproductive success. (Clemson University)

Marsh birds - Research involves setting up marsh bird survey routes and procedures to determine the bird's distribution and abundance in the Refuge. (College of Charleston)

Diamondback terrapins - Research looks at distribution and abundance of terrapins in the refuge. A potential health assessment of the turtles is also considered. (College of Charleston)

Mink - Research examines the detrimental effects of mink (released into the Refuge in 1999) on trust species, including nesting birds and sea turtles. (Clemson University)

Sea turtles - Research is a genetics study to identify all sea turtles in South Carolina, Georgia and North Carolina. The study will show the number of females nesting in the the Northern sub-population range, the number of times they nest per year, and the proximity of their nests. The genetics study will also identify mother/daughter pairs to determine recruitment within the population. (University of GA and state sea turtle coordinators)

SET stations - Research investigates the response of the marsh to rising sea levels. A time-series of aerial photographs show that the tidal creeks are headward eroding at about 1.9 meters per year. Questions posed include: Is the marsh undergoing accretion or is it sinking? Will the marsh be able to keep up with rising sea levels? This insightful study, Rapid headward erosion of marsh creeks creeks in response to relative sea level rise (Hughes et al., 2009) (pdf), investigates the relationship between rising sea levels, burrowing crabs and subsequent dissection and channelization of the marsh.

Waccamaw NWR

Swallow-tailed kite - Nest surveys have been conducted on the Refuge since 1997, with Waccamaw NWR known as the northernmost nest site for the kite. In 2009, nine radio transmitters were installed on nestlings before they fledged, and the fledglings were tracked for weeks before their migration to Brazil. The transmitters remain active for four years, which will help determine survival rates as well as provide information to determine whether the birds return back to native nesting areas. In 2010, the radio telemetry effort was extended and as many as 20 nestlings may be fitted with equipment. The study also involves installing six GPS/satellite transmitters on adults which will provide more understanding of relationships between nesting and foraging habitats and provide better tracking efforts for pre-migration roost sites throughout the southeast. Data will be used with conjunction with aerial surveys to provide population and trend estimates for the U.S. breeding population of Swallow-tailed kites. It is estimated that the U.S. breeding population of kites has declined by at least 50% since the 1960's. Also, more than 70% of the former breeding population range is now unoccupied. Research spearheaded by the Refuge will allow for more accurate population estimates and provide data to follow future population trends vital to conserving the kite in the U.S. (USFWS, Avian Conservation and Research Institute, Swallow-tailed Kite Conservation Alliance, state natural resources agencies, conservation organizations, private land-owners)

Carbon sequestration in freshwater marshes - Research will examine the rate that carbon is stored in the organic wetland soils of freshwater marshes. Study will also compare the rates of carbon sequestration between tidal freshwater marshes and impounded (managed) freshwater marshes. The study is significant as there has been little data on carbon sequestration rates of tidal freshwater marshes and how those rates may differ from those found in impounded freshwater marshes. This research could help point toward which type of marsh is most effective in mitigating carbon emissions that can climate change and sea level rise. (USFWS, USGS)

Salinity change and Bald cypress swamps - Research examines the changes in forested wetland structure and growth potential of dominant trees in salt-impacted tidal and non-tidal wetlands on three sites along the Waccamaw River, including Richmond Island which is part of the Refuge. The research is a four-year study looking at basal area and height of co-dominant Bald cypress (Taxodium distichum) to examine interrelationships among growth, site fertility, and soil physio-chemical characteristics as salinities rise due to climate change. Findings will be significant as sea levels rise and freshwater forested wetlands within the Refuge shift to more salt tolerant emergent marshes.


The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA)

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 was created to direct Federal funding for economic stimulation and recovery. Under the ARRA, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service received $280 million. The Service is hiring employees and partnering with businesses to accomplish many projects. Work includes wildlife management and protection programs, habitat restoration, trail repair and construction, and facility upgrades. Lowcountry Refuges have several projects underway, made possible with ARRA funds.

Cape Romain NWR

Cape Romain will replace 11 water control structures and clean existing borrow ditches in order to restore water flow on Bulls Island. The current water control structures do not allow for control of water levels, therefore reducing management capability to provide the best available habitat on a consistent basis. The goal of this project is to enhance habitat for wildlife and allow for better hydrologic control and connectivity of the wetland impoundment. Better connectivitiy of the impoundment is needed to ensure that anoxic water can be flushed from the system when needed, to enable the gravity feed of freshwater and, to ensure adequate water management capability for the ponds.

Santee NWR

Santee is working with Ducks Unlimited (DU) to design, rehabilitate and enhance wetland habitat for migratory birds on the Cuddo and Bluff Unit impoundments. On the Cuddo Unit, improvements on the 125 acre Timber Island Field include redesigning the interior dikes, constructing 7,419 feet of new dikes, and rehabilitating 6,469 feet of existing perimeter dike. New water control structures will also be installed to enhance water delivery and management to the restored wetland complex. Additionally, a pumping system and engine will be replaced to allow proper drainage of the impoundment complex.

The Bluff Unit is the most heavily used waterfowl area on the refuge. This unit consists of 3 primary wetland impoundments. The ARRA project will create a fourth impoundment and purchase a much needed mobile pump to help service this system. In concert with the ARRA/DU projects, the refuge staff will be improving water delivery and drainage to these systems by installing about 6 new water control structures.

Additional ARRA projects to start this spring include road repair projects on the Cuddo and Pine Island Unit.

Recovery Act Websites

To obtain more information about the Recovery Act and associated projects, use the following links to these websites:

Department of the Interior Recovery Act site

Federal Recovery Act site


Comprehensive Conservation Plans that Guide Our Refuges

A Refuge Comprehensive Conservation Plan (CCP) addresses the conservation of fish, wildlife,and plant resources and their related habitats, while providing opportunities for compatible wildlife-dependent recreation uses. An overriding consideration reflected in these plans is that fish and wildlife conservation has first priority in refuge management, and that public use be allowed and encouraged as long as it is compatible with, or does not detract from the Refuge System mission and refuge purpose(s).

The Division of Planning for the Southeast Region quides the development of the Comprehensive Conservation Plan. To obtain more information about CCP development and policy, visit the Division's website (

Our CCP's are available for Waccamaw, Santee, Ernest F. Hollings ACE Basin and Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuges.

Waccamaw CCP - (pdf, 39.1 MB)

Santee CCP - (pdf, 67 MB)

Ernest F. Hollings ACE Basin CCP - (pdf, 11.5 MB)

Cape Romain CCP - (pdf, 1.28 MB)


Other Publications

Visit the Cape Romain, E.F. Hollings ACE Basin, Santee, and Waccamaw Refuges websites to view general refuge brochures and fact sheets, maps, bird lists, and hunting brochures . These publications are in pdf format and can be download.

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Last updated: January 24, 2014
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