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An entrance gate with a historical marker.
Information icon Entry road to Revolutionary War hero General Francis Marion’s grave and Oakland Club. Photo by Jason Ayers, USFWS.

South Carolina Coastal Program helps protect 11,000 acres in Berkeley County

The 11,000-acre, privately-owned Oakland Club, located in Berkeley County, South Carolina, is now a permanently protected site for several state species of concern and federally protected species. These species include bobwhite quail, American chaffseed, eastern diamondback rattlesnakes, red-cockaded woodpeckers, swallow-tailed kites, Swainson’s warblers, and Southern hognose snakes.

Once home to Revolutionary War hero General Francis Marion, the Oakland Club parallels the Santee River and lies between the Francis Marion National Forest and the Santee National Wildlife Refuge. It also is near several state wildlife management areas and heritage preserves and numerous other private properties that have been permanently protected. Although there are large areas protected by private, state, and federal entities within this portion of Berkeley County, the southern portion is within the rapidly developing Charleston metropolitan area and home to several large manufacturing facilities such as Volvo Cars of North America.

Secured with a conservation easement, the protection of Oakland Club will add to the chain of protected properties up and down the Santee River floodplain, provide a wildlife corridor to other conserved lands in the area, and preserve important wildlife habitats.

The South Carolina Coastal Program’s newly revised strategic plan focuses on protecting priority species and their habitats in key focus areas. One of the primary ways of achieving this is through the preservation of private lands through voluntary conservation easements.

To assist with the permanent protection of Oakland Club, biologists with the South Carolina Coastal Program conducted field visits assessing the various habitats throughout the property’s 11,000 acres. With that data, they developed a conservation values report, photo documentation report, and GIS-based maps. This baseline documentation report is required for the new conservation easement held by Lord Berkeley Conservation Trust.

The owners of Oakland Club donated 70 percent of the easement value and the South Carolina Conservation Bank also contributed funding to secure this irreplaceable property.

The forests of Oakland Club are diverse, and vary depending on soils, elevation, and frequency of prescribed fire. Upland forested communities include pine flatwoods, pine sandhills, pine savannahs, hardwood forests, and mixed pine-hardwood forests. The pine woods include a mixture of loblolly, longleaf, and shortleaf pine, as well as pond pine in the wetter areas. Most of the pine uplands within Oakland Club have been intensively managed with frequent prescribed burning and thus include native grasses, shrubs, and forbs. These uplands provide ideal early successional habitat for a variety of wildlife, including many state species of concern and potentially several federally-listed endangered species.

A thinly forrested pine stand with dormant grasses growing on the forest floor.
Fire-maintained pine stand next to forested wetlands. Photo by Jason Ayers, USFWS

Wetlands within Oakland Club include bottomland hardwoods, cypress-tupelo swamps, pond cypress ponds and savannahs, and open water ponds. The bottomland hardwoods and cypress-tupelo swamps are largely associated with the Santee River floodplain. Some of the cypress ponds and savannahs are almost pure stands of pond cypress while others are dominated by swamp tupelo with only scattered occurrences of pond cypress, likely depending upon frequency of prescribed fire.

A forrested wetland with only a small amount of light reaching the forest floor.
Permanently flooded wetlands dominated by cypress and tupelo. Photo by Jason Ayers, USFWS.

Federally-listed American wood storks, Carolina-birds-in-a-nest, gopher frogs, and Boykin’s lobelia all potentially occur within the wetlands of Oakland Club. These wetlands are South Carolina Coastal Program priority habitats that support additional priority species including swallow-tailed kites and Swainson’s warblers.

Now that the conservation easement is in place, South Carolina Coastal Program biologists, working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s South Carolina Field Office biologists, will conduct surveys and work with the landowner and land trust on Coastal Program supported habitat enhancement projects throughout this ecologically and culturally rich property.

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