Endangered Mussel Restoration
Cooperative Efforts for Conservation
Haile Gold Mine worked with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to develop a permittee responsible mitigation plan to offset impacts to aquatic resources resulting from the development of their facility. The mitigation plan includes the preservation of Cook's Mountain (1,132 acres), Goodwill Plantation (2,545 acres) and Rainbow Ranch (698 acres); and an endowment of $9.4 million from Haile Gold Mine to SCDNR.
The endowment provides for sound management of these sites, science-based restoration and further research and management on the endangered freshwater mussel, the Carolina Heelsplitter (Lasmigona decorata). The Cook's Mountain and Goodwill Plantation properties, now the Wateree Heritage Preserve, will preserve unique habitats along the Wateree River here in Richland County and provide public outdoor recreation opportunities consistent with protecting the conservation values of the tracts. Rainbow Ranch, located in Lancaster County, will protect more than 8,500 feet of riparian corridor along Flat Creek, designated critical habitat for the Carolina Heelsplitter. This property is accessible as a part of Forty Acre Rock Heritage Preserve.
Rainbow Ranch Mitigation Tract
The Rainbow Ranch addition to Forty Acre Rock Heritage Preserve was recently acquired by the SC Department of Natural Resources as required mitigation for environmental impacts from activities of Haile Gold Mine. The 698 acre tract is now part of Forty Acre Rock Heritage Preserve (HP), bringing the total acreage of the preserve to 2,965 acres.
Forty Acre Rock HP was formed in 1981, mainly through the work of Lindsay Pettus and the Katawba Valley Land Trust. The SCDNR has worked with the Trust, as well as The Nature Conservancy and others, to add tracts to the preserve over the years. Through the efforts of Mr. Pettus, the preserve was designated one of the National Park Services' first National Natural Landmarks.
Rainbow Ranch helps protect 1.5 miles of the floodplain of Flat Creek, which is the critical habitat for the Carolina heelsplitter (Lasmigona decorata), a federally-endangered mussel that is one of the rarest animals in the world. Only about 154 heelsplitters remain in the wild, many of them in Flat Creek. The biggest threat to the heelsplitter is loss and degradation of its freshwater habitat. The mussel requires clean water, and the SCDNR will help provide that by managing Rainbow Ranch to prevent erosion and sedimentation into Flat Creek. The department will also work with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other landowners to conduct surveys of existing populations and carry out propagation and other restoration activities.
Rainbow Ranch will provide the public benefits outlined in the Heritage Trust Act, including recreational activities such as hiking, hunting, nature watching and photography, and also serve as an outdoor classroom and laboratory as well as a site for scientific research.