Since the last time we were together, I have had the pleasure of visiting the area known as the Santee Delta, a beautiful and historic part of the Palmetto State. South Carolinians of my generation were introduced to this magnificent area through the writings of Archibald Rutledge, our state's first poet laureate, but for those of you not familiar with the Delta, it lies between the Santee River and Winyah Bay. Today this area is a shining example of the good things that can happen when private landowners, the DNR, conservation groups and other state and federal agencies all work together to preserve and manage our natural resources.
My recent visit to the Delta began with a tour of Annandale Plantation, hosted by owner and Georgetown County native Dan Ray. We saw how he and his staff are managing the property in a way that provides excellent habitat for waterfowl – an outcome that benefits the entire region. Managed waterfowl impoundments like the ones at Annandale are not just beneficial for ducks, but also for many other nongame water bird species. Dan Ray and his fellow landowners in the Santee Delta region are good stewards of their land and resources, preserving this habitat for future generations to enjoy.
Our next stop was the Yawkey Wildlife Center, considered one of the most outstanding gifts ever made to wildlife conservation in North America. Yawkey is composed of North, South, and Cat islands in Winyah Bay. This area was given to the DNR in 1976 by Tom Yawkey, then owner of the Boston Red Sox and an avid outdoorsman. It was an extremely generous bequest to the state, and today it is a wildlife preserve, waterfowl refuge and research area managed by DNR biological staff. It is a truly special place. Hat's off to the Yawkey Foundation for its members' unwavering support of the DNR's management and preservation of this unique coastal habitat.
We then headed south on the Intracoastal Waterway to visit Santee Coastal Reserve WMA. This property is yet another example of the success that can be achieved when state and private conservation groups work together to protect vital habitat for wildlife. Santee Coastal Reserve was given to the DNR by The Nature Conservancy in 1974. It is primarily known for its spectacular waterfowl hunting, but is also managed for a wide variety of both game and nongame species. One of the neatest aspects of the Santee Coastal Reserve is the huge variety of birds that thrive in this area as a result of thoughtful management by DNR biologists – bald eagles, swallow-tailed kites, herons, egrets, wood storks and osprey, just to name a few.
As a beautiful day came to an end, I thought about how proud I am of the dedication of the staff we have working at DNR, the support of our many conservation partners, and the commitment of private landowners in South Carolina to the preservation of our natural resources – from the Santee Delta and the ACE Basin all the way up to the Jocassee Gorges, and in scores of places in between. The investments being made to preserve these special places are extremely worthwhile and must continue. It doesn't take long to understand why Archibald Rutledge wrote so fondly and passionately about the outdoor experience. It makes no difference whether you are a hunter, angler, camper, hiker, kayaker or birder, a native-born resident, newcomer or visitor; we can all understand the importance of these efforts, and we all benefit from them in the long run. We have much to be proud of. Job well done, South Carolinians!
— Alvin Taylor, Director
South Carolina Department of Natural Resources