ACE Basin Project celebrates 20 years of land conservation
The ACE Basin Project recently celebrated 20 years of unprecedented land conservation, protecting almost 200,000 acres of the lower Coastal Plain, in a grass roots effort that has become a model for conservation throughout the country.
In a ceremony on the front lawn of historic Willtown Bluff Plantation on the Edisto River on Nov. 22, guest speaker Matt Connolly told a group of 400 friends and supporters of the project, "This is a wonderful example of what America can do."
Connolly, retired executive director of Ducks Unlimited, went on to say, "You, the people of the ACE Basin, have done something very unique, and you did it without help from the government, and through mutual respect for all the parties involved."
The ACE Basin Project area includes 400,000 acres in lower Colleton, Charleston and Beaufort counties, an area defined by three major rivers, the Ashepoo, Combahee and Edisto.
While not pristine after centuries of agriculture, timber harvest, and construction of managed wetlands, this large section of the state has largely been spared from commercial and residential development.
According to Department of Natural Resources Director John Frampton, early visionaries of the project knew they needed the full cooperation of state and federal agencies, conservation organizations, and, most importantly, private landowners.
One of the first landowners to support the project was the late Gaylord Donnelley, a noted conservationist and owner of Ashepoo Plantation. When he and other prominent landowners such as the late Hugh Lane, Sr. put conservation easements on the properties, other plantation owners soon followed and the project was off and running.
Although the original goal was to protect 90,000 acres that mark was reached in just a few years, and the goal was reset to 200,000 acres. That goal has nearly been reached as over 195,000 acres in the ACE Basin are currently protected for the benefit of future generations.
"This is a work in progress which DU and other conservation organizations have used as a template," Connolly said. "The beauty and wonderment of the area has not changed, nor has the way of life."
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