December 14, 2020
Few causes have captured the attention of South Carolina’s Upstate community like the movement to protect Stumphouse Mountain Heritage Preserve in 2007. Now, The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) are nearly tripling the popular preserve’s size.
In July of this year, TNC closed on a 791-acre property in Oconee County called "Turnip Top," named for the 1,600-foot-high mountain summit within its borders. On December 10, TNC transferred those acres to SCDNR. The property will be added to Stumphouse Mountain Heritage Preserve and managed for public access, recreation and wildlife habitat.
"We are truly excited about being able to expand Stumphouse Mountain Heritage Preserve with the acquisition of the Turnip Top tract," said Emily Cope, SCDNR deputy director for wildlife and freshwater fisheries. "We are extremely grateful to both The Nature Conservancy and the South Carolina Conservation Bank for their continuous support of conservation and expanding public recreation opportunities in South Carolina."
"This year has shown us the importance of having local natural areas to get outside with our families," says Dale Threatt-Taylor, executive director for TNC in South Carolina. "It feels particularly good to announce this win for people and nature when these resources are in such high demand."
Turnip Top has been a high conservation priority for decades for its size, connection to other conserved lands and impact on water quality. The property includes headwater streams that ultimately drain into Lake Keowee, a drinking water supply for many Upstate communities, as well as a popular recreation destination. Protecting the forests around those streams helps keep that water clean.
Those same forests house black bear, wild turkey, white-tailed deer and an array of migratory birds. The property is currently enrolled in the SCDNR Wildlife Management Area (WMA) program. Other noteworthy species recorded near the property include five species of bats, Pickerel frogs, turquoise darters, smooth coneflowers, Radford’s sedge, Blue Ridge bittercress and whorled horsebalm.
"The effort to protect Turnip Top came together due to the longtime stewardship of the Brown-George family, who preserved this piece of the Southern Blue Ridge," says Kristen Austin, Upstate conservation director for TNC in South Carolina. "The care they took of this land will enable future generations to also enjoy this special place."
TNC previously worked with public and private partners to protect Stumphouse Mountain when it was targeted for proposed development. That effort attracted hundreds of people to community meetings and collected approximately 2,000 signatures in a petition drive. Together, the partners raised $4.3 million through 1,100 donations to purchase Stumphouse and protect it as a South Carolina Heritage Preserve.
The purchase of Turnip Top has been supported by the South Carolina Conservation Bank, Top Family Foundation, Pete and Sally Smith Foundation, Hudson Land and Timber, and members of TNC in South Carolina. Turnip Top was purchased for $2 million. TNC is actively fundraising for its Land Acquisition Fund to support future projects like this one.
Public Information Coordinator
TNC -- Cara Chancellor
Marketing Manager, The Nature Conservancy