MT. Pleasant, S.C.
Quail enthusiasts from across the state met recently at Boone Hall Plantation's Cotton Dock to recognize the sponsors of a SC Quail Forever fundraising drive held earlier this year. Speakers at the event included state Sen. Chip Campsen and SCDNR Director Robert Boyles.
Back in February, Boone Hall hosted the pre-covid "Guns and Roses" Banquet. That event, hatched by the late Willie McRae, saw four hundred quail and conservation-minded attendees raise more than $50,000 for Quail Forever’s habitat and outreach programs. The funds are being used to improve habitat in the Francis Marion National Forest.
"We are extremely pleased to see Quail Forever growing as an organization in South Carolina", said Robert Boyles, SC Department of Natural Resources Director. "The restoration of habitat and wild quail populations to our state is going to require everybody working together."
The Cotton Dock dinner took advantage of a socially distanced setting to recognize the sponsors of February's event for their support and participation with an evening of regeneration, recalibration, and affirmation. Guests were treated to a Lowcountry BBQ provided by local restaurateur Courtney Page and her staff at Page's Grill.
Sen. Campsen spoke on the importance of conserving South Carolina’s natural resources by coupling private sector and public resources. The goal he quipped is to, "make South Carolina the envy of the South."
As an example, he reminded attendees of the evidence all around them at Boone Hall. The McRae family’s gift to preserve Boone Hall's natural beauty with an easement that consists of nearly 600 acres, including 370 acres of forestland and a mile and a half of creek frontage.
The Charleston County Greenbelt Program, modeled after the South Carolina Conservation Bank Act (authored by Sen. Campsen), facilitated that gift. In the case of Boone Hall, the two programs funded approximately 25 percent of the easement value. The McRaes graciously donated the remaining 75 percent.
"The collaborative approach to conservation can accomplish conservation on an ecosystem scale. Boone Hall is a prime example." explained Campsen. "By pulling together the Conservation Bank, Greenbelt Program, Lowcountry Land Trust and the private gift of the McRae's voluntary conservation easements, we continue to add to our conservation holdings in the Lowcountry."
To date more than 315,000 acres in the Lowcountry, including Boone Hall, the ACE Basin and much of the Santee Delta have been conserved by the Conservation Bank legislation. Boone Hall CEO Jim Westerhold introduced Elizabeth McRae and husband Finn Petersen to an enthusiastic standing ovation from the crowd. He then outlined another significant conservation partnership Boone Hall and the McRae family has entered into with Quail Forever.
"Boone Hall will continue to support Quail Forever by hosting fundraising events – forever." Westerhold told the crowd. "Going forward the event's name will change to 'The Willie McRae Wildlife Benefit' serving as an ongoing memorial to the late Willie McRae and his lifelong interest in quail and quail habitat."
Quail Forever regional representative Kenny Barker said, "The Boone Hall collaboration with Quail Forever is indicative of the commitment to habitat improvement in the Lowcountry and across the state. If these efforts continue, we could see South Carolina rivaling the Red Hills area of Florida and Georgia."
Jake McClain, the state biologist for Quail Forever, outlined an upcoming statewide project developed in conjunction with Santee Cooper. "Too few folks understand the habitat potential of the rights-of-way on their property, and we plan to provide both technical and financial assistance to help landowners create quality early-successional habitat under the transmission lines" McClain explained, "the result is better habitat for quail, deer, turkeys and native pollinators."
It might come as a surprise that these rights-of-way could offer one of the best hopes to improve habitat not only for quail but bees, butterflies and native plant communities. The new program, dubbed ROW for Wildlife, will be funded by donations from the Willie McRae Wildlife Benefit with support of the South Carolina Bobwhite Initiative and their twenty-eight strategic partners. Santee Cooper will provide logistics and cooperation in converting over five thousand miles of rights-of-way from desolate, mowed fields into premier wildlife habitat highways.
The text for this news release was provided by the S.C. chapter of
Quail Forever. For media or other inquiries, please contact:
SC Quail Forever