The Rural and Critical Land Preservation Program is a dynamic tool for preserving the health and quality of life of everyone that lives in, works in, and visits Beaufort County. Strategic land conservation preserves our culture, history, and way of life. It protects working farms and forests, jobs, and availability of local food. It also keeps our waterways clean, protects wildlife habitat, and provides protection from flooding.
Using a focused approach, the Rural and Critical Land Preservation Program is comprehensive, strategic, natural resource driven, and watershed based. It reduces our impact on the land by protecting our coastal environment and keeping land healthy for future generations.
Through 2016, Beaufort County’s Rural and Critical Land Preservation Program has preserved almost 24,000 acres. Land is preserved through fee simple purchase or conservation easements (purchase of development rights). Conservation easements allow landowners and their family to remain on their property and enjoy farming, hunting, fishing and other historic uses.
Rural and Critical Land Preservation Program Focal Areas
Rural and Critical Program Achievements by the numbers
- 394 acres of protected maritime forest and 52 islands considered critical migratory bird habitat
- 8,790 acres of protected wetlands that receive and filter stormwater and protect rivers
- 6,507 acres of protected working forests
- 1,703 acres of protected working farmland on St. Helena Island
- 8,000 acres protected in the historic ACE Basin
- 25 sites that are habitats for 14 different rare, threatened or endangered species
- 84 archaeological sites and 21 historic structures have been preserved
- 845 acres protected in the Okatie River watershed
- 725 acres protected in the Chechessee and Broad watersheds
2016 Program Accomplishments
In 2016, Rural and Critical worked with landowners to successfully complete 9 projects and preserve another 535 acres.
Conservation partners are an important key to success. Partner dollars help to stretch taxpayers investment and the amount of land that can be preserved. This year partners included: Marine Corps Air Station-Beaufort, Beaufort County Stormwater Utility, Port Royal Sound Foundation, and Beaufort County Open Land Trust.
Oakley Tract (Cool Heart Springs) and Jeter Property
The protection of the 82 acre Oakley tract and 25 acre Jeter property, located an area known as Manigualt’s Neck, add to the mosaic of protected parcels in the Chechessee and Broad River watersheds, economically important waterways for shellfish harvesting and fishing. (Fee simple purchase)
The Moody family placed a conservation easement on their 107 acre working family farm in Burton located within the Air Station’s “noise zone” or Air Installation Compatible Use Zone (AICUZ). The Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort (MCAS) contributed 50% of the funds for the conservation easement purchase to fulfill the MCAS goal of preventing encroachment to protect flight operations and public safety. The property will be conserved forever, protecting farmland, wildlife habitat and water quality. (Conservation Easement)
New Leaf and Lowcountry Evergreen
New Leaf and Lowcountry Evergreen, with stunning mature live oaks, hardwood forests, and wetlands, were part of a Planned Unit Development in the Town of Bluffton on Hwy 170. These properties were protected in partnership with Beaufort County Stormwater Utility to prevent high density development, alleviate the effects of the existing area developments, and prevent further impairment to the Okatie River. The Town of Bluffton also contributed by removing units via their TDR and Density Bank. (Fee simple purchase)
Battery Creek park (Huddle House and Barker)
The purchase of the Huddle House and Barker property on Boundary Street is part of a partnership with the City of Beaufort and Beaufort County Open Land Trust to create a park and open vista on Boundary Street. The Land Trust purchased the United Way building, the City purchased the Sea Eagle building, and Beaufort County purchased the Huddle House. Soon, the remaining buildings will be purchased and removed, transforming the entrance to the City of Beaufort along Battery Creek as well as preserve water quality and provide public access to the water. (Fee simple purchase)
The preservation of the 95 acre Mobley tract, located directly across from the Port Royal Sound Maritime Center, will protect the ecosystem, water quality, and habitat for marine organisms such as shellfish and oysters, and preserve the rural character and scenic quality of the rural greenway between northern and southern Beaufort County. The Mobley tract was annexed by the Town of Port Royal in 2006 and subsequently a Development Agreement was put in place which allows for 125 residential units. The Rural and Critical program purchased the property in partnership with the Port Royal Sound Foundation. The Town of Port Royal supported the purchase by removing the existing density, preventing any future development. The Port Royal Sound Foundation will use the property for environmental research and education. (Fee simple purchase)
Olsen (Fee simple purchase, donated conservation easement)
The 119 acre Olsen tract, also known as “Heffalump”, has over 11,000 linear feet of frontage on the Okatie River and Malind Creek and is the origination site for one of the headwaters of the Okatie River. Protecting this large forested tract provides abundant wildlife habitat to bald eagles, painted buntings, and many other wildlife species.