CHARLESTON, S.C., – June 15, 2021 – Ducks Unlimited (DU) has announced the acquisition of River Oaks, a 1,005-acre property consisting of forested wetlands, blackwater streams, and mixed pine-hardwood forests, along the Waccamaw River in Horry County. DU plans to convey the property to the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) which will manage it as a Heritage Preserve (HP) and Wildlife Management Area (WMA).
Horry County continues to outpace all other counties in population growth, which has increased the pressure on natural resources. “The acquisition of this property is a vital first step in protecting riverfront habitats in a quickly growing area between Conway and Route 22,” Emily Purcell, director of conservation programs, Ducks Unlimited. “In addition to the tremendous biodiversity of the River Oaks property, this acquisition builds on the conservation momentum along the river, tying together the Waccamaw National Wildlife Refuge, the Waccamaw River Natural Heritage Preserve and Tilly Swamp.”
In recent years, communities along the Waccamaw have endured catastrophic flooding from storms that have increased in number and intensity, and suffered the impacts of historically high tides. According to the South Carolina Floodwater Commission established by Governor McMaster in 2018, 400,000 South Carolina citizens live at risk of inland and coastal flooding. The natural infrastructure provided by forested wetlands can help mitigate those impacts.
The addition of the River Oaks tract will increase the size of the existing Waccamaw River HP/WMA to a total of 7,218 acres and provide habitat connectivity along the river for black bears and numerous neotropical migratory songbirds. While the SCDNR and its staff are excited about furthering habitat connectivity and protecting additional land for natural resources, the property will provide a much-needed opportunity for recreational use including hunting, fishing and scenic paddling. “Wild and natural places like those found along the Waccamaw River are important not only for the ecological value they provide and flood mitigation, but also a place where people can immerse themselves in nature for relaxation and enjoyment,” said Robert Boyles, agency director, South Carolina Department of Natural Resources. “This has never been so evident as it was during the pandemic.”
Funding for the acquisition was provided by the South Carolina Conservation Bank, the North American Wetland Conservation Act grant program, National Coastal Wetlands Conservation Grant, the Pathfinder Foundation, Post and Courier Foundation, funds from the South Carolina DU License Tag program and a generous contribution from the sellers. “The need for land protection along coastal rivers is becoming increasingly urgent,” commented Raleigh West, executive director, South Carolina Conservation Bank. “Funding from the Conservation Bank, leveraged with matching dollars from local, state, and federal partners can help conserve this critical natural infrastructure.”
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About Ducks Unlimited
Ducks Unlimited Inc. is the world's largest nonprofit organization dedicated to conserving North America's continually disappearing waterfowl habitats. Established in 1937, Ducks Unlimited has conserved more than 15 million acres thanks to contributions from more than a million supporters across the continent. Guided by science and dedicated to program efficiency, DU works toward the vision of wetlands sufficient to fill the skies with waterfowl today, tomorrow, and forever. For more information on our work, visit www.ducks.org.