PICKENS COUNTY — Upstate Forever now protects nearly 500 acres on two tracts in Pickens and Cherokee Counties through wetland and stream mitigation partnerships.
Working closely with the SC Department of Transportation, Upstate Forever identified strategic projects that would satisfy the mitigation requirements for the impacts to waterways by local highway improvements, helping keep the muchneeded infrastructure projects on-time and on-budget while protecting local headwater streams and critical habitat areas, said Land Conservation Manager Chris Starker in a release.
The 353-acre Grassy Knob tract in Pickens County helps protect the Oolenoy River, one of the main headwaters of the Saluda River, and supports valuable habitat near Table Rock State Park, Caesars Head State Park, numerous Heritage Preserves, and many other conservation easements along the Cherokee Foothills Scenic Highway, he stated.
Working with the Open Space Institute and Naturaland Trust, Upstate Forever and SCDOT proposed the project to the US Army Corps of Engineers as strategic mitigate for the impacts to water resources by the expansion of Highway 153 in Easley, a spokesperson for the conservation organization said.
The 135-acre Gilkey Creek tract in Cherokee County is part of the larger historic Faulkner Farm, which includes Martin’s Branch Creek, additional headwater streams and several acres of temporary or seasonally flooded forested wetlands in the Thicketty Creek subwatershed, Starker wrote. Protection of this property will offset impacts to streams and wetlands from the widening of I-85 in the Broad River Basin.
A conservation easement is a voluntary agreement between a landowner and a qualified land trust, which allows the landowner to legally restrict selected land uses from occurring on the property.
When used in conjunction with mitigation, the protected property not only preserves riparian buffers, wetlands and headwater streams, but can also enhance upland forests and habitat corridors, and, in some cases, can increase public recreation opportunities.
With the protection of these strategic mitigation projects, Upstate Forever, Naturaland Trust, Open Space Institute and SCDOT are supporting a larger effort to improve water quality in the Saluda and Broad River Basins by ensuring mitigation projects are located closer to impacts.
Streams within the Saluda River Basin and the Broad River Basin are designated by the State of South Carolina as “impaired” and these projects will contribute to water quality improvements for a rapidly growing Upstate while providing habitat for a diverse array of wildlife.
Upstate Forever currently protects over 21,000 acres on 118 properties across the Upstate through voluntary conservation easements.
Reach Kasie Strickland at 864-855-0355.