The numbers have been tallied: In 2021, our nationally accredited land trust permanently protected nearly 3,598 acres across the Upstate through conservation easements. What's more, additional projects where Upstate Forever was integral to the effort’s success comprise nearly 900 additional acres.
Conservation projects completed by Upstate Forever in 2021 include:
In Abbeville County,
- 669 acres on two properties containing hardwood and pine forests, wetlands, and wildlife habitat that play a role in safeguarding the water quality of the Savannah River, the sole source of drinking water for Abbeville County. Funding from the South Carolina Conservation Bank (SCCB) helped make these successful conservation projects possible.
In Greenville County,
- Spring Park Inn and grounds, a 19th-century home and its surrounding 20 acres in the heart of downtown Travelers Rest. The Travelers Rest Historical Society is currently working to restore the historic property. A grant from the SCCB made possible the conservation easement that protects the land from future development.
- 300 acres in partnership with the South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation & Tourism (SCPRT). The property, known as the White Tract, was originally purchased by The Nature Conservancy (TNC) following a multi-year campaign to raise more than $2.2 million to obtain this significant acreage. TNC later transferred ownership of the property to SCPRT, who partnered with Upstate Forever to place a conservation easement on the land. Although not currently open to the public for outdoor recreation, future public access is currently being planned to help meet growing demand for natural areas and expanded park access along the Blue Ridge Escarpment. Funding from The Daniel-Mickel Foundation helped make this conservation success possible.
- Calico Vineyard, a 113-acre family-owned vineyard and farm. Together with currently and anticipated protected properties located nearby, the protection of Calico Vineyard helps safeguard agriculture, scenic vistas, wildlife habitat, and water quality in this rapidly developing area. Funding from the SCCB, Greenville Women Giving, and the US EPA under a Section 319 Grant through the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control contributed to the success of this conservation project.
In Greenwood County,
- More than 400 acres of hunting and timberland, known as Bent Ear Farms. This property is rich with flora and fauna, including mature hardwood forests, native plant species, and wildlife. Directly upstream from Lake Greenwood with more than 3 miles of frontage on Turkey Creek, its conservation directly contributes to water quality in the area.
In Laurens County,
- Gobblers Roost, a 1,020-acre timber and hunting property in Laurens and neighboring Newberry County. Funding from the SCCB and Upstate Land Conservation Fund (ULCF) made the conservation of this property possible, ensuring the permanent protection of its natural and scenic values.
- A 415-acre network of riparian buffers in Laurens and Newberry Counties near the town of Cross Hill. The Saluda Mitigation Bank protects riparian buffers and wetlands along Mills Creek, Mudlick Creek, and several tributary streams in the Saluda River watershed.
In Oconee County,
- Taychoedah, a 42-acre property near Lake Keowee with habitat suitable for the rare Oconee bell. Protecting properties such as this one, located within the known geographical range of its historical distribution and appropriate moist and wooded conditions, are imperative to support the future of this rare, endemic plant. Funding from the Oconee County Conservation Bank (OCCB) supported this conservation project.
- A 38-acre parcel in the Whetstone community, an area of conservation priority due to its proximity to the Chattooga Wild & Scenic River and the Sumter National Forest. This property contains open pasture and nearly ½-mile of frontage along Whetstone Creek, a major tributary to the Chattooga. Funding from both the SCCB and OCCB ensured the success of this project.
And in Spartanburg County,
Additionally, two amended easements added more than 470 acres to existing protected lands in Laurens and Anderson Counties. Both properties, originally protected in 2009, now protect additional acreage that includes prime farmland soils, timberland, and wildlife habitat.
Additional projects where Upstate Forever’s support was integral to the effort’s success include seven properties in Oconee County:
- Historic Crawford Mill, approximately 35 acres along Cherokee Foothills Scenic Highway 11. The property boasts a significant range of cultural and natural resources including Native American petroglyphs, a bicentennial farm with 20 acres of pasture, and frontage on Fair Play Creek. Nonprofit organization Foothills Farmstead will manage the property as a public park and education center. Upstate Forever supported the Oconee Soil and Water Conservation District on this project, and funding from the SCCB and ULCF ensured its success.
- Whetstone Creek Preserve, 155 acres recently designated a conservation priority by the US Forest Service in the Sumter National Forest. This conservation project helps eliminate a major source of pollution into the Chattooga River and protects a potential site of a Cherokee Village where a trading trail once passed. This partnership project with Naturaland Trust, Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), and the US Forest Service received funding from the OCCB and SCCB.
- 170 acres near the Cities of Walhalla and Westminster. A conservation easement on this land helps protect a tributary of the Chauga River, as well as the rural character of the community and an expanding footprint of protected properties in the area. Upstate Forever supported the Oconee Soil and Water Conservation District on this project, and funding from the SCCB and OCCB helped make it possible.
- A 463-acre collection of properties known as the Oconee Bells Preserves in partnership with Naturaland Trust. These three tracts are located near Devils Fork State Park and provide critical habitat for the rare Oconee bell plant. These properties will be included in SCDNR’s Heritage Preserve program. The protection of this critical habitat was made possible through support from Oconee Forever, the SCCB, and Keowee-Toxaway Habitat Enhancement Program, a cooperative initiative of Duke Energy.
- 56 agricultural acres within the Oconee Soil & Water Conservation District’s designated “Area of Concern” for important soil resources. Upstate Forever supported the Oconee Soil and Water Conservation District on this project, and funding from the SCCB and OCCB ensured this project’s success.
“Despite facing another year of uncertainty and unprecedented challenges, Upstate Forever’s land conservation team worked with landowners and partner organizations to permanently protect a record amount of acreage in 2021,” said Scott Park, Upstate Forever’s Glenn Hilliard Director of Land Conservation. “As farmers and landowners across the Upstate face increasing pressure from development and demand for accessible green space grows, we must act now to protect more of the Upstate’s special places that our communities cherish.”
Upstate Forever protects land in partnership with landowners through conservation easements, voluntary contracts that allow the landowner to legally restrict certain land uses from occurring on their property, such as the development of residential subdivisions, commercial or industrial operations, while allowing traditional rural land uses, such as farming, grazing, hunting, and timbering to continue. This agreement is permanent and remains with the land even after it has been sold or willed to heirs.
Since its founding in 1998, Upstate Forever’s nationally accredited land trust has permanently protected nearly 30,000 acres through conservation easements across the ten-county Upstate region of Abbeville, Anderson, Cherokee, Greenville, Greenwood, Laurens, Oconee, Pickens, Spartanburg and Union Counties.