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Local conservation nonprofit Upstate Forever announced that the organization’s nationally accredited land trust finalized permanent conservation easements on a total of 783 acres across the region last year. The conserved properties include forests, farmlands, waterways, and green space in some of the Upstate’s most rapidly growing counties.
“As more and more folks discover our region’s natural beauty and move to the Upstate, it becomes even more pressing to protect the working lands, forests, and natural areas that make this area so special, as well as the blueways that are critical to local drinking water,” said Scott Park, Upstate Forever’s Glenn Hilliard Director of Land Conservation.
Upstate Forever protects land in partnership with landowners through conservation easements, which are 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.
“We are tremendously grateful to the forward-thinking landowners, partners, and funders who helped make these projects happen for the benefit of future generations of Upstate residents,” Scott Park added. “Without funding assistance from local, state, and federal entities like the Greenville County Historical and Natural Resources Trust, Upstate Land Conservation Fund, and South Carolina Conservation Bank, much of this critically important land protection work would be impossible.”
Conservation easement projects completed by Upstate Forever in 2023 include:
In Anderson County,
“Without conservation groups, this valuable land would be lost to urban development,” said Reginald Hall, South Carolina Assistant State Conservationist-Programs NRCS. “Thanks to this conservation partnership, this easement will protect the land into perpetuity.”
In Cherokee County,
"The rolling Piedmont farmland of the Upstate is, perhaps, the most threatened conservation priority in our state,” said Raleigh West, executive director, South Carolina Conservation Bank. "To see progress on saving farms and wildlife habitat here gives me a great sense of relief and hope that we can continue to build momentum for more land protection in this important area.”
In Greenville County,
“If we are to sustain the quality of life for which Greenville County is justifiably known, it is critical that we continue to add to our open spaces not just for recreation but also for the myriad of environmental benefits they provide from clean water to wildlife habitat,” said Carlton Owen, Chair of the Board of the Greenville County Historic and Natural Resources Trust (GCHNRT). “Outright purchases to add to our parks and trails along with voluntary protection of private places like Saluda Dam Acres via a perpetual conservation easement play important roles.”
In Pickens County,
In Spartanburg County,
Additional projects with conservation partners — including the South Carolina Farm Bureau Land Trust, Naturaland Trust, The Nature Conservancy of South Carolina, Spartanburg Area Conservancy (SPACE), and Upper Savannah Land Trust — where Upstate Forever was integral to the effort’s success comprised nearly 3,000 additional acres across Upstate South Carolina last year.
Since its founding in 1998, Upstate Forever has permanently protected more than 35,500 acres through conservation easements and partner efforts across the ten-county Upstate region of Abbeville, Anderson, Cherokee, Greenville, Greenwood, Laurens, Oconee, Pickens, Spartanburg, and Union Counties.
Upstate Forever is a nonprofit conservation organization that protects critical lands, waters, and the unique character of the Upstate of South Carolina. We focus our work on the ten counties of Abbeville, Anderson, Cherokee, Greenville, Greenwood, Laurens, Oconee, Pickens, Spartanburg and Union. Since 1998, we have worked to protect the natural assets that make the Upstate so special: our farmlands, forests, natural areas, rivers, and mountains. We are committed to ensuring that our communities are vibrant and retain their green spaces, outdoor heritage, and unique identities in the face of rapid development and significant sprawl. Upstate Forever has offices in Greenville and Spartanburg.