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Ultra-rare plant habitat protected in Travelers Rest - April 16th 2019

Ultra-rare plant habitat protected in Travelers Rest

A 56-acre property in Travelers Rest once slated for subdivision development has been acquired by the SC DNR Heritage Trust and added to the adjacent Blackwell Heritage Preserve. Upstate Forever and other partners opposed the development, called Bluestone Ridge, because it would have seriously threatened the Heritage Preserve and the survival of the bunched arrowhead, an extremely rare plant only found in two counties: Hendersonville, NC and Greenville, SC.

Also, because a portion of the Preserve was created as federal mitigation for impacts on wetlands by the South Carolina Department of Transportation (SCDOT), the proposed development would have damaged or destroyed a state funded mitigation project that was put in place to offset damage caused by one of SCDOT’s road projects many years ago.

the Bunched Arrowhead

The McKinney property contains more than 750 federally endangered bunched arrowhead plants. Bunched arrowhead is one of the rarest plants on Earth, found only in Greenville County and Henderson County, NC. They exist in Piedmont seepage forests, which are rare wetland communities that provide naturally occurring flows of clean water needed to sustain them.

The bunched arrowhead is extremely sensitive to changes in water level and to pollutants from stormwater and lawn care runoff. The colony in Blackwell Preserve is fed by clean water from a seep that starts on the Bluestone Ridge property, and would have been heavily disturbed by the development. The federally threatened plant species, dwarf-flowered heartleaf, is also present on the site.

Collaborative success story

This conservation success story is truly a testament to the dedication and collaboration of many partners and stakeholders.

By working with the local citizens and by submitting a series of comments, Upstate Forever and conservation organizations like the Southern Environmental Law Center and the SC Native Plant Society raised sufficient concerns that the developer dropped its plans to develop the site. We are especially grateful to Frank Holleman for the substantial legal comments he provided to the County.

In the ensuing year, SC DNR stepped up and pursued a grant from the US Fish and Wildlife Service to acquire the property via funding through its Heritage Trust program. When a holdup in Washington threatened the entire project, Senator Lindsey Graham’s office worked with the Department of the Interior to allow the grant to be disbursed.

The property was acquired at fair market value, which was $970,000. In addition to the grant, SC DNR’s Heritage Trust Program and Naturaland Trust provided funding for this acquisition.

Another hero in this story is Naturaland Trust, who worked with the owner to conduct an appraisal, develop a relationship to lead to a sale for conservation, and provide $5,000 towards the acquisition as a match for the grant.

The property will be managed by SCDNR’s as part of the adjoining Blackwell Heritage Preserve, which now contains 72 acres.

In addition, Greenville County has added regulations to its planning code to give greater protection to sites like this one. Upstate Forever is grateful for the tireless efforts of everyone who worked to ensure the protection of this important ecological area.

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