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Upstate Forever completes Critical Lands mapping project - August 7th 2017

With the generous support of Pacolet Milliken Enterprises, Upstate Forever has completed a mapping project to identify the region’s most environmentally sensitive lands in regards to water quality and high-quality habitat.  

Developed in partnership with Furman University and using advanced ecological modeling software, the map will be a key tool in determining the most effective ways to protect our region’s natural heritage – the most critically important farmlands, forests, natural areas, and public lands. 

Other factors such as adjacent protected lands, historic sites, and drinking water sources also helped pinpoint these special places. Preserving these critically important lands promotes biological diversity, high drinking water quality, local food production, recreational opportunities and future environmental health. 
“Pacolet Milliken is pleased to support Upstate Forever’s critical lands mapping project to ensure that the Upstate region continues to grow in a strategic and responsible way,” said Rick Webel, president of Pacolet Milliken.

Now that the mapping effort is complete, Upstate Forever will work with landowners, communities, and local leaders to strategize the most effective protection efforts for each conservation area identified. Strategies will range from voluntary land protection to targeted education and advocacy. 

“This map is meant to start conversations about how we can partner with community stakeholders to best protect our natural heritage,” said Scott Park, Upstate Forever Land Conservation Director. “It will enable a more strategic approach to conserving our region’s most environmentally sensitive lands.”

By 2030 our ten-county region is expected to grow to nearly 1,570,000 residents – an increase of 48% in just 40 years. This growth is positive in many ways if proactively managed. However, our current land use policies have little capacity to save what we cherish most. Without preservation of these special places, what we call our ‘critical lands’, the Upstate will continue its  dispersed, sprawling development pattern. 

“We want to offer an alternative to unfettered sprawl by working with community residents to protect the most ecologically rich, spectacularly beautiful, and iconic lands in the Upstate. This approach will also benefit our local farms, quality of life, and economic health. We are so grateful to Pacolet Milliken and Furman University for their role in bringing this project to fruition,” said Andrea Cooper, Executive Director of Upstate Forever.

“Collaborating with Upstate Forever provided Furman students and faculty an opportunity to engage in ecological conservation research that will provide direct benefits to the broader Upstate community” said John Quinn, Assistant Professor of Biology at Furman University, who led the mapping project. “We look forward to working alongside Upstate Forever to see these lands protected for the benefit of future generations.”

Upstate Forever has worked for the past 19 years protecting lands that define our region and ensure its continued environmental health. To date, the organization has protected over 21,000 acres on 114 properties across the Upstate through voluntary land easements. Their protection provides valuable and permanent benefits to residents, visitors, wildlife, ecosystems and the economy. 

For more information, contact Scott Park at

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