The massive wetlands and woods of Fairlawn Plantation would have been a landmark conservation in the Charleston area. Now, at least, it will be managed for the birds.

Audubon South Carolina has designated the 8,000-acre property along I’On Swamp near Awendaw as an important bird area; its owners are cooperating to maintain it as a vital habitat for species such as the swallow-tailed kite, prothonotary warbler and painted bunting, Audubon said in a news release.

The agreement makes Fairlawn the 50th Important Bird Area in the state, the release said, comprising more than 1.3 million acres.

“The IBA program is a global effort to identify areas that are most important for maintaining bird populations, and focus conservation efforts on protecting those areas,” the release said. More than 368 million acres are designated nationwide.

The Fairlawn property was slated in 2012 to be bought for $12 million by Charleston County’s rural Greenbelt program, which preserves land in the county’s rural areas. The deal fell apart when a group of former owners claimed they had exclusive hunting rights on the property, which could have prohibited public access for recreational purposes for decades.

The purchase would have a been a boon for conservationists because the Fairlawn tract is the largest piece of privately held land inside the Francis Marion Forest. It would have been a big link in an emerging ring of more than 800,000 acres of protected land around Charleston, making the city the only metropolitan area of its size on the East Coast to be embedded in green.

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