For the past 25 years, the Lowcountry Open Land Trust has been protecting land that is significant ecologically, agriculturally and historically.
And every one of the 83,332 acres that it has in voluntary conservation easements, while privately owned, benefits people across the Lowcountry, landowners or not.
If you like the fresh air, if you eat local produce, if you appreciate a sweeping river view or a flashy red-cockaded woodpecker, or if you value our coastal heritage, you are indebted to some extent to the Land Trust.
As Executive Director Elizabeth Hagood says in a column on today's Commentary page, the forests, farmland, open spaces, wildlife habitat and wetlands filter natural water sources, nurture trees and crops, harbor wildlife, represent our history and culture and restore our spirits.
Additionally, the area's natural beauty is part of the mystique that draws people to visit, live and work here.
The Land Trust was founded in 1986 after News and Courier columnist John Burbage wrote about the value of land trusts and then Charleston Mayor Joe Riley supported the idea of establishing an organization that does for land what preservation organizations do for architecture. The Trust has done just that by offering landowners a legal tool that provides them tax benefits in exchange for putting permanent restrictions on the uses of the property.
Johnny Ohlandt is one of those landowners. After he donated an easement for Black Island, he explained, "I have the satisfaction of knowing that it will remain in the pristine condition it was when I assumed ownership of it."
The Land Trust protected tracts number 257 and range from one acre to more than 12,000 acres.
Last year, LOLT protected 840 acres in the vicinity of the Four Holes Swamp, one of the East Coast's largest wetland reserves.
It has added more than 34,000 protected acres to the 350,000-acre ACE Basin between Charleston and Beaufort. The area is home to numerous threatened species, including the bald eagle, the red-cockaded woodpecker and the wood stork.
In 1989, LOLT helped start a conservation movement on Wadmalaw with an easement on High Point. Today more than 25 percent of the island is protected by easements.
The Lowcountry Open Land Trust protects over 700 acres of historic rice fields and adjacent uplands along the Waccamaw and Great Pee Dee rivers, eight plantation properties (3,100 acres) on the east branch of the Cooper River, and almost 100 acres on Sullivan's Island that accreted following Hurricane Hugo.
LOLT holds one of the Southeast's largest easements, Brosnan Forest's 12,488 acres, and helped protect the Ashley River Historic District when threatened by developers.
The Lowcountry Open Land Trust's 25th anniversary is worthy of celebration by the entire Lowcountry.
But its fine work isn't finished. As long as the natural environment continues to be threatened by over development, the Land Trust will have important work to do.
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