South Carolina's Yellowstone - the ACE Basin has been called that.

The effort that conserved hundreds of thousands of acres in that vast delta south of Charleston is the work of a task force begun 25 years ago, led by Charles Lane. On Thursday, weather permitting, Lane and the ACE Basin Project will be honored with the Book of Golden Deeds award by the Exchange Club of Charleston.

The award acknowledges volunteers who have a record of giving time and talent to improve their communities. The honor is singular: it's not an annual award. Lane is the 31st person to be recognized in the last 53 years.

Lane is a managing member of Holcombe, Fair & Lane, a land and commercial real estate firm; he owns property in the basin.

The ACE is wildlife-rich braids of waterways and wetlands where the Ashepoo, Combahee and Edisto rivers meet. A quarter century ago Lane galvanized a network of private and public landholders to preserve the centuries-old agrarian land use there, in the face of urban development pressures moving in from Charleston and Hilton Head.

Today, more than 200,000 acres have been conserved in a native quilt of forest, swamp, plantation savanna, farms and wildlife impoundments. Lane talked about it in 2009 when the project celebrated its 20th year.

"It's a working landscape, where people and nature co-exist. It was a different way of looking at conservation altogether," he said. "The basin has a culture, a history and a way of life, and the only tools we have to keep it is the willingness of the property owners. The people live in these areas because they want to live here."

Lane is the man who picked up those tools.

"The ACE Basin Task Force is Charles Lane's inspiration," the Exchange Club noted in a news release.

The club is a local chapter of a national organization of volunteers dedicated to community service. The National Exchange Club was founded in 1911; the Charleston chapter in 1924, the release noted.

"The Book of Golden Deeds" is the club's most prestigious and longest running program of service, the release said. "It recognizes dedicated volunteers who give endless hours of their time and talents toward making their communities a better place to live."

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