Last year, the Lowcountry Open Land Trust received conservation easements on 4,708 acres, and the 25-year-old nonprofit now protects 268 properties covering more than 88,000 acres of farms, woods, former rice impoundments and recreational lands.
But is that enough? And what should be done next? Those are the questions the trust hopes to answer as it embarks on a strategic planning process this week, featuring a public event Wednesday at Charleston County Main Library.
This effort was made possible by the late Emily Ravenel Farrow and her bequest of her 55-acre Ashem property next to Charles Towne Landing. The Land Trust inherited that property and sold it last year to the Charleston County Park and Recreation Commission.
The trust hopes the communitywide planning process will create a vision for conservation for generations. At issue: What will the Lowcountry look like in 2025, and how will its quality of life and landscapes be protected?
Trust Executive Director Elizabeth Hagood said the plan not only considers which places should be conserved but also which tools can be used -- and how important conservation remains these days.
Trust Chairman Batson Hewitt said the landscape has unified Lowcountry residents and defined how they live, work and play. "Now it's time we come together to ensure the future of our landscape and that of our children and grandchildren," he said.
South Carolina land trusts have protected more than 500,000 acres via conservation easements, an area almost as large as Charleston County. The state ranks 18th in the nation -- and fourth in the Southeast -- in acres conserved.