II. Guiding Management Principles

The Jocassee Gorges property is positioned on the Blue Ridge Escarpment, a physiographic region important for its abundant rainfall, high-gradient streams and unique habitats. It is at the northern or southern range limit of numerous plant and animal species. Several species endemic to the region are found within its boundaries. The property has 171 known occurrences of rare, threatened or endangered plant and animal species, according to the department's Heritage Trust database. This is by far the highest density of such occurrences in South Carolina; therefore, the property is of highest priority for protection as a large area project by the South Carolina Heritage Trust Program.

The property will be evaluated for possible dedication as a Heritage Preserve under the South Carolina Heritage Trust Program. Options include dedicating all, portions, or none of the 32,000 acre tract. The Heritage Trust enabling legislation stipulates that no more than 100,000 acres may be acquired for dedication throughout the state, and the current amount of dedicated acreage is approximately 75,000. The merits of using a substantial portion of the remaining acreage allocation at Jocassee Gorges will need to be weighed against the anticipated needs of the Heritage Trust Program for present and future projects in other locations in the state. Regardless, this management plan will provide protection for rare, threatened and endangered species just as would a management plan written under the Heritage Trust Program.

The size of this tract and its position among other public properties with substantial stands of hardwood and pine-hardwood forest contribute further to its significant ecological, scenic and recreational attributes. Jocassee Gorges lands harbor a substantial portion of the State's trout streams, including important native brook trout habitat. The property also provides essential habitat for the region's black bear population. Because of its size and position on the Blue Ridge Escarpment, the property provides important habitat for eight species of neotropical migratory songbirds considered by ornithologists to be species of concern.

The primary management objective for the Jocassee Gorges property is to maintain the natural character of the area while protecting, maintaining, restoring and or enhancing significant plant, fish and wildlife communities and their habitats. The secondary objective is to provide for recreation that is compatible with the area's natural character.

The Jocassee Gorges property provides tremendous opportunities for scientific study and surveys. Some funding for biological research and inventory will be included in the management budget, and partnerships will be established with the region's research organizations to carry out a program of studies centering on the property. In addition, federal and other research funds will be sought as appropriate to support short- and long-term studies in the area.

A detailed forest management plan compatible with the objectives stated above will be developed in cooperation with the South Carolina Forestry Commission (SCFC) following acquisition of the property. The SCDNR will conduct timber harvesting operations to enhance habitat and biodiversity and to sustain forest health. The SCDNR will not conduct commercial logging operations or other resource extraction methods solely to generate funds for management purposes. A portion of the property will be reserved for restoring and maintaining late-successional forests. The forest management plan will identify tracts of planted pine that may be converted to pine-hardwood or mixed-hardwood stands at appropriate times. The potential for use of rotational timber harvesting on suitable sites to maintain various successional stages beneficial to targeted wildlife species and forest health will also be addressed in the forest management plan. This will occur at suitable sites using harvesting and regeneration practices appropriate for Jocassee Gorges objectives. No timber will be harvested until a detailed forest management plan has been made available for public review and then is approved by the SCDNR Board.

Watershed management practices will be used to protect lakes, perennial streams and their intermittent tributaries, springs, wetlands and other valuable public resources. Riparian and shoreline buffer zones of appropriate sizes will be established and protected from land-disturbing activities except those necessary to manage the property.

Traditional recreational uses of the property such as hunting, fishing, and hiking will be continued. Access for public use will be maintained and improved. New access areas, activities and facilities may be proposed and evaluated on a case by case basis for compatibility with the primary management objective.

Management practices to support traditional uses will include maintaining a suitable distribution of forest successional stages and stocking of native or non-native fish in suitable waters and in appropriate sizes and numbers. Survey and inventory of fish and wildlife populations and other management practices that are judged necessary to maintain or enhance sport or nongame species populations will be conducted in suitable areas. Streams supporting trout populations will be given priority for management to maintain aquatic communities.

Law enforcement will be a major component of the overall management plan. Directed and random patrols will be relied upon for both deterrence and apprehension. The protection of resources and the safety of persons using those resources will be paramount in all enforcement activities.