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February 25, 2009

Spring turkey season draw hunts scheduled for newly acquired Belfast WMA

Historic Belfast Plantation, 4,664 acres along Highway 56 in Newberry and Laurens counties, is now a S.C. Department of Natural Resources' Wildlife Management Area and will be part of the draw hunt system for the upcoming spring turkey season.

Beginning Wednesday, April 1, 2009, five turkey draw hunts will be held on Belfast WMA. Three adult hunts are scheduled on Wednesdays, including April 1, 15 and 29. Two Saturday youth hunts will be held on April 11 and 25.

Applications can be obtained by writing SCDNR, PO Box 167, Columbia, SC 29202 or by calling the S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR) at (803) 734-3886. Applications can also be found online. The application deadline is March 13.

"The Belfast Wildlife Management Area (WMA) is an exciting opportunity for turkey hunters who are looking to enjoy the outdoors in the Piedmont area of the state," said Buddy Baker, DNR regional wildlife biologist. "Draw hunts provide a quality hunting experience for novice and seasoned hunters alike, both youth and adult."

DNR and The Conservation Fund acquired Belfast in October 2008.  The property was historically managed by Champion Paper Company and later by International Paper as a demonstration forest and recreation area.  In 2004, it was sold to a private limited liability corporation as part of International Paper's divestiture of forestland.

DNR holds title to the northern half of the property, totaling 2,228 acres.  The Conservation Fund is holding title to the 2,436 acre southern half of the property while DNR secures additional funding to complete the project. The Conservation Fund is allowing DNR to manage its half in conjunction with the remaining area as part of the Wildlife Management Area program.

The tract includes various habitat types ranging from hardwood drains to upland loblolly pine forests.  The historic Belfast Plantation house is also located on the tract.  The property was settled in 1785 by Colonel John Simpson from Belfast, Ireland.  It is believed that he built the home in the early 1800's.  It is currently one of the oldest structures in Laurens County and is in excellent condition.  DNR intends to utilize this facility for educational and interpretive opportunities on natural resource issues and as a key area for promoting outdoor activities for youth.

Funding for the project was provided through grants from the SC Conservation Bank ($2,000,000), the U.S. Forest Service, Forest Legacy Program ($1,485,000), and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service ($50,000). These grants were matched with Heritage Trust funds and a donation from the National Wild Turkey Federation ($58,000).

DNR protects and manages South Carolina’s natural resources by making wise and balanced decisions for the benefit of the state’s natural resources and its people.

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