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November 16, 2010

4600 acres now under conservation with Belfast Wildlife Management Area

The S.C. Department of Natural Resources, The Conservation Fund, the National Wild Turkey Federation, and the South Carolina Conservation Bank gathered on Nov. 16 to celebrate the new Belfast Plantation Wildlife Management Area. This completes a two-year effort to conserve 4,664 acres in Newberry and Laurens counties.

Located between two sections of Sumter National Forest, the Belfast Wildlife Management Area (WMA) contains a mix of hardwood forest, pine forest and wetlands that provide habitat for a variety of game and non-game species such as white-tailed deer, wild turkeys, bobwhite quail, Kentucky warbler and American woodcock.

The Belfast WMA is open to the public for hunting and other recreational opportunities. The S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR) plans to use the plantation home for group events, educational programs and to promote outdoor activities with youth.

The property also includes a historic plantation home that dates back to 1786, when Col. John Simpson settled the area from Belfast, Ireland. The home is currently one of the oldest structures in Laurens County.

The Conservation Fund purchased the entire property in 2008 and immediately transferred nearly half of it—2,228 acres—to DNR. The Conservation Fund held the remaining portion until DNR secured the necessary funding to acquire the rest of the property. DNR completed the purchase in July 2010.
Funding for the acquisition came from the South Carolina Conservation Bank, the U.S. Forest Service’s Forest Legacy Program, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Wild Turkey Federation and the DNR Heritage Land Trust Fund. 

"DNR is delighted to expand Wildlife Management Area opportunities to our constituents in the Piedmont of South Carolina," said John Frampton, DNR director. "With the acquisition of this property, we will not only expand hunting opportunities but will also utilize Belfast Plantation for educational and recruitment efforts through the creation of shooting ranges and expansion of educational programs. DNR hopes to work with schools and organizations in both counties to enhance opportunities to get youth into the outdoors."

"This was an important piece of land to preserve because it was one of the largest blocks of unprotected forestland in the Piedmont region of South Carolina," said Jason Johnson, South Carolina director of The Conservation Fund. "We’re excited about the opportunities this will provide for residents and visitors, and we’re extremely grateful to our partners for making it all happen."

"Helping conserve wildlife habitat like the forests and wetlands of Belfast Plantation allows the National Wild Turkey Federation to meet both parts of our mission," said George Thornton, chief executive officer of the Edgefield-based conservation organization. "Wild turkeys, white-tailed deer, small game and other non-game species will all thrive thanks to this landmark achievement. Hunters and other outdoor enthusiasts now have a new place to enjoy South Carolina’s outdoors."
           
"The South Carolina Conservation Bank is pleased that it was able to be a partner in this significant purchase," said Marvin Davant, Conservation Bank director. "This addition to the DNR lands gives many people in the area as well as statewide the chance to participate in a quality outdoor experience that otherwise would not have existed."

The National Wild Turkey Federation is a nonprofit conservation organization that works daily to further its mission of conserving the wild turkey and preserving our hunting heritage. The National Wild Turkey Federation was founded in 1973 and is headquartered in Edgefield. According to many state and federal agencies, the restoration of the wild turkey is arguably the greatest conservation success story in North America’s wildlife history.

The Conservation Fund is dedicated to advancing America’s land and water legacy. The fund works to conserve land, train leaders and invest in conservation at home. Since 1985, the fund has helped protect more than 6.75 million acres, sustaining wild havens, working lands and vibrant communities. 

Funding for the South Carolina Conservation Bank began in July 2004 and since that time the Conservation Bank has actively pursued its mission of conserving significant sites from willing landowners that will truly allow South Carolina to remain a special and significant place. Voluntary landowners who wish to participate may sell property outright or they may enter into conservation easements and retain traditional use of the land.



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