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March 9, 2016Workshop on managing forests for songbirds, income set April 14 at Wateree River wildlife area

An educational workshop for landowners to learn how to manage bottomland hardwood forests to benefit songbirds and generate a modest income will be held Thursday, April 14 at Wateree River Heritage Preserve Wildlife Management Area in Eastover.

The free class is limited to the first 30 people who register. To register, call Shelly Knight at (843) 462-2150 or e-mail sknight@audubon.org.

This workshop is a joint venture of the COWASEE Basin Focus Area Partners. COWASEE, short for the Congaree-Wateree-Upper Santee River system, is an area covering over 315,000 acres in the Midlands of South Carolina including portions of Richland, Sumter, Clarendon, Calhoun and Lexington counties.

This valuable workshop is set for noon to 5 p.m. Thursday, April 14 at Wateree River Heritage Preserve Wildlife Management Area (WMA), which is on Goodwill Road in Eastover. It will include a presentation on migratory songbirds and bird-friendly forest management, conservation easements, a field trip and lunch. Continuing Education credits will be offered for S.C. licensed pesticide applicators, registered foresters and certified wildlife biologists.

The Wateree River and Congaree River valleys and adjoining bluffs and high hills all merge in the heart of South Carolina to form the Santee River and headwaters of Lake Marion in the Santee-Southeastern Plains Ecobasin. This ecobasin contains all of 17 watersheds and portions of 30 others and covers 2,064 square miles. These three Palmetto State river valleys comprise the ecologically important COWASEE Basin, a significant corridor of rural, undeveloped green space southeast of Columbia and southwest of Sumter.

Containing some of the most significant natural, historical and cultural resources in South Carolina, the COWASEE contributes to the quality of life of central South Carolina through abundant natural, cultural and scenic resources, diverse landscapes and public recreational opportunities. Recognizing its importance, conservationists, led by private landowners, non-government organizations, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR), defined the COWASEE Basin Focus Area in 2005, naming it as one of the state's premiere landscape ecosystems and an area worthy and in need of conservation.

Since large public ownership within the COWASEE Basin is achievable typically only through scarce agency funding and governmental appropriations, the partnership primarily works with willing private landowners to promote stewardship using a variety of tools ranging from technical and financial assistance to conservation easements. The key for this initiative is to encourage the continuation of private ownership while ensuring long-term protection and enhancement of resource stewardship. Currently there are more than 110,000 acres of protected property in the COWASEE Basin to include more than 38,000 acres of private land conservation. The overarching objectives of the COWASEE Basin Conservation Project are to protect and enhance important lands, waters, rare and sensitive habitats, cultural sites and diverse natural resources of the midlands while maintaining in perpetuity, for the benefit of Palmetto State citizens, the long-honored traditional uses of hunting, fishing, forest management and agriculture.

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