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The COWASEE Basin is a primary focus area for our conservation work. It covers 315,000 acres in central South Carolina and includes the Congaree, Wateree and upper Santee Rivers. The nearly 27,000-acre Congaree National Park is the heart of the basin and home of the largest old-growth bottomland hardwood forest remaining in the eastern United States.

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To date, 144,137 acres of public and private land (or approximately 46%) of the 315,000 acres within the COWASEE Basin have been conserved, including approximately 27,264 acres by conservation easements granted to CLT.

The Department of Defense has an initiative to pay landowners for conservation easements on lands within certain portions of the COWASEE Basin. The goal is to protect Fort Jackson, Shaw Air Force Base and McEntire Air National Guard Base from inconsistent development that could hinder ongoing military operations. The SC Conservation Bank has also expressed a strong interest in providing funding for the conservation of the COWASEE Basin, and there are potential tax benefits to landowners who place conservation easements on their land.

Although these are all strong incentives for conserving land within the COWASEE Basin, the most important factor for conserving this land has been and will continue to be the enthusiastic support of the project by landowners and residents in the area.

CLT is dedicated to the continued preservation of this significant tract of land, and along with the other COWASEE Basin Task Force members, we have set a five-year goal of conserving an additional 25,000 acres within the Basin.

COWASEE Basin Task Force Partners:

Congaree Land Trust, Audubon South Carolina, The Conservation Fund, Ducks Unlimited, Friends of the Congaree Swamp, Richland County Conservation Commission, SC Department of Natural Resources, Sumter County Soil & Water Conservation District, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

2015 COWASEE Update

45,703 acres of private easements in the COWASEE Basin:

Total private easement acreage by organization

Congaree Land Trust … 27,264 acres
USDA Wetland Reserve Program … 12,666 acres
Ducks Unlimited … 5,773 acres

Total private easement acreage by county

Calhoun 8,921 acres
Kershaw 7,462 acres
Richland 11,403 acres
Sumter 17,586 acres

For more information please visit:  http://cowasee.dnr.sc.gov/