Projects Will Be Part of 50-State Report
WASHINGTON—Just days before the release of a 50-state report outlining the country's most promising ways to reconnect Americans to the natural world, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today highlighted two projects in the state of South Carolina that will be included in the final report – representing what states believe are among the best investments in the nation to support a healthy, active population, conserve wildlife and working lands, and create travel, tourism and outdoor recreation jobs across the country.
Conservation of the longleaf pine ecosystem in southeastern South Carolina and expansion of the Three Rivers Greenway in Columbia are among 100 projects nationwide that will be highlighted in next week's report – two in every state – as part of President Obama's America's Great Outdoors initiative to establish a 21st century conservation and recreation agenda and reconnect Americans to the natural world.
The report is a result of 50 meetings with governors and stakeholders held by Secretary Salazar and other senior Interior officials to solicit ideas on how to best implement AGO in their states. These critical projects were identified for their potential to conserve important lands and build recreation opportunities and economic growth for the surrounding communities as part of close engagement with Governor Nikki Haley and the state of South Carolina as well as private landowners, local and tribal elected officials, community organizations and outdoor recreation and conservation stakeholders. The full 50-state report will be released in the coming weeks.
“Under the America's Great Outdoors Initiative, we are listening to the people of South Carolina and communities across America and working with them on locally-based projects that will conserve the beauty and health of our land and water and open up more opportunities for people to enjoy them,” Salazar said. “My staff and I have been asking each governor for the most promising projects to support in their states and we will do all we can to help move them forward.”
The two projects in South Carolina highlighted by Secretary Salazar in the forthcoming report are:
Longleaf Pine Focal Area
Longleaf pine was once a dominant species on 90 million acres of forests stretching from Virginia to Texas. Today just over three percent of this historic Longleaf Pine ecosystem remains, on public and private lands supporting 29 federally-listed threatened and endangered species and more than 400 endemic plant species.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Park Service are submitting a collaborative Land and Water Conservation Fund proposal—the South Carolina Longleaf Pine Focal Area—to expand and preserve this natural resource. The state of South Carolina fully supports the project and is excited about the momentum it could give other current conservation efforts. This project would support AGO goals by conserving a large-scale landscape that will protect habitat for a significant number of species.
Three Rivers Greenway
The City of Columbia's Three Rivers Greenway provides 8.5 miles of pathways along the Broad and Saluda rivers where they meet the Congaree River. This greenway is a phenomenal public-private partnership between the city and the River Alliance. Project partners hope to expand the greenway to more than 13 miles of trail and river parks.
Winding through Columbia, West Columbia, and Cayce, the greenway provides recreational access and connects urban residents to the rivers, aligning with AGO goals. In addition, some of South Carolina's best fishing waters are along the greenway, which also offers access points for canoeing, kayaking, and whitewater rafting.
The report will also include potential actions by Interior and its bureaus to support the projects identified. In South Carolina, for example, potential actions the department could provide include planning and technical assistance through the National Park Service's Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program to help extend the greenway and possible financial support for the Longleaf Pine habitat conservation project. While Interior cannot commit to federal financial support for the projects identified in the report due to budgetary constraints, Secretary Salazar is committed to doing everything possible to advance each project in the coming year through whatever means available.
“The America's Great Outdoors Initiative turns the conventional wisdom about the federal government's role in conservation on its head. Rather than dictate policies or conservation strategies from Washington, it supports grassroots, locally driven initiatives,” Salazar said.
For more information on the President's America's Great Outdoors initiative, click here.
To view a map of the projects already announced, click here.