“Promise of the Piedmont”

SC meeting brings partners together

Tour participants learn about the Indian Creek savanna restoration. The project restored grassland bird habitat, reduced wildfire risk, and enhanced water quality on more than 15,000 acres of public and private lands. Photo by Peggy Nadler, USFS.

“South Carolina’s Promise of the Piedmont” meeting was convened to highlight the diverse and important resources of the Piedmont ecoregion. More than 20 participants from the USDA Forest Service and 25 participants from a range of partner organizations attended the three-day meeting in Newberry, South Carolina.

The workshop focused on population growth and urbanization, water resources, social resources, and natural resources. SRS scientists Michael Bowker, Cassandra Johnson Gaither, David Wear, and James Vose joined a panel discussion about these topics, which were directly tied to the field stops on the second day.

The staff of the Francis Marion and Sumter National Forests designed a field trip to share the legacy of past land management practices, showcase current initiatives that are making a difference in the landscape, and explore opportunities to change the outcomes currently predicted for the Piedmont.

The field trip began with a close look at a degraded gully, a channelized stream, and the downstream effects of sedimentation on the Enoree River, led by soil scientist Jason Jennings. “We want the takeaway from these stops to be an understanding of the impact of fragmentation on water quality and the very real need for intact, protected watersheds. Without that, stream restoration efforts will be compromised,” says Jennings.

The field visits also included a panel discussion about the Indian Creek habitat restoration project – a USDA Joint Chiefs’ Landscape Restoration Project between USFS, NRCS, and partners. The group also got an overview the Calhoun Experimental Forest, a conversation with the Laurens County Administrator, and a tour of a private landowner’s tree farm.

Mancke talks with the tour group about the magnolias and heirloom roses found at the Rose Hill Historic Site. Photo by Peggy Nadler, USFS.

A highlight of the field trip was a visit from naturalist Rudy Mancke, former host of the PBS show “NatureScene” and current host of “NatureNotes.” Mancke led an enthusiastic discussion of the flora and fauna of Rose Hill State Park, where the group had lunch.

The final day of the meeting synthesized the learning from the two previous days and outlined next steps. Invited speakers presented on four landscape-scale initiatives with potential to positively affect the future of the Piedmont: Sentinel Landscapes, Southeast Conservation Adaptation Strategy (SECAS), Keeping Forests as Forests, and The Nature Conservancy’s Resilient and Connected Landscapes in South Carolina.

Participants were asked to determine what commitments attendees need to make in order to move forward in a way that could begin to change the trajectory of the Piedmont.

 The recommended commitments included:

  • Identifying one to three priority areas to focus initial efforts;
  • Identifying an individual responsible for coordination and collaboration;
  • Continuing to evaluate the contributions made during this meeting as opportunities for strategic direction;
  • Leveraging existing landscape-scale initiatives; and
  • Determining the measures of success.

A sub-group of meeting attendees will work to follow the recommendations developed and identify the best location and time for a follow-up meeting.

This team includes Rick Lint (USFS), Peggy Nadler (USFS), Stephanie Laseter (USFS), MaeLee Hafer (USFS), Daniel McInnnis (USFS), Wade Harrison (TNC), Peter Stangel (US Endowment), and Laura Calandrella (consultant).

Learn more about experimental forests through this SRS Story Map.

For more information, email Stephanie Laseter at slaseter@fs.fed.us.

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