The Great Pee Dee, Black, Sampit and Waccamaw rivers are household names for hundreds of thousands of people over the years who have seized opportunities and succumbed to the vulnerabilities of these large watersheds.

They have served as transportation routes and provided the bounty that has fed residents and supported generations of families; they are critical sources for clean drinking water; and their torrential flows in times of high water have swallowed homes and businesses and taken lives.

These local waterways are integral to the largest water basin in the state, the Pee Dee Basin, 7,860 square miles, more than 25 percent of South Carolina’s land area. This is the same watershed that Pee Dee Land Trust works to protect.

These efforts and the need for more protection are critical every day, but particularly in preparation for major storms.

The 2019 hurricane season has started, and past performance and predictions for the future indicate that the East Coast has seen and will continue to see an increase in rainfall rates and storm intensity. Part of the answer to these troubling trends lies in the protection of working forest and farm lands across our region.

Forests and healthy soils – natural ecosystems – provide public benefits by directly mitigating the effects of severe weather. Forested wetlands reduce the peak of a flood by holding water and releasing slowly over time; and while the water is being held, excessive sediment is trapped, providing clean water for downstream communities.

Healthy soils, those created through responsible farming practices, serve as a sponge, absorbing excess water. In short, working lands have benefits far beyond timber and agriculture.

Pee Dee Land Trust exists to protect working farm and forest lands and to support landowners who want to ensure that their long-term goals for their property are honored forever, regardless of ownership. Our primary land protection tool is a conservation easement, a legal agreement developed with the landowner that promotes conservation by outlining what activities can (or cannot) happen on the land. Land trust staff works with the landowners to identify the conservation values that the landowner desires to protect and outlines their continued agricultural uses. The results benefit all of us who call the Pee Dee Basin home.

Our work is not successful without the broad-based support of willing landowners who voluntarily enter an agreement with PDLT or the generosity of community members who care passionately about our mission to protect landscapes.

Visit our website to learn more. Follow us on Facebook to stay up to date. Contact our team to start that conversation about your land legacy.

Let us hear from you today.

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Lyles Cooper Lyles is the executive director of the Pee Dee Land Trust.

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