Easement permanently protects Silver Bluff Audubon
Audubon South Carolina’s Silver Bluff Sanctuary in Aiken County is now permanently protected by a conservation easement, thanks in part to an $807,000 grant from the South Carolina Conservation Bank and a donation by the National Audubon Society. The legal easement is held by the Lowcountry Land Trust in partnership with the Aiken Land Conservancy.
Free and open to the public, Silver Bluff is a 3,300-acre property featuring stunning Savannah River views, more than 20 miles of public trails, historic resources dating back to the 1700s, a community pollinator garden and training sites for bird-friendly forestry.
“Silver Bluff is a cultural and historical gem, and continentally-recognized Important Bird Area,” said Sharon Richardson, executive director of Audubon South Carolina. “I’m thrilled to know this special place will always be protected, regardless of who may own it in the future.”
“We are excited to count Silver Bluff among the 140,000 acres we’ve protected in South Carolina,” said Ashley Demosthenes, president and CEO of Lowcountry Land Trust. “The Land Trust is particularly interested in properties like Silver Bluff that have significant river frontage, because forested wetlands provide filtration that helps ensure clean water for downstream communities.”
Revenue from the sale of the easement will be placed into an endowment for the sanctuary, the proceeds of which will be used to shift to a forest management strategy that prioritizes ecological restoration and wildlife enhancement above the sale of timber. This includes expanding efforts like longleaf pine restoration, red-cockaded woodpecker translocation and bobwhite quail habitat restoration.
“Silver Bluff already enjoys nearly 4,000 visitors annually, but the potential for growth is outstanding,” said Richardson. “Our vision is a more user-friendly public space that is not only a sanctuary for birds and wildlife, but truly a resource for the Aiken-Augusta community and the state of South Carolina.”
Silver Bluff is valued for its ecological diversity, which includes 30 acres of ponds, 200 acres of grasslands, 700 acres of native longleaf pine, and 900 acres of mature bottomland hardwood forests. More than 200 bird species have been spotted there, including Bald Eagles (considered threatened in South Carolina) and Wood Storks (considered threatened throughout the United States.)
Silver Bluff is also of great historical and cultural significance. From its beginnings as a trading post for Native Americans and its role as a British fort in the Revolutionary War, to serving as home to one of the oldest African-American churches in the United States and its ownership by South Carolina Gov. James Henry Hammond, Silver Bluff is a gold mine for archaeologists and historians alike.