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Tree farmer, land trust secure conservation easement on Johnson forest

First Posted: 2:27 am - December 23rd, 2015

For the Chronicle



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After 15 years, the Pee Dee Land Trust reached a milestone, completing its first conservation project in Chesterfield County by partnering with Dr. Knowlton.W. Johnson to establish a conservation easement on the Johnson Experimental Forest.

Johnson grew up on the property and has strong ties to it. He took the initiative to consolidate the land under his ownership by acquiring his sibling’s interest.

The forest is a unique property that is being managed as a tree farm. It is also being used as a place for experimental forestry work in collaboration with the Clemson University Forestry Department.

The property includes 227 acres of varying aged loblolly pine, longleaf pine and bottomland hardwoods. Several stands of loblolly and longleaf have been planted using new techniques for purposes of demonstration and research.

The conservation agreement will keep the property in one piece and as a working tree farm.

“It feels good to get an initial project in Chesterfield, especially one with the characteristics that support the Sandhills Longleaf Pine Conservation Partnership objectives of longleaf pine restoration and management,” said Seth Cook, the land trust’s director of land conservation.

The conservation agreement also ensures Johnson meets his objectives by placing limitations on subdivision, development and commercial activities with the intention of keeping the property in forestry and recreational uses. Other forest objectives are conservation of wildlife and water resources as well as research and education.

In 2015, Johnson received one of three South Carolina district Outstanding Tree Farmer of the Year awards. He shared his thoughts about establishing a conservation easement with the Pee Dee Land Trust.

“This easement seems to be a perfect fit for preserving the property and enhancing the environment,” Johnson said. “I want to leave a legacy in honor of my parents, Hazel and N.W. (Fish) Johnson.”

The land trust has now surpassed the 22,000 acre mark in protected lands. Its staff worked with landowners to complete three new easement projects in 2015 totaling 990 new acres protected.

The Back Swamp Woods is the first project in Florence County to be funded with a grant from the South Carolina Conservation Bank — the primary source of state funding for land conservation. The Johnson Experimental Forest is the first-ever conservation easement in Chesterfield County.

The Tilghman Tract protects more than a mile of frontage on the Great Pee Dee River in Marlboro County, and is one of five conservation easements the Pee Dee Land Trust has completed along its namesake river.

While remaining in private ownership, the lands protected by PDLT ensure that special places will be available for farming, forestry, and recreation well into the future.

The Pee Dee Land Trust works in the nine counties that touch the Great Pee Dee River in South Carolina: Chesterfield, Darlington, Dillon, Florence, Georgetown, Horry, Marion, Marlboro and Williamsburg. Its mission is to protect, and to promote an appreciation of, the significant natural, agricultural, and historical resources of the Pee Dee Region through voluntary land conservation and educational programs.

Information for this story was provided by the Pee Dee Land Trust.

For the Chronicle

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