By: Thomas Sherrill
Property will be open to hunting, birding
A tract of 410 acres along River Road and the Waccamaw River in the southern part of Columbus County is in the process of being donated to the state of North Carolina for nature preservation, according to the nonprofit that currently owns the land.
The land is being transferred to the Wildlife Resources Commission and will become part of the Columbus County Game Lands, said Debbie Crane, communications director with the Nature Conservancy.
“That means that local hunters will have an opportunity to hunt there. And, of course, game lands are open to the public for purposes other than hunting – things like bird watching,” Crane said. “We bought the property because it is an incredibly special place from a natural heritage standpoint.”
The Nature Conservancy is a nonprofit environmental organization based in Arlington, Virginia, that buys and donates tracts of land worldwide. The nonprofit’s North Carolina office is based in Durham.
The Nature Conservancy’s Longleaf Protection Director Herver McIver said that the $570,000 purchase was finalized in November 2020. The nonprofit bought the land using two grants from the state, one of which required that the property be donated to the state, McIver said.
“Riverstone Properties have owned it for quite a while. They got it from somebody who got it from Georgia Pacific,” McIver said. “We’ve been aware of it for a long time and talked many years ago. We talked recently, and they were interested in selling it.”
The Columbus County Game Land, which is maintained by the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, contains five parcels of swamplands that total 10,240 acres. One parcel is close to the Bladen-Columbus border near the St. James community. The biggest parcel is between Lake Waccamaw and Bolton along U.S. 74-76. Three other parcels are along the Waccamaw River and the Columbus-Brunswick border going from Crusoe Island down to Pireway. “The Waccamaw River is an amazing place. It is home to a number of species that only occur there and nowhere else in the world – particularly river mollusks. Two of these incredibly rare mollusks – the Pod Lance and the Waccamaw Spike – are found in the river at this location,” Crane said.
The Nature Conservancy has protected land in both North Carolina and South Carolina along the Waccamaw River, Crane said.
“We want to protect the swamp forest,” McIver said. “Generally, for a lot of the conservation partners, there’s just an interest for wildlife and water quality and so forth.”
Most of the property is in very good shape and can only be accessed by boat, McIver said, as there’s no public access from roads.
The Columbus County Game Land is subject to North Carolina Inland Fishing, Hunting and Trapping licenses and regulations. No camping is permitted on the property, which contains deer, fox, rabbit, raccoon, squirrel, turkey and waterfowl, according to the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission.
McIver estimated the closing of the donation would take place in the next two months, saying it has already been approved by the state property office.
The Columbus County Game Land, which is maintained by the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, contains five parcels of swamplands that total 10,240 acres.