Resource ChallengeWinyah Bay, the East coast’s third largest estuary, is fed by fi ve major rivers. The lower watershed, lazy with the slow, shallow, swampy marshes of the South, sustains 123,000 acres of forested wetlands and 23,000 acres of tidal freshwater marshes. Migratory songbirds, more than 40,000 wintering waterfowl, and six Federally-listed species fi nd vital habitat there. The region’s natural and historic assets, from its bays and salt marshes to the freshwater marshes of its former rice plantations, are drawing an increasing number of tourists, photographers, anglers, hunters, and naturalists.
Agriculture, industry, and other human activities, both past and present, have taken their toll. Nestled adjacent to the rapidly-developing Myrtle Beach area, urban growth and habitat fragmentation are threatening native upland, wetland, and dune communities, as well as threatened and endangered species such as the Red-cockaded woodpecker and Wood Stork.
The Winyah Bay Focus Area Task Force, a coalition of public and private organizations, was founded in 1992 under the Atlantic Coast Joint Venture of the North American Waterfowl Management Plan to seek landscape-level solutions to the watershed’s problems. Partners provide public information, donate staff time and funds, seek grants for projects, and provide technical expertise.
Examples of Key PartnersUSDI Fish and Wildlife Service, Historic Ricefi elds Association, South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, Ducks Unlimited, The Nature Conservancy, Lowcountry Open Land Trust, 30 private landowners, and more than 100 businesses.
Results and Accomplishments
Accomplishments of the Winyah Bay Focus Area Task Force include:
• Developed and built support for an innovative fee-based mitigation solution to compensate for the impacts of a major highway project on 200 acres of wetlands.
• Protected more than17,000 acres of forested floodplain and old growth longleaf pine using $12 million in public and private funds.
• Established the Waccamaw National Wildlife Refuge with community support.
• Protected 13,000 acres of private lands with permanent conservation easements.
• Enhanced or restored 4,000 acres of privately-held wetlands.
• Established subcommittees to address local issues such as migratory bird habitat and invasive plants.
• Created an outreach program, including a Winyah Bay film that was a finalist at the International Wildlife Film Festival.
• Protected a 9,000-acre portion of Sandy Island in Winyah Bay in cooperation with federal and state agencies outside the Task Force.
Since the creation of the Task Force in 1992, its partners have protected more than 56,000 acres in the coastal wetlands of Winyah Bay.