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Norfolk Southern Preserving 12,488 Dorchester Co. Acres

August 5, 2008

By The Times and Democrat, Orangeburg, S.C.

Aug. 5–Norfolk Southern has granted a conservation easement on 12,488 acres of Dorchester County land, preserving it permanently.

Norfolk Southern, through two subsidiaries, has granted an easement on 12,488 acres of its Brosnan Forest timber and wildlife preserve to the Lowcountry Open Land Trust. The property is near the 15,000-acre Francis Beidler Forest, which is owned and operated by the National Audubon Society.

Beidler Forest and the surrounding rural lands make up a 450,000-acre watershed for Four Holes Swamp within the larger Ashepoo, Combahee and Edisto Basin, one of the largest intact coastal ecosystems on the East Coast.

“The rural character, the natural resources, habitat, beauty and unique ecological character of the land will be preserved into perpetuity,” said Norfolk Southern Chief Executive Officer Wick Moorman. “With our partners at the Lowcountry Open Land Trust, the railroaders at NS are proud to do their part in building a sustainable environment for future generations.”

Gov. Mark Sanford said, “Given the sheer size of this easement, this is a big win for South Carolina and our efforts to preserve and protect the quality of life here in our state. This tract is incredibly significant from an ecological standpoint, both for the way it encompasses the headwaters of the ACE Basin and its proximity to Francis Beidler Forest.”

The undeveloped land is the largest corporately-held and privately-protected property in South Carolina. Brosnan Forest is especially significant because it provides a protected habitat for 79 groups of the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker and serves as home to the largest known and most researched population under single ownership on private land.

Brosnan Forest also includes more than 6,000 acres of longleaf pine trees. The longleaf pine ecosystem, once one of the most extensive in North America, is now among the most threatened. It currently occupies about 2 percent of its original coverage. Longleaf pines grow up to 120 feet tall and can live up to 500 years.

Norfolk Southern and its predecessors have held much of the Brosnan Forest lands for more than 160 years. The property straddles the route of the Charleston-Hamburg railroad line, the first steam-powered railroad in the United States and, at 136 miles, the longest in the world.

The conservation easement will prohibit subdivision and development of the property. Norfolk Southern will continue to own and manage the land under easement as well as an additional 1,900 acres that are dedicated to corporate meetings, agricultural and recreational purposes, and wildlife management and research.

Will Haynie, executive director of the Lowcountry Open Land Trust said, “This is one of the finest acts of corporate citizenship in the history of our state. Not only has Norfolk Southern been a good steward of these thousands of acres for more than 160 years, but they also are good neighbors by forever preserving the rural character of this community. The gift will benefit the residents of South Carolina for generations to come.”

The Norfolk Southern donation brings the total easement acreage held by Lowcountry Open Land Trust to 72,429 acres during the past 23 years.

The Lowcountry Open Land Trust is a land conservation organization based in Charleston, S.C., that focuses on preserving rural land in the coastal plain of South Carolina.

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Copyright (c) 2008, The Times and Democrat, Orangeburg, S.C.

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