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Lowcountry Open Land Trust wants to broaden involvement, support; meeting set Tuesday

February 5, 2017

The Lowcountry Open Land Trust conservation group is looking to work more closely with the community, and those interested in a partnership will be able to find out more Tuesday at their annual update meeting.

The meeting will start at 5:30 p.m. at Founder’s Hall, Charles Towne Landing, 1500 Old Towne Road, in West Ashley. It is free. Land Trust staff will review planning efforts and opportunities as they move to involving community leaders, agencies and businesses more in the work.

The trust historically has operated discreetly with private owners to put natural river corridor land under conservation easements.

“This past year has been one of preparation and evolution,” said Ashley Demosthenes, president. “In order to meet the challenges that our region faces and take advantage of opportunities, we have had to evolve as an agency.”

The idea is that conservation groups partner actively with groups that more than occasionally in the past have been opponents. It’s been called the Angel Oak effect, after an unlikely collaboration among somewhat antagonistic groups spearheaded the protection of the iconic sprawling tree on Johns Island.

Along with working with businesses seeking to conserve tracts as mitigation for development, the collaboration approach has become a new model for efforts to preserve the region’s singular sea and landscape — mile after mile of marsh and tidal rivers, pineland and beach.

The trust traditionally has worked low-key with individual private landowners to forge conservation easements, contracts that prohibited some development of the land. But public money shrank dramatically and tax breaks that are a major incentive became harder to make cost-effective.

Meanwhile, with more than 1 million acres already in some sort of conservation on the coast and lucrative development booming, interested landowners became harder to win over.