Cooperatove Conservation Project

ACE Basin Project

Project protects over 160,000 acres.

Location: Southeastern Region: South Carolina

Project Summary: The ACE Basin Project is widely recognized as one of the most successful public/private partnerships in ecosystem based conservation.
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Dean Harrigal, SCDNR
Resource Challenge

The ACE  (Ashepoo-Combahee-Edisto River)  Basin is wedged between the rapidly growing metropolitan areas  of Charleston to the north and  Beaufort/Hilton Head to the south. . The Basin is recognized as one of the most diverse natural areas of the Atlantic Coast. It is an important wintering area for waterfowl and nesting bald eagles. It provides important nesting beaches for threatened loggerhead sea turtles and supports the largest concentration of wood stork nesting colonies in the nation. The St. Helena Sound is recognized as one of the most pristine estuaries on the East Coast and provides important commercial and recreational finfish and shellfish resources.

The ACE Basin Project was launched  in 1988 as a Focus Area under the guidelines of the North American Waterfowl Management Plan. The goal of the Project is to maintain the natural character of the Basin  through voluntary conservation measures including conservation easements and fee title acquistions of important properties for public benefits while maintaining traditional natural resource uses such as hunting, fishing (commercial and recreational), forest management , and farming.  

The members of the  ACE  Basin Task Force provide each other with technical and logistical support in all phases of the Project.  The Nature Cosnservancy and Ducks Unlimited worked closely with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources and the US Fish and Wildlife Service in acquiring many of the lands available for public access. Through the Private Lands Program, private landowners are provided technical assistance in wildlife habitat management by representatives of the Task Force members.

Ducks Unlimited, The Nature Conservancy, and  the Lowcountry Open Land Trust work with private land owners in protecting their properties through conservation easements and stewardship agreements. Staff of the Nemours Wildlife Foundation conduct research and educational programs in wildlife  conservation and resource stewardship. Meadwestvaco (the largest private landowner in the Basin) formally endorsed the project in 1991 with a memorandum of  understanding.     

The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources and the US Fish and Wildlife Service manage  public lands in the Basin and provide technical support  to the Project.

Examples of Key Partners

The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources

The United States Fish and Wildlife Service

Ducks Unlimited

The Nature Conservancy

Private Landowners

Nemours Wildlife Foundation


Lowcountry Open Land Trust


Results and Accomplishments

The ACE Basin Project has protected over 160,000 acres of wildlife habitat from commercial and residential development since 1988.  Over 50,000 acres are available for public use  through two Wildlife Management Areas,  two State Parks, a National Wildlife Refuge, and a National Estuarine Research Reserve. Over 70,000 acres are protected through conservation easements and the balance is protected through other  measures.

The early stages of the Project concentrated on meeting the habitat protection goals of the North American Waterfowl Management Plan in a defined 350,000 acre Focus Area. The original goal was to protect 90,000 acres by the year 2000. This goal was quickly met and the Task Force increased the  goal and doubled the size of the the Focus Area. The mission of the Project has grown from protecting wetlands and waterfowl habitat to protecting the rural landscape of lower coastal South Carolina. 

As the Project has matured, education has become another major goal of the Task Force. The Edisto Interpretive Center was opened in 2004 as part of the ACE Basin National Estuarine Research Reserve. The Task Force is partnering with  Charleston County Parks  to create an exhibit on the ACE Basin at the CawCaw Inerpretive Center.

As the ACE Basin Project heads toward its 20th anniversary the Task Force continues to work toward creative, voluntary means to protect the natural resources of the lower South Carolina Coast.


The ACE Basin Project proves that public/private partnerships in conservation work when everyone communicates and focuses on the common goal of natural resource protection.

Project Contact
Dean Harrigal
Wildlife Biologist
South Carolina Dept. of Natural Resources
585 Donnelley Dr.
Green Pond, SC 29446
(843) 844-8957


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