Sullivan’s Island Town Council is in the final stages of developing a plan for the “Transition Zone” portion of an overall management plan for the protected coastal forest. This zone was proposed as an accommodation to island residents living adjacent to the forest who have expressed concerns and who desire a more open area between the forest and their homes. The ecosystem of this successional maritime forest, which includes wetlands, habitat for migrating birds, and an unparalleled learning environment for our children and the entire Lowcountry, is a treasure and an asset to our island. Conservation of the land has been overwhelmingly supported by local environmental organizations and by the citizens of Sullivan’s Island.
Those of us actively involved in the effort to protect this wonderful green space know that each element of the successional maritime forest – the grasslands, the myrtles, and the growing trees – is essential to maintaining the overall health of the ecosystem.
One cannot over manipulate any one element of the forest without doing harm to all areas of the forest. The best strategy for maintaining the forest would be to leave the forest alone, other than removing harmful, invasive plants! Any other manipulation causes harm. As responsible stewards of this protected Land Trust area, Town Council has the job of, at the very least, minimizing harm to our coastal maritime forest – and these proposals in a “Transition Zone” will cause harm. And yet, those of us who are most interested in conservation do support some degree of harm in the desire to see a long term agreement on the management of the land and in recognition of the sincere concerns of some of our fellow islanders.
The are two plans being looked at by council – one proposed by Susan Middaugh and one proposed by Chauncey Clark. Councilperson Clark’s plan does significant harm to this 100 foot wide transition zone.
Councilperson Middaugh’s plan does less, but still significant harm as well. As I stated above we can support some harm to the forest – but the harm done should be minimized at each decision.
As an example, we would suggest that council consider preserving 2/3 of the myrtles in the second part of the proposed transition zone rather than the 1/3 proposed by Councilperson Middaugh, or the 0 percent proposed by Councilperson Clark. Myrtles provide nutrients essential to the health of the surrounding trees!
Be involved, attend the meetings, study the issues and be informed. We can have forests and beaches!