Boeing gets OK to preserve 4000 acres in Francis Marion

NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- Boeing on Friday was given approval by the Army Corps of Engineers to preserve 4,000 acres of land in the Francis Marion National Forest.

The land is split between three tracts of land and includes more than 2,000 acres of wetlands, officials said.

According to Boeing, officials at the aircraft manufacturing company worked with agencies at the federal, state, and local levels as well as conservation groups to pick out the areas for preservation.

Officials said the result of the preservation effort will mean greater access to the areas for the public as well as improved protection for threatened and endangered wildlife in the forest.

"This investment significantly advances a national effort to protect and restore the fire dependent native longleaf pine ecosystem," said Mark Robertson, the executive director of The Nature Conservancy in South Carolina. "Together, these acquisitions represent one of the largest private conservation investments in the Francis Marion National Forest and surrounding region."

The plan approved by the Army Corps is part of a larger process for Boeing as company leaders seek to get permits for a lease of 468 acres of land in North Charleston. That land will be used for possible future growth by the company. More than 150 acres of that land is a wetland, officials said.

"Working with our habitat protection partners on landscape scale conservation projects has been a priority of the Department of Natural Resources for the last two decades," said Alvin Taylor, the director of the Department of Natural Resources. "At DNR we are grateful for the opportunity to work with our partners in conservation the Lowcountry Open Land Trust, The Nature Conservancy and the Open Space Institute in order to seek a mitigation solution that Boeing supports and meets the regulatory requirements and that will benefit fish, wildlife, their habitats and our citizens."

Boeing earlier this year funding the purchase of one of the tracts in the Francis Marion National Forest through the Lowcountry Open Land Trust. The Land Trust will hold the property for as many as five years before it is transferred to DNR.

Boeing used the Open Space Institute and the Nature Conservancy to purchase the other two areas. Those areas will also be held for up to five years before being transferred to the national forest.

"This plan supports our business growth as well as our commitment to the environment and communities where we live and work," said Jack Jones, vice president and general manager of Boeing South Carolina. "It's exciting because it ensures our ability to grow while protecting the unique natural ecosystem of this state for future generations of South Carolinians and visitors."

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