Partners in South Carolina have exemplified how a diverse set of agencies and NGOs can establish mutual priorities and accomplish more working together than any of them could have achieved individually. Through the ACE Basin Focus Area Task Force and similar Task Forces focused on Winyah Bay and the South Lowcountry, Audubon South Carolina, Ducks Unlimited, South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, The Nature Conservancy, and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service National Wildlife Refuge Program have worked together—and engaged many more partners—to protect the most critically-important landscapes for birds and other wildlife. Their collaboration has involved significant contributions by a host of different partners, including scores of private landowners, timber companies, foundations, local governments, and regional land trusts. These efforts were organized around the most important habitats identified in specific Focus Areas for bird conservation (including waterfowl, waterbirds, shorebirds, and landbirds), established by the Atlantic Coast Joint Venture through its South Atlantic Migratory Bird Initiative (SAMBI) and Waterfowl Implementation Plan. Since the beginning of SAMBI partners have received $79 million in federal conservation grant awards, leveraging more than $365 million from over 450 partners, to conserve over 378,000 acres of important habitat. Efforts within South Carolina have resulted in more than 200,000 acres (two-thirds of which is private land) of the 350,000-acre ACE Basin becoming permanently protected, along with 135,000 acres in the South Lowcountry (Savannah River) region, and 56,000 acres of coastal habitat around Winyah Bay. Other key landscapes protected include the Francis Beidler Forest, a 16,000-acre protected area recognized both as an International Important Bird Area and one of 23 Ramsar Wetlands of International Importance in the US.
For their exemplary leadership and dedication to bird conservation at local, regional, national, and hemispheric scales, we are honored to present the North American Migratory Bird Joint Venture Conservation Champion Award for a Regional Partnership to the South Carolina Working Group of the South Atlantic Migratory Bird Initiative.