Beaufort County Open Land Trust

On March 15, 2021, Kristin Williams and Kate Schaefer presented an overview of the Beaufort County Open Land Trust at the Greater Island Council of Hilton Head Island and Bluffton’s monthly general meeting of members.  

About the Beaufort County Open Land Trust

The Beaufort County Open Land Trust protects significant ecological and cultural places that define the natural landscape while contributing to the health and spirit of the extraordinary Lowcountry region. It is South Carolina’s first and oldest land trust working to preserve open spaces, natural habitats and rural communities throughout the Southern Lowcountry.

About Kristin Williams

Kristin Williams assumed the role of Executive Director of the Beaufort County Open Land Trust in January 2018. Kristin brings with her 10 years of experience as the Executive Director of a conservation organization, Friends of the Environment located in Abaco, Bahamas. A native of the Bahamas, Kristin attended the College of Charleston.

About Kate Schaefer

Kate Schaefer joined the Beaufort County Open Land Trust as Director of Land Protection in December 2020. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Conservation Biology from Clemson University and master’s degree from UNC-Chapel Hill.

The Open Land Trust of Beaufort County, a 501c3 was founded in 1971 and was the first land trust in SC.

146 properties totaling more than 25,000 acres are protected.

  • 50 properties totaling 700 acres are Fee simple
  • 94 properties of more than 25,000 acres are Conservation Easements.  These are forever!

The Open Land Trust’s work is to monitor each of these a minimum of once/year which includes meeting with owners to ensure that they are following their agreements.

Examples and recent successes:

  • Oyster Factory Park – the only protected oyster shucking location – clean waterway oysters
  • Port Royal Watershed – covers seven counties
  • 4 new conservation easements and 1 new fee simple
  • New solar facility – first conservation easement in a solar facility

The Director of Land Protection is responsible for talking to landowners about protecting their land; the conversations include  culture, family and the Beaufort way of life.  She also works with the Beaufort County Rural and Critical Land Program.  Land use = Land conservation + zoning + transportation

Lowcountry Conservation History:

  • Prior to 1970, Beaufort, Jasper, Hampton and Colleton Counties had only Federal funding
  • 1970’s – 2000 – Private investment – began easements
  • After 2000 public funding from the Conservation Bank Act (State level funding) and even DOD and Military have investments now

In ten years, $13 million of outside money has come in to match local sources (part of our property tax)

Recent projects

  • Beaufort County Rural and Critical Land Conservation Program (RCLP) – Property tax via referendum
  • Widgeon Point – Beaufort County and Open Land Trust co-own – open to the public
  • Bindon Plantation – Pocotaligo River in Yemassee – saved this large land area from becoming another developed area like Hilton Head by limiting development to 20 houses.
  • Three Sisters Farm in Bluffton – farmland being protected
  • Three 2020 projects (one on Lady’s Island, one on St. Helena and one is the Port Royal lsland Battlefield project)
  • Marsh Migration – especially in Broad River area – allows area to maintain marshes; protects against storms and helps wildlife

Also, the Open Land Trust is very involved in the Ace Basin and is part of the Ace Basin task force at their quarterly meetings – protecting 200,000 acres

You can view, download or print Kristin Williams and Kate Schaefer’s presentation  on the by clicking below:

Beaufort County Open Land Trust