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CHARLESTON, SC-Norfolk Southern, a Norfolk, VA-based company that controls the Norfolk Southern Railway Co., has donated 12,488 acres of land to the Lowcountry Open Land Trust. The land, which has been owned by Norfolk Southern for over 160 years, holds the Brosnan Forest timber and wildlife preserve in Summerville, considered to be the largest corporately held and privately protected property in the state.

“It’s a historic day for us,” Will Haynie, executive director of the Lowcountry Open Land Trust, tells GlobeSt.com. “Every one of our previously donated 57,000 acres is just as important, but we’ve never had one easement of this size or conservation magnitude because of its proximity to Francis Beidler Forest, which is a globally important bird area [by the American Bird Conservancy and National Audubon Society].”

By granting Lowcountry the easement, Norfolk Southern has ensured that the property will never be developed upon. Haynie says the gesture is significant from a quality of life standpoint, considering the land is located in one of the fastest-growing suburban areas in the country. The land will never be a part of that suburban use, he says.

The designation is significant because Brosnan Forest contains more than 6,000 acres of a longleaf pine tree ecosystem that supports more than 30 threatened or endangered plant and animal species, including 79 groups of the red-cockaded woodpecker. The forest has been a part of the Safe Harbor program through the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources for the past nine years in order to protect the habitat.

“This was the landowner’s private choice,” adds Haynie about the donation. “They’re great citizens and realized what a valuable natural resource this is. We say there are three reasons people do conservation and that is: they love their land, they love their land and they love their land.”

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