Francis Beidler Forest added to the Ramsar List
USA adds 23rd Ramsar site
The Secretariat is delighted to announce that at the 30 May 2008 annual meeting of the US National Ramsar Committee, hosted by the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies in the Hall of States, Washington D.C., Ramsar site certificates will be presented for the 23rd Wetland of International Importance. This will be in conjunction with a briefing for the Congressional Wildlife Refuge Caucus, entitled “Wetlands of International Importance: National Wildlife Refuges and the Ramsar Convention”, in which Steve Atzert of the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge (New Jersey) and Royal Gardner of the Stetson University College of Law, a member of Ramsar’s STRP and chair of the National Ramsar Committee, will introduce US congressional staff members to the Ramsar Convention and the benefits associated with designating National Wildlife Refuges as Ramsar sites.
The Francis Beidler Forest (6,438 hectares, 33°15’N 080°22’W) in South Carolina, designated as of 30 May 2008, is a protected swamp forest along a broad, flat-bottomed alluvial valley within the Four Holes Swamp, constituting the largest remaining virgin stand of bald cypress and tupelo gum trees in the world. More than 300 vertebrates and 300 plants depend upon the site for survival, and a number of threatened and/or vulnerable species are present, such as the IUCN Red Listed Flatwoods Salamander (Ambystoma cingulatum) and several bat and snake species; threatened flora include Southern Twayblade, Green-fly Orchid, and Shadow-witch Orchid. Some 140 species of birds are supported and the site has been designated a BirdLife Important Bird Area (IBA).
The forest is principally owned by the National Audubon Society, with a parcel owned by The Nature Conservancy and a small parcel belonging to a private landowner, and a model management (and expansion) plan is being implemented. The site is used by bird- and nature-enthusiasts and students, as well as fishers and deer- and hog-hunters in some parts, and low-density farming and grazing occurs in the surrounding area. A principal hydrological role of the site is the improvement and maintenance of water quality of the waters flowing through it, but high levels of mercury have been found in the fish. Logging, farm run-off, and urban sprawl from Charleston are seen as potential threats from outside the site. The visitors’ centre offers a full range of environmental education programmes.
The Audubon Society has issued a press release for the occasion, which is reproduced here, and is making available a short video clip on the Francis Beidler Forest at http://audubon.org/bird/Ramsar/multimedia.html.
The Francis Beidler Forest has its own Web site at http://sc.audubon.org/Centers_FBF.html.
The USA presently has 23 Ramsar sites covering an area of 1,312,298 hectares.