Silver Bluff was donated to Audubon South Carolina in the 1970s by Floyd Starr. Starr was a visionary who saw Silver Bluff as a place where landowners could learn how to balance multiple values: revenue from timber and crops, plus abundant wildlife and natural beauty.
Audubon has implemented this vision by developing "Bird-Friendly Forestry." Habitat loss in Eastern forests is taking a toll on our feathered friends. About one-third of Eastern forest species are in decline, with some species, including the Chimney Swift and the Prothonotary Warbler, suffering steep declines.
The common wisdom is that the needs of forest birds aren't compatible with harvesting timber — but that's not so. Bird-friendly techniques of planting and harvesting trees can mimic nature, creating a win-win for wildlife and landowners.
Using Silver Bluff as a model, Audubon South Carolina has introduced more than 300 landowners and land managers to Bird-Friendly Forestry. Similar work with land trusts and public agencies could improve habitat on hundreds of thousands of acres, and benefit millions of birds.
Silver Bluff is also actively restoring the longleaf pine-wiregrass ecosystem. This historic habitat, which once covered ninety million acres across the Southeast, was reduced to just three percent of its original range.
Longleaf-wiregrass restoration is great news for the federally-endangered Red-cockaded Woodpecker. Along the way it also benefits Northern Bobwhites, Pine Warblers, Brown-headed Nuthatches, Bachman’s Sparrows, and a host of other wildlife species.
Silver Bluff is also doing its part to help keep the Savannah River clean. Natural landscapes filter out industrial discharge, agricultural runoff, and other contaminants. If you want a clean river, you need to protect the land around it.
In the Savannah River watershed, conservation groups have teamed up with county and municipal utilities to protect more than 500,000 acres — ensuring cleaner water for more than one million people who drink from the river.
There's a strong financial incentive for this project to succeed. Protecting land is more cost-effective than building water-treatment plants downstream. So far, 120,000 acres have been protected. Silver Bluff, a large parcel right on the river, is an important piece of the puzzle.
Finally, Silver Bluff shelters birds in a changing world. Some of the biggest challenges birds face are rising seas and shifting weather patterns. Not only do we need to protect places that vulnerable birds need today; we also need to protect places where they'll likely move as the weather changes.
These safe spots, called "climate strongholds," have the right temperature, precipitation, and seasonal changes to support a diversity of birds, now and in the future. Silver Bluff is in a climate stronghold. By protecting and restoring habitat here, we not only help the bird species that frequent this land today; we also help the species that will seek shelter here in future years.
If you’re excited that your visit to Silver Bluff links you to these larger conservation efforts, please consider getting involved with Audubon South Carolina. You could host a speaker, volunteer outside, speak up for birds, and/or make a donation. Every dollar gifted to Audubon South Carolina protects birds and habitat in South Carolina!