Friday, December 5, 2014

ACE Basin visit by USDA Under Secretary Bonnie

Robert Bonnie and Tommy Rhodes at the 2011 Fall Field Day
at Groton Plantation, Mr. Bonnie's 'home place'

The United States Department of Agriculture can seem like a giant governmental operation in the distant District of Columbia. Beyond the acronyms and the federal red tape that comes with them, the Lowcountry of South Carolina’s representation in the system is formidable. Some of the political forces that helped form the ACE Basin are no longer in place, and Undersecretary Robert Bonnie is now a voice that can help drive conservation to reach new goals in the near term.
So this gent with the pedigree of Lowcountry land ownership and the knowledge of pointing dogs is now the USDA Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment. Mr. Bonnie oversees the U.S. Forest Service and the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) which helps to administer programs of the Farm Bill. Mr. Bonnie visited with the media while attending the ACE Basin 25th anniversary on November 2 at Nemours Plantation.
Bonnie with Mike McShane at Nemours on 11/2/2014.
Click here for Video Interview from that day.
“I believe that the ACE Basin has had an effect on the world of conservation far beyond the borders of South Carolina,” said Bonnie. “The ripple effect is that other organizations are looking at the ACE Basin and saying they need to find a way to work across a landscape that is largely in private ownership with federal and state lands mixed in. The model from the ACE Basin, regarding outreach to landowners and easement acquisition piece by piece, has now been exported to other regions.” Of course NAWCA is playing a role in the conservation efforts in the ACE and in S.C.
“From the USDA point of view I can report that we have played a role thus far in the ACE Basin, and I see opportunities where more resources could be brought to bear,” said Bonnie. “For example, the Forestry Legacy Program has spent 11 million dollars in the ACE Basin. The Wetlands Reserve Program restores private wetlands and places them under easements, and the Safe Harbor program relieves landowners of restrictions from Endangered Species rules.”
It’s worth noting that twenty red-cockaded woodpeckers (RCW) were translocated into the ACE Basin on November 6. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service obtained the woodpecker colony from the Francis Marion National Forest and placed them onto private lands enrolled in the Safe Harbor program. Groton Plantation is home to many Red-cockaded woodpeckers and Bonnie loves how federal forest lands can play a role to bring RCW’s to the ACE Basin.

To view this feature story in the newspaper click on Charleston Mercury.

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