From The Blog
Kiawah Conservancy Keeps Island Natural
Coming to Kiawah is a breath-taking, loss-for-words type of experience. Members and visitors alike speak with reverence about their first visit and their delight at the lush greenery, the soft beach, the bobcats and deer. The natural setting is the key to the island’s magic, and the Kiawah Conservancy focuses on protecting Kiawah’s most important asset.
Kiawah was meant to be developed in harmony with its surroundings. In 1997, a group of members felt that it could go even further, and founded the Kiawah Conservancy to preserve more of the natural habitat on the island. Today, the Conservancy has preserved over 2,200 acres of critical barrier island habitat on and around Kiawah. Four staff members (executive director, Donna Windham; communications and education coordinator, Jennifer Woody; office systems administrator, Beverly Kline; and land preservation coordinator, Lee Bundrick) undertake the significant programming and outreach efforts for the Conservancy. Unlike some other organizations, the Conservancy doesn’t have members – they consider all property owners to be partners in their mission.
There are 15 different habitat types on Kiawah Island supporting an astonishing 20 species of mammals, over 250 species of resident and migratory birds, 40 species of reptiles and thousands of invertebrates. With the help of property owners across the island, the Conservancy is working to protect them all. Property owners have been donating property to the Conservancy since the beginning, allowing the organization to preserve much of its land. This land is incredibly important for island wildlife. However, the Conservancy also works to keep other properties on the island as natural as possible. You might have noticed that a lot of your neighbors on the island have a Kiawah Conservancy bird emblem on their mailboxes. That bird means the property is in the Naturally Kiawah Recognition Program.
The Naturally Kiawah Recognition Program was developed to encourage property owners to partner with the Conservancy by restoring and maintaining wildlife habitat in residential landscapes. Properties with the designation provide important features for wildlife habitat, including dense buffers of understory plants, minimized areas of turf or laid pine straw, and no exotic invasive species. Jennifer Woody notes that, “so many property owners participate in this program that we’ve already met our 2020 goal; 70% of single family homes on the island meet the criteria.” It’s a win for wildlife as well as property values.
The Conservancy partners with other organizations to promote awareness of native plants and to protect wildlife, such as the Town of Kiawah Island’s (TOKI) GrowNative initiative. The Naturally Kiawah Demonstration Garden in Night Heron Park allows members to see in person how beautiful native plants can be. The Conservancy Garden Keepers are a group of volunteers who take care of the garden and are often on site to tend the plants and answer questions.
The Conservancy also has many outreach opportunities for property owners throughout the year. The popular Conservation Matters program, sponsored by the Conservancy, TOKI and KICA, takes place at The Sandcastle and focuses on wildlife, habitats, and other environmental topics. Previous programs have highlighted bobcats, dolphins, sea turtles and more. Events such as Music in the Garden and summer activities geared toward kids are a great way to find out about the Conservancy’s mission. The Conservancy’s magazine, Naturally Kiawah, is available quarterly.
To learn about all the work the Conservancy does on the island, visit KiawahConservancy.org.