Caw Caw & Great Swamps

The ACE Basin Project

The Ashepoo, Combahee and South Edisto (ACE) Basin represents one of the largest undeveloped estuaries on the east coast of the United States. The ACE Basin consists of approximately 350,000 acres of diverse habitats including pine and hardwood uplands, forested wetlands, fresh, brackish and salt water tidal marshes, barrier islands and beaches. The basin's unique estuarine system, the largest of its type in the state, provides invaluable habitat for a rich diversity of finfish and shellfish resources. The basin hosts a wealth of wildlife resources, including such endangered and threatened species as bald eagles, woodstorks, ospreys, loggerhead sea turtles and shortnose sturgeon, and offers a variety of recreational uses.

In the mid-1700s tidal swamps bordering the rivers were cleared and diked for rice culture. After the rice culture declined in the late 1800s, wealthy sportsmen purchased many of the plantations as hunting retreats. The new owners successfully managed the former ricefields and adjacent upland areas for a wide range of wildlife. This tradition of land stewardship has continued throughout the 20th century. Because of their importance to waterfowl, these former ricefields have been identified for protection under the North American Waterfowl Management Plan. The ACE Basin also has been designated as a world class ecosystem under The Nature Conservancy’s Last Great Places program.

In 1988, the ACE Basin Project was launched when Ducks Unlimited (DU), The Nature Conservancy (TNC), the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and private landowners formed a coalition known as the ACE Basin Task Force. Westvaco Corporation, the Lowcountry Open Land Trust (LOLT) and Nemours Wildlife Foundation joined the Task Force in 1998. The mission of the ACE Basin Project is to maintain the natural character of the basin by promoting wise resource management on private lands and protecting strategic tracts by conservation agencies. A major goal of the protection efforts is to ensure that traditional uses such as farming, forestry, recreational and commercial fishing and hunting will continue in the area.