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Burris Power for Wildlife through RC&D

Hampton County Tree Farm Family EnhancesWildlife Habitat through RC&D Program

Skeet and Gail Burris provide food for wildlife along power line rights of way on their property.

by Amy O. Maxwell, NRCS, Communications and MarketingSpecialist

CypressBay Plantation in Hampton County is home to many species of wildlife includingdeer, quail, turkey and ducks. Owned by Skeetand Gail Burris, the plantation serves as atree farm consisting of over 1,000 acres and managed intensively for wildlife.The Burris family, which includes four sons, illustrates an outstandingconservation ethic each and every day. From watershed and soil protection toconserving and enhancing of wildlife habitat, they have made partnerships withnumerous wildlife organizations in their quest to diversify their plantation.Their partnership with the Hampton NRCS office and the Lowcountry RC&Doffices has resulted in a successful venture to protect wildlife habitat throughthe POWER (Protecting Our Wildlife at Every Right-of-Way) for Wildlife program.POWER for Wildlife offers landowners technical and financial assistance tocreate and maintain wildlife habitat beneath electrical transmission lines. Theprogram is a statewide partnership effort administered by the SC RC&DCouncil and funded by electric power companies and electric cooperatives.

Cypress Bay Plantation has 64 acres of power linerights-of-way. South Carolina Electric and Gas (SCE&G) and Santee Cooperboth have power lines that run through the Burris plantation. LowcountryRC&D Coordinator Steve Edwards and NRCS District Conservationist WalterEarley worked with the Burris family to create ideal wildlife habitats on theirrights-of-way. This included managing native vegetation, planting bi-colorlespedeza, small grains, and corn, and maintaining adjacent forested areas bythinning and prescribed burning. Also, berms (mounds of dirt) were constructedto restrict view of the rights-of-way from the road and deter unauthorizedhunting.

Edwards praised the family for their remarkable conservationefforts saying, "The entire family is dedicated to conservation and they doa great job on their land as well as promoting the importance of conservation toothers." In fact, Skeet Burris has promoted the benefits of the POWERprogram across the country, including presentations made at Yale University’sForest Forum, Clemson University, the National Tree Farm Program in Montana, andcloser to home in tours of his plantation for groups including the Master TreeFarmers and Ducks Unlimited. Tree farmers and wildlife managers from all overthe country visit the plantation to witness first-hand the conservationsuccesses that the Burris family have accomplished. Most recently, the Burrisfamily was named the National Tree Farm Family of the Year.

The POWER for Wildlife program has enabled the Burris familyto continue wildlife habitat improvement on their plantation and Skeet Burris isa firm believer in the benefits of the program. "The POWER for Wildlifeprogram is a perfect match for our tree farm which we were already managing forwildlife. It is a flexible program that benefits both landowners and thewildlife that will live off the new and improved habitat," he said.

POWER for Wildlife program recipients have a five-yearminimum obligation to follow wildlife practices outlined in a management planwhich is developed by the landowner and specialists from NRCS, South CarolinaDepartment of Natural Resources (SCDNR), and other agencies. Recipients receiveup to a maximum of $1,000 over a five-year period. For more information on thisprogram, contact Steve Edwards at (843)549-5596.