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Ridgeland Plantation is a Wildlife Wonderland

Ridgeland Plantation is a Wildlife Wonderland

Working with NRCS Soil Conservationist, Stan Wells has utilized WHIP to help accomplish his goals.

By Amy O. Maxwell, USDA-NRCS
Communications and Marketing Specialist

Withquail hunting season approaching, Davant Plantation in Ridgeland, SouthCarolina, will soon host corporate groups eager to enjoy a day of hunting. Thegorgeous 2,500-acre plantation is home to RutledgeMoore and family who purchased the land in1991. Five years ago, Moore hired Stan Wellsas the plantation’s general manager. Wells, who has over 20 years experiencein farming and wildlife habitat management, was given the responsibility ofturning the plantation into a top-notch quail hunting preserve. Wells’experience, passion for wildlife, and determination inspired him to restore someof the original habitat that was carelessly destroyed on the plantation yearsago. Working with NRCS Soil Conservationist Elizabeth Jackson, Wells hasutilized the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP) to help accomplish hisgoals in restoring the plantation.

In the 1980’s, a portion of the forested plantation wasclear-cut for monetary profit, destroying the delicate biological diversity andlush wildlife habitat that existed. Wells confirmed that, "Rutledge wantedme to try and correct some of the damage that was done to this habitat, which Ihave been striving to do here for the past five years." Reforestation beganimmediately, and loblolly and longleaf pines were established. Wells learnedabout the technical and financial assistance available from NRCS’ WHIP andwanted to get involved.

"WHIP has worked well for the Davant Plantation becausethey have the acreage to create diversity for wildlife and they can experimentwith different plants and techniques," Jackson said. "At DavantPlantation there is a great opportunity for intensive management that smalloperations cannot achieve because of limited acreage or labor."Specifically focusing on forest management for bobwhite quail, Jackson and Wellsdevised a plan to enhance the area for quail which in turn also attracted moredeer and wild turkey. The WHIP plan included conservation practices such astimber thinning, plantings for wildlife, and prescribed burning.

Prescribed burning is practiced at the plantation to improve under storyforage production for wildlife. This practice proves to be one of the mostsuccessful for managing bobwhite quail and is beneficial by: removing litter,making food easier to locate, germinating important food-producing seeds thatneed burned areas to thrive, and producing newly sprouted vegetation thatattracts and produces abundant insect populations.

A drive through the plantation early one morning is enough toprove the undeniable success of wildlife habitat improvement resulting fromWHIP. Rounding the corner as the car approaches an open field, a flock of wildturkeys scatters into the woods. Along another tree-lined road, numerous groupsof deer quickly disappear into the trees. There is no wonder wildlife abounds atthe plantation after viewing the healthy and abundant wildlife food plots. Talland hearty stands of partridge pea, millet, and sorghum provide food and shelterfor quail and other wildlife while Chuffa fields provide food for wild turkey.

Davant Plantation has benefited from WHIP and the results areobvious. South Carolina’s quail population has plummeted by 50 percent sincethe 1980’s and here on the plantation, wildlife habitat improvement hassucceeded in stopping that decline. With Wells’ expertise and dedication, andNRCS financial and technical assistance, coveys of quail will continue to be acommon sight on the plantation rather than a rarity. "I love my 2,500-acreoffice here at the plantation," commented Wells. And with a smile heenthusiastically returns to work in the breathtakingly beautiful surroundings.