The Donnelley Wildlife Management Area (WMA) is located east of Green Pond, South Carolina and includes 8,048 acres of wetland and upland habitats (Donnelley WMA ). As part of the overall Ashepoo, Combahee, Edisto (ACE) Basin protection effort, a total of 9,155 acres was acquired in 1990 by Ducks Unlimited and other contributing partners consisting of the Nature Conservancy, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and Dow Chemical. At this time, the property was named the Mary's Island Reserve. Subsequent to the purchase by Ducks Unlimited, a decision was made by the organization to retain the western half of the property, which contained the most extensive wetlands, and sell the rest with easements to conservationists. In 1992, Ducks Unlimited transferred operational and managerial functions of its portion of Mary's Island Reserve to the South Carolina Wildlife and Marine Resources Department (SCWMRD, now the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources [SCDNR]). Two tracts totaling approximately 1,000 acres were resold to private landowners subject to conservation easements held by Ducks Unlimited. Two additional tracts (an approximately 3,408-acre mitigation tract owned by U.S. Corps of Engineers and a 332-acre tract purchased by the National Wild Turkey Foundation and donated to SCWMRD) were combined with the Ducks Unlimited portion and named the Donnelley WMA. Management of Donnelley is focused on:
Upland communities comprise most of the acreage at Donnelley. These include: natural pine forest (1,564 acres), pine-hardwood (917 acres), pine plantation (1,949 acres), upland hardwood forest (725 acres), and fields (270 acres).
The pine forest community is typically dominated by relatively mature stands of loblolly pine. Some portions are dominated by other pine species, including longleaf pine, shortleaf pine and slash pine that occur as monotypic stands or as a mixture of these species. Hardwoods occur sporadically in these pine communities. The pine plantation community, dominated by loblolly pine, comprises the largest portion of the upland area. It is managed for timber production.
The pine-hardwood forest is an intermediate community between the pine forest and upland hardwood types. Canopy trees that dominate this community are water oak, black gum, loblolly pine, and live oak. Understory species are laurel oak, sweet gum, bull bay, and dogwood. A spruce pine and mixed hardwood forest occurs on Donnelley and has been recognized as a unique community type. The upland hardwood community on Donnelley is characterized by high species diversity and structural complexity. The canopy is generally dominated by oaks, with willow oak, laurel oak, water oak, sweet gum, hickory, southern red oak, live oak, and black oak present. An understory and herbaceous layer is also present in this community. Several sites within Donnelley have unique examples of the upland hardwood forest. These include a mesic oak-hickory forest, southern mixed hardwood community, and a beech-magnolia forest. (see Plants: Upland Community .)
Forest management at Donnelley emphasizes maintenance of a forested landscape and improvement of wildlife habitat through proper timber management and harvesting techniques. Staff at Donnelley, with cooperation from the South Carolina Forestry Commission, have completed a comprehensive five-year forest management plan and a long-range plan is being developed. Prescribed harvests will meet or exceed current Best Management Practices (BMPs for the State of South Carolina and will emphasize wetland protection through establishment of 100 feet buffer zones around wetlands. Management techniques vary depending upon the community type; however, in bottomland hardwood, upland hardwood, and spruce pine-mixed hardwood, harvest occurs only for the purpose of improving wildlife habitat by the release of hard mast bearing trees. In the loblolly and longleaf pine communities, selective thinning will be used to achieve a canopy dominated by older age class trees. Prescribed burning is a technique that is used to control hardwood competition in pine stands and enhance production of desirable wildlife foods. Whitetail deer, wild turkey, bobwhite quail, and eastern bluebird are just a few of the species that benefit from annual burning in older age pine stands.
Donnelley maintains fields for both row crop agriculture and openings as food plots for wildlife. These sites provide fall and winter foods for seed-eating birds and are beneficial as supplemental food sources for other wildlife species. Openings are particularly important foraging sites for quail, turkey, deer, and songbirds. Field transition zones are also maintained parallel to forest edges, ditches, hedgerows, and roadsides to provide habitat for edge dwelling species. These zones are important feeding, nesting, and travel corridors for bobwhite quail, eastern wild turkey, rabbit, and passerine birds.
Wetlands at Donnelley encompass nearly 2,500 acres and are distributed throughout the property. Using the wetland classification system of Cowardin et al. (1979), the following wetland types have been delineated: palustrine emergent (1,164 acres), palustrine forested (327 acres), estuarine intertidal emergent (282 acres), palustrine scrub shrub (272 acres), and palustrine aquatic bed (99 acres).
Both managed freshwater wetlands and brackish /intermediate marsh types occur on Donnelley. Presently, Donnelley has 2,046 acres of managed wetlands with water control provided by 32 structures. Dikes and water control structures allow water control and circulation throughout the various impoundment units. Wetland management focuses on enhancing the diversity of naturally occurring wetland plant communities that provide food and cover for wetlands-dependent wildlife, such as migratory waterfowl and non-game and endangered species (e.g., bald eagle, wood stork, and American alligator). Management guidelines follow techniques described by Harrigal et al. (1993).
Freshwater impoundments are occupied by a diverse assemblage of rooted floating aquatics, such as white waterlily, American lotus, and pondweeds. Emergent plants such as cattails, southern wildrice, and pickerel weed are common. Submerged and free-floating aquatic plant species also occur and include duckweed, bladderwort, waterfern, and fernwort.
The managed brackish and intermediate emergent wetlands principally contain widgeongrass, saltmarsh bulrush, and dwarf spikerush. Estuarine emergent or brackish wetlands also occur along the Old Cheeha River and are subject to tidal fluctuations. Dominant plant species include giant cordgrass and black needlerush.
Forested wetlands occur along small, seasonally ephemeral drainages that meander throughout the uplands and along the two large drainage systems that traverse the property and empty into the Old Cheeha River. Overstory species vary with the moisture gradient, but some characteristic species include water tupelo, swamp tupelo, sweet bay, wax myrtle, water hickory, and live oak. Managed wetlands occur in the forested wetland ecosystem and include a dense stand of mature water and swamp tupelo that has been continuously flooded for a number of years.
Isolated freshwater wetlands, known as depression meadows, are scattered throughout the uplands. These are functionally coupled with the surrounding pine flatwoods and are characterized by emergent stands of maidencane, sedges, soft rush, and spike rush. Some of the larger depression meadows have low areas that are semi-permanently flooded.
Associated with the wetland and upland habitats on Donnelley are a diverse assemblage of terrestrial, aquatic and avian wildlife. Whitetail deer are the dominant large mammal, with a population estimated at 750 to 800 animals. Birds are particularly numerous, with approximately 172 species documented and as many as 250 species possibly occurring. The wetlands at Donnelley attract many species of waterfowl, wading birds, shorebirds, raptors, and songbirds. Managed wetlands are especially important as wintering and migration habitat for waterfowl. Wading birds use the wetlands on Donnelley for feeding, loafing, roosting, and nesting. These wetlands also provide important foraging habitat for the southern bald eagle on a year-round basis. The uplands also support a diverse avifauna that includes a variety of songbirds, raptors, and gamebirds. Agricultural fields provide forage for large numbers of doves.
A total of 44 species of reptiles and amphibians have been reported on Donnelley. Most are associated with freshwater emergent, forested, and depression wetlands. The American alligator is the dominant reptilian species found on Donnelley.
The goal of the public use program at Donnelley is to provide balanced recreational opportunities for the hunting and non-hunting public. The following is a summary of public use activities on Donnelley.
Hunting: Archery hunting for deer is restricted to certain areas and is available on a first come first served basis. Still gun hunts (hunters in deer stands as opposed to using dogs to drive deer) are by lottery drawing only. Waterfowl and turkey hunts are by drawing. Hunting for dove and small game is provided according to designated schedules.
General Public Use: Casual visitation is Monday through Saturday, from 8:00 am to 5:00 PM. Donnelley is closed on Sunday and during special hunts. Managed wetlands are off limits from November 1 to January 21. Guided tours and presentations are offered by reservation and are based on staff availability.
For more information on Donnelley WMA call (803) 844-8957.