Research on Kershaw County tract focuses on link between conservation and economic growth
CAMDEN – Clemson Professor Rob Baldwin is working to turn a piece of Kershaw County in to a nucleus for discussion and collaboration in a quest to encourage forest restoration, environmental understanding and economic growth.
The property Baldwin is working with is an 853-acre tract of land along the Wateree River near Camden, donated to Clemson University by Margaret H. Lloyd as part of a more than $4.1 million SmartState endowed chair. Lloyd, who died a few years ago at the age of 97, was an avid conservationist. In fact, she was named the 2007 South Carolina Conservationist of the Year. In the past 60 to 70 years, the property had been used as a pasture, some cultivated fields, as well as some forests. In an even earlier time, a Native American spring flowed through the property.
With all of the beauty located on the land, Lloyd’s vision for the property included transforming it into a world-class center for understanding nature. This is where Baldwin steps in.
An associate professor of conservation biology and geographic information systems (GIS) in Clemson’s College of Agriculture, Forestry and Life Sciences, Baldwin was selected to fill the Margaret H. Lloyd Endowed Chair in January. He also serves as director of the South Carolina SmartState Center of Economic Excellence in Urban Ecology and Restoration. Baldwin, along with other researchers from Clemson, the Medical University of South Carolina and the University of South Carolina, will use the Lloyd property as a site for collaboration and research.
“Our focus is to increase an understanding of how to conserve our natural landscape while growing the economy,” Baldwin said. “We want to show how conservation of biodiversity can help improve the economy. Biodiversity has intrinsic value, but we are losing it so fast that we need to look at more practical means.”
According to Baldwin, intact natural landscapes are features companies look at when considering new locations for their businesses. Incentives for landowners to work with each other to conserve natural resources over large areas is one subject that Baldwin and others study.
“We need to look at ways landowners can be compensated for conserving land,” he said. “With rapid urban expansion, landowners can make more money by selling their land so that it can be used for developments. We will look at ways we can work with private landowners to conserve their lands. South Carolina is a state with a lot of biodiversity. We need to protect this biodiversity because this is what keeps people coming to South Carolina.”
Baldwin said one of his main goals as endowed chair is to collaborate with researchers from Clemson and other institutions, as well as graduate students, to connect with people interested in conserving the land, wetlands and water. Part of this collaboration includes creating an advisory committee that will help guide outreach and research activities that take place at the property.
“This gift from Margaret Lloyd will enable us to research and find ways to restore forests, educate youth about environmental conservation and provide outdoor recreational opportunities for people,” Baldwin said. “Her generosity will benefit many people for many years to come.”
As part of its commitment to the Margaret H. Lloyd Endowed Chair, the SmartState Program matched the Lloyd gift to provide funding for the endowed chair. The SmartState Program was established in 2002 by the South Carolina General Assembly as a way to help drive economic growth in South Carolina. It includes researchers from Clemson, the Medical University of South Carolina and the University of South Carolina. The program is funded with proceeds from the South Carolina Education Lottery. Centers of Economic Excellence make up the core of the program. Currently, there are six of these centers. Each center contains one or more endowed chairs.
The Margaret H. Lloyd Endowed Chair is the only SmartState endowed chair that focuses on land and water usage, part of Clemson University’s mission as a land-grant university.
“This follows the land-grant mission, which involves conserving the land and educating the public about how to efficiently use the land,” Baldwin said. “Land conservation and usage are vital components of what is taught here at Clemson. This project falls right in line with our mission.”