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Furman professor, students study land use in Upstate

Biology professor John Quinn and students Mara Chamlee and Emma Cook conducted field research that helped develop a Critical Lands Map for the Upstate.

In collaboration with Upstate Forever and with support from Pacolet Milliken Enterprises, Furman University faculty and students have helped develop a detailed map to identify the region’s most environmentally sensitive lands in regards to water quality and high-quality habitat.

Biology professor John Quinn and Melanie Brown, a 2017 graduate in sustainability science, used advanced modeling software to analyze habitat quality, drivers of water quality, carbon sequestration and recreation as possible inputs to develop a Critical Lands Map. Quinn said inputs for those models were provided by past research by Furman faculty and students in biology and earth and environmental sciences.

Furman students Sam Crummett and Dakota Howard were also involved in the research effort.

“Collaborating with Upstate Forever provided Furman students and faculty an opportunity to engage in ecological conservation research that will provide direct benefits to the broader Upstate community” said Quinn, who led the mapping project. “We look forward to working alongside Upstate Forever to see these lands protected for the benefit of future generations.”

“The opportunity to use applied research to influence decisions about land use in the Upstate, especially in a time of such rapid growth, was the highlight of my undergraduate experience at Furman,” Brown said.

According to Upstate Forever, the map will be a key tool in determining the most effective ways to protect the region’s natural heritage—the most critically important farmlands, forests, natural areas and public lands.

Other factors such as adjacent protected lands, historic sites and drinking water sources also helped pinpoint these special places. Preserving these critically important lands promotes biological diversity, high drinking water quality, local food production, recreational opportunities and future environmental health.

“Pacolet Milliken is pleased to support Upstate Forever’s critical lands mapping project to ensure that the Upstate region continues to grow in a strategic and responsible way,” said Rick Webel, president of Pacolet Milliken.

The map identifies the region’s most environmentally sensitive lands in regards to water quality and high-quality habitat.

Now that the mapping effort is complete, Upstate Forever will work with landowners, communities, and local leaders to strategize the most effective protection efforts for each conservation area identified. Strategies will range from voluntary land protection to targeted education and advocacy.

“This map is meant to start conversations about how we can partner with community stakeholders to best protect our natural heritage,” said Scott Park, Upstate Forever Land Conservation Director. “It will enable a more strategic approach to conserving our region’s most environmentally sensitive lands.”

“We want to offer an alternative to unfettered sprawl by working with community residents to protect the most ecologically rich, spectacularly beautiful, and iconic lands in the Upstate. This approach will also benefit our local farms, quality of life, and economic health. We are so grateful to Pacolet Milliken and Furman University for their role in bringing this project to fruition,” said Andrea Cooper, Executive Director of Upstate Forever.

Upstate Forever has worked for the past 19 years protecting lands that define our region and ensure its continued environmental health. To date, the organization has protected over 21,000 acres on 114 properties across the Upstate through voluntary land easements.

For more information, contact Furman’s News and Media Relations office at 864-294-3107.

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