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Benefiting the environment and business, Norfolk Southern increases commitment to land conservation in South Carolina

Charleston, S.C. - Nov 11, 2015


  • The Edisto River, the longest free-flowing “blackwater” river in North America, runs along the southern border of Norfolk Southern’s Brosnan Forest. Norfolk Southern’s conservation easements protecting 12,788 acres of the Forest help preserve the significant ecological value of the river and the larger Ashepoo, Combahee and Edisto Basin watershed.
  • This tupelo tree, with its swollen trunk and strong root system, grows in a wetland area of Norfolk Southern’s Brosnan Forest. Existing wetlands and the 290 acres of wetlands that the railroad will restore at the Forest help filter pollutants from groundwater, control flooding, and provide habitat for a diverse array of plants and wildlife.

Norfolk Southern has expanded protection of ecologically significant land in South Carolina’s coastal plain through a conservation easement and a wetlands restoration project that benefits the environment and economic growth.

Norfolk Southern will restore 290 acres of historic pocosin wetlands at its Brosnan Forest timber and wildlife preserve near Dorchester, S.C., 35 miles northwest of Charleston. The site will be managed as a wetland mitigation bank that could be used by developers and government agencies to offset loss of wetlands associated with business development in the region. A conservation easement donated by the company to the Lowcountry Open Land Trust – now known as Lowcountry Land Trust – will permanently protect the acreage as wetlands and restore its hydrology to natural drainage patterns.

Josh Raglin, general manager facilities, announced the easement agreement today in Charleston during “Flourish,” a half-day conference for brainstorming creative ways to preserve and protect the state’s Lowcountry. The agreement builds on a partnership established in 2008, when Norfolk Southern protected 12,488 acres at Brosnan Forest through a conservation easement granted to LLT – thought to be the largest ever given by a corporation in South Carolina and one of the largest in the Southeast. The second donation announced today results in 12,778 acres at the Forest under permanent easement protection.

“Norfolk Southern is committed to the wise use of resources, and this latest conservation easement demonstrates our continued commitment to land conservation and protection,” said Raglin, who serves on LLT’s Business Leadership Council. “It also reflects our long-term vision of how conservationists and businesses can work together to benefit our communities, the environment, and the bottom line. We are restoring an area that was a historic wetland, and, at the same time, we’re providing a service to businesses and government agencies in the Charleston region.”

“Being a good steward of the environment is central to Norfolk Southern’s governance culture and our practice of corporate responsibility,” said Bruno Maestri, vice president government relations, corporate communications, and corporate sustainability officer. “We’re always looking for innovative and cost-effective ways to minimize and mitigate the environmental impacts of business operations. We’re proud to be collaborating, once again, with the Lowcountry Land Trust on this effort.”

Norfolk Southern’s 2008 easement included 6,000 acres of rare longleaf pine habitat, a diverse ecosystem that shelters the world’s largest population of endangered red-cockaded woodpeckers on private property under single ownership. The protected tract is near the Francis Beidler Forest, owned and operated by the National Audubon Society, and Four Holes Swamp, a 450,000-acre watershed within the larger Ashepoo, Combahee and Edisto Basin watershed – one of the largest intact coastal ecosystems on the East Coast. Since Norfolk Southern’s donation, other land owners in the region have protected their property through conservation easements with LLT.

“The Land Trust is honored to be a partner with Norfolk Southern in the conservation of its magnificent property at Brosnan Forest,” said Ashley Demosthenes, president of Lowcountry Land Trust.  “Norfolk Southern’s latest conservation easement donation to the Land Trust builds on a legacy of land conservation and collaboration between the business and conservation communities in the ACE Basin and Four Holes Swamp watershed. Restoration, enhancement, and preservation of wetlands and critical natural resources are vital for quality of life in South Carolina, a key element for companies locating in the Lowcountry. When we work together, significant outcomes result.”

Norfolk Southern’s plan to create a wetland mitigation bank at the Forest was approved by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers earlier this year. Restoring the property to wetlands will begin this winter, including closing drainage ditches and planting native wetlands species of trees and shrubs, such as sweet bay, pond cypress, black gum, blueberries, honeycup, and fetterbush.

Over the next five years, the company expects the wetland bank to generate nearly 800 wetland “credits” that businesses or government agencies can purchase to offset wetlands they fill in to develop properties elsewhere. The credits could be used, for example, to offset wetlands impacted by transportation projects or development of industrial sites, including rail-served projects constructed along Norfolk Southern’s rail lines.

Milliken Forestry Company of Columbia, S.C., has provided environmental and forestry expertise on developing the wetland bank and will serve as Norfolk Southern’s broker for the sale of credits, Raglin said.

About Norfolk Southern

Norfolk Southern Corporation (NYSE: NSC) is one of the nation’s premier transportation companies. Its Norfolk Southern Railway Company subsidiary operates approximately 20,000 route miles in 22 states and the District of Columbia, serves every major container port in the eastern United States, and provides efficient connections to other rail carriers. Norfolk Southern operates the most extensive intermodal network in the East and is a major transporter of coal, automotive, and industrial products.

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