Thursday, December 04, 2008

Gov. Sanford - Ramsar Dedication

This afternoon, Gov. Mark Sanford visited the Francis Beidler Forest Audubon Center to read his Beidler Forest Week proclamation and to join Audubon South Carolina and its guests in officially recognizing the Beidler Forest's Ramsar designation (previous blogs) as a wetlands of international importance. Additional information can be found at the U. S. Fish and Wildlife site, including a fact sheet, U. S. Ramsar sites brochure and a photo gallery.

We were obviously living right! The skies were mostly clear, the rain that was originally forecasted for today has delayed its arrival until later tonight, and the temperatures that have struggled to reach the low 50Fs (as they will again tomorrow) have already pushed beyond the mid-60Fs!

Along with the tremendous weather and spectacular backdrop, several special guests honored the gathering with a few words regarding their connection to the Francis Beidler Forest. Representing the several generations of Beidlers in attendance, Frank Beidler, III shared the family's appreciation for the care and effort put forth through the years by individuals and organizations to ensure the continued protection of this internationally-recognized wetland. Dr. Dan Tufford and Kim Connolly described their motivation for nominating the Francis Beidler Forest as a Ramsar site. Jean Schlegel spoke concerning the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service's international role in the protection of wetlands and the significance of adding this old-growth, cypress-tupelo swamp to the Ramsar inventory. John Flicker, President and CEO of the National Audubon Society, emphasized the importance of not only protecting significant wetlands like Beidler Forest, but other habitats within our hemisphere and across the planet where birds and other wildlife spend portions of their lives, including the critical rest stops along their migration routes. During John Flicker's comments, as if on cue and to emphasize the point, a hatch-year, male Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius) flew in and began feeding and calling on a nearby tree. The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker is a winter resident at the Francis Beidler Forest spending the breeding season mainly across Canada, so the individual crashing the ceremony was making its first trip to our wintering grounds.

The final speaker of the afternoon was Gov. Mark Sanford. Passing through the overflow crowd, Gov. Sanford shook hands with many of the attendees on his way to the Meeting Tree. Prior to unveiling the Ramsar plaque and taking the requisite "VIPs at the ceremony" images, Gov. Sanford talked of the necessity to conserve places of wonder, not simply because quality environments are good for the bottom line in a myriad of ways, but because we ultimately are spiritual beings that require quiet, awe-inspiring places to decompress and reflect on our individual lives. The majesty and serenity of the Francis Beidler Forest is such a place. When the governor requested that the crowd be still and listen to the swamp, the silence was punctuated by members of our wildlife cast, again as if on cue, when a pair of Barred Owls (Strix varia) greeted each other nearby.

left image: Francis (Frank) Beidler, IV; Elizabeth (Betty) Tisdahl; Francis (Frank) Beidler, III; Gov. Mark Sanford; Edouard des Francs; Kathy Tisdahl
right image: Kim Connolly, Associate Professor of Law Department of Clinical Legal Studies at USC; Gov. Mark Sanford; Norman Brunswig, Director of ASC; and Jean Schlegel, US Fish & Wildlife

As the sun set below the trees, the temperature began to drop and there was nothing to be said that would top the Barred Owl's timely comments. It was suggested that the owls were saying, "You don't need to go home, but you have to get up out of here!" Fortunately, the swamp that has been here for thousands of years is protected to ensure that it will be here for many more visiting opportunities. Besides, food and beverages awaited the guests back in the nature center, so it was agreed to let the owls have the swamp for the night!

Images by Mark Musselman

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