National Geographic : 2014 Nov
South Carolina Lowcountry 97 gesturing toward a golf course at the north end. “I watched some of it and got to look around Kiawah. Man, that place is paradise, if you’re rich enough.” The golf course, the nicely landscaped neighborhoods of the interior, and the long, wide beach truly were beautiful, lying qui- etly in the soft light of a spring morning. But this was a different fantasy of paradise. No hope of seeing a cougar here, though Tiger Woods was a possibility, I supposed. After a long history of comparative neglect, during which nature reclaimed much of the island, Kiawah now has 3,500 housing units, two luxury hotels, an international clientele, and a new identity based on tourism and residential development. What happened to it has happened all along the Atlantic coast to places I have unconsciously considered sacred, like churchyards or battlefields, places protected by their history from history itself. As waterfront property has grown ever scarcer and more valu- able, and strip malls, housing developments, and upscale Elysi- ums like Kiawah stretch southward from Charleston, the ACE Basin has grown ever more anachronistic economically and ever more indispensable biologically. The effort to protect it began 25 years ago, when crucial habitats were identified, their owners approached. An alphabet soup of agencies, foundations, and non- profit organizations—some national, some local—was enlisted. As Young J. D . Cate takes a break following an early morning duck hunt with his father and the family’s retriever, Henry. Hunting waterfowl and other game is a cherished tradition in the basin, spanning generations and spurring conservation efforts. Franklin Burroughs’s latest book is Confluence: Merrymeeting Bay. Photographer Vincent Musi lives near Charleston, South Carolina.