The Civil War
During the Civil War, Long Island was populated by Union forces posted at several fortifications located throughout its territory. Though currently overgrown with dense vegetation these earthen fortifications are still recognizable as military compounds. The historic value of Long Island cannot be overstated. Along with its sister, Morris Island (the old Morris Island lighthouse is visible in 2 of the photographs), which has just been appropriated as eternally conserved land, Long Island is a poignant and natural co-conservation site worthy of similar status. There are few undisturbed Civil War sites left and fewer still within such close proximity to one of the most historical Civil War locations in our country. The threatened development of Morris Island encouraged much public contention and received vast local and national coverage. The struggle for Morris Island's freedom from development mirrors the current plight of Long Island. Reflective of the pressing need to preserve Morris Island, The Smithsonian Institute, our ultimate national authority on historic preservation, published an issue in their monthly magazine (July,2005)concerning the planned destruction of this precious historic site. Though Long Island did not have a battle fought on it and has had less dramatic incidence, its close proximity to Morris Island offers a compelling local supplement to further enhance the story of our rich local and national history.
An isolated mound surrounded by roads and modern housing structures cannot inspire a proper mood of appreciation of these sites. But left as it is within the same natural setting which was present during the civil war, you can be amongst these sites and imagine yourself there, 150 years ago and visualize the intense and challenging reality that existed for the soldiers camped on this remote island wilderness.
In June, 1977, Citadel professor of Biology, B.J. Kelley Jr. Ph.D. submitted an in-depth 34 page environmental study of Long Island detailing the impact of proposed development planned during that time. He mentions several areas of concern and highlights the pond (visible in several of the photographs) as such:
"This pond is the most unique feature of the island and is of very great significance as a bird habitat. Its salinity ranges between 7 and 8 % from west to east. A dike at the eastern end separated the pond from a tidal creek and marsh with very salty water- 32%. Low salinities of the range found in this pond constitute a transitional situation between fresh and salt water, which may be populated with species of both fresh and marine derivation. The pond itself is shallow (wading bird depth) and is filled with widgeon grass with some green algae. Widgeon grass is a highly desirable waterfowl food. Among the plants there is extremely populated invertebrate fauna and many small fish. The most striking feature of the pond is the large number and variety of waterfowl present. This pond must be one of the key water fowl habitats in this area of Charleston County."
Dr. Kelley concludes his study with this statement:
"The development of Long Island by any route threatens major bird and animal wetland habitat. The physical conditions of the ponds and marsh with their particular salinity and biological communities are unusual and probably unique for this region of Charleston County. The salinity conditions also bring these areas under the protection of the South Carolina Coastal Zone Management and Wetlands Protection Bill. The marsh intrusions into the highlands of Long Island are so numerous and extensive that landfill operations will be necessary and/or exceedingly tempting to connect disjoining fingers or to provide building sites. Mosquito control will also threaten the ponds and high marsh areas. The project and its ramifications will produce significant and lasting environmental alterations and should be treated as a major endeavor."
Since this study was performed, close to 30 years ago, the dike that once separated the brackish pond from the salt marsh in 1977 has since been intentionally breached. The pond, which is now under tidal influence and still supports unique vital bird habitat, has lost it's transitional status and does not have the variety of birds present in a transitional environment. Current visitors will unfortunately not fully witness the full variety of wetland bird species Dr. Kelley was so amazed by....as they should be able to. This loss of specialized habitat is a great loss to bird species which are further and further restricted in their ability to thrive due to their further and further shrinking habitat. This is all the more reason for the pressing need to preserve Long Island. By restoring the pond to its previous state and maintaining the island as the vital wildlife habitat that it is, we can insure that one more part of our national seashore remains as healthy as is currently possible.
A list of bird species present on Dr. Kelly's 1977 list and other's observations include:
Great Horned Owl, Osprey, Red Tailed Hawk, Marsh Hawk, American Egret, Snowy Egret, Louisiana Heron, Glossy Ibis, Lesser Yellow Legs, Greater Yellow Legs, Wilson's Snipe, White Ibis, Wood Duck, Clapper Rail, Little Blue Heron, Great Blue Heron, Willet, Purple Martin, Marsh Wren, Cardinal, Red Winged Blackbird, Mourning Dove, Bob White Quail, Brown Thrasher, Black Skimmer, American Oystercatcher, Wood Stork, Painted Bunting, Black Vulture, Seaside Sparrow, Marsh Sparrow, Eastern Towhee, Ruddy Turnstone, Black Turnstone, Plover, Terns and Gulls.
Protecting our Wetlands
On December 11, 2000, a unanimously approved, bi-partisan 7.8 billion dollar bill was passed to restore the Florida Everglades. It is the largest environmental restoration effort in history. The task is an attempt to recover the Everglade ecology, which was blindly exploited and decimated during years of development and agricultural manipulation. There is question whether the plan and 7.8 billion dollars will actually succeed to fully repair the imense damage. Is this not a poignant example of how relentless we need to encourage preventative measures for protecting our wetland habitats?